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 to...do 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.