Some visuals…

You´ve all gotten lucky today with 3 posts…here are some photos for you to peruse at your lesiure.  This much free time and internet acess has been a gift today, and I don´t know when it´ll happen again.   Hope you´re all doing well!
Peace and love from Peru,

Map of Tacna...but not very complete. Habitat, where the JVs live, is on the far left.
The view of Habitat from the 3rd floor of one of the Schools JVC works at.
Same location but looking the other way. The JVs live on the block behind the church...
The church were JVC goes to 7:30am.
Colegio Miguel Pro celebrates their Día del Colegio with a re-enactment of the martyrdom of Miguel Pro, SJ. All the kids laugh when he dies as if Martyerdom is funny or something...
Cara dancing at Día Familiar...which is essentially a festival that happens the weekend following your school´s día del colegio. Lots of dancing...but I´ll write more about that when I get pictures of the Professor´s dance of which I was apart of.
Preschool students dancing for Día Familiar
Secondary students dancing at Día Familiar
2 of the dogs that guard the school at night…they´re big and scary if you get locked in at the school.
We all went out to lunch during the first week to sample some traditionalTacna foods. These are all 12 of the Peru JVs!
This is the biggest thing to happen to Tacna since they gained their independence from Chile. The first "modern" supermarket. And it just opened this month. We walked in and it was just like something you´d find in the US. I´ll write more aobut it later.
In the previous elections the mayor in an effort to get reelected constructed this bypass which current does nothing. It allows the North-South traffic to bypass a single traffic circle on which there isn´t much traffic. The Chisme is that they´re going to develop the circle more in the future which would then validate the construction of the bypass. The mayor lost reelection. The images you see on the sand dunes are made out of a plant that apparently grows in the sand...they go up there and plant them in the shape of the image they want. Good advertising.
And lastly for today...a sunset.

Courtesy of the Diocese of Tacna…

Taken from a handout at Church…


La liturgia de la Iglesia da el nombre de “Advento” a las cuarto semanas que preceden a la Navidad, como una oportunidad para prepararnos en las esperanza y en el arrepentimiento para la llegada del Señor.

Proviene de la palabra latina “adventus” que significa “venida”.  En el lenguaje cristiano se refiere a la venida de Jesucristo.

El color litúrgico de este tiempo es el morado que significa penitencia. El tiempo de Adviento es un período privilegiado para los cristianos ya que nos invita a:

Recordar el pasado: Clebrando y contemplando el nacimiento de Jesús en Belén.  El Señor ya vino y nació en Belén, lleno de humildad y pobreza.  Vino como uno de nosotros.

Vivir el presente: Se trata de vivir en el presente de nuestra vida diaria la “presencia de Jesucristo” en nosotros y, por nosotros, en el mundo; caminando en la justicia y en el amor.

Preparar el futura: Hay que prepararnos para la Parusía o segundo venida de Jesucristo en la “majestad de su gloria”, que nos traerá la salvación y la vida eterna sin sufrimientos.

La Iglesia nos invita en el Adviento a prepararnos para este momento a través de:
Revisión: Es importante saber hacer un alto en la vida para reflexionar acerca de nuestra vida espiritual y nuestra relación con Dios y con el prójimo.  Todos los días podemos y debemos ser mejores.
Proyección: En Adviento debemos analizar qué es lo que más trabajo nos cuesta y hacer propósitos para evitar caer de nuevo en lo mismo.


The front half is a bit of reflection on my part while the back half looks at the traditions of Christmas that I´m beginning to see.

Advent began yesterday which means that a new liturgical year has begun.  Hard to believe that its been a year has passed.  But the beginning of this new year is not about looking back at the year that was as we usually do with the end of the calendar year.  While there is bit reflection, it goes a bit further back than the past 365 days and is focused on the birth of Christ…he was born as we all were (although not the virgin bit).  He lived a life like we live (mortal) and he died as we all will.  So instead we begin this year looking forward in preparation of what is to come in the birth of Christ.  And while looking forward to the birth of Christ, we can´t forget to live in the present moment.  We must call to mind the meaning of Christ´s teachings, and how that looks in our day-to-day lives.

Yesterday I went to mass in this large church that was packed with people.  It wasn´t the mass I have been going to because I am now living with my host family.  The church is literally right outside their front door.  It was very different from the Jesuit mass I´ve been going to over the last few weeks.  The Jesuits just have a different feel to their masses some how.  This mass I went to though was cool.  They handed out the readings before hand so that you could follow along, and before each reading someone got up to explain the importance of the reading or author or book that the reading comes from.   Very useful for me given that I´m still working on my language skills.

