Sunday, June 23, 2013

Te Extraño, Perú

As I’m sitting on the couch back in LA, I can't help but miss Peru so much and wish I was back there. 

Although yes, it was cool and great that we had time to do touristy stuff while we were there, I would have to say that my faith was impacted even more through working with the children and churches we were with and even visiting the beauty that is Machu Picchu itself. 

The children of Colegio de Sagrado Corazon!
I’ll start with all the children we worked with. For about four days, we went to this town called Hijos de Grau to work with children and families near this school called Colegio de Sagrado Corazon. 

For the first two days we went house to house and talked to families, told our personal stories to encourage them, and on the second day, we gave away clothing to them. The last two days were working with the kids, teaching them songs, telling them stories, and spending time with them in general. There was one little girl in particular who caught my attention.

On the first day that we arrived at the school, we got to say hi and see the children that we would work with later on in the week. There was one little girl who wore glasses and looked a little cross-eyed. I didn’t really know why, but I thought she was the cutest thing ever. I thought she was just adorable.

The next day, on the third house that we visited, when I walked into that tiny home, there was that little girl. My team and I had visited her family. After talking with the mother and asking her about accepting Christ into her heart and asking for prayer requests, she brought up the little girl.

Her name is Harumi. She is three years old and she was born blind. Since she’s been born, she’s gone through a series of surgeries to fix her vision. So far, she can see with glasses, but her left eye is a little more messed up than the other. Harumi’s mother asked for us to pray for her upcoming surgery that is supposed to fix that eye.

As I heard that story, my heart was hurting for her. The poor little girl has gone through so much in the three years she’s been living and I’m sure that she was scared. What three year old wouldn’t be scared of surgery?

As we prayed for Harumi and her family, I felt this weird feeling in me. I felt that I needed to talk to the little girl.

The ever adorable, Harumi. 
After we were done praying, I took my group leader aside and asked him if I could talk to Harumi, and he said okay. As I was about to talk to her, I could just feel her pain and I started to cry before anything could even come out of my mouth.  I felt the Holy Spirit asking me to give the family a word of encouragement. I needed them to know that she’d be okay someday, if they would just believe that she would. She would one day be completely healed of her vision problems.

Harumi and her mother started crying as well. They knew that it was a hard situation already but they needed to hold on to hope. I later told Harumi that I think she was so beautiful, and she started to cry. At such a young age, I can’t help but think that she feels self conscious of her situation. I can’t even imagine how she must feel everyday as a little toddler, dealing with something like that. She stole my heart and was the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen.

Another big aspect of what we did that impacted me: soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it, futból. Our group leader, Fernando wasn't kidding when he said soccer was like a religion in Peru. It was through this sport that we met and bonded with some of the sweetest, kindest, funniest guys that we had ever met. Even more so, we fell in love with even more of them at the church that they all go to: Centro Evangelistico. 

The youth of Centro Evangelistico after our last soccer
 match of the trip
This is the church of the pastor that drove us to most places during the trip: Marvin Contreras. It was such a blessing to have him spend time with us for most of the trip. He has such a humble heart and he, his family, and his church welcomed us with open arms. Even though we were supposed to go there to bless them, I think that they blessed us even more. Just watching all of them worship God the way they do, interact between each other the way they do, and even just watching them get to know us and even try speaking the little English that they know so that we can all better understand each other made me so blessed to have them as friends. Because of how much we had all bonded together, it was a little depressing when we found out we couldn't play soccer or say goodbye one last time on Thursday night. I think they were all just as sad as we were. If you wanna know another reason why Centro Evangelistico or its people will always have a special place in my heart: I got baptized there. 

My water baptism
I'd waited so long to be able to be baptized (as in fully submerged) in water. It may or may not seem very important, but I think at the point where I was in my life, the timing was just right. It felt refreshing to physically take away my past life. No, I'm not saying that from now on I'll be perfect (because no one could ever be), but it was a little bit like a new start. And I'm so thankful to have had my Peru team family, as well as the Centro Evangelistico family there with me to celebrate that time. 

I don't think I could ever thank them enough for what they did for us, but I hope that they know that we all appreciate them so much for their friendships. It was also the move of the Holy Spirit in that church (as well as all the others we visited) that showed us all how much more we could be doing for God, how much more we could be showing our adoration to him, how much more we could just love him with our lives.

Finally, there's Machu Picchu. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, I got to see it and hike up the mountain next to it, Mount Waynapicchu.

Me near the top of Mt. Waynapicchu
I must say, it is such a beautiful place to see. You are above the clouds, and you can see for miles and miles. Machu Picchu looks so amazing from the top of the mountain as well. It was pouring rain when we got to the top so it almost felt like a victory of making it past all that sweat (and loss of breath) with the satisfaction of the rain and cold air welcoming you to the top of the mountain. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever physically done. Hiking up almost 8,000 ft is not the best activity for someone with asthma, but every step of it was so worth it. God's creativity is glorified in that place, that's for sure. The mountains, the weather, all the green surrounding the area, even the intact stone structures that the Quechua (not Inca, that's what they called their kings) people built--you can see God in everything.

