¿What do you do?

So I’m frustrated.  Community is hard.  The kids in the comedor didn’t remember to bring their spoons, but instead brought whistles today.  The women in the kitchen are blaming me for the ensuing chaos.  And there are just so many other things going wrong today.

What do I do?

Everyone has their own routine, their own thing that they do to unwind, to de-stress, to forget the troubles of the day.  But in the international setting, many of us have to leave behind some of our more normal de-stressors in search of others.  Back in the states I could easily rely on some good tunes or a quick run to get me out of a funk.  But in Peru my ipod’s selection has gone stale, and I live in a town built of cobblestones on the side of a mountain which makes any thought of a quick jog somewhat stressful in itself.

So what to do?

Well, I fortunately have a few tricks up my sleeve.  Like I said earlier, we live on the side of a mountain.  This provides ample opportunity to go for a hike and enjoy the beauty of nature.  This is what I decide to do today.

Side note: remember how JVC said no pets and especially no llamas?  Yeah, you do.  Well, we here in Andahuaylillas have found a way around this pesky rule.  Instead of us adopting pets, we had pets adopt us.  Two street dogs have decided that the gringos are friendly, and therefore we should be their humans. They go by the names of Yogi and Colitas (meaning ‘little tail’, ironic because she has no tail).   The two of them are partners, as far as street dogs can be faithful to one another, and Colitas just gave birth week to a litter of 10 (yes 10!) puppies.   Unfortunately only 5 have survived to present day.
So here I am, hiking boots on, water bottle in the backpack, and Yogi at my side.  Ready to hike a mountain.   45 min later I have arrived at my destination.  A small landing about halfway up the mountain where the Cross of Andahuaylillas stands overlooking the pueblo.

Off in the distance: Pucuto y Huaro

I take a seat next to Yogi and just observe all that is around me.  The river that runs through the valley.  The corn fields that are in the process of being harvested.  The towns of Pucutu, Piñipampa, and Huaro off in the distance.

Yogi looks off towards Piñipampa in the distance

All of it bigger than me.  My perspective has been reset.  The stressors in my life are not gone, but something about the immense majestic beauty sitting here in the Andes causes me to realize that li

fe is good.   I spend a while longer up on the mountain.  When the sun finally disappears behind me the temperature begins to drop, and I realize that I should head back home.  Descending the mountain with Yogi still at my side I am content with everything.  Content and ready to renter Andahuaylillas, ready to return to my role in the community.


Semana Santa 2011

This is going back a ways, but as I promised, Semana Santa 2011.  Also, click on the photos to see a larger version if you want.

Domingo de Ramos

Foto from Cara

This day started with a procession.  The whole town gathered down on the highway at the Capilla del Señor de Antahuayla.  This is the cross of Andahuaylillas (Antahuayla was the name of Andahuaylillas before the Spaniards changed it to be more Spanish sounding) and Holy Week starts with a procession to carry the cross from its capilla up to the church for the week.  This is also where the blessing of the palms took place so that everyone could carry palms up with the cross as well.  Along the route up to the church there were these lines hanging across the street with flowers, bread, fruit and other things hanging from it.  Once the cross passed underneath these lines it was fair game to reach/jump up to pull the stuff down…and by “fair game”, I mean free-for-all.

Foto from Mallory
Foto from Mallory

Once we got to the church the place was packed.  Something I had not seen since arriving…there was absolutely no room for anyone to sit.  The choir was spread out across the entire church because we hadn’t thought to reserve benches ahead of time since the church had never been this full.  So with more than 300 people we celebrated the Palm Sunday mass.

