Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eagles and a Rock

July 27, 2009, am - It was a quiet April morning in 1995. Maxine Anderson had just finished taking some pictures of the remodeling project inside her home along the Great River Road through Fountain City, Wisconsin. Suddenly she heard a noise similar to a freight train coming from the steep bluff behind her house. Before she could move, the house shook and the walls shuddered and groaned.

A 55 ton boulder had broken lose from the bluff above and rolled into the bedroom right behind her. Many of the other walls cracked, but only one window in the rest of the house broke. Unfortunately, all of the doors shifted so that frantic Mrs. Anderson couldn’t get out until a man who worked across the road at the Corp of Engineers broke his way in. Similar to the more famous family from the Amityville Horror, the Andersons moved out immediately, fearing another boulder would roll into their house from the steep hill. Not a bad idea, since a woman was killed in the house just next door when the same thing happened in 1901.

Maybe not a must see stop on everyone’s list, but my husband and I thought it was interesting. And admission was only a buck, on your honor. Our next stop that morning was a wee bit more expensive.

Wabasha is known for its Eagles. Along this stretch of the Mississippi River, bald eagles live year-round, but during the winter hundreds frequent this area, catching fish where the river doesn’t freeze over. The National Eagle Center features Angel, Columbia, Harriet, Donald and Was’aka, eagles who can’t fly so can never be released into the wild. Watch them for a while and you know where the phrase “eagle eye” comes from.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Short and Quiet Vacation

July 26, 2009 - For several years now, I have thought that the coolest thing would be to type my travel journal directly into a laptop as I traveled. I love my paper journals, but I think that they are becoming obsolete. Well, maybe not. It is still great to page back through them to read what everyone’s thoughts were in their own handwriting and witness the chocolate stains or French fry grease. But I still feel that, today, on this trip, I have moved on.

I am typing into my new used laptop, maybe not as it is happening, but at least the same day, having returned to the vacation home of one of Himey’s friends, after a day of bumming around. And now I will type in our trip so far, and thus save it for all posterity, or at least until this laptop crashes.

Himey and I are in Alma, Wisconsin, to spend a couple days at the vacation home of one of his friends. The house is small but perfect for a vacation. It sits on the bluff above the Mississippi River and has a fantastic view of the river and the dam and lock.

After we arrived and unpacked, we drove up to Buena Vista Park and Overlook. What beautiful views of the river and Minnesota. Then rode around Alma a bit. Being built on a small stretch of land between the Mississippi and a bluff there isn’t much room to spread out. Pioneers to the area weren’t evidently daunted by that, they just built up the side of the ridiculously steep hill.

For dinner, we tried Julie’s Fin and Feather Inn. The name doesn’t sound so appetizing, does it? Makes me think “pet store”. I imagine chickens being plucked and fish being gutted on the patio behind the restaurant. And these animals all have names like Cluckers and Speedy and Sid. That’s why we went with pizza.

After dinner, we drove to the lock and dam (lock and dam number 4 to be exact – there are 29 of them on the Mississippi between the Twin Cities and St. Louis and 11 of them are in Minnesota). We watched several small boats go through the lock, but no barges. I can’t believe that they move that much water – it has to be tens of thousands of gallons - for just any little boat that comes along.

Back at the house, the only excitement of the day occurred. Around nine, Himey went out on the deck to check the evening weather. I was about to follow him out when he came charging back in. “Bats.” Which was way more than he should have said because then I was all paranoid that bats would sneak in and get stuck in my hair.

Ha, ha, with the purchase of that old new used laptop, I wrote the remaining travel journal entries as they happened. Which means the next few weeks, until I am all up to speed in 2011, my blog entries are pretty much already written. And before you know it, I will be off to better and bigger things in this blog. Please stay tuned for lots of change.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Dance of the White Flag

As you probably know, this past week I attended the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference. In search of an appropriate inspiration for today, I read through my notes from the wonderful group of speakers. You probably don’t want to hear tricks for getting past writer’s block or how to edit your entire book. Instead, you want to read something you can apply to your own life.

The workshop I attended, with Cynthia Ruchti, was “The Anatomy of a Novel.” Sounds heavy, doesn’t it? Gives you flashbacks to High School English class and wishing you had a pillow. This workshop was far from a boring lecture. In addition to spending the morning laughing and sharing, I wrote meager notes, all of which were gems. (My notes weren’t so hot, it was the content that was great.)

Here’s one. “The Dance of the White Flag.” That sounds very poetic, very deep. If we wave the white flag, we surrender to the enemy and we’re doomed. But note that the quote says “dance”. Dance sounds more like you have a partner.

The take on it for us as Christians is that showing the white flag is not a bad thing. Yes, it is surrender, but to whom are we surrendering? Do we have a partner?

Our dance partner is God and we need to surrender to Him. Wave the white flag for Him. Surrender your troubles, your trials, your battles. Turn it all over to God. Dance with that White Flag, knowing that it isn’t your fight alone, it is His.

