Sunday, January 31, 2010

January's End

We're now a little over the 1/3 mark of our stay in Peru. I'll not evaluate my 1/3 of the year here (though this reminds me that I need to evaluate both the CapCorps retreat and the experience thus far for my lovely organization), but I do feel the need to put out a few thoughts.

We're planning on revamping the way we work here, so that we'll be able to be fully engaged, but also have more than just the one day every other week off. It's nice to be able to re-evaluate, and I'm looking forward to the future year with a different context. That'll be nice.

There will be a Norwegian guy coming here in the middle of February and staying until Mayish, I think. I believe that he'll be moving into my room, which will be cool. Though very, very crowded: my bedroom is the smallest of the 3 apartments here, and definitely the least outfitted for having 2 people using it simultaneously. Maybe I'll move into the small nook in the library: That way, he can have the mattress that has more firmness than a marshmallow, I can continue to sleep on the floor (don't ask), and we'll both have room to put our clothing. Yeah, sounds good to me. We'll see how this all goes.

Being a theology nerd, I'm thinking about Lent. They don't call it Lent here (big surprise, seeing as that's an Anglo-Saxon word and all): they call it Cuaresma (40 days, roughly, from Italian). It's fitting that they don't call it Lent, because Lent means "spring," and from the natural perspective, we are definitely approaching the beginning of fall and entering into winter as this liturgical season approaches here in the southern hemisphere. It's so weird, because the nature worked so well for my spiritual life during liturgical seasons in the states. Cold just seems so perfect for imagining Advent and Christmastime, i.e., the Light coming into the world that lay "in sin and error pining", and I love how Lent begins in winter, when everything's been stripped of its ornamentation, and the idea that we're like the trees budding as we progress in our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in preparation for the great mystery of faith that is "Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life; Lord Jesus, come in glory," and what it meant to be a part of that. I love that while Pentecost doesn't occur at the harvest time (as it originally did pre-Christianity), it occurs as everything is at the peak of flowering and about to go into bearing fruit. The naturalness in which nature provided insights into the general milieu of each liturgical season was great.
So I'm anxious and excited about the atmosphere that I'll encounter here during that time. Without such a great exemplar as nature here as a guide in the way I'm accustomed, there's a world of opportunity for new ways of looking at things, having internal motivations, etc. Though of course I still miss that unto which I'm accustomed.

On sunny days when my family and/or friends would go on hikes up in the mountains, the air was so clean, the sunlight so brilliant (yet without humidity), and there was a smell of sweetness...the sweetness almost like ripe blackberries that had gotten enough sun, but I swear it was coming from the trees, nature's assurance that yes, today IS a perfect day. I love that smell.

I saw the Nutcracker back in December. It certainly was no performance like I saw back in the States way-back-when, but the kids had an earnestness, and such care was put into the choreography, and I could feel the family and friends in the audience and their joy and pride in their friends; and family members' performance, it was lovely. The music wasn't live, but the venue was too small for that, anyway. Even so, hearing that music was like meeting with an old friend. Seriously. I've been seeking out classical/romantic/orchestral music ever since.

Well, until our next meeting, January, and the embarking of a whole new adventure as this one ends. After many joys, new experiences, old struggles, homesickness, newfound friends, frustrations, and insanity, and after 12 months, we'll chat again. Until that time, be well.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things To Do When I Should Be Going To Bed

1) Blog About Colca Canyon.

It's like the second biggest canyon in the world, twice as big as Grand Canyon, there are condors there, and we went to the bottom and climbed back up (though not at the really steep parts). It's gorgeous and there are photos on Facebook but I don't have the photographic knowhow to capture the beauty of what I'm seeing: the camera doesn't catch what my eyes do. Whether it was the shade of blue of the sky, the features of the rock, the cotton-ball clouds, or the oasis below, I couldn't capture good photos at all.

That being said, here's what happened. We got up at like 1:30 AM to catch a bus that'd take us to Colca by around 7:00ish. The ride there was uneventful, though the chairs were very uncomfortable. I hate uncomfortable chairs. We got to Mirador de los Cóndores, which is where condors circle around to gain altitude before heading down into the valley to find meat.

2) Have a tangential reflection on condors.

Look up "El Condor Pasa" on Youtube. Make sure it's not Simon and Garfunkel or that version, because that has nothing to do with Condors and takes away (for me) from some of the majesty of the song. When imagining that 10-foot wingspan, catching thermals and soaring above Andean greenery, the panpipes and flutes really make for an awe-inspiring effect, and the condor has some elegance. Then I remember that they eat dead things and their nobility diminishes. I'm sorry, I have prejudices against scavenging birds: they just don't have the majesty.

