Since we last wrote we have again travelled. We returned to Paracas (about 4 hours south of Lima on the coast), but this time a bit different than last. Paracas (which means “raining sand”) is a beachside tourist resort. Now, “tourist resort” doesn’t quite translate. There are lots of tourists and it is a resort, but certainly not five star. Having said that we stayed in a very nice hotel where our four day conference was held. The room we had was very luxurious, the shower bigger than our apartment kitchen, with air-conditioning, and most of all silence. We actually went to bed and woke up without the constant sound of trucks, cars, busses, motorbikes, sirens, car alarms, horns, dogs etc that we have grown accustomed to. We also saw the sun every day and, for the first time since being in Perú, we saw the moon and stars at night. It is a little disconcerting to know we are looking at the same southern sky, but with a different orientation (further north near the equator) than what we are used to in Adelaide.
Paracas is located on the Pacific Ocean. As we walked along the beach our friends decided that they should watch us carefully, as we knew that if we dived into the water (which mind you is freezing cold because of the Humboldt Current coming up from Antarctica) then we could start swimming west and the next land we would hit would be Australia (making sure to skip around New Zealand).
The reason that we were in Paracas was to attend the semiannual mission presidents’ conference for the 34 mission presidents and their wives in the South America Northwest Area of the Church in five countries. We have nothing but admiration for these wonderful dedicated men and women who give up three years of their lives including work and family, when called to serve. They are responsible for up to 200 young missionaries 18-25 years old. They become substitute mum and dad, priesthood leader, administrator, teacher, mentor, nurse, and everything else to them to keep them safe and well and able to be successful. Without exception they love their missionaries. Craig’s job is to help them in anyway he can, particularly the missionaries’ emotional and mental health needs as required. Meeting them in person was a great experience.
We spent one afternoon visiting the Paracas National Park. It has stunning scenery of coastal beaches and barren desert landscapes, with nothing in between. Looking out to sea and along the coast reminded us of the Australian coastline (on the other side of the ocean which we could swim to in case we didn’t mention that). Turn 180 degrees and look inland and it is barren brown desert landscape, with no vegetation at all. The only animal life we saw were the vultures circling above us overhead….mmmm. It was amazing that something so stark could in its own way be so beautiful.
The good news is that we returned from this trip without any added bugs tagging along. In fact we enjoyed the food and felt a little sad that no one is feeding us five times a day anymore.
Today, Sunday afternoon, we had a major religious procession make its way through the streets of our neighbourhood. This was a special one for the locals, celebrating el Señor de Milagros (the Lord of Miracles). They were dressed in purple and white, band mournfully playing, incense filling the air, children dancing, and choirs singing, whilst the men carried the image. Fireworks filled the sky (more noise than colour during the day). It took them hours to wind around the local streets. They too demonstrated their faith and dedication to Jesus Christ as a god of miracles.
Craig was back to playing tennis this week. He was very pleased with himself that he was even able to hit the ball in occasionally, only to see it whiz back past him. Lesley has organised a senior missionary Christmas choir and we are in rehearsals for Christmas performances already. We even saw a jacaranda tree in purple blossom. It reminds that we are heading towards Christmas and Ashley-Ann’s birthday.