Help us against the enemy; human help is worthless. With God on our side we will win; He will defeat our enemies. Psalm 60:11-12 Good News Translation

Friday, August 26, 2011


It was Kathy Steffen's first time at the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference and here she is showing her board full of sticky-notes to keep her on task while writing.
So, here I am home and all fired up! I picked up a lot of tips and inspiration. Unfortunately, the more stuff like that I pick up, the more activities I also pick up that keep me from writing. It is all good-intentioned, but really? Maybe I should just write more and more often.

But no, instead I had to stop at Wal-mart so I could make a board like Kathy's.

Hmm? display board - $2.97, post it notes - $5.24, becoming a published author - priceless? or more like hopeless?

I write down a lot quotes whenever I am at a conference like this. Here's the one I need to put on the top of my display board - "Never give up, never surrender."

Thank you so much for your support.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where am I off to next?

They will never be hungry or thirsty. Sun and desert heat will not hurt them, for they will be led by one who loves them. He will lead them to springs of water. I will make a highway across the mountains and prepare a road for my people to travel. Isaiah 49:10-11 Good News Translation

Hmm? Sounds like God was the original travel guide, doesn’t it?

If you have been reading my blog the last few weeks, you have read about my volunteer trip to Ayacucho, Peru, in 2009. Now that I have wrapped that up, I only have a few more trips to tell you about and then I will be all caught up, and since I can’t begin travelling fulltime, I will have to write about other adventures I have had or other crazy thoughts that come into my head. But that is yet to come.

In the meantime, I am going to take a break from blogging this week. I am going to be at the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference and hope to be very busy working on one of my books. I also plan to sit down and formulate a website. Don’t have a clue what to put on it, but hopefully I will find inspiration and direction at the Conference.

Look for me back online on August 28. See if I am indeed inspired.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Last Chance to see Peru

Our plane left Ayacucho at five am on Saturday. We arrived in Lima without incident, to face the 12 hour layover. Tina, luckily, had already reserved a room at the Marriott and was kind enough to let Gayle, Meg and I join her. Meg was feeling under the weather, so crawled into bed, while the rest of us secured a tour of the city. Lots to see, lots of history. Lots of old buildings and bridges and statues, but a lot of the areas were as modern as any big city in the world.

The daily changing of the guard at the Plaza de Armas in Lima. It was quite a show; we didn't watch it all - we were on a tour and had to keep moving.

One of several cool old churches we toured. I think this is the one that had centuries-old catacombs in the basement where it is believed over 70,000 burials took place. No photos allowed down there.

Can't remember the significance of this old church, but it is right on the ocean, where the daily fogs and general dampness has completely eroded the roof and it is being replaced.

This is the shopping center at Mira Flores, practically hanging over the ocean. We had dinner here at a place called Mangoes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Going to Prison

So, imagine this. You are in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. You are with eight other people, who you feel you can trust, but you only met them five days ago. You are all led into a dank cement block room, a thick metal door clanks shut behind you. A female guard pats you down and stamps your arm. Then another guard takes your passport and puts another stamp on your arm.

You walk through a room with shower heads on wall – where the inmates are no doubt strip-searched and showered before they are incarcerated. Another metal door clangs shut.

Your group walks up a flight of metal stairs and you stiffly walk across a wide balcony. Below you, in an outdoor courtyard, male inmates are watching. A few shout up to you and for once you are happy you don’t know the language.

You enter a dark hallway, trying like everything to slow your breathing.

Then suddenly you are out a door and an almost surrealistic scene greets you. A few dozen women are mingling in an open air court, cement walls, two stories tall, on all four sides. The women are hanging up laundry, sewing and working on crafts. They laugh and most of them don’t even look up at you. The ones who do look up at you are the children, all under age five. They come running up to you and a few of them start playing with Henry, Angelina and Harrietta, the volunteers who have all been here before.

Tina, Meg, Gayle and I just look at each other. This is as far out of our comfort zone as we ever imagined we would be.

It was the last full day of my volunteer trip to Ayacucho, Peru, in 2009, and we have arrived at the prison to take eight of the boys and girls out for the morning.

Up until age five, they allow the children to live in the prison, in their mothers’ cells with them. That is rather sad; what kind of life is that for these little ones. The truly sad part though is that someone decided that when they turn five years old, prison life is no longer right for them, or they are old enough to live without their mothers. So these kids are taken out of the prison, perhaps the only home they’ve ever known, and given to relatives to live with or if there are no relatives who will take them in, they go to the orphanage until their mothers are released.

To break up their routine, we each were assigned one child, we loaded them into the bus with us, and drove back to the Plaza. They chased pigeons and ate popsicles, and at least for a short time acted like they led normal lives.

When we brought them back to the prison and all the kids were accounted for, our passports were returned to us. And one final note. If you are wondering what the women are in prison for, most of them were charged with running drugs, one of the most lucrative occupations in Peru.