3) Resume discussion of Colca

We had breakfast at this viewpoint. Unfortunately, we saw no condors, being out of season and all (I guess they just don't like to eat during some seasons? I didn't really ask, but it's funny to imagine that condors just don't eat for the rainy season. Perhaps that's why they're so rare). We then moved on to the beginning of our 2-day trek. The beginning was a fairly painless downhill venture, but possibly a knee-killer for those not prepared. Lots of loose rock, too, so it wasn't just a "Let's run to the bottom!" excursion. Our team: Me, Alyssa, Tania (CapCorps folks), Kelly and Jessika (from California), and Paul (token Welshman), with Marcos, born in Colca, as our guide. It was a nice blend of people, and when we stopped for small breathers it was cool to get to know them. Because I'm me, and sometimes not all that distinguishable from a dog that continually runs ahead, pauses for everybody to catch up, then runs ahead again, I didn't do much conversation otherwise. I was okay with that, but I did love hearing Paul's story. He dropped out of high school, became a janitor, but was given a chance to get back into school and become a teacher in Cambodia through an organization with the help of a good-hearted person who saw potential in him and gave him a chance. He now works in Colombia as a teacher. Cracked us up for a good portion of the second part of the day.

So we reached the bottom of the canyon and crossed over to the other side of the river that runs through it, where we encountered slightly more difficult terrain (read: uphill). We were carrying our backpacks, and after a nice lunch in a small village about 10 minutes away from the river, we began phase 2, though I was now carrying 2 backpacks. I was later affectionately nicknamed the pack mule.

4) Tangent about getting anywhere in South America
I warn you that this may be a gross and unfair generalization. It seems to me that a communal societal mindframe is at the heart of South America, and as such there's an importance in keeping balance and harmony and tranquility. As such, people are willing to give directions even if they don't know where a location is, will try to encourage you and boost your spirits by telling you that your destination isn't far off even if you need to walk 20 more miles, and other such things. I can appreciate the kindness that is at the heart of these gestures, but as somebody hailing from a more individualistic culture that cares about a different kind of harmony, these are somewhat off-putting. With that in mind:

5) Phase 2 of Day 1

Paul wasn't too thrilled about the amount of uphill terrain we were encountering during Phase 2. He asked Marcos how much of the rest of the hike consisted of uphill, to which Marcos replied that we'd go for another 10-15 minutes and then be done with hills. Sure enough, 15 minutes later, we were on flat land and trekking on fairly even terrain. Marcos pointed out a sour fruit that is used in the cocktail "Colca Sour" (a variation of Pisco Sour, which is lime juice, egg white, ice, and pisco) and a plant whose leaves are very acidic and whose sap is strong enough to kill a pig in less than a day with a few drops. He said it'd be an interesting alternative to asking for a divorce from one's spouse. In honor of that, and the fact that none of us spoke Quechua and its name was in said language, we were on the lookout and avoiding "The Divorce Plant" for the rest of the first day.

About half an hour later we started climbing uphill again, which prompted some frustrated comments from Paul. Marcos said, "Yeah, we finished THAT uphill section in 15 minutes. Now we're on another one." This did little to assuage said frustration. As we finished climbing uphill, it began to rain (we were surprised it hadn't started earlier, although grateful) and we donned our ponchos. Wearing 2 backpacks under my poncho caused several people to ask when I was due. Despite lame pregnancy jokes, we arrived at our destination shortly thereafter.

6) The Oasis

The Oasis is a nice little place with zero cell phone reception, little lighting, lots of green, a nice pool, bungalows, a mess hall, a volleyball field, bathrooms, and not-so-nice biting insects. We got there, used the facilities, bought some water for the night and the following day, and relaxed. There was a raucous group of fellow expatriates who were doing a 3-day-trek: they were all very friendly, and the blend of accents was pretty cool. We broke up into our trek groups for dinner, which was a nice spaghetti. We discussed how smoking was a bad idea on this trip, the excellence of Peruvian desserts (though the lack of real cheesecake, the substitution of real cheesecake for a gelatin-mousse-THING, and a severe privation of pies are disturbing), Paul's love of Peruvian cake, the possibility of hiring a mule for the following day, and other things. Afterward, we chilled a bit and headed to bed. The sky was AMAZING. There was so little natural light, and though the cliffs and some cloud obscured a bit of the starry splendor, the effect was not lost on me. So many stars in such a different array than I'd ever seen (we don't see stars in Lima, generally, and so this was my first view of the Southern Sky) know, I can understand where a lot of MesoAmerican and South American Indigenous artwork comes from, how they depict their gods, etc...I could almost see it all painted in the sky. How truly awesome. I then went to sleep in my slightly soggy bungalow with bedbugs for company and a rock-hard pillow, but it beat sleeping outside with no sleeping bag and minimal dry clothes.

