Friday, February 25, 2011

A Difficult Week


In God’s sovereignty, I wrote about my adjustment to seeing animals die a week ago and the reminder of Christ’s shed blood for me. Since then, He has brought the theme a little closer to home.

On February 12th, one of our neighbors gave us a cute puppy that was very young. We were hesitant to accept her, but the kids loved her so much and Abigail quickly took over ownership. Julia already had Osito the monkey and Nathanael cared for Snowflake the dog. We landed on the name Glover because of her white front paws.

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We were wary of caring for such a newborn pup, but the mother had abandoned them, so we gave it a go. Abigail had to get up in the middle of the night to feed her. It was a tiring job. On the night of the 17th I heard her whimpering in the middle of the night like I had other nights, but I didn’t bother to get up to make sure Abby attended to her. She was dead in the morning.

We were all very sad. Mistake #2 was letting the kids bury her in the back patio. By the 22nd, there was a foul smell in the house and it was clear that the dog was the source. Glover had to be exhumed, and placed in the trash outside. That was adding insult to injury and we were all very tired that night.

It rained cats and dogs, or maybe monkeys and dogs would be a more appropriate saying for us here. It was after 2am in the morning. What followed was something like a nightmare, and I woke Crystal up to show her Osito dying. It is a memory that is etched in my brain for life. It would be cathartic to write all of the details of what happened, but we decided not to share the how part with Julia and promised her not to tell another living soul either until we decide to first share it with her. In other words, like the now old military policy “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

I decided to wake Julia up and we took her into our room with a candle lit and prayed before I broke the news to her. Her heart was broken as ours was too. We all cried and hugged and talked for a long time. Ultimately, it was a very bonding experience. We discussed trying to bury him or putting him in the trash, but left it up to her. She very maturely agreed to let him go out in the same trash pile that Glover was in too; wrapped in a special blanket.

The last two photos we have of Osito are from Chloe’s birthday. Fittingly, they are with Julia holding her.

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What a depressing post right? We are still recovering from the double whammy, and call it a rebound purchase or whatever you like, but we have two new monkeys! Glover was cute, but we only had her for days. Osito meant a lot more to us and won’t easily be forgotten. These new monkeys won’t replace him, but they do ease the kids’ pain and are a lot of fun.

Without further ado…introducing Ginger and Eleanor.

IMG_5792 (600x800)Ginger is Julia’s new monkey. You can find out more about her species at: IMG_5779 (600x800)

Eleanor is Abby’s new monkey (Chloe gets to help too). You can find out more about her at:

I am sure there will be more pictures and/or stories to come about Ginger and Eleanor, but I better close because Ginger (the nocturnal one) keeps jumping on the computer!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Photos of our latest jungle trip


If you would like to see photos of our last trip to the jungle from January 15th – February 8th 2011, please check out our Facebook photo album here:

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and for the those that want to see more of those gross photos click here:

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Confessions of a City Slicker

(**WARNING – This post contains gross photos!**)

I grew up in a suburb of Orlando, Florida. My family moved to a suburb of San Diego, California when I was 13. I attended the University of California at Los Angeles in one of the largest cities in the United States. After graduating, I lived in suburbs working behind a computer all day to earn a living. My entire life has consisted of the sheltered suburb and city life.

I had never seen (not counting television) an animal die or be killed; not a cow, not a dog, not a bird, not even a rat. I take that back; I saw a chicken killed in Africa on a mission trip and it grossed me out. I didn’t eat the chicken that night. I had never been hunting before. Road-kill was about the extent of seeing dead animals and I quickly turned away and avoided dwelling on it. While enjoying steak, chicken, and hamburgers just as much as the next red-meat-loving red-blooded American, thinking too much about how the meat got to the table can make me a little queasy. I don’t think anyone would classify me as an animal lover; my only pet growing up was a fish.

Well, in the first few trips into Ashéninka communities, blood and death has been a common part of life. It has taken some getting used to. The Ashéninka love to eat meat, and although fish is often all there is, hunting and trapping is a vital part of their life. My first experience seeing a dead animal in the community was a capybara, known as a ronsoco among the locals. It is the world’s largest rodent—think of Rodents Of Unusual Size from Princess Pride—and can weigh well over 100 pounds. Hyoni shot one on the island across from Yarina Isla and as he rowed back to shore, I was intrigued and silently nervous at the same time. ROUS?

I posed for pictures with this rat on steroids and forced myself to watch the pouring of boiling hot water on the body as the skin contracted and the hair was scraped off revealing a bright white skin underneath. This ain't your typical science class dissection!That wasn’t nearly as bad as the de-gutting and hacking of the carcass—more tamely called field dressing. The meat was surprisingly good, but my first experience of blood, guts, and death was eye opening. Chunks of overgrown rat meat anyone?

