Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Learning to Embrace the Present

For the last few months, I have been reflecting over the words of Henri J.M. Nouwen.  Maybe without realizing it, his words have backed the script of what was to be my experience in Peru.  Before leaving almost two years ago, I was gifted one of his books from a dear friend.  It was my first venture into his writing, and appropriately enough the book was his published journals from his time in Boivia and Peru.  Feeling the geographical closeness of his writing-his ministry site in Lima was a mere 10 minute combi ride from Ciudad de los Niños-I soon gave way to the spiritual life that he brilliantly illustrated in his books.  I found great solace in his The Return of the Prodigal Son, appreciating his detailed portraits of the elder son, the younger son, and the father, and connecting them to my life at Ciudad.  I read that book when the realities of my ministry were finally taking their toll.  I was tired, and it seemed like everything was an enormous task.  Reading about how we need to remember to place God at the center of our lives, ministry, etc... made me jump for joy because these reflections seemed to pinpoint exactly what was occurring in my life.

Being so influenced by his work during my time in Peru, it was only appropriate to find his words as pertinent now as I continue along with the transition from Peru to los Estados Unidos.  During a morning reflection I came upon these words:

"Every time you close another door-be it the door of immediate satisfaction, the door of distracting entertainment, the door of busyness, the door of guilt and worry, or the door of self-rejection-you commit yourself to go deeper into your heart and thus deeper into the heart of God.

"This is a movement toward full incarnation.  It leads you to become what you already are-a child of God; it lets you embody more and more the truth of your being; it makes you claim the God within you."  

Transition is difficult, and one of the more difficult parts of it has been leaving behind so many people and realities that have made a place in my heart.  I miss the wonderful and supportive communities I had-be it my Cap Corps community, the community amongst the other volunteers, or the community that extended outside of the walls of Ciudad de los Niños; I miss the boys I worked with; I miss the tutors and staff at Ciudad; I miss being in a place that was filled with a beautiful spirit.  In the past, I have tended to make my life busy so I wouldn't have to dwell on the pain of leaving people.  It didn't work.  Instead of being free of the pains of transition I was left with unprocessed thoughts and a lot on my plate.  A lovely combination!

As we grow older we become wiser-or we just realize how silly we were in the past.  Regardless, this time around I have tried to embrace the transition instead of running from it.  Painful as it is sometimes, closing these doors that can (and have!) easily distract me has led me to want to come closer to finding God within myself, reflect on where God was during my time in Peru, and listen to where God is calling me.

I am appreciating the slower pace of this move.  As resistant to it as I have continued to be, I have found peace in stopping and allowing myself to feel the emotions that have been passing through me.  I have appreciated being able to spend time with family and friends and to take the time to find places to share in Chicago.  It is still a very awkward transition, and at times it feels off, but embracing this time instead of pushing it behind distractions has lead me to discover places of peace.

paz, bien, y amor.

Michael Melaniphy

Friday, October 26, 2012

Instead of Writing a Cover Letter

Yesterday I realized that Lima was normal for me.  I have known this for a while, but yesterday it hit me hard.  Maybe this is because-sad to say-I have been thinking (or avoiding thinking) about returning to the States in February, and hence forth thinking about what is normal/ has been/ will be, etc... Normal is not perfect, it is not always what I want, it is not always something that I want to stay as is, but it is something that I experience and connect to my life here.  Regardless, for me, as of yesterday, this was normality:

-The San Juan boys.  I have been with them since February, and one since last September.  They have been the main part of my ministry, life in Ciudad.  
-All of the Ciudad boys.
-Joyful encounters with the boys
-Frustrating conversations with the boys
-Life-Giving conversations with the same boys
-Boys screeming Mikey! Hermano Mikey! Hermano Michael! HER-MA-NO MI-CH-AEL.... (Gracias Niño Jesús chicos) 
-The volunteers, past and present.  Laura, Ryan, Laura, Ben, Jeanette, Tania, Hannah, Harriet, Rosanna, Evie, Christoph, Jess, Jenn, Isabella, Sonja, Cossima, Jocelyn.  Constant gratitudes to all of them.
-Did we really think of that? Are we going to do that? We are doing it.
-Prayer nights, turned into community nights, turned into CC-Time! (Cap Corps Time)
-Cake days
-Greeting from the tutors, staff, hermanos, mothers and fathers
-Hermana Vita: "Hermano Michael, you should really cut/comb your hair..."
-Coffee flowing.  Healthy eating turned into cookie baking.
-Rice, potatoes, bread, and beans (still haven't put on weight)
-Mangos! Four for less than a dollar! Can't get better than that... but, wait, 4 avocados for less than a dollar! Paradise...
-The hills of Lima
-Poverty.  Frustrating family lives.
-How did you spend your salida? Internet, television, more internet.  Get a book to read!
-Alabanza songs and the constant urge to dance to them
-The craving for Ceviche, Anticuchos, Chicha Morada
-Crowded combis and the occasional and blessed empty one
-Stray dogs (don't even realize they are there these days)
-Overcast, cloudy skies.  A white sheet tossed over Lima.  Sun! Well, some cloud cover wouldn't hurt...
-Huayno music coming from the peñas outside of Ciudad 
-A sense of removal
-A sense of belonging
-A sense of wanting to scream and leave
-A sense of only wanting to be there, in this place, in this beautiful moment
-A sense that the only thing I want to do is love
-A sense that that is not enough; a sense that that is exactly what this broken world needs
-Interior debates about the role of the Church in Lima, Peru, Latin America, the World
-Humility when I am told that God will judge me not on how I judge how others live out the gospel but on how I live out the gospel.  Humility, to know that I do not know everything... far from knowing a lot... anger when I am certain that we are far removed from the gospel call to love.  Peace of mind meeting people who live out this love no matter the challenges.  You are inspirations, exemplars, challengers, and you make a doubting heart remember that the preferential option for the poor is still lived out here.  
-Meeting people who name drop Gustavo Gutierrez.  Being able to name drop him myself!
-Realizing that the theology of liberation is not something that is stuck in the past meant to be studied, but something that is being lived and changing every day.  Astonishment that people my age are creators of their own theology of liberation.
-Being challenged to open myself up.  Seeing the complexity and richness of the Catholic tradition.  Realizing that I still have a lot more spiritual growing to do
-"Wait, wait, let's hold on a bit..." tell myself that too many times... is that bad?
-Wake up calls in the study hall
-Accomplishment when I can get and explain math
-Remorse that I have resigned to trying to understand chemistry
-Amazement that one day can produce joy, sadness, frustration, happiness, humor, stress, annoyance, a feeling of love, and a desire to want more.

This and so much more.  I love this place.  I have been changed by this place.  And I am not ready to leave this place.  Luckily I still have time.

paz, bien, y amor.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Good Reflection

Reflection from Fr. James Martin, S.J. on today's Gospel.  

"Today's Gospel: "It will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven," Jesus says today. "Again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven." 

"The more I've thought about this passage over the years, the more it seems that Jesus is not being condemnatory, as he is simply stating a fact. It's not that he hates rich people as much as he pities them. His ministry is always about compassion. 

"Why does he pity them? Because he knows that the more someone is tied to wealth (or possessions or status or power) the less one is tied to God. In his classic text "The Spiritual Exercises." St. Ignatius Loyola talked about "disordered attachments." We can all become "attached" to something like the desire for wealth, or physical well-being, or advancing up the corporate ladder in a way that is not "ordered" towards God. How do we know when our attac
hments are "disordered"? When they prevent us from moving closer to God, from loving more and from being free. Anything that prevents us from following God, as Jesus tells the "rich young man," in another Gospel passage, needs to be relinquished. The rich young man knows this. That's why in the story, he "goes away sad."