7) Day 2

Day 2 was a 3-hour trek, but this trek was entirely uphill. The monster that we had descended became the monster we had to ascend. The plan was for people who wanted to walk leisurely to leave at 4:30 and for people who walked more quickly to depart at 5. Those riding on mules (Paul decided to do this so he could say that he'd ridden a mule in the Andes) could sleep in a little bit, because mules are beasts (I'm a bad writer). Our guide, however, had a bit of a beer-induced oversleeping problem, so we all started at about 5:45 with the other groups. I was carrying 2 backpacks again. I stayed with Marcos for a while, but got antsy, so I moved ahead.

Kyle Bakas has said that when he encounters hills during his runs, he gets a very joyful feeling and feels compelled to zip up them. I still consider this grounds for having his head examined, but I suppose I gained some understanding of what he means through this trek. I wanted to CLIMB, I did not want to slow down, I did not want to take breaks, and I lived for the climb.

8) Warning
If anybody is even THINKING about Miley Cyrus right now, I will frown upon you singing "The Climb" and connecting it in any way, shape, or form with me.

9) Day 2 continued

So there was a guy from Scotland, a guy from Australia, a guy from Ireland, and a guy from London, and they practically took off running. They reached the top in 90 minutes. I continued climbing upward, feeling a competitive part of me refusing to let anybody I passed while climbing catch up with me. As a result, I reached the summit in just under 2 hours. I've been told the locals can do this climb in 45 minutes. We hadn't yet eaten breakfast, as 3 hours of solid uphill exercise doesn't bode well for a full stomach, but I was hungry. The Australian joked that I was a beast for carrying two backpacks and my beard up the canyon.

We had breakfast, made our way to Chivay, enjoyed the natural thermal baths there, and had some lunch. We then headed back to Arequipa. As we drove through the canyon, I noticed something black in the opposite window. Sure enough, upon closer inspection, I realized I was in fact seeing a condor. This first sighting was followed by two more, so the experience was very complete. The road we had to take to get back to Arequipa, however, was NOT complete, making for a very bumpy and slow ride in uncomfortable chairs. I HATE uncomfortable chairs.

Upon our return, we had some dinner and cleaned up, then headed to the central plaza to meet up with Kelly, Jessika, and some of the folks from the raucous gang. We had a good time watching them eat Cuy for the first time (and probably the last. Note that cuy is guinea pig), not to mention watch Ben, the American in their group, waltz by himself to the garbage truck's tune as it passed by, as mentioned in the previous post on Arequipa. We then went to check out the bar scene. The first bar had some decent deals, so we stayed for a while, and listened to Robbie (from London) name 49 of the 50 states. We then all admitted that none of us knew how many counties were in England, not even Robbie. People then moved to another bar, and that's where I began to realize that I really don't like bar/club scenes much. As such, I left early.

Before going to the second bar, Ryan told me that he wanted to rub his face in my beard. While I was already thinking that I needed to do some trimming for hygiene's sake, this was definitely the clincher. I think beards are cool, but sometimes I get scared when I see that more men are attracted to men with beards than women. Regardless of which gender is more attracted to me, I'd hate to think that they were using me just to cuddle with my facial hair.

10) Becoming self-aware

Sometimes I say really weird things.

11) Random memory

My junior year of high school in Spanish IV was an interesting one. There was this guy Slade Norris who now plays on the Oakland Raiders in my class. One day, out of the blue, he came over and started stroking my chin. I'm not sure what prompted this. The next day, he did the same thing. Sometimes it would happen in class, sometimes not, but he made it a ritual. It's just strange to think that I'll remember somebody as the professional football player who used to stroke my chin during the 2003/2004 school year.

12) In conclusion

I'm very tired, and have sacrificed sleep to make this post, so I apologize for adverse effects that has made on this post. But then again, my posts are all weird, so I'm not sure that I can blame any of it on sleep deprivation. I'm (kind of but not really) sorry for my personality, in that case.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What? Another One?