Holy Monday

This day usually passes without notice in the US.  While there might be more people who got to mass this day or whatnot because it is Holy Week, it is a day we do not usually mark.  This is the opposite here in Andahuayillas and the greater Cusco area.  This is the day that we celebrate El Señor de los Temblores (Christ of the Earthquakes).  In 1650 there was a massive earthquake in Cusco which destroyed many buildings and damaged the Cathedral.  And somehow this image of Christ survived the destruction and was henceforth known as El Señor de los Temblores.  People have a high reverence for this image of Christ and he is found in most communities throughout the Cusco valley.  And every Holy Monday is the day he is brought out from the churches and processed throughout communities.  For us this means taking the cross down from the altar where it normally sits throughout the year and placing it in a special stand that is then carried throughout the whole town.  And by the whole town I mean the whole town.  The entire procession took about 4.5 hours.  We would go a few blocks, stop, place the cross on a table, and then we prayed and sang before moving on.  I’m not very good with estimating the number of people at events, but my guess is that by the end of the procession (circa 8:30pm) there were over 1,000 people in the procession, and if you weren’t in the procession you were waiting at the church for the return of Señor de los Temblores.

Foto from Cara
Foto from Cara - going for artistic
Foto from Cara

Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday

These days were less busy in the parish.  We were doing a lot of planning for the rest of the week, but there wasn’t too much going on.  Wednesday afternoon we hosted a group of jovenes for the first of several sessions on what Holy Week means, but this day wasn’t too intensive as only a handful showed up.

Holy Thursday

This is where the big work of the parish started kicking in.  And to complicate things, Padre Oscar was called away to serve as the pastor in another parish so a different priest, Padre Cesar, came in from Lima to celebrate the rest of Holy week with Andahuaylillas.  Fortunately most of the plans were set on what we were going to do for the washing of the feet, the Hora Santa, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, so it was a matter of filling in Padre Cesar and working to get things done.  For me, the largest part of my work was putting together a 2 hour long community prayer service for after mass on Thursday evening.  It is something that is done to accompany Jesus while he is in the Garden at Gethsemane.   The idea we had was to show clips of a video followed by reflection questions, followed by a prayer, followed by a bit of silence, followed by a song.  And we repeated this sequence 8 times.  Each time through we varied the form of prayer drawing from things like responsorial Psalms and poetry. Half of the songs we sang were also in Quechua which was cool to listen to, but I still don’t understand most of what is said to me in Quechua.  The video clips I selected started with the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and followed his life up through the 3 denials of Peter.  Each clip was between 2 and 3 minutes so as to not be too long and to give us something concrete on which to focus the reflection questions.  And everything was done through Powerpoint; kind of cool to bring 21st century technology into the 16th century church.

At the beginning of the service there might have been close to 75 people in the church, and by the end there were more than 50 so I was happy to see that enough people found what we did useful enough to stay until 10:30pm.  Some of the nuns stayed long enough to thank me for putting it together saying that it was a really cool experience and a really helpful guide in community prayer for that evening.  That meant a lot to me, because I was unsure how people would respond to what we did.  Sometimes change isn’t easily embraced in such a small town, but those who were there thought it went well.  Now we just have to think of how we can improve or change it for next year!

Foto from Cara - Inside the church during Hora Santa

Good Friday

Morning came quickly today.  After going to be late on Thursday, we were up at 4am to hike up into the mountains to pick flowers.  We walked along the highway for about 90 min to a mountain on the outside of Huarcapay where a lot of wild flowers grown.  I walked with one of the nuns and a volunteer who lives with the nuns.  We were going to pick flowers for the parish so that we could create an alfombra in the church.  Creating alfombras is something that many families in Andahuaylillas do in the streets for the Good Friday procession.  Around 6am things started to get light and around 6:30 we were hiking up the mountain from the highway.  It was a really pretty way to start the day, because daybreak in the valley gives you a lot of colors and a lot of cool views.  We then spent a couple hours picking different colored flowers to carry back.  Once the sun came over the mountain top, we realized why this is an activity for the wee hours of the morning…the temperature quickly rose and we decided it was time to join the masses heading back to Andahuaylillas.  Only this time, instead of walking the 90mins back, we flagged down the first bus and rode back to town.

Andahuaylillas if off in the distance there. Click for a larger view!
The colors at sunrise...amazing (again, can click to see larger photo)
The Hermana and other volunteer are off in the distance picking flowers. Andahuaylillas in the the far background.

