Sunset over the Pacific

What. A. Week. Practically every evening last week ended the same way. The other girls went to their rooms/to bed at 9:15PM. I tried to stay up to get things done (like my journal or blog posts) and was falling asleep on my computer within half an hour. I would think, “Okay, I’m just going to write one more sentence and then I’ll go to bed,” and then I’d blink and fail to re-open my eyes for at least a full minute. I’d wake up to nonsense sentences typed on my computer, delete them, and start the cycle over again until finally realizing it was hopeless and going to bed.

We had a mission team of 8 people visiting from a church in Illinois. I knew that I was going to have an exhausting week, but I don’t think I realized just how tiring the combination of extra long workdays and spending each day out and about, rather than on my computer in the office, would be. For the week, all building project-related tasks were put on hold, and our attention was entirely focused on the team.

The group with water splashing in front of us
The team (and us) near the Boqueron in Pucusana (pic by David Espinoza)
Birds' eye view of our neighborhood from a nearby mountain
Looking out over our neighborhood. We went for a walk with the team so that they could get some context, and we prayed over our community – for the people, the leaders, the local church, etc.

My mornings started with 7:15AM breakfast prep. Aside from the fact that it means I have to start my day earlier, I don’t mind being in charge of breakfast. It’s not like it’s very mentally taxing. I take out cereal and other breakfast items. I cut a bunch of rolls. I scramble mass quantities of eggs. Not hard. It’s even kind of fun.

Breakfast is at 8, and the team is in charge of clean up at 8:30 (cooking is even better when you don’t have to clean up too!). Community worship is still at 9AM, and after that (usually), we split everyone up and send them off to their service projects for the day. I was responsible for a few painting projects, and it was fun to lead and have a chance to get to know the people on the team.

Selfie with the team
Van selfie on our way to church!
My electrical buddy putting the finishing touches on our outlet
Working on installing an outlet for a ceiling mounted projector

I also got to spend some time helping one of the men from the team who has experience doing electrical work. I was super excited because I’ve been wanting to learn more practical, hands-on electrical, and I got to work with him to install some lights, fans, and an outlet. I also felt useful because the electrical system in Peru is very different from that in the States, and I at least understand how things are supposed to function here. The extra challenge is that things at Esperanza de Ana (and I’m sure in plenty of other buildings across the country) weren’t necessarily wired the way that they’re supposed to be, so every job took like 4x as long as it should because we had to decode the wires first. What a mess. So awesome though!! I finished up installing some lights and a ceiling fan yesterday (since we ran into so many problems that we didn’t get it done last week), and when I turned the building power back on and the lights worked as they should and the fan didn’t blow up, it was such a satisfying moment. It’s awesome to feel fully capable of doing something that has intimidated me for so long (simply because electricity is kind of scary). Maybe I’ll add “electrician” to my list of possible future careers. Orrr maybe I’ll just keep it as a useful side hobby.

The office where we installed new lighting and a ceiling fan
The finished product!

Work on service projects goes from about 10AM – 2PM, lunch is  2:30, and then it’s back to work after recess from 3:30PM – 5:30PM until it’s time to clean up. We have a team leader meeting at 6 to talk about the day’s progress and plan for the next day’s work. Dinner is at 7, and there’s some time afterwards to play games until 8PM when the kids go to bed and we’re finally released to personal time.

It ends up being like a 13-hour day which maybe doesn’t sound so bad, but apparently my body would argue because by about 9PM every night, I was fighting to stay awake.

Massive group picture
The team, the staff, and the kids! What a group! (pic by David Espinoza)

Team weeks also have some bonus fun activities. We went to Pucusana, a nearby beach town, for lunch and a boat ride on the first day the team was here. We saw sea lions, penguins, starfish, a bunch of birds whose names I don’t remember (except for one, the blue-footed boobie, because seeing one is apparently a very exciting), some pelicans (which were almost disconcertingly large), and probably more that I don’t remember. It’s always fun to do something a little different!