A couple pigs were killed and cut up in similar fashion.She'd lose her head if it wasn't attached. Oh isn't! I helped drag one of the freshly dead ones and the other—killed on a separate trip—had to be hammered in the head after being shot a couple times with an air gun. The sound of hammer and skull clashing was gruesome, but again the meat tasted great. Best ribs south of Memphis!There have been various birds mixed in, but that is hardly as upsetting and the meat doesn’t taste as good. On the latest trip, Hyoni’s traps have done the hunting for us and two añujes have been caught. An añuje is another rodent creature, much bigger than a rat, but not nearly as big as the capybara. The first one had its head blown off and the second had its back blown off. That explosion of flesh is where the head used to be!Both were incredibly gruesome, but the leg meat was a special treat.

The most difficult of all was the cow that was killed for the training conference. We waited for a couple hours to get the cow in its corral, but when it wasn’t entering, it was decided to shoot her instead. I heard the shotgun blast and we started looking the cow as it ran away. Blood was dripping in the mud, but the cow was “utterly” unaffected because the shot had hit the cow near the utters. I was an eyewitness to the second blast and it still didn’t go down. Ultimately, the cow had to be roped to the ground and Hyoni jabbed a Rambo-style knife into the back of the neck and began cutting the head off. I don't think it was totally dead until some time during the beheading :(.Everything about this sawing of the cow in fourths was bigger, grosser, and harder to watch. The kicker was having to carry a quarter of the cow on my shoulder for a 30 minute hike back to the boat. Smiling on the outside, nearly throwing up on the inside.Yes, that was a 30 minute hike through the jungle carrying somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 pound of bloody, freshly dead flesh. In the end I was exhausted, covered in sweat and blood, reeked terribly and couldn’t believe what I had just experienced.That's blood on my shoulders and arms. I washed the shirt I was wearing in the river, but it was still thoroughly stained. As with most of my other jungle animal death experiences, the meat tasted great!

I had never been covered in blood like that before and reflecting back on it, I am reminded of the sacrificial system of the Bible. Animal death and blood was a common sight in Old Testament times in an effort to cover the sins of the people of Israel. No matter how many animals were sacrificed or how much blood was spilled, it was never enough to keep up with the sins that were being committed. It wasn’t until Jesus came to earth and was the final perfect bloody sacrifice on a cross did we receive the opportunity to have our sins forgiven once and for all. His blood covers us and makes us clean and sinless in the Father’s eyes. I may never get used to the blood and death that is so much a part of life in the jungle, but I sure am thankful for my Savior’s blood and death for me. The greatest sacrifice of all!

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Hebrews 9:22 ESV)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jungle Journal


January 19, 2011

Late afternoon, just after climbing the hill from the river

Yoselin spent most of the afternoon crushing lemon halves against her head. Her hair was laden in pulp and I wondered why. Quilmer said it was for relief. Citric acid kills lice. So now I know.


The rain did not stop all day. I did not want to leave the mosquito net because of tiny, stinging gnats, so Jujee, Abby, Nano and Chloe joined me. We read our books together, worked through math, memorized facts and listened to the rain. When I saw Alejo chopping firewood in the fury of the downpour, I assumed they must’ve run out. They needed to eat.

Minutes later, he and little Christian were dumping armfuls of slender logs on our platform. He was cutting wood for us.

I remembered how Jeremy said to chip away the top layers because the inside would not be wet, and with a little diesel fuel and trash wrappers we could count on a strong fire in little time. We did, but the in little time part did not work out as planned.

Starting fires in rain that slants sideways is nearly maddening.


The rain that wouldn’t stop, didn’t stop again through the night. When we woke this morning, the river had risen some 20 feet and the hill above the river that winds to our hut was under brown water. Everyone was saying these kind of floods happen every 5 years or so. Hyoni’s canoe is gone, but all the motors are safe.


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Abby Gracie brought me the oil for frying platano. One of us didn’t screw the lid on tight. It was not worth trying to expose the culprit. It might’ve been me. Nevertheless, Black ants were floating in that oil-- the precious oil! I figured we’d fry the ants with the plantain and no one seemed to mind.


We made a list together, all of us huddled in the crudely painted wood church at Yarina Isla. 18 passages that pertained to God’ promises to us: I have overcome the world. Be of good cheer. I will never leave you. Michael scratched them in chalk and we all copied them into our notebooks.

The men carry hand-woven bags to these Sunday services. Women carry the children. Many people have torn-up, weather-beaten Bibles, chewed pens and dirt-covered notebooks they’ve bought downriver. We sit on wooden slabs in the dirt. Men in the front-- women and children in the back. Sickly dogs and sometimes chickens come and go. We sing heartily. There was a guitar today, but it didn’t seem to be playing the same songs we were singing. And the drum. Someone generally plays a drum. Sometimes people are barefooted, sometimes not. Yesterday Nellie, in her sixties, wore two different flip-flops. They might’ve belonged to the same foot.

We were quite satisfied to have compiled such a list of promises and nearly everyone was copiously note-taking. It made my heart happy. I made sure to take copious notes, too. I wanted to be just like them.


