Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Few Peru pics

Kids that live on the street.
The only road out of the city. It's 100 km long, and this is km 56.
Houses on the Amazon.
Evening learning group.
A cool sunset and loving people.
The Catholic Church at night.

I haven't had an opportunity to do any post production on these photos. The church and the road pictures gave me an opportunity to play around with some long exposure times (shutter speed on the road was about 30 seconds). Anyway, I'd appreciate any of my photographer friends giving me some constructive criticism on these pics, so as to make me better on the next go round.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Dad

I had a good dad growing up. He made time for us, taught us right from wrong, and loved us. He still is a great dad, and loving Grandfather to my kids.

If I could pick one attribute of my father to display to my kids, it would be the love he showed to us through the time he spent with us. It taught me a lot about the love God has for us, and I would guess that much of what I believe about my heavenly father came as a result of my relationship with my dad. 

Every now and then my pops makes his way over here to read these posts, and I want to say a public "Thank You" for the security you provided, the display of Godly manhood, and the things you continue to teach me about loving my own children. I love you Dad, you were and are a blessing from God!

What about your father do you want to mimic to your own children?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tour Day, Part 2

In case you missed yesterday's post read it first, so that today's is in clear perspective and context. You can click here to read it...

After Monkey Island, there was a sense that things couldn't get any worse. We were wrong!

On the way into see our not-so friendly primate friends, David pointed out the Indian village we would soon visit. It appeared to be only about 10 minutes away, and would give a few of our team the opportunity to visit the facilities, so to speak. However, we quickly passed by the dock where we were supposed to stop, and a sudden sense came over me that we were going to see a different village. David mentioned that we must be going to a different Indian tribe, and we began to inquire of Freddy as the the whereabouts of our next encounter. To my great sadness, we would be returning to our original dock for more fuel, then another 15 minutes to meet the Bora Tribe. That's right, another hour and forty-five minute boat ride.

After running aground 3 times (sudden jerks are not good on loose bowels) on the way back, we finally had more fuel. The Amazon turned into a tributary, and as we continued into some smaller canals, Freddy pointed out the place where we would soon get to hold some Anacondas (that's right, Anacondas). Up ahead I could see the tops of a few thatch roofed huts, and got the affirmation that these were indeed the home to the Bora people. As we approached the dock I was enjoying the beautiful everglade-like scenery, when from the back of the boat I hear, "Are those boobies?" Now just this phrase alone has enough awkwardness to throw you into a "What is happening?" type moment. As I begin to get my bearings from being blindsided by that that word making an appearance, I look ahead in disbelief at the woman on the docks. We're still a good 75 yards away, but it's pretty apparent that this 60 something year-old lady is covering herself with only a loin cloth. In my mind I began to scramble. I had the thought, "I'm responsible for this team. I need to do something!" So, I did something... Stared... Ahead... At the lady.

Have you ever passed by a wreck on the interstate? You could tell from a distance that it was bad, and there was the possibility you would see something that would forever wreck your life, and give you bad dreams for weeks? Yeah. I stared. I would have glared longer but 15 completely naked children running around made me come out of my trance. I was in complete disbelief and shock. We were LIVING National Geographic. You can say what you want about their culture, but it ain't our culture, and as much as they are used to running around swinging in the breeze, we are not, and we are even more not used to seeing it. I could not believe this was happening. If we had been warned, it would have been one thing, but we weren't. I was just daydreaming and thinking how neat this all was when I heard the "b" word and saw it's reference point up ahead.

The village is made up of river huts. They are on the river, but exist on stilts, so to go anywhere you walk on planks. These planks were constructed with 4' 10", 145 pound Bora Indians in mind, and not 6'2", 215 pounds of pure table muscle. So, to walk across the 50 yards worth of planks was adventure enough of it's own. Little did I know the real adventure started at the entrance to the hut where we were greeted by 15 or 20 naked ladies. To be fair, they all had on loin clothes, but does that really qualify? I don't know that it would have been any more awkward if they had no covering at all. Anyway, they began to put necklaces and head dresses on us, which meant that I would have to bend way over (yes, this added to the uneasiness of it all). So in a neck turned and twisted state, as to miss facial contact with baby feeders, I received my new apparel and entered the tent to see what else might happen.

I looked at the ground a lot, but noticed Greg when he walked in. They had given him the designation of Chief, and his head dress was very ornate and big. Greg was still pretty upset about his earlier monkey attack and the ever increasing tension of this newest experience was not making him feel any better. But it got worse, quickly.