"The disciples know that this is hard. They're not stupid. "Then who can be saved?" they ask. Jesus tells them that they will be able to do this with God's grace. Even the things that we think we cannot possibly live without, turn out to be not so important at all, in the light of God's love.

"Everyone needs some possessions and some money in order to live. Of course. Jesus worked for many years as a carpenter (or craftsman) in Nazareth. He wasn't stupid either. Jesus knew what it meant to earn your "daily bread." But most likely, he also had seen what happens when people cling to wealth. So in today's Gospel, in his typically blunt style, he's telling us what to do: Let go of stuff. Don't be attached to wealth. Be free."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lima: My Obscure Obsession

This is the blog post I recently wrote for the Cap Corps Midwest blog.  Enjoy!  

I remember last February clearly.  I was “coffee shop hopping” in Omaha, trying to discern, write, and eventually finish my Cap Corps application.  It was a slightly stressful, yet amazingly joyful time in my life.  I knew I wanted to volunteer, and I was near certain that I wanted to be with Cap Corps.  I remember sitting in class, hearing Shelly talk about the program and the Franciscan spirituality that was the heart of all Cap Corps stood for.  I was excited.  My friends kept commenting that the program would be perfect for me; that it had all that I was looking for.  Which it did.  A faith based community and an emphasis on social justice, spirituality and simplicity.  I was set.  Well, not quite.  I was always at odds about whether I wanted to volunteer internationally or domestically.  Then I was at odds about whether I really was called to go to Lima.  I kept doubting.  I kept questioning myself.  I wondered if Ciudad de los Niños was the place for me.  I thought, “would I get to know the real Perú if I was living in the walled-in city of Ciudad?”  When I came to Lima, I found out that all my doubts and reservations could be put to rest.  Now, seven months into my time, I am coming to find within Lima, within Ciudad, something that is pulling me. 

Lima is a city I have grown to love.  Yet, I have no idea why.  Last week I was talking with a friend who has spent years in Lima.  Asking me why I loved the city, I could not respond with any clear reason, except for the fact that there is something here that moves me, that gives me life, that confuses me, that makes me want to understand more.  He could relate.  Lima is not the most glamorous of cities.  It is a city of 9 million people, settled in a desert, with only two seasons—cold and overcast, or hot with a strong sun.  Inequality is a great word to describe it.  Sandy Pueblos jovenes are contrasted by pristine parks, paved roads, and gated apartments.   The view from my apartment is sand hills filled with haphazardly built houses; one next to another, a constant reminder of the realities of this city and country.  Traffic is constant.  Ancient cars from the 80’s and 90’s spew fumes out as they make death-defying merges in traffic.  Horns sounding.  People yelling.  Stray dogs barking.  Quite the soundtrack.  Crime in the city has made people suspicious of one another.  An article in a Peruvian newspaper, El Comerico, stated that only 25% of Limanians trust their neighbors.  As you can see, glamorous.

But why do I love it?  A few ideas have crossed my mind as I have thought about this.  One of them is that it is complex and rich in experience.  Modern Lima was formed by mass migration from the selva y sierra because of extreme poverty and violence connected to the Shinning Path.  People saw Lima in terms of their own survival.  They believed that if they came here they would be safe—which was almost true—and that they would find some sort of economic balance.  Because of this migration, there is this complexity that has attached itself the life of the city.  People came from all parts of the country, bringing with them all that made them who they were.  Some of it beautiful, some tragic.  A few days ago, I was walking in the market close to Ciudad.  While getting dish soap, I started to talk with the shopkeeper, Olga.  We started off with simple conversation.  “Where are you from?”, “What are you doing in Lima?”.  Then she started to open up and tell me her life.  She talked as though she was withholding her story, waiting for someone to share it with.  It was tragic.  She is from Ayacucho, where the Shinning Path was started and focused.  The violence from the Shinning Path, and military resistance was centered there.  She told me how, 25 years later, she is still traumatized by all that she saw.  She said her pain was passed onto her son, who has been ill since he was a child.  Her pain is something that is a constant in Lima.  She said it best by saying that, from the outside, this pain can be overlooked, but when you talk, a whole world is opened up before you.  If I were to just walk by and buy soap from a different stand, I would have thought nothing much of her.  She looked happy, energetic.  She was in pain.  During the weekends, families can come to Ciudad to visit their sons.  I see them and I ask to myself, what stories do they hold?  What pain, what trauma do they carry with them?  People on the street, in the market, riding in the combi; what is their story?  Lima is complex, and their stories make it so. 