After leaving the flowers in the temple I helped to hang up the signs for the procession which would take place in the afternoon.  We had to mark where the Stations of the Cross would take place while on the procession.  After this was accomplished, it was time for a rest before lunch.  One of the most interesting traditions of Andahuaylillas is the tradition of the 12 plates.  While the rest of the world is fasting on Good Friday we live in a place where you eat 12 plates of food for lunch before the Stations of the Cross procession.  Lili invited me to eat at her house with her family.  We did not end up eating 12 entire plates, but instead stopped at 9.  There were 4 soups, 1 plate of fried trout w/ potatoes, and 4 plates of dessert.  The trout was unbelievably delicious, but of everything, the plate that stands out to me was the mazamorra de calabaza … essentially a sugary, soupy, dessert of pumpkin.The alfombra for the parish…distinct honor of actually being inside of the church

Immediately following the lunch we went to the church for adoration of the cross which ended with El Señor de los Temblores being taken down from the cross and placed in a giant glass coffin.  After we had all passed by the coffin the in the church, the procession began.  The empty cross was in the lead, followed by the glass coffin, followed by a mourning Virgin Mary.  As we left the church the band began to follow too and would accompany us throughout the entire procession.  My job in this procession was to play the matraca at the front of the procession.  Because you are not allowed to ring the bells of the church between Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil we have this instrument called the matraca we play instead.  It is a heavy and cumbersome instrument to play, so I shared the duty with Onassis who also works in the church.  The idea was that we were announcing the movement of the procession, alerting people in the streets that it was coming.  Although I feel that most people were aware of its presence, it was still something they looked for.  So for the following 5 hours I, along with Onassis, would shake the matraca announcing the coming of Christ’s coffin.

Me, Onassis, and the matraca

While there were 14 scheduled stops of the coffin for the Stations, we ended up making over 30 stops because we stopped at every house that had placed a table out in the street.  This is also where all the alfombras come into play.  Many families had arranged their flowers in the streets to create images for the cross and coffin to pass over.  It was all very cool, very beautiful.  While I thought the procession on Monday was really big, this one came in at over 2,500 people by the time it ended.  And when we arrived back in the plaza there were over 500 more people waiting to receive the procession.

Entirely made of flowers
Foto from Cara
Foto from Cara – in the plaza welcoming back the cross, coffin, and Virgin Mary

One of the most interesting things that I didn’t realize until the end was that the image of Mary in mourning was only carried by women.  Of the three it was by far the heaviest and carried by women throughout the whole 5 hour procession.  And they sang.  They sang as they carried it.  Christ’s coffin had a band, but these women sang for 5 hours as they carried Mary.  Granted they had rotations and invited volunteers to carry her too, but still, it was quite impressive and showed a real connection that they have as women, as mother to the Virgin Mary.

Holy Saturday

This day I spent with the jovenes on a retreat.  We discussed many of the themes of Easter and what they meant to us.  The Jesuits and Nuns were in charge of leading it which was awesome to be able to simply participate.  Afterwards we invited those who wanted to help set things up for the Easter Vigil (which is celebrated at 4am on Sunday morning as opposed to Saturday night) to stay the night in the Retreat House.  Things we had to do were prepare the readings, prepare the fire out front of the church, create cardboard things for the candles so as to not drop wax on the floor of the church, make hot chocolate for 400 people, and cut up fruit cake for 400 as well.  By the end of all this it was midnight, and I went to bed knowing that I would have to be awake at 3am.

Easter Vigil

To celebrate the Easter vigil at 4am Sunday morning was a new experience.  Several hundred people showed up too, which surprised me.  We started outside the church in the plaza with the fire in a pit, and after this service of the light we proceeded into a dark church.  It was really neat to have several hundred people in the church in darkness except for the candles.  The service proceeded as normal, and after the priest had invited us to extinguish our candles there was a power outage so everyone immediately relit their candles and the mass continued in candle light.  One of the really cool aspects of having this service at 4am is that as the service progressed the sun began to rise symbolizing the new day, the resurrection, the life that comes from Easter.   So cool.  Mass ended, and then there was a procession of the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament through the plaza.  At this time we, and the jovenes, went to the kitchen to bring out the hot chocolate and fruit cake we had prepared.  When everyone made it back to the church we then broke bread and drank hot chocolate together, which gave it all a more Christmas feel than Easter feel, but everyone enjoyed their food.