The marina from our boat
Pelicans sitting on the roof of a dock
Pelicans on the roof!
A big, concrete building on the coast in the shape of a boat
Houseboat! Except I think it used to be a restaurant. Restaurantboat! (It’s empty now… maybe it’s for sale! If you’ve ever wanted to live on a houseboat, here’s a rock-solid option).
Penguins on bird poop-covered rocks
Penguins! Excuse the pixelation on these pictures. Phone camera zoom strikes again!
Blue-footed boobies standing on the rocks
The blue-footed boobies! You get a gold star if you can spot them (there are two standing next to each other).
Sea lion lounging on the rocks
Sea lion! That position does not look comfortable…
A flock of birds flying out across the water
I don’t think nature photography is my thing… you really have to be ready at any second. I barely snapped a picture of these birds flying away before they were gone, but it would have been way cooler like 5 seconds earlier.
Chocolate ice cream cone
Chilca Day ended with ice cream, so of course I thought it was a good day!

We also spent Thursday morning on an adventure. It was “Chilca Day”. The team goes into Chilca and tries to buy various things that EA needs, armed with nothing but shopping lists (in English), envelopes of money, and whatever language skills they have (anyone with even elementary Spanish is excluded from participation). Julie splits the team into groups, and each group has to wander the streets of Chilca and attempt to find all of the things on the list. This is the only instance where my Spanish skills are considered “too good”, and I’m not allowed to participate. That’s fine with me. I like getting to walk around with a group and experiencing it from a distance, without actually having to stress about where to go or what to say. I’ve done enough of that over the last few years.

My team in a hair products shop
Two of the other members of my shopping team, plus a shopkeeper. If everyone looks confused, it’s because they are. (pic by David Espinoza)
Chilca's Plaza de Armas with its gazebo and the cathedral
The Plaza de Armas in Chilca where we waited for the rest of the team after finishing our shopping day (because we won, obviously).

As exhausting as the week was, I really enjoyed having the team here. It’s fun to have new people around and a different rhythm to the days. It snapped me out of the feeling of monotony that I was slowly sinking into, where each day feels like the last and the weeks simultaneously drag and fly by. I’m also happy to go back to the old rhythm this week… the one that doesn’t have me falling asleep on the couch every night. I have a little tickle in my throat that’s starting to worry me, but hopefully if I take care to go to bed early and drink a lot of water over the next few days, I’ll be able to hold off whatever sickness is trying to catch me. Fingers crossed!

Selfie in Lima's Plaza de Armas
Group selfie during our day in Lima!
Sunset over the Pacific
Saturday’s sunset

Yesterday was another long and tiring day! I started writing this last night, but I was doing the whole fall-sleep-and-write-nonsense thing, so I figured that finishing it would be better left to today.

Wednesdays are usually kind of chill because we don’t have any classes, but yesterday was definitely the exception. The big activity for the day was finishing up the soldering and antennae on the C3 robots to get them ready for class today. I got started in the morning and had only finished the soldering and antennae bending by lunchtime.

The ring-passing game

The afternoon was completely booked by a birthday party for the people with January/February birthdays. The kids get to drink soda and eat candy, and there were some pretty hilarious activities. They started off with some races where each person on the team had a straw in his/her mouth, and two teams raced to pass a plastic ring from straw to straw without using their hands. After that, they did a relay race where the team members had pass a balloon over their heads and through their legs, and then afterwards, the front person waddled their way around a chair while holding the balloon in between their legs. The process repeated until the entire team got a chance to waddle.

Balloon hops

It was fun watching the kids play the games, but my favorite part (besides the cake, of course) was the dance party at the end. Ligia explained the rules: you dance around with the music while it’s playing, and once it stops, you freeze like a statue. The real fun began when the kids started to be creative with their frozen poses, the girls usually opting to hug each other and the boys pretending to fight.

Getting creative

The birthday crew

After the party, we had a little down time to work on our robots, until about 5:30 when we left for a staff bonding excursion! I wasn’t sure about going because we still had a lot to do with the robots, but I’m so glad I did! It was cool getting to spend time with everyone outside of work, plus the excursion was great.
The wrong way up

The right way up

We went to Las Salinas in Chilca to do a group hike. The first part of the hike is pretty short, and you make it to the top of the first hill where there’s a huge cross and a nice view of Chilca. There are two ways to get there: the way you’re probably supposed to go, with a bunch of switchbacks, and the way we went, with an aggressive incline (I’d guess 60 degrees) and shale-type rock pieces sliding around. I thought the view from there was cool, but then we kept going! We went up more super-steep hills until finally reaching the top… where there was a random rock wall. I was confused about why it was there until we got closer and I realized that it wasn’t just one wall, it was a square of rock walls, and inside was a rock circle with one rock in the middle. Weird. The explanation of what it is makes it no less weird: aliens.
The front of the Chilca pamphlet. Alien.

