Sunday, January 8, 2017

Last Weeks of Our Mission

Sadly, this is my last post to our mission blog.  We are home in Utah now, but I want to show the pictures of our last few weeks in Cuzco.  Things were crazy busy the past few weeks and so I am finally finishing this post.  Thanks for following, I hope you have enjoyed the pictures and commentary.  We are already missing Peru and I am a little teary looking at these pictures. 

What a beautiful experience it has been to be on a mission in such a beautiful place with such wonderful, loving people.  It has been an honor to represent the Savior in some small way in this part of His vineyard.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church of our Savoir Jesus Christ.  I have witnessed the miracle of missionary work and Christ-like service.  I have seen sad lives changed to happy lives as people have used the atonement and taken on the covenant of baptism
I will continue to pray for the leaders and people of Peru, they have challenges, but their faith is strong.  I love these people.  I love and respect the missionaries all over the world.  This has been an incredible experience and I am so glad you have shared it with us.

So  it is good-bye to exhaust fumes, street vendors, scary taxi rides and crowded buses.

And good-bye to beautiful old buildings.

Also, good-bye to the many rock walls that are hand chiseled and placed so tightly together you cannot put a coin between the rocks. 

I visited the Koricancha temple while Elder Poulsen was traveling and I spent quite a bit of time in the beautiful gardens, it is Summer in South America.  The last few months I felt totally comfortable traveling around the city on my own and my Spanish had improved enough that I could make simple conversations.  That is a great feeling.

No lawnmowers here only weed whackers and rakes. It took a full day to get the lawn all mowed.

A selfie at Koricancha temple.  Proof that I was really here.  The sun is so intense here I finally just started wearing my hat everywhere so I wouldn't get sunburned.

Avenida del Sol and in the background is part of  the city of Cuzco.  Look at all the houses on the mountain.  Many of those houses are only accessible by stairs. no streets.

Inside courtyard at Koricancha.  There is an art gallery inside that I went through, the paintings are from the 1700s and the Peruvian painters were taught by Europeans.  They depicted the life of Christ.  I visited the week before Christmas and I had a great experience looking at the paintings and thinking about Jesus.  For the first time I really felt the spirit of Christmas here (it just seems so different to have Christmas in Summer), and I was grateful to people all over the world and in all ages that have loved Him just as I do.

Christmas is celebrated by creating a manger scene and the baby Jesus is put in the manger on Christmas day.  People arrive from all over to set up booths to sell the items to put in the manger.  Elder Poulsen needed to interview a young man for his mission and his family was manning one of the many booths.  We miraculously found him. Lyle and the Executive Secretary to the mission found some private stairs to have the interview.  That left me wandering this amazing bazaar of Christmas items for sell.

And of course, you need to dress the baby Jesus and give him a pretty bed.

Lots of booths had these tiny painted ceramic animals. 

The families come in from the Campos and since this is only a two day bazaar many of the tents in the background are where the families will live.  The sell starts 2 days before Christmas.  You couldn't buy any of these things before the 23rd of December.

This lady has grown these trees and plants just to sell at this Christmas Bazaar.

I saw a line of people and followed it to the beginning.  There was a charitable organization handing out used clothing to the families that were selling there.

In the background you can see the large staircase.  This is where Elder Poulsen is interviewing the young man for his mission.  You learn to make do here.  An hour later he found me and told me of how wonderfully prepared this young man is.  He has done several of these interviews and is always so touched by the faithfulness of these youth, but he was especially impressed with this one.  These young men and women come from such humble circumstances and yet they have so much faith and deep desires to serve missions.

The New mission couple, the Johnsons, and I went to Plaza de Armas to look at the booths set up there.  This is the main plaza where a lot of tourists are - unlike the one above, where it is mostly Peruvians.

At the main plaza, Plaza de Armas more volunteers have set up to give gifts and hot chocolate to the poor.

Happy Children.

If you haven't paid for a booth and are trying to sell things these police will gently send you away, so these women wrap up the things they are selling and pretend they are just sitting around watching the people in the Plaza.  As soon as the police move away the wrapped up blankets are open for business.

Setting up the booths at Plaza de Armas

Manger Scene at Plaza de Armas

Hand crafted hats for sell.  The little brown ones are leather.

Decorated Tree

Maybe the 3 Musketeers on stilts?  I don't know what was going on here, but they were happy to have me take a picture with them.

A live manger Scene at Koricancha, put up only 2 days before Christmas.

This little lady was trying to cross the street and the young man who is walking with her stopped and took her carefully across to the other side, waiting patiently for traffic.  He was a stranger showing kindness to an older woman.  I have seen a lot of kind acts like this, especially toward the older Peruvians and even me.

Bus Decorations

There are a lot of Humanitarian Organizations here.  This is a group of young men and women who are playing with the children and the children are loving it.  There was a lot of laughter on this street.

Even the babies are enjoying the fun.

The last baptism I attended.  This young man baptized his fiance after the missionaries taught her.  I think they had planned to get married this week.  What a happy couple.

Christmas Eve with Rosa from the Ward.  They invited us to join them.  The traditional Christmas meal is Turkey, Panatoni bread and Hot Chocolate.  Yummy.  I think the turkey is the best I have ever tasted/  

On Christmas Eve the fireworks went off.  All are definiately illegal in the United States and the taxi driver told me they are illegal here too, but private citizens still buy them.  I heard that New Years is louder and crazier than those for Christmas Eve.
After Church the Ward handed out Christmas treats.  Hot Chocolate and Panatone Bread.

After Christmas the bazaars had all this yellow underwear.   Rosa told us it had to do with New Years and was surprised that the United States did not celebrate the New Year in yellow underwear.

Freshly butchered pig and fresh watermelon.

After Christmas Bazaar with tons of booths.

Last look at our favorite Shoe shine man, he really knew how to make our shoes shiny.

Last stop at our favorite bakery,  the ciabatta bread here is delicious.

I am going home and the Mangos are finally in season.  Lyle bought three and I ate all three while he was on another trip.  Delicious.

Elder and Sister Johnson took us to Chili's the night before we left.  We became fast friends and then we had to leave.  It was so fun to have another couple to do things with the last 3 weeks.  It was sad to leave them.

I saw this Mall manger scene as we left the restaurant.  The animals are life-size.

A flight from Cuzco to Lima, where we surrendered our visas.

Then we flew from Lima to Las Vegas.  I am still feeling a lot of culture shock at how clean and beautiful everything is.

We were met at the Salt Lake Airport by my daughter, grand kids and my sister.  See the darling signs my grandchildren made for us? What a happy reunion.  Then we were whisked off to a party in Orem where we met the rest of our friends and family and had real Mexican food.

On our way home we dropped off at the Stake Center where we were released.  We sadly took off our badges that we have worn everyday for a year.  Our amazing, wonderful mission was over.

This is what we came home to.  Two feet in  two days and more falling. Lots of shoveling to move this beautiful snow.
I am still having culture shock as I see how nice everything is.  Driving is a dream with the wide streets and people obeying the traffic rules.  I understand what people are saying to me, we speak the same language.  I loved going to my Ward and seeing all our old friends.  I love being with my family.  Still, there will always be a very soft spot in my heart for Peru.  We loved our mission!