Freddy began telling us about the Bora people, how long they had lived there, how they maintained the area, what dialect they spoke, etc. Then he said these words, which I don't know if I will ever forget. He said, "They would like to show you some of their tribal dances. They will include you in the dance, and it is seen as VERY offensive if you do not participate." "Really? This is not happening," I thought. I looked at Greg, and his face went from slightly perturbed to an all out sense of helplessness, as did the rest of the team. These naked people were gonna dance, which was strange enough, but now we were gonna be involved. Seriously involved.

As they began to dance, the first person they grabbed was their chief, Greg. During his walk up to the dance area he shouted death threats at David and myself. We laughed, David filmed, it was a great time. One by one the team was personally pulled up to take part in an ancient dance of the Bora people. At one point I thought, "This is pretty neat. How many people get to experience this kind of culture, or do anything remotely like this outside of a strip joint? Nobody, that's who. But here we are, hand in hand with some naked people doing a dance to a chant I can't understand." So, I just kept glancing from the floor to Greg enjoying the moment in the only two safe places I could look without feeling dirty. David got two videos of this, and several pictures to document the occasion. I didn't load them on here, but if you want to see them they are posted to facebook.

What else needs to be said, really? I don't know many people who could honestly say, "I went on a mission trip, and while I was there we lead some people to Christ, did some discipleship, planted a few churches, oh, and I danced with some naked ladies." Never heard that at a missions conference, or during a trip report at a church. When we sat down, David asked if we would share this with the church. "Yeah, I doubt it," I said, "but you can bet your loin cloth and topless Boras it's going on the blog." You're welcome... you're welcome.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tour Day, Part 1

This all started on Saturday. None of the team could afford a real Amazon tour, so David Chism, or fearless leader, set up a home grown tour day for us. During lunch he saw a local guy named Freddy that he had worked with before, and asked him if he could set up an excursion for us on the Amazon River. Around a half hour later Freddy returned to give us a quote for such a trip, which would take place at 8 am the following Friday. We would visit Monkey Island, an Indian Village, and get to see some real life Anacondas. The group seemed amiable to the price and attractions, with only a few unhappy mumblings over the possible snake encounter, so we decided to go for it. We had no idea what lie ahead...

Friday morning we arrived at the boat docks at 8 am, but we were in Peru, so we knew that we would likely not leave until 8:30 (This is not a knock, just a realization that there is a difference in U.S. time and Peruvian time). When 8:30 rolled around we were still boatless, and I could tell Freddy was getting a little nervous. He hinted that he didn't think his reserved captain would be able to make it, so he rented a different, less sophisticated vessel for us to tame the great Amazon beast. We rode for 30 minutes. When I inquired as to the whereabouts of this famed Monkey Island, Freddy responded that we were still a good 50 minutes away. Perhaps it would be beneficial to mention here that more than half of the people who were on the boat were severely stricken with Montezuma's revenge, present company not excluded, and were not prepared for such a long aquatic journey. Nevertheless, with beats of sweat forming rapidly on our foreheads, we pressed onward.

The next time I checked my watch I realized we had traveled about an hour and a half, ten minutes farther than the expected time to reach Monkey Island. Freddy began to inquire of the boat driver where he was going, only to find out that he wasn't entirely sure where the specific location of said primate isle might be. We spotted a young child washing clothes on the bank of the river and floated over to get some decent directions. I never heard any words exchanged, but evidently a good hand motion does the trick because we were there in about 15 minutes.

I hate to inform you that I had some horribly incorrect presuppositions about this island of monkeys. In my mind, it was a wonderfully sunny place where our primate cousins existed in cages for us to gander at and photo. Oh no, I was WAY off. This place was a dark corner of the world where these creatures were allowed to roam free like us humans. They are free to grab you, or jump on your person, or throw their little doo doo balls at you with stunning accuracy.

We had not gotten off of the boat good when a red howler monkey walked up to Holly with his manlike hands in the air. She asked what he wanted, but in the blink of an eye, he was up on her shoulders laying across her back. In a moment where I should have been thinking of all the snide remarks I could have made about getting the not-so proverbial monkey off your back, all I could say was, "I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to touch them." Holly nervously begged, "Get it off me!" and being her knight in shining armor, with a touch of chivalry, I added, "Nuh uh, I ain't touching that thing, I don't like animals. Especially ones that have hands like me." Little did we know the fun was only just beginning. Seconds later Freddy, our tour guide, was attacked by two black spider monkeys. One jumped on each of his arms and began biting him. He was able to sling them to the ground, and they made their way into a nearby tree. My friend Greg happened by that tree and the two ninja-like monsters jumped down on his head. They commenced to whooping up on Greg by pulling his hair, beard, and sunglasses. They went digging in his backpack, bit his ear, and finally came to a place of rest on his arms before he slung them off while screaming, "I'm gonna punch you in the face and knock you out!" As they ran off with a monkey giggle, Greg said, "That's it! I'm ready to leave Monkey Island RIGHT NOW!"