Chilca is obsessed with aliens. The tagline of the city is “Chilca es de otro mundo” or “Chilca is from another world”. There are a bunch of reports of UFO sightings, and the Chilca marketing people have run with the idea, making it the center of their marketing material. The pamphlets describing the attractions in Chilca feature pictures of a red-orange alien participating in activities from horseback riding to bathing in the lagoons that supposedly wield “energy from another galaxy” and have various healing powers (here’s the website).

The rock shrine

Julie, me, and Debbie

Vanessa said that people come from all over the world (alien-enthusiast types of people) to do rituals or something to communicate with the aliens from inside the rock shrine. There’s some claim (by a Peruvian “UFO contactee” Sixto Paz Wells… if you’re interested, here’s a weird interview with him) that they’re drawn here because Chilca is on a geological fault and the released energy creates a magnetic corridor that their ships use. Or something. I’ll let you form your own opinions about that.
Whatever the reason for their existence, they’re impressive. The walls are made from rocks just stacked on each other without cement to hold them together, and they aren’t cut into specific shapes or anything to make things easier. Whoever put that place together had a lot of time on their hands.

Anyway, the view from the alien communication square was even better than the first lookout. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Check out the mountains in the background!

Super cool

Debbie and I still had hours of robot work to do after getting back which is why I was falling asleep last night while writing. We finished the antenna connections around 10:45PM… ugh. But now they’re finished! And the hiking break was well worth the time.
Today wasn’t extremely eventful. We had our last period with Vanessa’s class and tried to wrap up their city and robots. It mostly went fine except that one robot started smoking when we put batteries in… ehh well, we’ll figure it out. That’s a problem for tomorrow!

​**This is from yesterday, but I literally fell asleep writing it.

THE ROBOT WORKS!!! This is BEYOND exciting news!! To sum it up really quickly, Tony got the idea that Debbie and I should teach a robotics class, and we gave in slightly and agreed to do one robot project in our class. We found an instructable online that doesn’t require any programming (because that makes things WAY more complicated) and decided that was going to be our project. We brought the motors, wires, switches, and battery holders from the States, figuring that the rest of the parts would be easy to find in Peru.

Meet Buzz the Bot!

That was a bit of a mistake… We have managed to find the essential parts and pieces, but it certainly hasn’t been easy. We eventually tracked down a soldering iron, flux, and solder, but then we found out that the solder was too thick. Debbie bought some thinner solder this morning, and that has made all the difference. We also bought sheet metal here, which they didn’t have at the two big hardware stores we shop at, so instead we were directed all over Chilca to this construction supply warehouse where we bought a piece of sheet metal that is at least 20 times bigger than what we need.
Anyway, everything finally came together today, and we finished assembling our robot! We were having soldering issues which were quickly resolved after buying thinner solder. Now it works!! And thank goodness for that because I wouldn’t know what to do to troubleshoot if it hadn’t. The basic description of the robot is that it goes straight, and when it runs into something, it turns itself and keeps going. AND OURS ACTUALLY DOES THAT!! (You can watch a video of it on my Instagram @larakaiserian… If you’re on a computer, there’s a link on the right sidebar. The internet is too slow to directly upload it here.) Debbie and I are ecstatic, even though we still have some logistics to figure out, because we didn’t have a backup plan. No problem though because it worked!!

Shopping in Chilca

The rest of the day was pretty cool too. This morning, the team went into Chilca, got split up into groups of two or three, and had a shopping list of items that they needed to find. All of the Spanish speakers (myself included actually) were assigned to groups and told not to intervene unless someone was in desperate need of assistance. It’s a valuable exercise because it helps to give the group an idea of what it’s like to be in a situation where you’re completely out of your element and trying to figure things out without speaking the language. It definitely required some creativity (and charades skills) and confidence to go up to people and sound like an idiot while trying to find your things. If anything, the whole exercise made me realize that I know a lot more Spanish than I thought. I would have easily been able to ask shopkeepers about the things on our list. The groups all did well, and I was impressed with how willing they were to just go for it.