But it is not all pain.  There is joy, hope, revival that flows through their veins.  They hope for a better life, a better world.  A few nights ago, Ryan, Tania, and me were walking back from a mass in a neighboring town, Villa El Salvador, when the group we were with stopped us and led us to a park near by.  At the park there was a youth group practicing a traditional Ayacuchan dance.  They were there by their own volition.  They were interested in the culture of their family.  Talking with people over the past few months I have found that they love to talk about where they came from.  “In the summer, the fields are deep green.  Fruit and olives everywhere.”  Religious celebrations are revered.  La Candalaria, processions for saints dear to their hearts, devotions.  But the beauty is that they talk of their homeland with reverence, but they have found themselves accustomed and settled with Lima.  Is that just a way of giving up?  Or have they found a home here that they can feel comfortable in?  Maybe both are true.  Whatever the answer may be, these people have fought for this city to be theirs, and in doing so they have made it their own. 

In writing, I still don’t know why I love Lima.  Maybe it is because I am in this new “honeymoon” period, started off by finding new friend and religious communities in Lima.  But I think, and I hope that there is something more to this.  Vamos a ver

Paz, bien, y amor.    

Michael Melaniphy

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Learning to be Taken in by the Moment

It is amazing what happens when you allow yourself to be taken in by the moment.  This afternoon was a perfect example of that.  For the last month, and for the next few weeks, we have been on summer vacation.  The boys are back home, relaxing, studying, continuing to develop their soccer skills to further humiliate me, along with other diversions.  Therefore, we have an empty Ciudad, and no responsibilities.  Yay!  After a few weeks of travel, I decided to use the final two weeks of break to reorganize my life and prepare myself in all ways for the start of what will appear to be a very busy year.  One such aspect of my life was the spiritual side.  In a place like Ciudad, some sort of spirituality/prayer/reflection is necessary.  Without it, you will get burned out, irritated, or, a favorite of mine, impatient.  I decided that developing a spiritual base outside of Ciudad would be healthy, especially since I already live, work, eat, etc... in Ciudad.  This, so far, has involved finding a parish in Lima and having a spiritual director who is unconnected with Ciudad.  Of course, I will have things that will challenge and develop my spirituality within the walls of Ciudad, such as a place to reflect, write, or pray daily.  I have yet to schedule a spiritual guidance appointment (but I have numbers!), but I have found my parish.  A 20 minute Combi ride (which I can pick up right outside the gates!) brings me to Nuestra Señora de la Paz in Villa El Salvador, an active and connected church, and a life-giving community.  What more does one need?!  

As I said, it is amazing what happens when your are taken in a moment.  Before mass last night at Nuestra Señora de la Paz I was looking out over the dusty landscape that is Villa El Salvador.  I was out, letting my eyes and mind flow wherever they choose.  Any one could have snuck up on me without my notice; that is what happened.  Before knowing, I felt the bar I was leaning on shake, only to discover that the person behind the movement was a 12 year old girl who immediately went into questioning me about anything and everything.  "Where are you from?", "What is your name?", "Do you know how to swim?" (there were two pools next to the school used for summer workshops, and we were close enough to the beach, so it was a pertinent question).  Then from there the discussion went from her questioning me to her divulging details of her life from her dislike of math (she was in a math workshop instead of the swimming one-that would cause many to resent a subject), what she liked to do for fun, her admiration of her math teacher, who, to her amusement, was in love with math (who knew?), and her admitting, denying, and admitting again that she cheated on tests.