I'm up there helping to throw the balloons over the balcony
And there I am...

And after all the Easter festivities in Andahuaylillas (including the 11am Reserruction mass) we got out of the town to find our Easter duck.

We hopped a ride in the back of a pickup to Lucre which has the best duck in the valley... free rides in the back of pickups are awesome.

So this was a long long post about what Semana Santa looked like in Andahuaylillas.  I’m planning on another post to write more about what Easter felt like here.  Also to expand more upon what my first year as a Catholic (celebrated on April 25) looked like, and where things are headed from here.   Thanks for reading!

A Foto update…

Will post a wordly update soon!  But for your viewing pleasure I present several scenes from Andahuaylillas…click on the fotos for a larger view!

A view of Andahuaylillas from atop a mountain. The parish is towards the right where the biggish looking building is...and we live on the other side of the church.
This second high altitude foto looks up into the valley where Andahuaylillas sits. Further up those mountains are several andian villages which tons of kids who come down to Andahuaylillas to study and eat in my comedor. And that is Andahuayillas in the bottom left.
The view of where the view from above came from…la cruz that overlooks Andahuaylillas
JVs at work? We're planning to camp out in the bell tower one night.
Do you see the second rainbow over the bell tower of the church?
When we have the time we walk the 7 or so miles to the market along the train tracks between the mountains.

Stay tuned tomorrow for pictures of Sam the butcher.  In the past 2 days we purchased an entire cow and half of a bull (about 250 kilos or 550 pounds of meat)…all of which means I got to learn how to take the ax to the cow.

Andahuaylillas…a brief introduction

So Andahuaylillas…Photos at the bottom.  Located about a 40 minutes drive to the south of Cusco is located in the Quispicanchi Valley is situated between two mountains in a valley coming off the main valley through Quispicanchi.  There are two other towns we work with (Huaro and Urcos) that are about 5 and 8 kilometers respectively to the south of Andahuaylillas.  I don’t know the names of the rivers or mountains yet, but I will be picking those up as time goes on.  Everything is currently very very green and it is almost time for the corn to be picked.  We’re in the middle of the rainy season and it rains every day.  Some days it’s a brief down pour in the afternoon, and other days (like today) it is a slow and steady drizzle.  It gets cold at night, probably around 40° or a bit lower.  And when there are clouds in the morning things are slow to warm up.   I’ve heard that the dry season is a bit warmer during the day and a bit colder at night (sub freezing).

We´ve been here now 8 days.  The first few days were spent getting used to the altitude (around 10,000 feet) and explore our surroundings.  We also took a trip into Cusco on Saturday to look around.  While the school year doesn’t start until the 7th of March we started working on Monday.  Mateo and Mal headed off to Fe y Alegría to meet the staff and begin prepping for the school year.  Jess, Cara, and I met with Padre Oscar to discuss things that needed to get done before the students started coming.  My main job will be helping to run the comedor in the parish, but there will be many other things that I/we end up doing.  Helping with Catecesis, Confirmations, First Communion, El Camino Ignacio (Ignation formation for older students), after-school programs, programming for parents designed to give them alternatives to alcohol, tutoría program to help accompany the students who come to the parish after school (keeping track of their health, appearance, grades, and being responsive to their home situations)…among other things.  While I don’t know yet what everything entails, it will prove to be a busy experience with programming on every day of the week.

Since Monday I have spent the days hiking up into the valley visiting the indigenous towns.  Many of the students in Andahuaylillas come from these towns, and the comedor´s main focus is to provide nutritious lunches to these students.  To this end we (Silvia and Yusi and I) have been taking a colectivo up the mountain for about 30 min and then hiking further up to towns we need to visit.  Then we essentially knock on every door asking for the students who commute down to Andahuaylillas every day for school.  Then we explain the comedor and sign up the students if the parents want their children in the comedor.  Most do because it only cost about 2 USD per month for each student, and if the parents don’t have the money to pay this, they can pay in products like corn or potatoes.  Yusi speaks Quechua so when we encounter parents who don´t speak Spanish she is able to communicate who we are and what we´re doing.

