Sunset over the Pacific

The First of Many Team Weeks

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.

The group with water splashing in front of us

The team (and us) near the Boqueron in Pucusana (pic by David Espinoza)

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.

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).

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).

Penguins on bird poop-covered rocks

Penguins! Excuse the pixelation on these pictures. Phone camera zoom strikes again!

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


​The last two days have been one, big, notebook-wrapping blur. The team has been working on their service projects, and I’m in charge of the “vinifan” project. Let me attempt to summarize the ridiculousness that is this process:

The notebooks closer to the bookcase are already wrapped. The other ones need to be wrapped. A million notebooks everywhere.

The kids need notebooks for school, and it’s way more than you would ever think that someone might need. A 2-year-old needs 2 notebooks. A 4th grader needs 13. A 7th grader needs 17. What the heck are they doing with 17 notebooks?? Well, that’s beside the point. Each notebook is for a specific subject (geometry, arithmetic, algebra, etc. – even though those are all math, they all need a different notebook). There are a bunch of different line types in the notebooks – graph paper, blank, lined, 3-lines, bigger squares, even bigger squares, bigger 3-lines, etc., and each subject needs a specific type of lines and a specific color. Each notebook also has to get covered with plastic (vinifan is the brand of the plastic) to protect it. If the notebook itself isn’t the right color to begin with, you need to first cover it with paper that’s the right color and second cover it with the plastic. They also all have handwritten labels that have the subject, kid’s name, grade, and school written on them. I think that we have about 24 kids that we are wrapping for, and they range in age from 2 years to 8th grade.


Does that sound like a very complicated situation for some school notebooks? The correct answer to this question is “yes”, by the way. We figured out a system yesterday, after a little trial and error, and it ended up with me writing all of the labels, picking out notebooks, and leaving a note if their colors needed to be changed. I had volunteers assigned to me from the team, so at least I wasn’t doing it alone. By the end of the day yesterday, I think we had only done about 60, and we have over 200 to do.

The last two days have basically just been hours and hours of wrapping books in plastic. Actually, I spent most of my time writing labels. It was a fabulous moment when I finished writing and my hand could finally relax.

The team sang a couple of songs at church tonight!

Tonight, after dinner we went to the church where the kids are taken during the school year. The music was really fun and upbeat, and I knew some of the songs in English. The sermon was also really well done. Dina was translating it, so it wasn’t that hard to follow, but I tried to translate the Spanish and then only count on her for help when I definitely couldn’t figure out what was going on. I’m going to put my comprehension level of that service at about 85-90%. I’m definitely improving!!

I’m exhausted and have to wake up at 5:45AM again to put the coffee on before breakfast, so ciao for now!