The homily though had some very Jesuit tendencies, namely that it was packed full of insights both into the texts and into life…although a bit longer winded than most Jesuits I know.  As we look to the birth of Christ we must not forget to prepare for that birth.  What does this mean?  How do you prepare for something that already happened?  Christ left us teachings for how to prepare for this occasion, and I would even say that more than preparing for His birth we are preparing for His Kingdom which is to come.  The preparation I speak of (or the priest spoke of) must then come from a remembering of His teachings and a living out of those teachings.  While there are some outward signs that one is preparing for the Nativity, and here the priest pointed to some of the more obvious ones and also the more commercial like the Christmas tree, lights on the house, etc, the more important signs of preparation can be seen in how one lives his/her life….more thoughts to come.  Cara´s mom sent us a daily advent reflection book so I´ll keep you posted.


Some Christmas things Tacna style:

  1. All the advertising here includes people bundled up and with snow…even though its Summer!  (seems like the US has exported X-mas too)
  2. They also drink hot chocolate.  (still summer)  But the hot chocolate is not the same as the US.  They use butter or oil in it in addition to chocolate.
  3. Advent wreaths are also a big deal…everyone brought their wreath to mass on Sunday to have it blessed.  My family´s wreath sits on the dinner table.
  4. Paneton (fruit cake) is HUGE!  They love the fruit cake.
  5. Christmas presents are opened at midnight on Christmas Eve and I believe then followed by dinner around 1am.  My family will go to mass at 10pm.
  6. …more tidbits as I come across them.

Language is Funny

Earlier this week I was sitting at the dinner table with my host family.  They were telling me about Lake Titicaca and this island that is in the middle.  It is a small island and is split between Bolivia and Peru.  It is known for the trout and the frogs that you can eat…supposedly all delicious.   Things are going well and I´m understanding most of what they´re telling me.  And so I asked a question to participate in the conversation…the question was something along the lines of how do you eat the trout or how does the trout taste, but I don´t remember fully at the moment.   The funny part of this story comes from the word trout which is ´trucha.´  And if you mispronounce the word with a ´ch´ instead of a ´tr´ then you get something very different from trout.  You end up with a woman´s body part that isn´t usually discussed at the dinner table.   My host dad thought it was the funniest thing ever and the others all were laughing quite hard.   And me, not knowing my error, sat there until my host mom leaned over to explain what I had just said.  Fortunately Grandmom had gone to bed already.

Funny, right?

Day by Day

Day by day…like play by play, but with broader strokes.

This past week was filled with meetings and Charlas (chats) around the city of Tacna.  We got to see all the places that JVs will be working and then some.  It was a great opportunity for us to get a feel for all of the Jesuit works in Tacna.  I could write whole entries about each, but here are snippits.

Miguel Pro
Founded in the 80´s in the Habitat community where the JVs live.  Serves many students from poor families and the majority of students come from the Habitat community.  It is an incredibly warm and welcoming envrionment and the students seem to enjoy being here.  It is a typical Jesuit school in the sense that the over-arching goal is development of the whole person and not simply what the students can regurgitate in class.  The school motto is ¨Simpre más alto¨ or ¨Always higher¨…essentially you can always be more or be a better human being.  We never stop developing and no one achieves perfection.  This hopefully becomes ingrained into the students, and pushes them to break the cycle of poverty and avoid the drugs and alcohol you find on the streets.  Cost is 18 soles (2.78 soles to the dollar) per month for the first child in a family, 5 soles for the second, and the third+ go for free.

Colegio Cristo Rey
More of an upper class school run by the Jesuits.  Founded almost 50 years ago by Fr. Fred.  It has grown so much in the last 50 years and is now a model of education around the world.  The Cristo Rey netowork of schools (many found in the US as well) was modeled after the one here in Tacna.  The school is known for academic excellence and they kids are wicked smart.  The English instruction there is also really good…the kids are really capable in their english skills.  The cost here is 300 soles per month I think.

Fe y Alegría
Another school founded in part by Fr. Fred…This one is currently run by the sisters of St. Joeseph and it had quite a different feel to it. The education level isn´t quite the same as Cristo Rey, but the relationships between the students and the teachers seems to be much friendlier.  There wasn´t as much distance between the two.  And the sisters are so amazing.  They are warm and welcoming and every student knows that they´re in a safe place because of the caringness of the environment. Or at least that´s how it seemed when we visited.  I´ll know more later this week since we´re going back to talk more about the campus ministry there.

Centro Cristo Rey de Niño Trabajador
I don´t know too much about this place because we were only there for a few hours and no one gave us the overview necessary to really get a good feel for the place, but just threw us in with the mix.  We ate lunch with the secondary kids and then played with the primary kids on the playground.  Later we all got placed into classrooms to help outfor a bit.  I was inthe special needs class and it was cool to watch.  I wasn´t able to do much, but I got a good feel for how the class worked.  We´re going to go back next week to talk more about the mission there and all the other work that they do.

Water…sweet water

Water.  Essential for life…both the human kind and the plant kind.  Really any kind.  Where do we use water in our daily lives?  I brush my teeth, flush the toilet (been doing this more frequently recently), make tea, fill my water bottle, shower (not as often as I used to), wash the dishes…and that´s before I´m out the door in the morning.  The plants that feed us need to be watered to grow so that they can nourish us.  Everything needs water. 

