The last two weeks have been full of culture, high adventure, frustration, and service.
Now don’t get us wrong, we don’t spend all of our time going to the theatres, or other cultural events, or eating out (well a lot of time we do), or other such things. We do spend our days at the area office in our mission assignment helping mission presidents with missionaries with health challenges. Craig is also “on call” 24/7. Lately every time he sits down to eat the phone rings from a mission president seeking urgent advice and assistance. Deja vu and flashbacks to life as we know it.
The first such incident was when we went to see the National Peruvian Ballet perform “Alicia”, or Alice in Wonderland. Craig has always been a big fan of ballet (not), along with many of his other (male) friends in the senior missionary group. But they were enticed by dinner beforehand. We have discovered a Peruvian version ofour favourite dessert from our favourite Adelaide restaurant - the chocolate doodle at the Alphutte. As soon as the main course was placed on the table Craig’s phone rang. He spent the next 45 minutes on the phone, coming back for one bite at a time. Sadly he didn’t have time for dessert, so Lesley had to eat the whole thing (ordered for them both) by herself. He wasn’t so lucky during the ballet where the phone didn’t ring at all.
“En serio” (seriously) the ballet was interesting, with talented dancers, a mixture of music and sounds backing it, and stunning sets and costumes. It is hard to describe, but it was certainly not traditional and probably reflected the mushrooms Lewis Carrol was consuming when he wrote the story. We were in the third row from the front, close enough to hear the clash of bodies, see the sweat on the hard working athletic dancers, and hear the wooden shoe blocks in the pointe shoes on the wooden stage. Just like being at the football really.
We made our final trip to Immigration and now are the proud owners of official Peruvian ID cards, that allow us to…..(not sure what), but at least to be resident for up to the next five years, as long as we pay and renew each year. Again we were well looked after and supported, except that the office staff forgot we were Australian and spelled our names incorrectly. Easily fixed. The hardest part was the traffic. We left home in the morning rush hour and it took two hours to go 12 km. We could almost have walked it in that time, but probably would have been run over because you are not supposed to walk in the middle of the road! However, that did not stop the clowns juggling in front of the cars stopped at a traffic light to provide entertainment to the waiting crowds. If you watch them you are supposed to give them some money as you drive off. The traffic is so slow they can come collecting.
On the way the driver took some interesting shortcuts (the longest distance between two points) that provided a tour of downtown Lima, including the central market area. There were rubbish heaps; dogs, dogs, and more dogs; and the interesting phenomena of a number of similar shops selling the same things right next to each other. For example there were rows of florist shops together, rows of sugar cane stands, rows of wood suppliers, rows of industrial bread mixer shops, rows of baby clothes, etc, etc. We are not sure how competition works here. At least the dogs looked happy.
Returning to the theme of food (man cannot live by chocolate alone) we had an interesting lunch with the other two doctors and their wives. We headed to a nearby university that has a cooking school and, much like TAFE SA Regency Campus, it has a training restaurant where the students can practise on customers. In a way we were human cuy (guinea pigs). But we had a great three course executive lunch with silver service for under $20 each. The wine didn’t cost anything (because we didn’t drink any!). Craig’s phone did not ring, but one of the other doctors got a call. It may become our official special occasion place.
This morning the ward we attended had its primary presentation. For our nonmember friends the Church has Primary for 3-12 year olds on a Sunday, like children’s Sunday School. Once a year each ward/congregation has the Primary children run the main Sunday meeting. This involves each child having a speaking part and them all singing songs based around the theme, which is the same all around the world. This year it was “Se qué mi Salvador vive” (I Know my Saviour Lives”. It is always cute, hard work for the leaders, and a fantastic effort by all involved. Kids are the same all over the world. There are those who are shy (standing in front of 250 people does that to even the older people), the three year old who shouts into the microphone, the five year old who falls off the step, the 11 year old boys who are too cool to sing, the six year old who sings louder and off key, and all the parents and grandparents smiling broadly at their offspring. After the first week we attended church here Lesley was swiftly picked up to play the piano in Primary, and today accompanied them for the presentation. It is always a privilege to help the children shine. That is one thing we will miss, not watching our own grandkids in their own presentations.
Finally, these last two weeks have seen Lesley boldly go where no clear thinking Australian missionary has been before (there haven’t been any Australian missionaries here before). She saw an opportunity to help the children in the local church area who don’t have access to music lessons. Music teachers are extremely expensive and instruments are hard to find. So she offered to give free music lessons to the local kids three afternoons a week at the local chapel. She has about 20 students, ranging from five up to some beginner teenagers, and now has an instant group of friends who flock around her at church. About half speak some English, the rest are Spanish speaking. But music is the universal language and she is quickly learning the words she needs from the children. Her enthusiasm is contagious.