My Top Ten Thus far….

I like lists, and I like giving quick snapshots of what life and transition have held for the past few weeks….so I made a top ten. Enjoy!

1. Bring a rain jacket and wear lots of sunblock. The weather here can be bonkers hot and then quickly turn to a downpour at any given second. It’s the rainy season, but I’ve got a tan/burn arleady going on.

2. PeptoBismal and I have become close friends. I take it with me everywhere I go. I think it enjoys the sites and sounds of Cusco. As repayment (because what healthy friendship isn’t a two-way street?), it helps me out when I feel sick or down. Companionship.

3. I was prepared to engage in a mad hunt for hot sauce for my food. Fortunately, I’ve found a pepper that does the trick: Rocoto. It’s hotter that a jalepeño, but less than a habañero. We cut it up and put it in soups, sauces…you name it. It’s pretty tasty!

4. When I came to Anda, I was anticipating on not getting to spend a lot of time with dogs. I’ll probably end up writing a blog post on him, but Yogi has stolen my heart. He’s a street dog that the whole town adores. A quick story, Yogi came into Christmas day mass, laid across my feet/in the aisle, and proceeded to turn over on his back for a belly rub at the feet of the Priest during Communion. His actions are endearing, as is his ability to digest chicken bones as well.

5. Piccarones. They are these fried gifts from God that have a sweet potato dough, look like a fritter and cake donut’s child, and an orange, honey topping. It’s become a favorite food of mine.

6. The mountains here are incredible…both their physical appearence, their spiritual presence in the faith, and the history they hold. Anda is right around 10,500 feet above sea level, and the mountains surrounding us reach up to around 13,000 feet. Literally, every morning I wake up in wonder seeing how the clouds rest like pillows on the peaks. They seem to guard the valley we live in and act as protectors of the people. Also, they hold a special place in the unique and beautiful faith that the community has….more on that later though.

7. I’ve become more and more grateful for the shoes I brought. The streets of Anda are similar to cobblestone, but with river rock. I can honestly say that I think the most dangerous aspect of the town are the streets…they seem to wait eagerly to trip you.

8. Dancing….This has easily become one of the things I love most. A typical party or gathering here always includes food, dancing, and Inca Kola (a cream soda, bubble gum flavored pop). The dancing includes everything from traditional Andean songs to Eurythmics to top 40 songs of the past few years. Yes, the wonderful people of Anda have seen my dance moves and continue to see them as my jiving, Elvis-inspired hips bridge language gaps. They also have begun to teach me more traditional dances and how to have a bit more self-control when dancing.

9. Speaking of language, it’s been a slow but steady climb to learning more Spanish. Quechua laces conversations here, but is a complex language to learn (folks have likened it to Korean..). I’m picking up a few words here and there, such as Cusqi (curious), Wonki (woman who can’t cook), and Chaska ñawi (loosely means ‘star of my eye’). Thankfully, people here are extremely kind and generous with understanding the language barrier, and often help me out till we understand one another.

10. While I thought I had left my job at Campus Ministry in Seattle, turns out I was wrong. I’m now in charge of the acolytes in Anda and a few other towns in the valley. Thankfully, all this entails is hanging out with a super energetic bunch of young boys (ages 7ish to 15ish). They make fun of my Spanish (in a sweet, playful way), I beat them in card games, and they will teach me how to play soccer. I’m super excited for this opportunity. In January, we’re going hiking with one of the Jesuits. Awesome.

Overall, it’s been, and continues to be, a true transition. But I wake up with confidence and energy since I’m pretty convinced this is the best JV site in the world. How often does one get to move to a more rural, smaller community? The next few months allow for me to continue transitioning and practicing Spanish before I start teaching (subjects TBD) in March. I’m feeling grateful, hopeful, and dancing every chance I get.

Un abrazo a tod@s,

J