It has been an incredible experience to hike through the valley getting to know where the majority of students that I will work with come from.  They live in a gorgeous land, but the life they lead is hard.  It is a life of subsistence farming…living day to day on what you bring in from your farm.  And the farms are situated in the valley as well as up the mountain sides.  I think the highest up I’ve seen a patch of potatoes growing is about 700-1,000 feet up from the valley floor.  Most houses are made of adobe bricks and are 2 stories (probably because of the rains and flooding that can occur).  They have dirt floors and there are farm animals everywhere.  I’m still trying to figure out how they keep track of which pig or chicken belongs to who because they are all simply allowed to roam free.  One of the days we hiked up to where the electricity ends and thought that we had reached the end of communities in this valley, but on the way back down we learned that there was another community even further up the mountain which we will have to return to later.

That’s all for now…more on the church in Andahuaylillas and the way of life in the valley.

— The bell tower is in the background with CCAIJO in front.


— Inside the Sistine Chapel of the Americas…the two oldest organs in the Amiercas are located to the right and left.  Lots more later on the history of this church and the decorations.  This is where I work!


— Found the land then a ortunatedly they are a 30 min car ride and then a 1.5 hour hike from where I live.  Hoping to find some closer to home.


Andahuaylillas…por fin

Wednesday morning, after 20 some hours of riding buses we made it to Cusco.  Reunited with Cara and met Padre Oscar…packed all of our luggage into the parish truck and drove the 40 min south to Andahuaylillas.  We were exhausted, but not ready to sleep…exicted to see and meet all the new people and get acquainted with our diggs for the next 2 years.  This place is unbelievably beautiful.  Green mountains everywhere.  Rivers.  We´re nestled in between two mountains with a river on the other side where you enter from…I¨ll get pictures for you all when the internet cooperates.   THe internet is very slow because its Febuary…or so they say.  When everyone gets back from vacations in March things are supposed to pick back up, so we will see.

We now have 2 weeks to prepare for the school year and get everything situated.  We cannot move into our house yet because they are re-doing the bathrooms.  But we are meeting the people we will work with and getting adjusted to the altitude.  Everything is going well…just wanted to give you all an update.

More to come in time and with internet speed!

A view of the pillars

Life as a JV in Tacna has been difficult.  We´re passing 8 weeks here and I have yet to really feel like a volunteer.  But the difficulty has not be in the living of life…I have done a lot of that…but rather in living in accordance with the values we ascribed to when we applied/were accepted as a Jesuit Volunteer.   The values we seek to live out fall into 4 categories: Community, Simple Living, Social Justice, and Spirituality.  While under normal circumstances living these ideals in community is difficult given the difference of opinions that exist in communities as well as the difficulties of living in another country, but for me in Tacna there have been even more obstacles.  We´ve been tasked with the job of setting up a new community in Andahuaylillas, but we have yet to set foot in Andahuaylillas.  Instead we have been living in Tacna, with host families, for the past 2 months.  While it has been really useful for my Spanish skills, and for understanding some of Peruvian culture, it has made it difficult to live as a JV.   To better organize my thoughts, I´m going to go according to the pillars of JVC.

Community has meant different things these past 2 months, and I think that the 2 different meanings will continue to exist even as we move into Andahuaylillas and make it our home.   Here in Tacna more dominating meaning of community has been that of my host family.  I have spent 6 weeks living with a family in Tacna.  They are the people that I have seen every day and spent the most time with while in Peru.  I love them, they´re amazing people and have really taught me a lot…about a lot of things.  The only reason it will be difficult to leave Tacna is because of my host family.  But with this form of community, it makes it difficult to have the other form, the form which JVC seeks to create, namely a community of volunteers.  The difficulty here is that we don´t live together.  We don´t see each other every day.  And one of us is even living in the States for January…so it´s been difficult.   To add to this, we have been watching the Tacna volunteers begin to form their community (both with each other in their own house, and with their neighbors who will be their neighbors for the next 2 years).  While I can´t fault them for doing what only seems natural, especially given that they have all moved into the community house here, it makes it a bit more difficult being on the outside.  When all 7 of the new Peru volunteers were living with host families, it was easier…

