Arequipa, we’re here!

Two weeks ago today we moved to Arequipa.

But before that we lived through a whirlwind of adventures, mostly revolving around living out of suitcases.  On Dec. 2nd, we moved out of our house in Bogota and all of the work of packing and sorting, selling and giving away was finally over and we moved two trunks, 4 suitcases, two strollers and a pack n play into a mission guest house where we could stay for a week while the final details of moving out of Bogota were worked out.  It was a good time to rest before our big transition, say some final (and hard) good-byes, and spend some time as a team gearing up for the next big phase.

On the 11th, we flew to Lima.  It was so surreal to know that we were actually in Peru, not as visitors, but as missionaries.  We had intended to spend a week organizing our visas and getting residency, but the second day we were there, and after a few hours in the visa office (think social security office but worse), we discovered that there was a major hiccup in the process, and we were going to have to wait to get our residency for another time.  In the meantime we have a good while that we can stay on our tourist visa without penalty.  Since we still had another 6 days in Lima with nothing to do, we took advantage to rest, go out on a date, take the kids to fun parks and malls, visit some of Nathaniel’s family and friends in Lima, and enjoy the beautiful furnished apartment we had rented.  The weather was perfect and we couldn’t believe we were in shorts and t shirts a week before Christmas!  And, we were right across the street from a Starbucks – a long awaited treat for sure.

On the 18th, we flew to Arequipa.  If it was surreal to finally be in Peru, going to Arequipa was even more unbelievable.  Finally, we were home.  Looking around the city on that first drive from the airport to our temporary home was such a mix of emotions.  Trying to take it all in, being so relieved that we were finally there, and the sense that this scenery which feels so new and uncharted would soon be my home and a place that I will start to know and understand, and raise my children.

The apartment we are staying in for the next month or so is fully furnished and in a very quiet neighborhood with a little park and in walking distance to a big grocery store and a few other stores and restaurants.  The apartment is a little more “rustic” than our taste would prefer, but it suits our needs for the short time we need to be here.  I have only been shocked once by our “widow maker” shower (you have to turn the hot water on before you step into the shower and there are live wires attached to the shower head), and am getting used to washing my dishes in cold water.  Also getting used to line drying all of our clothes, although I’m not a fan of stretched out and stiff t shirts, but at least we have a decent washing machine that does the job.

The weather here is just beyond description.  Picture your very favorite late Spring day and imagine living like that always, and that’s what it is like here.  We are in shorts or skirts every day and the sun is hot, but not unbearable.  Our kids are having so much fun playing outside every day, and getting filthy.  That is one downside to a lack of rain – dust everywhere.  We are just learning to live with dust as our new normal – dusty floors, dusty shoes, dusty clothes.

So far the people here have been incredibly friendly and warm.  We are in a city very used to foreigners and tourists, in fact there is a whole police unit just for tourists.  The city, although houses a million people, is fairly small, and we have run into the same people on the other side of town, or even run into each other on the team with out knowing each other’s plans for the day.  I really appreciate how manageable Arequipa feels in terms of the size and calmness.  It definitely feels like a place I could drive in without too many incidents, and I can see how I might be able to gain back some of the independence that I had lost over the last few years. It also makes me really excited to do ministry here – knowing the city isn’t so overwhelmingly large.

Our daily life over the last few weeks has been an adjustment for sure.  Every morning the three guys set out to scour the city for houses for us to live in and cars to buy.  Ideally we would love to be in walking distance from each other – kind of how we were in Bogota where we were in the same large neighborhood but each had our own smaller community as well.  Please be praying for us to find housing soon, and cars.  We would like to have cars that the wives can drive (i.e. automatic), can fit our growing families, and are hardcore enough to handle Peruvian roads.  Right now we take taxis to get almost anywhere, which is a challenge with small children, and I never feel comfortable getting in one by myself.  While the guys search for those things, us girls stay in with the kids, sometimes venturing out to the store with children in tow, or just to the neighborhood park.

We really wanted to make Christmas special for the kids, so the Friday before Christmas we bought ourselves a small tree with ornaments and some nice presents for the kids.  Arequipa isn’t huge, but the stores they have have been surprisingly nice and complete.  We don’t have department stores that you would recognize at home, but after living in South America for a while we have come to love certain stores and names, and many of those are available here too, along with some new ones as well.  Christmas Eve, we decided we wanted to start a new family tradition of having the Peruvian customary hot chocolate and Panetone (think fluffy fruit cake) and the kids each opened a new special mug to enjoy their treats with.  We put on a Christmas movie and settled in for the night, drifting off to sleep around 10.  At midnight, I woke up to what sounded like a battle being fought outside and Nathaniel called me to come look.  We went up to the roof and watched thousands of fireworks being set off all around the city.  The sounds and the flashes of light were unlike anything I’d ever seen before, such a fun new way to ring in Christmas morning.

Christmas day was really special too.  We opened presents first thing and then talked to some family at home.  Later in the afternoon, our team came over and we had a potluck of semi-traditional Christmas food.  It was a little tricky to cook a lot of things because we either hadn’t found the right ingredients or our ovens don’t work properly (hmmm, had that same problem last year too), but we had quite a feast and it was so wonderful.  We all didn’t even mind that instead of turkey, we shared about four traditional Peruvian roasted chickens.  It was just so exciting to be in Arequipa, together, starting some of our own traditions and really making an effort to make Christmas special, that it was a really wonderful day.

So, that’s been our last month in a (large) nutshell.  So often I look up, and think, “hmm, what have we done in the last month of note?” but this one feels more like, “we did ALL of that in a month!?”  It’s been a whirlwind, but I think as a team we have grown stronger going through all of this together (side note, I really cannot imagine having to go through this transition with out them), and as a family we have grown as well.  We are learning that we can move to a new country, leave behind everything we know, live out of suitcases, but as long as we are together we can make a new home anywhere.  Now, as we start 2014, we are excited that the travel and initial transition is behind us and we can focus on settling in and starting up the ministry we have been dreaming about for the last 16 years.

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