Posts Tagged ‘Peru’

Becky and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent a few days in Amelia Island and had a bountiful feast with family in Jacksonville.

Here’s the November newsletter. Click on the images below to view the pdf files.




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Traffic is an adventure in a city of 10 million where there are few traffic lights. Many intersections have traffic lights, but most are turned off. Lane markers are suggestions. As I experienced in Dublin years ago, at different times of the day a street might have anywhere from two to five lanes of traffic as needed.

But there are rules. There is some unwritten rule about when to obey the traffic lights and stop signs that I never figured out. But a longtime resident of Lima shared with me one of the secrets of driving in Peru: the rule of first fender. If you can edge your fender in first, the other driver, no matter how big, will yield. And likewise, you yield to the person in front of you, even if they lead you by inches. Somehow they avoid hitting each other, for the most part. One time I watched a huge truck pull onto the curb and deftly squeeze between a light pole and another truck that had started to crowd him as it edged over. The first fender rule works pretty well in traffic jams, and it works in intersections when traffic is coming from two directions. My conclusion is that driving is hair-raising and entertaining until you realize you’re not just a neutral observer. It’s fun unless you take seriously the fact that your life is in peril.

In reality, it’s just your fenders in peril. I would never buy a new car in Lima. Our translator told us she plans to reward herself if she can ever go a year without getting a scrape or dent.

So we established that there are rules. As long as everyone obeys them and drives with aggression, the system works. But you cannot blink. If you lose your nerve, bad things happen. I would love to know how the following scene originated.

Standoff between bus and truck

A bus, caught in the wrong lane, faces down a truck

Our bus got stuck in a traffic jam on the way out of town, caused by a stalled van in one lane of the road. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a smaller bus backing down the left-hand side of the road. This bus had somehow lost his place on our side of the road — perhaps trying to pass the stall to the left instead of the right. Whatever happened, the driver apparently flinched and found himself forced out.

The only way to rectify his position would be to get some space in front of him to get his fender in on the bumper-to-bumper traffic on his right, where we were watching. So he kept backing up in quick intervals… only to have this giant Volvo truck charge the gap and slam on its brakes, its huge grill menacing the driver inches from his window. While the truck driver raged, the defeated van driver tried to calm him down and plead for space and grace. What a pickle!

So my takeaway was to work within the rules and never lose your confidence! I guess that’s a good rule of thumb for any cross-cultural experience. It’s certainly easier to observe as a dispassionate passenger sitting comfortably in a bus rather than from the driver’s seat.

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One of the things I was most looking forward to was seeing Wes and Nancy Collins. Back in 1995, a group of 14 of us from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Georgia Tech went to see a Wycliffe translation project up in the mountains of western Guatemala. Linguist translator Wes Collins was just wrapping up his project among the Comitancillo Mam people.

I remember Wes as a frustrated entrepreneur; as he translated, he also solved problems in the town with microenterprise solutions. For years, he noticed that most of the men left Comitancillo for half the year. Because there wasn’t business to sustain them around the town, they were forced to go down to the valley for months in order to make money to provide for their families. The impact on families and the fledgling church was enormous. So Wes helped one of the elders of the church set up a leathermaking business. He also started a canning business for another church member.

Comitancillo Bible Institute

Comitancillo Bible Institute

During our week in Guatemala, we helped the Comitancillo Mam realize their vision for an institute for training pastors, lay leaders and missionaries. The church had a passion to reach related people groups in the area, and one way to do that was through a Bible school. Our group of engineering students helped dig the foundations and twist rebar for a week in the blazing sun.

Wes Collins, director of CILTA

Wes Collins, backpack slung over his shoulder, looks the part of a Peruvian academic

Wes is now director and a professor at Curso Internacional de Lingüística, Traducción y Alfabetización. Everyone knows it as CILTA. My first day in Lima, I caught a taxi with two colleagues and met him at Casa CILTA, the house and support office for the year-long comprehensive linguistic course. For the most part, they train Latins to become Bible translators. However, a couple of years ago, they did an entire year with indigenous people who wanted to either return to their own people to continue translation work or to go to other people groups. These are people who have been on the other side, remembering life before God spoke their language.