But you can´t really change the hand you´re dealt.  And I signed up for this.  I wanted to help start a new community in a new location.  I just never realized how difficult these three months would be with regards to community, nor did I realize how important the idea of forming a community among the 5 of us that will be in Cusco would be to me.   We´ve done our best to work towards an idea of community, but It hasn´t been easy….I´m excited and ready for the work in Cusco.

Simple Living
This also has been complicated given the living situation.  My host family certainly did not sign up for a life of simple living when they invited me into their home.  So I have been living at their life style which is not the simple life style of the volunteers.  While we certainly aren´t overly extravagant at my house, we are very well to do in Tacna.  Living with my host family has also clouded what I thought it meant to live simply.  Is living simply supposed to be in the things we have?  Or is it more in the way we live?  Should we do away with all the things in life to get to the “purest” form, or is it more in how we live with each other?  My family here always has someone coming through the house to chat.  They spend a lot of time talking and being with people.  They live simply, meaning without too much complication, but they have internet, a microwave, a washing machine, and other things that might not fit the definition of simple.  Just something to keep in mind as we move to Andahuaylillas in February.

Social Justice
What does this mean?  I really have no way to judge what this would even look like here in Peru yet.  How do you do justice in a society you don´t understand?  I think again, I simply have to wait until I understand where I am better and what it is that I will do once I get to Andahuaylillas.   For now, I can only be present to those I am with.  And once January 9th comes, then I´ll be on Mission Month with 53 high school boys…that surly has to count somewhere in this column?

This is the easiest to articulate because it comes from a language deficit.  One of the surprises that I wasn´t expecting was the frustration I would have in mass.  Going to mass for me is something that I draw strength from.  And when the language shifted from English to Spanish I lost something.  At first it was difficult to even understand what was being said (I knew what was going on by the fact that mass works the same in all languages).  I didn´t get anything from the homilies and I missed a lot.  It was tough for a while, but now that my Spanish is improving I´m getting more from mass and the difficulties here are subsiding.   There is more to type here…but time is always getting shorter.

In summary of this I think the word is: Unsettled (thanks Walter for the word).  Life has yet to settle down, and it won´t for another few months.  Patience is something that I don´t usually have a lot of, but I´m learning a bit more about it every day: patience with myself, with my surrounding, with the Tacna Volunteers, with my community (however you define this).

Contact information in Peru!

The time has come…I leave on Tuesday!  So here are some ways for you to stay in touch with me while I’m in Peru:

My email will still work, you can write to me at samuel.w.hay@gmail.com and I should be able to check that every so often, but there are no guarantees with my web access.

We’re should also be able to use Skype from time to time…the name with that is Samuel.hay

Mail!  I love mail, and if you write to me then I will write to you.   But there are some things to keep in mind with what you send to me…here is what Cara told us about mailing things to Peru:

Sending packages to Perú: Anything weighing less than 3 pounds can be sent through the mail with an official slip (green) that you get at the post office. Packages with this slip will arrive in a short period of time (1-3 weeks) without going through customs. Tell whoever might be sending you packages to insist upon this slip (reports say that the post office usually thinks some other manner is better–do not believe it!!) Write educational material, no value on the slip. It will arrive without going through customs, which happens to be a Latin American bureaucratic hassle of immense proportions. Also, with smaller packages we avoid a trip to Cusco to pick them up.

My address from November 2010 to January 2011 is:

Sam Hay
Jesuit Volunteers
Colegio Cristo Rey
APDO 120
Tacna, Peru

And my address from February 2011 – December 2012 is:

P. Oscar Morelli, SJ
Sam Hay
Triunfo 339, Apartado 276
Cusco, Peru


I would love to hear from you!