The famous Machu Picchu!

I know that this is probably the longest post I've written yet, but if you made it to this paragraph, I want to thank you for reading it. This experience was one of the best I've ever had in my entire life, and I think that it's fitting to have it all in one post. I'm so grateful to have done everything I have done, and am looking forward to my next great adventure.

However, I will say about Peru that I definitely do plan to come back, that is for sure. I don't know when, but it is going to happen. Until next time, chau, my lovely readers & friends.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Food Journey for Dayz: Peruvian Food Diary

Peruvian food, lomo saltado, chaufa

I've been in Peru for six days now, and I have fallen in love with the country! We have seen and done so many things and met so many great people, and I know that it's not going to stop for the next week that we still have here.

Today I thought I'd share one of my favorite topics in the world: FOOD!

I think it would be an understatement to say that the food here is great. It's much more than that, but I can't think of a word to describe how delicioso the food is. It is so filling and filled with so much flavor that you can't get in the States.

An interesting tidbit that I learned about Peru quickly is that dinner isn't at the traditional 5 or 6pm like it is in America. They actually have their biggest meal of the day at 1 or 2pm. During our traditional dinner time, Peruvians have snacks or juices or coffee. They do not have tea here at all. I found that interesting.

*UPDATE: Actually, they do have tea here! It's just not as common a drink as in America! The tea I tried is from Cusco/Macchu Picchu area, and it's really good and different [:

Anyways, back to day two of our food journey! On Tuesday we had something that Peruvians call Chifa, or to us Americans, Chinese food. According to our team leader, Fernando, he said that the reason why Peruvians call Chinese food Chifa is because they don't like racism and the food has Peruvian twists on it so they call it Chifa instead. To them, referring to the food as Chinese can come off as racist and so they don't want to offend anyone.

Fried Chicken Filets with a sweet and sour sauce -
Chifa food is some of the best Chinese food I've ever had in my life.

The Chifa food was a huge feast! It was also the day of the Columbia vs. Peru futból match, so that may also have explained all the food.

I didn't take pictures of all the food, but I got quite a few. We probably had in all ten dishes which were all delicious and the best Chinese food I have ever had. We had everything from fried rice, fried wontons with some heavenly sweet and sour sauces (it's so good I roll my eyes thinking about it), so many different chicken dishes, chow mein with vegetables, steaming beef broccoli, and so much more.

peruvian food
Lomo Saltado - just thinking about it is getting my mouth watering!
The next day we ate at another restaurant where you could get traditional Peruvian food, like ceviche (made differently than Americans are used to, but better), Lomo Saltado, or Cuy (I'll explain that later). I got the Lomo Saltado a la Pobre, which is basically pieces of beef with fries, veggies, arroz (rice), egg on top, and plátano (means both plantain/banana) on the side. I've had it before in the States, but everything tastes so much better when you eat it in the country of origin.

Now, back to the Cuy. I said I would explain what it was. Well my friend Christian (pictured below) had always wanted to try guinea pig, something that Peru is known for, and if you haven't been able to guess yet. That's what Cuy is. Yes, it's guinea pig guys. That's a picture of me trying a piece of his Cuy! It looks and tastes like pork with a lot of fat. Haha, it wasn't so bad. I only tried that piece on my fork, don't worry. I know that it sounds disgusting, but I try to be as adventurous of an eater as possible. As someone who loves food, I try to try as many unusual things as possible, especially if it's meat. Hahaha.

Me trying cuy, or guinea pig! It's actually a very common meat here, just like chicken is common to most countries.

The next day, we went to another restaurant that was much nicer than the one the day before and they served very similar food. I decided to get myself some seafood since it's rare that I get an opportunity to eat seafood in restaurants because of the price. Another random tidbit about Peru: all their foods are fresh. They don't freeze anything, so everything you eat was caught or killed that day. The food takes a while to come to you, but that's because the food is very fresh. However, the waits are always worth it.

Chaufa de Mariscos - seafood fried rice

So at this restaurant, I decided to get Chaufa con Mariscos. Chaufa is fried rice with eggs, soy sauce, green onions, and other things. Mariscos, if you know Spanish, is seafood. There was calamari, shelled seafood, scallops, so many other types of seafood. It was SO MUCH food to eat! I was only able to eat a little less than 3/4 of the plate because it was so big with so much to eat. But wow, it was really filling.

Yesterday, we ate at a restaurant that specialized in ceviche and lots of other seafood. There, I tried the Chita Frita, which is basically fried fish. It was a whole fried fish, which may startle some people, but with Filipinos, that's almost always how you eat fish, so that wasn't anything new. It also came with a bowl of so much different seafood in a yellow sauce, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get a picture of that.

And as of that, that is my food journey so far! I haven't even been able to get into the breakfasts we've been eating, juices we've been drinking, and appetizers/sides from all those other meals! It's been all positive so far though. I'm excited for what we'll be eating for dinner tonight and the rest of our meals here in Peru! I'll post another food post at the end of the trip, but this is all for now. I'll try to update on other aspects of the trip, like ministries, futból (soccer), places we visit, and everything else next time I get a chance, but until then, as the Peruvians say, chau!