Peru ten years on

Well I didn't manage to blog while on the road, but I'm now back in Bs As, albeit in temporary accommodation following an impressive flood in my apartment last week.

First stop on my trip was Santiago de Chile where I visited the Con-spirando Collectivo for a coffee and chat with Andrea, one of the team. They publish a journal on women, spirituality and ecology and have just produced a 'best of' collection in English called 'Circling In, Circling Out' and edited by Mary Judith Ress. It's not available on Amazon but her book Ecofeminism from Latin America is.

After Santiago it was a mere seven hours up the coast to La Serena and a night time visit to one of the observatories in the Atacama Desert. I did take pictures of the stars but unsurprisingly seeing as I haven't a clue how to take pictures in the dark, these didn't turn out to be anything but black. But here's one of the observatory to give you a sense of place. And I can tell you about
dying planets smoldering in red,
a mess of galaxies layers upon layers,
and one brilliant blue shooting star, sharing its elements with us.

From stars to smog in Lima. And once I had got myself re-orientated to the city and the mad mad combis (minibus-buses) it was great to be back. I had a fantastic few days visiting old haunts and meeting up with friends and my Peruvian 'family' who so graciously let me into their house and lives ten years ago. I also spend a few mornings in the resource centre of the Bartolome de las Casas institute where I used to, I would say work, but it was really more hanging around and pestering people to let me tag along.

I'd been told Lima was much improved. There were fanciful stories that the River Rimac had been cleaned of rubbish and the waters flowed clear blue one more. I didn't get to check out the river, but certainly the historic centre of the city had been spruced and secured up. Yet the smog remained - thick pieces of ash and dirt streaked across my face at the end of each day. From conversations, I had a sense that Lima was a little safer and wealthier, at least the areas the tourists visited. And the tourists were certainly much more in evidence than before. People seemed positive about the tourist industry and the income it generated - outside of the multi-national hotel firms. One thing I never thought I would see in Lima - a Starbucks next to the very upmarket Wongs supermarket which I remember wandering round in amazement many years ago.

I then flew to Iquitos right in the heart of the Amazon and closer to Brazil and Columbia than the rest of Peru in many ways. I spent a week with my friend Katharine, a minister in the Peruvian Lutheran Church (ILEP) since 1994, and recently awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon. Well done Katharine!

The Amazon region is amazing, even overwhelming, in its riches. I sampled a host of delicious fruits, spotted bright yellow birds and fuzzy black caterpillars, walked through lush forests and sailed along the vast Amazon river. One evening on the boat ride home, we were joined by two river dolphins jumping and diving close by.

It was a real priviledge to spend time with the church 'God is Faithful' in Cardozo, a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city. We met for prayer, worship and discussion, youth club games and sunday school lunch. The church is in the midst of a building project and there are many possibilities for the future.

My favorite times were going visiting as the sun set. We visited members with only a small oil lamp for light, in humid hot evenings or tropical downpours, amidst children's toys, the evening meal and mending taken in from a neighbour. Back on the street, a child's voice would call out, '¡Hola Hermana Rachel!' and a little hand wave in greeting.