Tonight’s sunset

The afternoon was filled with more vinifan-ing notebooks. I’m getting good at it and have my pace down to a science. In about four hours this afternoon, I wrapped 15 notebooks that needed paper and plastic coverings and 10 that only needed plastic. That means, I did 40 wraps in 4 hours, 10 wraps each hour, or 1 wrap every 6 minutes. I had previously estimated my pace at 5 minutes per wrap, and I think that might still be correct because I probably spent about 10 minutes per hour doing other things like helping people, organizing notebooks, cutting paper and plastic in bulk for everyone to use, etc. Exciting because I now know my exact pace… discouraging because at that rate, it would take me close to one eternity to finish all of the notebooks… hopeful because the team is still here, and anything they get done is less for me to do. In conclusion, sometimes it might be better to know less.

I survived my first work week!! Woo! I know, not that impressive considering it was only one day, but let me have this little celebration anyway. Week #2 is definitely going to be much more challenging, so I’m building up my confidence in preparation for that.

A picture from our afternoon run

Debbie and I planned to go for a run this morning, but our plans had to be postponed when we woke up to rain. Everyone was confused because apparently rain isn’t common here during the summer, and when it does rain, it’s usually more of a mist rather than raindrops. Well, it was definitely raindrops this morning. This is what happens when I try to run… I think that means it’s not meant to be.

Instead, I spent some time getting mentally organized. I made a list of what I want to do each day (go for a run, practice Spanish, read my Bible, write in my journal, etc) and then tried to translate that into a rough schedule so that I can plan my time better. I always run into trouble with trying to pack too much into one day, and often the things that are most important end up getting pushed out because I’m too busy wasting time. I’m turning over a new leaf though! No more time wasting for me!

Feel free to marvel at my Spanish skills. I couldn’t find anything that was exactly what I wanted in English OR Spanish, so I decided to make my own (and swiped some graphics from the Crayola page linked to the left for the sake of time). Those street names though, those are all mine. Bear Avenue? Genius.

Debbie and I met again in the afternoon to try to make a more detailed plan for the first day of classes. We’re going to do some activities with the kids that are focused on maps, discussing what maps show and how to use them. I made a worksheet for the 7-9 year old class (C3) (with some help from THIS Crayola coloring page), and Debbie cleaned up a plan of the compound to do a navigating activity outside with the 10-12 year old class (C4). I’m feeling good about the first class now, so we’re 1/15 of the way there!

We all ended up going for an afternoon run before the sun set. To sum it up in one word: ugh. But we went! That’s accomplishment enough for me. We’re going to try to run 3-4 times a week, and I know that after 2 weeks I’m going to feel exponentially better. It’s that knowledge that will keep me going, but it doesn’t make getting there any easier.

Here’s Chilca, near the coast, south of Lima. We’re located a little bit north of Chilca.
A Catholic church in Chilca that’s located right off of the main square.

For dinner, Debbie, Julie, Eddy (one of the local staff members), his daughter, Dasha, and I went into downtown Chilca. We went to this place that serves “pollo a la brasa” or roast chicken cooked on a rotating spit (basically a rotisserie chicken). It’s considered a typical Peruvian dish and is often accompanied with fries. There are also some sauces involved that vary depending on where you get it (mayonnaise is typical, plus some hot pepper sauce). My picky eater self was happy that the meal wasn’t much of a stretch for my food habits. I did try the sauces though… and decided to stick with the Peruvian “ketchup”. The quotes are required because no one does ketchup like the USA. The stuff here is similar what they had in Ghana. It tastes okay but is just not quite right… It’s too thin, and there’s something about the flavor that’s off.

Look at this place! So trendy. Not shown: the nonexistent 4th wall because when you have bearable weather year-round, you can do things like that.

After dinner, we roamed the streets of the downtown. In general, being here doesn’t feel like as much of a stretch as being in Ghana did. At times, I can even fool myself into feeling like I’m still in the USA… and then someone talks to me, I have no idea what they’re saying, and I remember where I actually am. We went to this new ice cream place (VERY new – they’ve been open for one day!) in town that seriously looks like it could be in the middle of a city at home. Feeling sufficiently stuffed, we loaded back into the Esperanza de Ana van and headed back to the suburbs.

Tomorrow, we’re going into Lima for church. It’ll be my first time seeing the city in the light, and I’m excited! Now I just need to figure out how to fall asleep… Our neighbor is having a party and the music is incredibly loud. Don’t they know that their old person neighbors are trying to go to sleep at 10:30PM on a Saturday?