I don't write this account merely because it is a fun tale, or that it was the start of a very life-giving night-but you may take it as such, if you desire, for there is truth in that.  I tell it because it was a humbling experience that reflects all of my failures of the last few months at Ciudad.  My ministry at Ciudad is very much a ministry of presence.  I work as a mentor for boys who, because of their backgrounds, put up walls between their history and those they encounter-especially the tall, awkward gringo, who, on very bright days blinds people because of his very pale skin (shows that I do wear sun screen, mom).  To accompany boys such as the ones I work with, one needs patience.  They wont let you into their lives, or even partially into their lives if you do not give yourself to them, break down any pedestals that you think you may stand on, and become humble.  And, after all that, you cannot make them come to you, only they can choose.  Get where patience comes in?  One of my failures of the past few months was that I was not patient; I assumed that if I was in the pabellón enough that eventually boys would be lining up to have my ear.   I imagine someone putting a stand out like Lucy's psychiatry stand from Peanuts would have more success than I had.  Henri Nouwen says that for a person engaged in ministry, the best they can do is admit their own brokenness, humble themselves, and bring them to equal levels as the people they are ministering to.  I am broken, you are broken, let us learn from one other and journey together.  To return to the story from last night, this 12 year old entered into my life when I was vulnerable.  I was lost in thought, I had put down all of my own walls, and she saw that.  Of course, she could have been an extremely extraverted girl who was curious about the new visitor to the parish.  But there is something in this.  I wasn't trying to be anyone; I wasn't acting in an authority position, I wasn't pretending to do something, I was just there, lost, present, open for anyone.  We shall see if it will have the same affect with the boys.  ¡Vamos a ver!  

paz, bien, y amor.  


Saturday, September 24, 2011

So, you're in Perú... What Exactly are you Doing?

¡Hola Todos!

This is Laura.  She once had the idea that she would organize 
me and Ryan's apartment.  Still hasn't happened.  
As I write, I am commemorating the end of my second week of work and the start of what hopes to be a formative endeavor.  With this mindset on my responsibilities here, I thought I would share exactly what I am doing.  I felt that since my placement in Perú, I have not really given a good, clear explantation of what I would be doing (mainly because it was something uncertain on my end).  But uncertainty was good, and I am realizing this now, because instead of relying on the pre-conceived notions that I could have built up over the last few months, I have gone into Ciudad de los Niños with a very open mindset, ready to take everything in.  

Laundry Area.
Before I proceed with the schedule, I would like to explain a little more the place I will be living and working at.  Ciudad de los Niños de la Inmaculada is a residential school in San Juan de Miraflores, a district in Lima that emerged because of the migration of people from the countryside or the mountains to Lima (I will explain this further in another blog post).  It was started by a Italian Capuchin in 1955 in order to deal with migrant children who were abandoned or orphaned.  Today it works in the same light, bringing in kids who come from backgrounds of unstable economic situations or violence, to name a few.  In all, the kids come from situations where it would be best for the child to send them here.  Ciudad is not a school (there is a Capuchin school next door), instead it is the place where the kids can develop in many facets in a healthy and safe environment.  There is a lot more I could talk about, but I have 18 more months to get those thoughts out.  As for me, I live in an apartment behind the church with the other four Cap Corps Volunteers.  There are also two volunteers from England and two from Germany living in the apartments on the second floor.  They will be here for a year.  

Well, let's begin....