One of the concerns Wes deals with on a regular basis is the Latins who want to be trained for Bible translation who can’t come up with the money for the course and living expenses. It’s a real challenge, and the tendency is to give them a bit of time but then jump in to rescue them with “western” funding. But what are you teaching them when you do that? After all, if they’re interested in being translators after they graduate the course, they will have to raise their full support at that time, when “Papa Wycliffe” won’t be able to continue to rescue them. There are complex issues in empowering, supporting and building capacity.

Wes and Nancy took us on a walk through the city, followed by a fairly tame bus ride (having heard the stories and seen the pictures of overloaded buses in Peru, I was expecting worse) to a restaurant for lunch. I tried ceviche (marinated raw fish), papa a la huancaina (potatoes) and conchitas a la chalaca (scallops) at an Italian restaurant. Yes, you read that right.

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I’m going to post a series of stories from my experiences in Lima and Chaclacayo over the next week. I’m finally getting around to processing what I saw and heard.

For starters, a picture that sums up a lot of the differences between Peru and the United States.

Extension ladder, Peru style

Extension ladder, Peru style

First, some context. July 28 is National Day in Peru, a commemoration of the day Peru declared independence from Spain in 1821. There’s a law that every home has to fly a Peruvian flag. National spirit is enforced, apparently. As preparation for the holiday, many Peruvians paint their houses. During my week there, I saw painters at work in dozens of businesses and homes. Of course, some take a lot more work than others.

This was the scene at our resort, looking out the windows of our meeting room. The three ladders were connected to each other by a couple of pieces of wire around the rungs. Still makes me a bit nervous. We checked the window often, recalling how the apostle Paul one time had to interrupt his sermon to restore a man to life after he nodded off and fell three floors during a sermon. Christians always need to be ready to meet a need!

Anyway, for someone from a place with as many regulations and lawsuits as the United States, this scene looks incredibly risky. But it’s not like they’re not safety-conscious. There is a dedicated staff person holding the ladder, after all. Another time I observed from the roof of the hotel the trash pick-up routine. As the garbage truck made its way along the street, one person ran ahead to grab the trash bags and throw them onto the huge pile in the back while another stood on the heap while the truck moved, sorting and organizing to make room for more trash. While their systems are riskier, in many ways they’re more efficient than ours.

Imagine for a minute how this scene would be different in the United States.

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It’s become clear that Latins need to own the rest of the work.

My new friends Job and Mabel from Bolivia served in India and now spend their energy supporting and encouraging new Bolivian missionaries. They are very interested in going to Indonesia themselves in the near future. This couple were among a couple of dozen that met this week for leadership development and a fresh infusion of vision. I headed for the airport today realizing they have more vision than I do.

Several people throughout the week stated that if for some crazy reason Wycliffe were to abandon this vision to start translation in every language in this generation, it would still go on. These Latin and indigenous colleagues, a number of which have completed their own translations, are total believers. They feel the urgency personally. They know the power of the Bible to transform lives. They realize that they can do translation. And they have incredible faith that God can do the impossible.

I was humbled to spend a week with them. These are people Wycliffe is honored to partner with and serve alongside.

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Morning in Peru

Morning doves in Lima

Morning Doves in Lima

On Sunday night in Lima, I slept fitfully. It was too quiet. Not so strange when you consider that my own house is very quiet at night, but when you’re in a strange city — a city of 10 million people — you expect to hear some noises at night. No birds, no traffic, no sirens, no dogs, no roosters. I woke up to see two morning doves out the window, but still no noises.

On Monday night in Chaclacayo, I woke up before 5am because it was too noisy. I bet you never considered how many different sounds of horns there are. There are the high “beep” varieties, the variegated mechanical sheep sounds, the lower blares and deep, throaty truck family. In Peru they have a unique language spoken between drivers using their horns to alert, warn, impose or express indignation. I heard all of them this morning.

I’ve got more photos posted on Facebook, and I’ll post some infrequent updates during the week here.

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You can find our July newsletter below. Click the images to get a pdf file.

Page 1 of EyreMail July 2010 Page 2 of EyreMail July 2010

You may notice that some of the articles are already on this site in some form. Regular readers get the news early!

Roy and Becky

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