Friday, May 15, 2009

Homecoming

So, I am officially back home again. I've been here for a while now (I got back on May 1st), but there have just been a lot of things to process and do and see after getting home.
Some initial reactions after coming home were:

- Norway is FREEZING cold!! Sometimes I feel a little lost here, like I really belong in the jungle, which makes me wish I could just snap my fingers three times and be back there...
- I own way too many clothes.
- I never knew how much I loved Norwegian bread until I tasted it again! I'm back to eating bread 2-3 times again, and it's sooooo good!

- I love my family!! I didn't realize how much I had missed them until I saw them.
- There are waaay more ecological/organic and fairprade products in the stores now than before. I guess some things have changed for the better while I was gone.
- Arriving at my house felt like arriving at a castle -- I haven't been in a house that nice in seven months. It felt really comfortable and familiar to be home again .Yet, at the same time, I was kind of confused and saddened by also feeling like my home is really decadent and excessive.

For the last six months, I've been living in a one-room apartment with just a few pieces of clothing to my name. There, I learned that life without too many things or clothes or electronics is actually a good life. Maybe a better life. There's such liberation in living simply, and though our apartment was still nicer than the houses of most of our friends, I still learned so much from living more simply.

Now that I'm home, though, I'm scared by how quickly the western lifestyle is starting to seem "normal" again. How quickly I fall into old habits; how quickly I start taking my blessings for granted. So if there's one thing I've been left with since I came back, it's a feeling of urgency. A feeling of needing to identify the ways in which I've changed, so I can make a concious decision to maintain those changes. I wish I could tell you what that means, but I'm not really able to articulate it yet. All I know is that it has to do with generosity, simplicity, and faitfulness.

If we're not mindful of how we want to live, the culture around us will dictate our lives. So in fear of falling into a rushed, comercialized, self-centered, and isolated lifestyle, I'm trying to make intentional choices about how I want to live. I'm failing already, but I'm counting on God and the people closest to me to help me up when I'm falling...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ancient mysteries in the Andes mountains

After we left Iquitos, Elin and I met up with Vegard (another Act Now student from Norway) to spend a few days in Cusco. Cusco was once the capital for the great Inca empire, which ruled throughout the Andes mountains for about a century before the Spanish colonizers came. Needless to say, the city is full of interesting history and monuments. But the best part is that it's really close to Macchu Picchu, the mysterious ancient Inca ruins, which was really our main destination.

I have to admit, I was a little afraid that because of the excess of tourists, the whole thing would feel a little comercialized and disappointing. Thankfully, though, we were able to find a much cheaper and MUCH more exciting route to get to Macchu Picchu. (If you're planning on a trip to Macchu Picchu, ask me, and I'll tell you how to spend $25 instead of $130 to get there). A friend had told us about the route, but we weren't actually sure if it was feasable. But it turned out to be great!

Instead of taking the tourist train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (a small town at the foot of the mountains surrounding Macchu Picchu), we spent the day driving through the rugged mountains, passing through small towns, and looking out over coca leaf and banana plantations. Late in the afternoon, we ended up at a train station, and from here we walked along the railways, that we hoped would lead us to Aguas Calientes. Along the way, we met a friendly traveler from New Zealand, Olivia (with scary resemblance to Olivia Newton John), who joined us for the rest of the trip. We were told that the walk would take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours (depending on who we asked), but we got to be a little nervous when we had walked for about 2 hours and it started getting dark. But just then, we saw light radiate from around the bend, and not long after we were in Aguas Calientes.

Walking along the rails to Aguas Calientes

After just a few hours of sleep, we got up at 4 in the morining to start the hike up to Macchu Picchu. The sky was clear and covered in stars, and I almost fell to the ground as I made out the shadows of the overpowering and majestic mountains rising up on all sides of us. I felt so tiny in the face of all this mystery and beauty, and if the trip would have ended right there, it would have been worth it. But we kept walking and after a steep climb for a little over an hour, we made it to Macchu Picchu! Along with some other hikers, we got there before the first buses came up, so we had the privilege of enjoying the sight of the ruins before it was overcrowded by people. SO tired, and SO excited to have made it to the top!

It was INCREDIBLE. So quiet and mysterious (there are several competing theories as to what Macchu Picchu was built for, though most likely it was a religious ceremonial center), and just amazingly beautiful. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.


A llama (or alpacca...? I still can't tell the difference) at the ruins. Pretty sure they are brought up here just for cheesy photo ops, but it works, doesn't it? All four gathered at the top. (And all four dissappointed when we saw that the other tourist that took our photo had cut our legs off. Big photo no-no!)


The big mountain right behind the ruins is Wayna Picchu, which also made for a good climb. Here looking down on the ruins from another perspective.

Such a beautiful place.
Elin and I celebrating our arranged marrige, which turned out incredibly well. It'll be so strange not to be around each other next year, after having lived together, studied together, and worked together every single day for the last seven months.

In awe...

Saying goodbye

Oh my goodness, time flyes by way too fast... After six months in Iquitos, the time inevitably arrived for Elin and I to say goodbye. Goodbye to the kids in Belen, our friends at La Restinga, and Iquitos.
I don't really have words to describe the process of leaving. All I can say is that despite of the sadness of leaving people I have come to love, I also left with a good feeling of having no regrets, just lots of learning lessons and good memories.
For lack of more words, I will simply put up some pictures and a video of the goodbyes.

Me and my little heartbreakers...

...and Elin with hers.

Few things makes me feel more loved than having a child wrapped around my neck, in this case Carolay (8).

Siara enjoying her cake at the goodbye party.

The Belen team gathered for the last time.

Goodbye party at La Restinga with 50-some friends.

Our boys! Willy, Jose Andres, and Jose followed us to the airport early Sunday morning.

video

I took a little video as we were leaving the goodbye party. The quality isn't the greatest, but it's something. The House with the blue door is where we work with the kids, and the balcony also serves as a diving board since the kids usually throw themselves into the river (which fills the streets during the rainy season). On the other side, you'll see Niro (8) scream my name (I went by my second name Kristine in Iquitos), and lastly my little heartbreaker Glidian (10).