-6:00 am: Wake up.  
-6:30 am: Breakfast.  Granted, I have found out the hard way that this actually means I should get there at 6:25.  Many times, especially during the first week, me and Ryan found ourselves walking towards the comedor and hearing one of the brothers start prayer.  Oh well, late once and a while.  
Living Room, Guy's Apartment.  
-7:00 am: Return to San Juan (the pabellon I am working in).  The older three houses, along with the responsibility of cleaning their house, have the responsibility of cleaning up around Ciudad.  During the time after breakfast we sweep up the streets around our house.  I usually walk up and down the main drive sweeping up random pieces of garbage.  
-7:30am: Break.  Everyone is off to school.  This is usually when I enjoy a nice cup of instant coffee (with condensed milk!) and try to catch up on news (be it Peruvian, U.S., or World).  
-8:00 am-9:00 am: Mass.  All of the workers come together for mass everyday.  At first I was dreading the prospect of having to go to mass everyday (and there are times where I would rather sleep, read, or write) but I have come to appreciate it as a way to reflect, practice Spanish (especially the responses), and understand where this place comes from, in a spiritual sense.  
Entrance to San Juan
-9:00 am-11:00 am: Work.  For me, during this time I do some sort of manual labor job.  This can range from anything from working in one of the gardens to cleaning up the little tienda o kiosko (sometimes I even sell some things-thus living my dream of working in a colmado!).  At times I do get frustrated when I hear I have to work in the garden again, or sweep up the house again, but being that I am usually by myself, I have come to find that this time is a really good time to reflect.  It is a very humbling job.  
-11:00 am-1:45 pm: Break.  Often involves reading, relaxing, or taking a trip to el mercado and getting to know a little bit of San Juan.  
-1:45 pm: Lunch.  Boys are back from school, ready for a lunch that usually consists of soup and some combination of rice, beans, potatoes, and recently fish.  So, for all those who are worried about me losing weight (mom), it probably wont happen.  
-3:00 pm: Work.  For the three oldest pabellons, the kids begin to work in some sort of workshop (such as a bread shop, shoe repair, wood work, or hair cutting place, to name a few).  However, I am with the awkward house that has boys old enough to work and boys who are too young.  Therefore, I get to work with the boys who are left behind-sad, especially since they have to spend two hours with me.  We usually clean up the pabellon, garden, or, such as yesterday, play a lot of futbol (ended up playing 2.5 hours of it yesterday-and no, I am still horrible).  
Cancha.  Can usually find me playing fútbol here
-5:00 pm: Break.  
-5:30 pm: Homework.  I kind of help to run a study hall.  I walk around, making sure that everyone is doing their homework, while also helping as much as possible-I was asked a question about chemistry... kind of wish Suzanne (chemistry major) was there to bail me out of that question.  But for the first week and a half I felt like I had no idea what I was doing-which was true.  I would walk up and down the row, and then stand at a window looking immersed in thought (in all reality i was probably thinking about what the kids were thinking about me... "who is this guy? He looks lost."  This past week I was really intentional about observing one of the tutores (head of the house... I am close to his position, but not quite) and try to understand what he does during this time.  This, as well as the fact that my relationship with the kids is changing, has made the last few days really good.  
-7:00 pm: Alabanza.  This is 30 minutes of praise and worship, i.e. singing and dancing in church with the boys.  Slowly understanding the songs.  
-7:30 pm: Dinner.  
-8:00 pm: Boys goy back to homework, I call it a day (or I try to call it a day... need to learn how to say "no".) 

Pachacamac.  Ruins Just South of Lima
It is a very busy schedule, but it has allowed for me to do almost everything that I wanted to do as a volunteer in Lima.  I have been able to reflect, be it on spiritual questions or social problems (hard not to forget that as house filled sand dunes stand as the backdrop to any view); I have been able to spend time and get to know the people I am working with; I have also been able to walk with and share lives with people that I encounter.  This can be anything from a conversation, and smile, laugh, or a look into a face.  Each person comes from some place, and it has been an experience to work to see where people are from.  

