Despite being so kind and friendly, Chiclayo is a very dirty city. Many of the streets are dirt roads with large rocks and huge potholes, so dirt is just part of life here. The first night we were here, I made the mistake of walking on our floor barefoot for a few minutes. By the time I went to bed, my feet were black! We know now to wear shoes at all times. Oh, and there is no carpet here; not in our apartment or in any of the churches or anywhere. I guess they would just be too filthy? I am not sure why. When you drive around the city, there are piles of garbage everywhere. Nobody seems to really care. The previous mission president told us it was a dirty city and now we understand.
Our first week in the mission we had meetings almost everyday. The first Tuesday we had a Mission Leadership Council which is held monthly, the first Tuesday of every month. This is a newer meeting that replaced Zone Leader Council a little over a year ago. The biggest change is that Sister Missionaries are now called as Sister Training Leaders and are part of the council along with the Mission Presidents Wife. They have responsibility for sisters assigned to them, for training, and to conduct exchanges every six weeks with other sisters in their zone. We feel like this is an inspired change and that the sisters add so much to the meetings. They have such good and unique insights and such wonderful spirits.
The next two days we had Multi-Zone Conferences with four zones each day that are either in Chiclayo or close to it. Mark and I introduced ourselves to all the missionaries at the beginning. We have taken our blanket, that our children made for us, everywhere we have gone and showed the pictures along with a picture presentation from our ipad. I think all the missionaries have enjoyed learning a little bit about us. Mark and I also spoke at the end of each conference.
So after three days in a row of meetings, on Friday we left to drive to a city, and zone, that is six hours from the mission home. We got to Cajamarca after four hours on winding roads. It is in the mountains at about 8,000 feet. The terrain is much more green than in Chiclayo. The drive there was so interesting. There wer houses and people all along the way that live right along the highway. Their children and animals play right next to the highway! It scares me to death. I am so afraid we are going to hit somebody or something! We saw many donkeys, chickens, dogs, turkeys and goats. Many of the women in this area dress in traditional Peruvian dress and it was fun to see them. We stopped and asked these ladies if we could take their picture and they looked at us like we were crazy. They were very hesitant and could not understand why we wanted to take their picture. I am not sure why Mark thought he needed to be in the picture!
I jokingly asked one of the assistents (Los Asistentes), Elder Lattin, where the rest stops were along the way. He said that if someone really needs to go, that they just stop at a house and say, "Puedo aquilar su bano?"- "Can I rent your bathroom?" and you offer them a sol. They either say yes and take the money or yes and say it is fine and refuse the money. I was determined to just hold it the rest of the way. These homes were very primitive and humble. The drive up the mountain reminded me of the scripture in Jeremiah 16:16: that the Lord will send hunters "and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks". This Work of Salvation is so amazing. We literally send our missionaries to every mountain, hill and hole of the rocks. It is so wonderful!
We spent two days in Cajamarca. Saturday was our Zone Conference. This was only one zone, so a much smaller group than the conferences in Chiclayo. It was much nicer; much easier to meet and talk to all the missionaries. Cajamarca is more of a touristy town, so things are a little nicer. For example, we actually had carpet in our hotel room! It felt like such a luxury! We are so blessed in the United States with so much. We never have any time fr site seeing, but we did walk around the Plaza de Armas in the middle of the city and visited a huge Catholic Church right next to our hotel. Fue muy interesante! I am sorry, but two of the statues in the church reminded me of Halloween. Everyone always asks us how we liked the area when we get back from a trip and I say, "Well, the church and the hotel were nice!" That is all we ever really get to see.
Like I said, we returned from Cajamarca on Monday. I love talking to the missionaries. They are such a great example to me. They work so hard. One of my children mentioned to me that what we are doing is so hard and later I thought, "It might be a little hard, but what the missionaries do each day is much harder than what we do, so if they can keep working so hard, then we can keep working not as hard!" I hope that makes sense. Our missionaries never rest, so why should we? The only day I have not been around the missionaries was on Wednesday of that week and it is the only day of this mission that I was depressed and homesick. The missionaries buoy me up and strengthen me. They are so brave, courageous and strong! They are such a great example and inspiration to me. I want to be like all of them someday when I grow up!
Los Asistentes, Elder Noriega (Lima, Peru) and Elder Lattin
This is the spot where mark got pulled over for the first time by the police on our way to Cajamarca. It turned out he was supposed to have his lights on. He blamed the Assistents for not telling him that.