Contrary to what I had said in the end of my last post, this will contain neither Colca descriptions nor photographs. This will touch on my retreat, and as the retreat mostly has to do with my mental goings-on, I'm not sure there will be another full post about it. Colca definitely needs its own, though, I think.

While I was on retreat with Brother Larry, Tania, and Alyssa, I had ample time to think. The tranquility that Pueblo Libre, a small village in the province of Ancash (just north of Lima) afforded us was truly premium stuff. Maybe 12 cars passed through the village a day, so we rarely heard car noise, never heard city noise, and the constant loudspeaker of fruit venders did not sound once. I've heard fruit venders shouting about Platanos (bananas and plantains) with their megaphones to make me want to give them a very concrete suggestion as to where they ought to put their platanos.

So there weren't noises to distract nor megaphones to test my fragile charity. Additionally, the scenery is unreal. Just google Caraz if you want a small taste of what I mean. The snow-topped mountains almost looked fake because the snow was just so perfectly shimmering in the sunlight. When there weren't clouds, the sky was a brilliant shade of blue that's deeper than you can get in a more connected setting: there's too much smog and the elevation isn't high enough. Here, the air is crystal clear, the humidity does not irritate, and the sky gets to such a deep cerulean hue that you may think you're approaching the outer layers of the atmosphere. The flowers are lovely, the smell is refreshing, the people are beyond incredible, and while we had our doubts about the house when we first arrived, we concluded that Hermano Hugo knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what he was doing when he recommended that we went there.

So what did I do with this time? I reflected on the questions posed, obviously, but I also had ample time to go on my own reflective adventures.

The craziest one: contemplating silence. What is silence? Is it the absence of noise? We use it that way, but what other connotation is there? One definition involves stillness. When I think of stillness, I don't think of just things being immobile or in suspended animation or paused. There is a peace and a tranquility that I associate with the word that I lose when I make it synonymous with "muteness."

As I wondered about this, I realized what a lack of silence there is in my life. I fill it with music, I fill it with thought, I fll it with conversations and seeking others, and none of these things are bad in and of themselves, but one can add too much to the pot. I used to get mad when priests would talk about Ipods and cell phones and email and facebook and goodness knows what other newfangled things young people (22 and already feeling old) use. There was a part of me that thought, "Gosh, stop harping on it!" I don't think that the priests actually talked about them all that much, but the fact that the theme was always the same probably irked me, because one of my flaws is that if I feel that I sufficiently know something, I don't want to be retold or treated as if I knew nothing on the subject. I'm quiet about it (usually), but I'm fairly arrogant and hate having what I think I know to be true challenged.

Anyway, silence. Really, back in the states, could I have gone a week without texting somebody? Calling people? Checking my messages? Doing compulsive email checks? I know I certainly did not immediately equate being alone as a desirable thing; perhaps others considered the situation in a similar way. Is it that I don't like to be alone? Is it that I feel like I'm somehow less of a person if I'm not intentionally doing something more active? Am I afraid of silence?

Why would I be afraid of silence? Possibly because when silence arrives, it grows. It can be peaceful, but when people go and go and go and go and suddenly come to a halt, and every excuse they have given for every little thing falls silent, when a million protests and rationalizations and qualms and explanations and justifications lose their voice, silence plays tyrant. People talk about justice being blind. I think that truth might be silent. Enough time in silence, the truth wells up and becomes indomitable, unignorable, insistent. It's amazing and humbling to all of a sudden realize, "Oh. Duh." It's painful to face a next step that involves sacrifice or putting oneself on the line or taking control of one's fears. It's disconcerting to see how every defense one might make crumbles like sand castles when the truth stares one in the face.

With silence, with ears to listen and eyes to see, a heart open to being filled, many of the modern-day complications we make for ourselves can dissolve. Of course, that requires silence. I had a taste of it. And I want more.

So my resolutions this New Year: Cultivate silence and work on praying rather than just thinking. I'd also like a 6-pack, but that falls a little bit more under the "vanity" category.

Of course, after saying I want to pray more than think, I spent a good 30 minutes today figuring out a syllogistic apology to "It is in giving that we receive" and its connection to the Communion of Saints and "Whosoever seeks to save his life shall lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall save it," and "I live no longer I, but Christ in me." Me? Cerebral? What?