I have loved hearing from all of you, be it through emails, letters, or Skype conversations, and I am excited to be able to continue sharing with everyone.  

paz y amor. 


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Learning to Love a Place I Do Not Know

Hola a todos!

The Pacific Ocean.  Looking south.  
I have been in country for almost a week and a half-although it feels like a month has already passed.  From the moment of arrival to the time of this entry, the city of Lima has brought so much.  Henri Nouwen, upon his arrival in Lima, said that he quickly fell in love with the country.  I cannot say for certain if I am love with this country yet only because I do not know it.  The country is not Lima (even though 1/3 of Peru's population is centered there), and Lima is not just Miraflores (the part of town where I have been living during the duration of language school).  Each part of the country has something amazing to offer, be it the beauty of the mountains, the forest, the ocean, or-most importantly-the people, and I believe I need to encounter all of this to find a deep love for the country.  Even though I cannot say definitively that I am in love with this place, through my experiences throughout the last week and a half I can easily say that this is an amazing place that will offer challenges, joy, passion and a deeper connection to my faith.  If this past week is any indicator, I believe I could say that by getting to know Perú through these offerings I will soon fall deeply in love with this place.

After a day full of traveling, we (me, Ryan, and Laura), arrived in Lima at 5am on the following Sunday (who knew that we would see our first Peruvian "sun" rise so early on!).  We were met at the airport by Tania, Jeanette, Hermano Hugo, O.F.M. Cap, y another worker from Ciudad (I forgot his name, but hope to update this when I find it out), and were quickly driven to San Juan de Miraflores (SJM) where we were to spend the night at Ciudad de los Niños (CDLN)!  The drive from the airport to SJM mainly consisted of me trying to take everything in.  I was lost.  I had no idea where we came from and where we were going.  I didn't know which direction was north or south.  I felt so small, surrounded by the never ending sight of the ciudades jovens on one side and buildings on the other.  I felt as though I needed to go to the highest point in the city just to take it all in.  Like I said, there is so much in Lima alone.  I want to say that I love it, I want to say that my heart is connected to the place, but what do I know? Nothing.  I am still in transition.  I am still living out of my suitcase.  I have already seen the beauty of this place; in the people, in the ocean, and in the house filled hills around SJM-it is an eerie beauty.  Yet, I do not know this place.

Procession after la Misa de Santa Rosa.  National Cathedral is on the right,
Presidential Palace is in the background.  
I know that Ciudad de los Niños will be where I will be planting my roots and growing with the people I will be accompanying.  It is where I will be living-in a simple apartment behind the chapel-where I will be working, and where I will be challenged the most.  Because yesterday (8-30) was the feast day of Santa Rosa de Lima, the patron saint of Lima, Peru, and for many in Latin America, we did not have classes at the language school.  Taking advantage of our free time, we all went first to the procession for Santa Rosa at the Cathedral (interesting experience), and then later me and Laura ventured to SJM to spend the rest of the day at Ciudad.  I have been assigned to work at Casa San Juan (age ranges from 12-14) and yesterday I was able to spend time with some of the teens there.  Those whom I met were wonderful, kindly welcoming the tall, awkward gringo into their community.  I am excited to begin working there, but I also know that i do need to prepare myself in many ways throughout the next week and a half before officially starting.  Wish me luck!

Spanish is going well.  I am realizing the areas where I am lacking, but I am working to repair the breaches in knowledge.  Although our community is really spread out (throughout Miraflores and SJM) I have really enjoyed spending time with them, getting to know each other more, and discovering each other's hidden talents (cough... Ryan's salsa dancing.... cough.... Laura's resilience.... cough-still need to find Tania and Jeanette's).  On Saturday we are planning on venturing a little outside of the city to see the ruins of Pachacamac (http://www.arqueologiadelperu.com.ar/pch.htm).  I have enjoyed receiving updates from everyone, and I pray that this continues throughout the next 18 months and beyond.  You all are wonderful!

paz y amor.