Excessive rain makes it nearly impossible to dry clothes. We wash them in the rushing mud, then hang them on a line if the sky is not threatening rain. Within minutes, however, a sudden, unsuspected downpour is feeding the earth and dancing on the trees, and I see Manuela run for her clotheslines. This happens over and over… I am in language study, sitting on one of those hard benches with Ema, and it makes little sense to stop.

Michael and Julia and Abigail race for the clothes and hang them along the fence around our platform. There is also zig-zagged rope from the our wooden ceiling constructed under the Yarina thatches, so when my talking watch says Son las tres en punto , (It’s 3 o’clock) I go to the hut to see what has become of wet laundry. Re-hung along the half-walls, zig-zagged lines are drooping under the weight. 3 days and the same clothes are still wet. Chloe is wearing Abigail’s stretchy pants again because every one of hers is wet on the line.

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After class today, Julia and Abigail boasted of their newly-constructed pulley system which hoists clothes to and from the roof to dry, with seemingly little effort. They were elated. I was distracted. I find that I am often distracted.


I can always hear Alejo and Ema singing and worshipping long before sunrise. Their voices are always first to arouse my consciousness. I wake while it is somewhat dark to read and study. After my heart and mind are full, I leave the mosquito net to start the fire. Some mornings it is easy and takes little effort. Others, when the wood is wet and my ambition sags like those weighted clotheslines, a simple fire is a massive undertaking. So much work for oatmeal.

After oatmeal, the girls and I fill three large round bowls with water and wash the dishes. Nathanael sweeps the floor and feeds animals. Left overs are thrown out to woeful dogs and Mother hens with their trailing, devoted broods. Osito, the monkey, can never wait for leftovers, and always shares a bit of whatever Julia’s eating. She feeds and cleans up after and cares for Osito, and he sleeps with her every night, unfailingly entrusting himself to her.

The first four hours of the day Michael spends in language study. During this time, the rest of us do school, too. Sometimes under the mosquito net, Sometimes sprawled out across the floor. Every book and pencil and notebook is lugged back and forth in a water-tight bin between Yarina Isla and Pucallpa.

The thought of studying along the riverbank was always so intriguing to me, but we’ve found it thoroughly impossible to accomplish anything. We must be in our family quarters with the door shut. Even then, little eyes poke through the slats, and toes squish under the door. Neighborhood children sit on our platform waiting…

Que vas a cocinar, hermana? (What are you going to make, sister?)

Ya has terminado tus clases? (Have you finished your classes already? )

They wait and wait and wait…

When we’ve finished, it’s time to start another fire and prepare lunch. We might peel and boil yucca or make soup. Nathanael and Chloe gather cilantro and peppers along the shed. Julia finishes copying a passage from one of the books she’s reading. Abigail details aloud every transaction of whichever story she’s reading…

We eat. I leave for my four hours of language study across the dirt path…

When the talking watch says Son las cuatro en punto (it’s 4 o’clock), I close my notebook and turn the recorder off. We gather our buckets, soap bars and laundry and head to the river. The children are racing and tripping and squealing… we wash clothes and bathe. Michael jumps from the bank into the cold mud. Abigail follows him with Osito on her shoulder and the puppy swimming at her side. Nathanael swims to catch up, and Chloe calls from the hillside, “Wait for me! Wait for me! Daddy, hold me! “

When the sun slips behind towering trees, Michael hauls three 5 gallon buckets of water on his shoulders, from the river or the brook. Those are poured into a big trash can and serve as our water supply for the next day. Some is poured into our water filter, while the rest is used to wash dishes and hands and cook.

As evening falls, the fire is warm and we gather around with other families to share fish caught in the net, rodents from the trap and details from the day’s events. I bring rice. We eat until our bellies are full and moan about the deliciousness of it all, lounging in the hammocks. The children entertain us with their stories and antics and we laugh until our eyelids are heavy when someone says Amayeve Ashéninka for We’re going to sleep. Everything stops… and the day has ended.

It all sounds so easy.

It is not.

These first six months living in Peru, I’ve often found it difficult to say what I’m thinking, partly because I don’t know what I’m thinking much of the time. Learning to live differently than I lived before has been more demanding than I could’ve predicted, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion I might be creeping out of this dense fog of complete shock…starting to form ideas, measure observations...

The stark nature of my person-ness, who I am and what I believe, has been violently stripped from me without my even knowing… Like a mummy wrapped in 50 pounds of cloth, it is as if someone found where that strip of cloth ended and has been pulling on it for 6 months. I’ve been




… at so fast a speed, I thought I was standing still—hadn’t moved. And now—everything has stopped. In my mind I am standing completely still and it is really so!

The sweetness of following God into a dense, viewless fog is less-frightening than I had thought. Being loved by Him, and led by Him, talking with Him, and listening to Him makes the unseen an adventure. It makes not knowing and not understanding alright. I don’t have to know. I don’t have to understand, or be good at either of them. I’m just following.

Where there is nothing to prove, there is nothing to lose. All the world is before me, and yet does not depend on me. The world does not revolve around me after all… I think Michael will be especially glad to hear this.

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