Oh, and the apology makes no sense. Not that any of us were surprised. I think that is all that I've got. I'm going to go for a run and work on repairing the elevator that runs between my head and my heart. Pax, all.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Arequipa: Adventures in the White City

Lord of the Rings fans might be slightly upset that I am not referring to Gondor when I talk about the White City, but it's what they call Arequipa: the older buildings in the center of the city are made of sillar, a volcanic rock (made possible by a generous donation from the three active volcanoes nearby), and the result is that the central plaza's buildings are pleasantly whitish, but bearing the marks of age in such a way that I genuinely felt that I was in a city that had been around for quite some time.

It's a beautiful place. There's always sun during the day, it's always a bit chilly at night, it has sunsets to rival the Bahamas, has amazing vistas, and the downtown area is completely accessible to pedestrians. We took a taxi once, not including the trips to and from the bus terminal.

But let me begin with the bus ride: it was very long.

I think that's all that needs to be said. The owner of our Hostel ("Amazing Home," and it lived up to its name), Alex, greeted us as we left the bus. He runs the Amazing Home with his family, and they couldn't be more helpful, kind, nor hospitable. They made us breakfast in the morning, Alex helped us plan a bus tour and a trekking adventure in Colca Canyon, and they all have amazing smiles. If you ever go to Peru, go to Arequipa. And go to this hostel.

I got my fair share of sun on this trip, especially when we were on the open level of a double-decker tour bus. Yes, I did a touristy thing. Let's not dwell on it. Nor on the ridiculous visor they gave us. Especially not on how burned my nose got because I, in a rush, didn't put sunscreen on. That day, I literally saw the undersides of my arms change color: from a white color that would make nobility of the 16th century jealous, I saw little red specks appear. It was amazing to actually see my Northern European heritage in action.

On our third and fourth days, we went to Colca Canyon, which will be getting its own post.

We went to the museum where they keep Juanita, the mummified indigenous child sacrificed atop a mountain to please the gods. She's famous because of how well the ice of the mountain preserved her. I went away with a couple of observations: 1) That girl is TINY. I know that she was young, and that I am taller than many, many people in Peru, but goodness gracious. 2) I want the lung capacity and cardiovascular system of the Inca. They climbed that mountain without rock-climbing shoes, with minimum rope, without mules or llamas, and probably managed to maintain their religious procession the entire time. And it is a STEEP mountain.

I have a habit of emulating accents. In Peru, this is nice, because I quickly shifted from sounding like I had a Brazilian accent to having a Peruvian accent very quickly. In fact, I might have overdone it and emulated the way my kids talk too closely, which would make me sound like a mumbling adolescent Peruvian, which I'm not too keen to have, but whatever. So yeah, great when speaking other languages. Not so great when meeting other expatriates. When I talked with the Australians, I had to fight not to go Australian. When I talked with the English guy, I'll be darned if I didn't notice myself beginning to imitate him. Not much happened with the Scottish guy, because my instincts told me that I just couldn't imitate his accent without sounding like Willy the Scottish Janitor from the Simpsons, and if I were a native Scot, I'd be none to thrilled to hear that as feedback to my thoughts. I blame this habit of mine on my mother (love you, Mom) after hearing that when she and my dad picked up a hitchhiker from Dublin, Mom was droppin' her g's an' givin' a lilt to her words. So yeah, on Wednesday night when we met up with some folks we had met on our excursion to Colca, I had some issues.

All in all, the best thing about Arequipa was the fact that it was vacation. I needed some time to breathe and be in a new atmosphere.

Oh! Arequipa has great food. Rocoto Relleno is lovely, Ocopa is delightful, and they're a good shrimp/crawdad city.

As an afterthought, my only real complaint would probably be that the trash collectors have an obnoxiously loud noise to alert people that they're coming so that people can drop what they're doing, grab their bags, and toss them in the truck. The form the alert took? The beginning of "Fur Elise" by Beethoven. However, our friend Ben made up for that by waltzing with himself on the balcony of a restaurant for our restaurant and all of those restaurants sharing said balcony (and possibly passerby in the Central Plaza below) to see.

That's all I've got at the moment. Next post: Colca and/or Photos. And maybe emo musings if I can't muster enough interesting information and/or photos.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

After Some Christmas and New Year....