We managed to separate Holly from her monkey, Rusa, and we made for a small building to get some cover from the little gorillas. Rusa would not be denied as he pulled apart some of the roof to get in after Holly, his new girlfriend. While we were in the building one of the team members asked me how I escaped having the monkeys get on me, and I explained that one of those spider monkeys had reached for my hand and I slapped him in his little monkey face as I explained that I wasn't playing around with him, and that I would body slam him as an example to the rest of his friends if he didn't go on. He must have spread the word because none of them tried anything else. We safely made it out to the boat, foolishly thinking that the worst part of the day was over, but we were wrong. What lie ahead would change our lives as we knew it...

Until Part 2 tomorrow, here's evidence of this small tale:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

NEVER on a plane

I learned a couple of valuable lessons on this trip to Ecuador. The first was that you should never plan two trips back to back. It's too much! Another thing that I learned was far more sinister, and unforgettable. If you don't like my posts about bathroom things, now would be a good time for you to look away, and read someone else's blog. For the majority of you that find great joy and pleasure in my pain and stomach fails you may want to stick around.

I can sleep anywhere. Under any circumstances. Every trip that I ever took with students wrought a new picture with me asleep in interesting positions and places. The hum of a plane's engine might as well be Nyquil or Benadryl to me. I'm lucky if I make it off the runway awake. But on the flight home from Ecuador, I could not get comfortable. Then IT happened. Let me clarify...

Ecuador has possibly the best ice cream in the entire world. My stomach responds quite negatively to dairy products, but Ecuadorian ice cream is worth it. I had eaten massive amounts during the week with no consequence, but I couldn't let sleeping dogs lie. Saturday, late in the afternoon I made a poor decision. Someone said, "Let's go get one of those big ice cream cones one last time before we go home." At the time, this sounded like the greatest idea I had ever heard. Sure, I had a passing thought that it would be VERY bad to have an "episode" on the plane ride, but what could go wrong? I had eaten my weight in the stuff during the week, and nothing happened. This time would prove different.

At 3:30 am, 36,000 feet up, I awoke from a not-so-peaceful slumber mortified by what I knew was about to take place. There was no emergency landings, or turning the plane around. This was going to happen. My old friend, Cold Sweats was there with his good buddy Grinding Intestinal Pain. I spent a few minutes begging them to go away. I tried to rotate in my seat, sit up, lay back, lean forward, but there was no avoiding the inevitable. I was in a window seat, so I woke everyone up on my row as I scampered to the back of the plane praying for a miracle. God did NOT answer my prayer that night.

As I entered the 1 ft. x 1 ft. bathroom, I speedily made the necessary arrangements one does to be able to feel comfortable sitting in a place where others have stood, with bad aim. I quickly sat, and began to relieve pressure as quietly as possible. I thought things would be ok. I was wrong. We hit turbulence. Heavy. Turbulence. I gripped the sink and adjacent handle to try and hold myself down. Outside the lavatory I heard the Captain cut on the seat belt sign. I began to pray FERVENTLY something like this, "Dear Lord, I am begging you! Please commission an extra amount of gravity in this place right now. Let what has entered this toilet stay FIRMLY planted, never to rise! Lord, I will have a hard time giving thanks if you don't answer this prayer. Please send your angels to protect me...Amen!" Moments later things died down, but I was afraid.

As I left the tiny area, where I had confessed every sin, and made many promises and deals with God, I noticed people solemnly sleeping. They were oblivious to the danger that had existed only feet from them. They did not know of my torment and agony. They were ignorant of my groaning and near destruction. I made my way back to my seat angry with them and their peace. Soon, however, the hum of the turbine lulled me to sleep.

I record these things because in a month, I will be back in that land flowing with milk and honey almond ice cream. I will be faced with the same dilemma: To be overcome in the awesomeness of such a tasty delight, where evil is waiting, or to abstain and sleep well along with the others on my row. I want this to be here to remind me, so that I don't repeat former mistakes. But man, that cookies and cream was AMAZING...