Tacna is a desert.  This simple fact means that there is very little water.  They claim that this is the driest desert in the world, but I´m not sure if I believe that…isn´t Antarctica drier?  (that´s another thing about peruvian cutlure…things get exaggerated here)  The water for Tacna comes from the Andes.  It winds its way down the mountains and slowly travels toward the coast.  There is actually a river that runs through Tacna.  This is the source of most of the water.  The odd thing about this river though is that they decided to pave over it.  It runs right through the middle of the city, but you would never know it because they forced it underground.  There are a few places here and there where you can look into a hole and see the river, but by-and-large you would never know about the river if you didn´t know where to look. 

I guess one useful thing about the river being underground is that it doesn´t get as dirty as it passes through the city.  But that really doesn´t matter at this point because it isn´t very clean when it arrives in Tacna.  Something that I´ve definitely taken for granted is the purity of the tap water in the US.  We boil everything here before drinking.  It reminds me of that time the Boston water line broke and we had to boil the water at BC for a few days…except this is every day and not merely a novelty that interrupted our day at BC.   To this end, we have a large 8-10 gallon water dispenser that we drink from.  Boil the water and dump it in and drink.  Then repeat.  

I mentioned that Tacna was a desert.  A dry desert with a river.  And in the last 20 years the population here has grown by roughly 300,000 people, which is leading to water shortages.  In fact, in the recent elections (I believe in September or October) there was a party running on the water issue, and you can still find their posters around town.  This shortage manifests itself in the form of water shut-offs.  Generally at night the water flow into Tacna is slowed or cut.  We live so far down the river in the city that we usually still have water because the pipes haven´t completely emptied, but we can´t use the water for much.  It becomes very cloudy with a milky white color.   And sometimes this doesn´t just happen in the evening.  Last week there were several spans of 3+ hours of no water at all in our house.   But funnily everyone still waters their plants and I´m not sure how much people are trying to conserve water…it just seems to be one of those things far off in people´s minds.

One more cultural differenence…water is not seen as a thirst quencher here.  People will reach for juice, soda, or anything before water.  They say that they don´t feel like their thirst is quenched unless it is sweet.  Something that might have become engrained because people don´t really drink the water out of the tap anyways…

Thanks for reading!

Social situations…

In the last week we´ve been to a going away party and 2 birthday parties (one of which we hosted at the house since there were 3 birthdays last week).  The rate at which parties is occuring is definitely not normal the JVs here assure us.  But some interesting social notes for you:

1) Peruvians always greet everyone in a room when they enter.  They do the same when they leave.  If a man is greeting a man they will shake hands.  If a woman and man are greeting they will kiss on the cheek.  The same goes for woman greeting woman.  It is a very friendly tradition and makes for a much more inviting experience. (Think about all those parties you´ve been to where someone walks in and you don´t know who they are and you aren´t introduced to them…and then you have to talk to them…it can be awkward.)  The only awkardness comes when you kiss instead of handshake.  After a day here I had mostly met different women and become accustomed to kissing as a greeting.  And so we were walking into a man´s house when I went for the kiss instead of the hand shake.  It made for an awkward greeting and experience, and for a brief bit of time I was referred to as Señor suave…fortunately that did not last. 

2) Most Peruvians at parties have wine or beer to drink. Es igual…we do the same thing.  The difference is how they drink it.  There is typically only one or two bottles of wine or beer open at a time and there is a glass associated with each.  The glass is about the size of a double shot.  Most times you´re in some sort of circle or something similar, and the wine/glass combo is passed around the circle coming from your left and moving to your right.   

If you´re standing next to a man you will pour yourself a glass and pass the bottle.  Then you are welcome to take your time sipping your wine, or you may drink it more like a shot…both are acceptable ways of drinking your wine.  You then pass the glass to your right. 

If you are standing next to a woman you first ask her if she would like some wine. (Women don´t pour for themselves in Peruvian society and a man is expected to ask if she would like some)  If she wants a glass, then the man pours her a ¨moderate¨ amount of wine.  If too much is poured people will question your intentions with the woman…like ¨Oh, oh..are you trying to make her tipsy??¨ But if too little is poured the woman may scoff and be upset at the amount poured.  So you pour a ¨moderate¨ amount. 

On the whole, things here are going well.  It feels like an immersion trip for the most part and not like I´m living here.  Some of that is due to the fact that I´m not actually living in Tacna; I´m moving to Andahuaylillas in 3 months…and some of it is due to the fact that all we´ve been doing is meeting people and learning things and trying new foods.  But in time that feeling will disappear. 

A little outline of the next few weeks: visiting all the sites the Jesuits work with in Tacna this week.  Moving in with my host family on Saturday where I will live for the next 5 weeks.  Starting next monday I will be spending a week at each of the placements Jesuits work getting a feel for their works.  I´ll be focusing on campus ministry and pastoral care aspects of the sites since that is close to what I´ll be doing in Anda come Feb.

Thanks for reading!  Will write more soon…
Also, if you´re interested in getting more information the blogs of mi compañeros are along the right side of the page…