Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to keep 30 3-13year olds in line...

When we returned to Iquitos after Christmas vacation and infield, I was itching to get back to work, take on new responsibilities, and get some real challenges. After asking one of the leaders in if there was anything we can help with, we were told that, sure, we can plan a six week program for the youngest kids that meet every morning from 9-12. I guess you should be careful what you wish for. :)

Since the majority of the kids at La Restinga are adolescents, it didn’t seem like too difficult of a task at first. Yet when we got started, it turned out to be quite the challenge. We went from having 3-5 regular kids everyday to a high of 30 kids a few days later! Though technically only 8-13 year olds should enter the group, many of the kids aren’t allowed to leave the house unless they bring their younger siblings... leaving us with an age span from 3-13 years old! Though Elin and I know enough Spanish to survive, keeping between 15-30 kids under control is quite a cross-cultural challenge. Especially because many of them have been raised on the street, and have barely had to follow a single rule in their lives. Thankfully, a traveling Argentinan woman has been with us this last week, which has been such a God-send. Plus, we've spent part every day at a workshop at a children's center last week, and we're hoping to develop a lasting collaboration with them.

Though the challenge was a little larger than I expected, this is exactly what I wanted. I feel exhausted and inspired and I'm looking forward too see how things go the next few weeks. And if you want to send some advice on how to establish group-rules for street kids (or some prayers!) my way, it would be greatly appreciated.. :)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Food for thought

I recently listened to a Speaking of Faith program about theologian and social activist Reinhold Niebuhr. I was really struck by some of his often-quoted words, and I simply wanted to share them with you:

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true, or beautiful, or good, makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness."

Click HERE to hear the radio program on the rediscovery of Niebuhr's reflections for yourself.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Peruvian cooking and apartment photos

During our time here, we've had a few opportunities to learn to cook different Peruvian dishes. Oil and rice are essentials to all meals, so everything that can be fried, is fried, and there's almost not a single meal that doesn't include rice (even pasta and soups are served with big portion of rice). There's always a ton of spices, and many people will use several large spoonfuls of salt, sugar, cumin, pepper, and MSG (a questionable "flavor enhancer," most popularly used in chinese restaurants) even in small batches of food.

Our good friend Carmen, see photo below, came over to our apartment the other day to teach us how to make ceviche, a Peruvian specialty made of raw fish in lime sauce, served with onion, potato, rice, yuka (a white root), fried corn (not to be confused with popcorn), and more. Peruvians usually make food from scratch, so it was about a 4 hour adventure (including the trip to the market). But it was definitely worth the wait -- so delicious!

Cutting up the fish.

Taking a bite (or at least pretending to) of the raw fish.

I've been asked to put out pictures of the apartment where Elin and I live, so here they are! It's small and nice -- a little kitchen with a cooking plate, a table and four chairs, a small fridge, a fan (the most important piece of furniture we own), a bathroom, and two beds. The apartment is really nice by Peruvian standards, and to be honest, it would have been nice to be in a bit of a simpler place, but I won't complain. It's great to have a quiet place to come home to, and a place to bring over friends, and to host English classes on nights and weekends. Plus, its only about a 15 min walk from La Restinga, so it's easy to go back and forth several times each day.

The beds and the door leading out to the hallway.

PS: Go to this website ( or just google "ceviche recipe" to find out how to make it yourself!


This sunday, Elin and I went to Tamshiackuy, a village about an hour in boat away from Iquitos, to visit our friend, Javier. Going away to these smaller times sometimes makes me think I'm on a different planet, where everything is beautiful and quiet, and the only thing that matters is the people and nature around you. Two of the highlights was spending the afternoon at Javier's friends house and hanging out with his kids, and a walk to a nearby town, where we visited a medicine plant garden.

Brian, the second oldest son in the house, staring out the window.

Brian and his little brother, Marcos.

One of the best smelling flowers I have ever encountered.

Marcos sending a shy smile to his brother.

Elin and I in the medicinal plant garden. Notice the war-paint in our faces -- this is natural tints from one of the plants, which people still use for body paint during holidays.

On our way to the village, we stopped and observed some of the community members frying crushed yuka. It doesn't have much taste, but is a popular snack, or it's cooked with milk and sugar.