I would say that it is high time for an update. Please note that most formality in this blog, aside that which I can blame on tiredness, comes from the fact that the keyboard is not wanting to let me use apostrophes. I know how to use them on these Spanish computers. The simple fact is that through some electrical fault and stubbornness, I have been denied the use of a very useful piece of punctuation for expressing possession and for contractions. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Where to begin? I suppose that Christmas is as good a place as any. I expect that after my retreat that begins on Sunday, I will have other updates as well, as a sufficient number of substantial events have transpired to merit at least a few of them having their proper and individual posts. In any case...

The month of December, as I believe I have mentioned in a previous post, lacked the regular contitution and schedule unto which I had grown accustomed in the past few months. I lacked chickens to herd in the daytime, tasks were ever more strange, and the experience served as a wonderful means to disorient me entirely. That being said, the anticipation for Christmas was palpable at the Ciudad de los Niños, and the season was thusly transformed into a delightful form of chaotic preparation. Each house made its own Nativity scene, because that is a big thing down here. I was amazed to see the meticulousness, the grandiosity, and the sheer interest put into each one. Well done, Ciudad. I also began learning Christmas songs to play at Mass with Hno. Polo and the choir.
While I greatly admire him on many points, patience is something he lacks. We have very little time to learn songs, especially songs that are complicated, and while the kids just need to get some guts and sing into the microphone, sometimes his frustration at them irks me. I hope that the boys get some actual voice training, because presently one cannot hear a single word that they sing. Should Hno. Polo fail to sing, no one will sing, because nobody will hear a leading voice. I have some sympathy for the next frustration: I know how to play any number of songs, but having to explain which chords to play when can sometimes be a daunting task. Hno. Polo, in rush for time, sometimes failed to notify me of some (or any) of the chords to certain songs. I know 6 chords on the guitar, so I was able to read his hands and thusly play the correct progressions for many songs, but if he played something outside of those 6, I was in trouble.
All things considered, music was fun. I must say, though, that liturgical musicianship is a huge challenge for me. The temptation always arises to treat the music as performance. In a sense it is, clearly, but I always focus so narrowly on that one aspect of liturgical music that I fail to recognize the prayerfulness that should accompany well-executed hymns. When I fail to let prayer into my music, i.e., into my mode of functioning or a Mass or Rite or anything, the privation of prayer in the totality of my time spent in the church building is incredibly noticeable. I did not have as much of a challenge this Christmas, not having people to joke with and less of a perfectionist attitude.

After Mass, we had dinner. After dinner, we waited. At 11:59 PM, we had a countdown. At midnight, December 25th, the kids opened presents. I cannot tell you how much excitement, joy, happiness, and goodwill was in that room full of boys aged 3 through 18. After they all had opened their presents, people commenced to hug. If I had complained about a lack of hugs in my life for the past 4 or 5 months, this one night was recompense. Everybody hugged a little more tightly, a little more lovingly, with a little more feeling. Small children with whom I had never interacted asked for hugs and high fives. The heads of houses were, if possible, more giddy than the children. There was enough earnest and sheer joy within the confines of the Ciudad to bring any person to a beaming smile.

I will not expand on this thought too much, but I enjoyed being posed with the question: What are you giving Jesus for His birthday? I also like thinking about the 3 Kings and all the metaphorical and literal subtleties that their gifts entail about His nature and our own.

The kids left the Ciudad for vacations Christmas Day. It was a day of melancholy and awesomeness. On the one hand, a sort of freedom to relax without the slightest feeling of guilt was opening its arms to collect me into a month-long embrace, but on the other, an unfilled schedule was skulking on the horizon. Also, though I would think it goes without saying, I was saying goodbye to some boys whom, for better or for worse, I have come to appreciate and (dare I say it?) love.

After that, we commenced almost nothing. The first week of vacation was an unplugging of sorts. However, that did not last long. The evening of January 1st we jumped on a travel bus and headed for Arequipa, a city in the Province of the same name, where it is brilliantly sunny in the day and chilly at night, where the clouds are a minor part of the day, not the main presence, where the elevation is high, snow-capped moutains have taken up residence, there are less than 8 million people, and the vegetation is not all brown. I am currently writing this blog entry from said city. As such, I will give you the layout of how I imagine the next few blog entries will take shape: I imagine that I will discuss Arequipa in depth, although our largest adventure, trekking the Colca Canyon, will need its own, claiming the second future blog post, and I am sure I will find the need to post some small musings about Caraz, site of our CapCorps retreat that will be starting oh-so-soon.

As such, I have nothing more substantial for now. Bear with me and in a week or two I will hopefully have something more to say than a mere outline of what has happened.