With Willmar, the little lamb I was assigned and that I guarded with my life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Scenes from the roof

The house we stayed in while I was volunteering in Ayacucho had a wonderful rooftop patio. I spent a lot of time up there, either visiting with the other volunteers or writing or just enjoying the southern hemisphere fall weather. I could never get a sense of direction though; the sun being to my north just threw me way off. The views, if I looked straight out were fantastic. If I looked down, though, not so good.

View from the roof top terrace facing in one direction
View from the roof facing in another direction
View out the living room window, zoomed in on the guinea pig farm on the neighbor's roof

In Peru, they call it Cuy (pronounced kwee). Some of the other volunteers I was with just called it, "no way am I eating that." I guess having lived in the Northwoods my whole life, I have eaten enough wild game that a little guinea pig wasn't going to faze me. One of the gals I was with thought it tasted "gamey". Obviously she has never eaten bear meat or turtle. I thought the guinea pig tasted like – well, not quite like chicken, maybe partridge.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


For the past two weeks, I have been writing about the volunteer trip that I took to Ayacucho, Peru, in 2009. I had a particular inspiring thought to write about this weekend to tie into that trip. Then it dawned on me that I have a table at a craft show this weekend and I am going to peddle my blog site, along with my sewn creations. Perhaps, on the off chance that anyone who visited my craft booth actually goes to my blog when they get home, I should really get those creative juices flowing and tie this weekend’s inspiration to both Ayacucho and the craft show. So, here it goes.

Whenever anyone travels to a foreign country, the inclination is to go crazy buying souvenirs. I really tried to control myself when I was in Peru, but I kept thinking of people that I had to buy for or I would find something that was just too cute to pass up. To make the temptation even greater, every day, on our walk to the Plaza, we passed this great artisan’s market, and every day I had to go in and wander around some more.

This market was built inside the city’s old prison. Each of the cells was now a booth for a vendor. It was way cool; I wish I would have taken pictures of the inside instead of just the outside. Some of the homemade crafts were beautiful. There was lots of jewelry and tapestries and pottery, like the figurines from Quinua, and everything was reasonably price (hence further temptation to buy).

Most of these vendors make their living on whatever they can sell in the market. Unlike me, who just wants to sell my goods to break even and get it out of the house.

But I think we all have a compulsion to create, whether it is quilts or clothes or necklaces or stained glass or photographs or baked bread or casseroles. Even in our daily work we are creating, whether we are working in a factory making something tangible or we are offering our services. Doctors create good health, counselors create peace of mind, the cable guy creates good television reception, a stay-at-home mom creates a loving environment for her family.

Maybe this desire to create is because we are made in the image of the ultimate Creator. With loving hands, God made each of us out of nothing, so that we can create the work he has planned for us.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 New International Version

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Tarnished Path

I hate it that I never followed the news. When I was growing up and even when I was in college – when I should have cared a little bit – things were going on all over the world which barely made a dent in the grey matter of my brain. Even today I don’t follow the news like I should; I guess because it is all rather depressing.

Back in the late 1970s, in central Peru, a professor by the name of Abimael Guzman organized a group called the Shining Path and tried to take over the government. Into the 1980’s his followers destroyed or bombed buildings and murdered many innocent people. When the government stepped in to put an end to things, many more people were murdered, whether followers of the Shining Path movement or not. In total over 50,000 Peruvians died.

I think I may have heard about it on the news, but it didn’t make much of an impression.

Ayacucho, Peru, was one of the hubs of activity at that time. When I volunteered there in 2009, we toured the Museo de la Memoria and learned about this dark time in Peru’s past. Marisol, the young woman who worked at Cross Cultural Solutions in Ayacucho, had been a young girl at the time and shared with us some of the horrors of the 12-year stretch that Guzman’s followers terrorized the country. She remembers being in class and men dressed in army gear would come into the room and randomly call kids out. She never saw those classmates again.

And I know the same kind of stuff has been happening around the world for years and years. When are we going to learn? When is it going to stop?

The memory wall outside of the museum
Ayacucho is known for its retalbos, boxes of varying sizes in which are figurines in scenes, which are usually Biblical in nature. This retalbo, however, shows the bloodshed of the Shining Path.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Orphanage

On Thursday, while I was volunteering in Ayacucho, Peru, with Cross Cultural Solutions, we went to the orphanage. After that day, we decided that the organizers of our stay started us with the easier placements and worked up to the hardest ones. The first of the week wasn’t too bad, but by Thursday, we were feeling more stressed and challenged. Meg, Tina, Gayle and I became nervous for Friday, our last day there. How could it be more stressful than an orphanage of 150 boys and girls, some orphans but some just dropped there by parents who couldn’t afford to raise them.

We worked with the infants and toddlers. The youngest baby, a month old, had lost his mom and been brought to the orphanage when we was five days old. The infants went down for their naps around ten. The one year olds were not so lucky.

They were fun, a little sassy with each other, demanding our attention and not sharing their limited toys very readily. But by eleven, a few of them were getting sleepy, and the woman who worked there let us know that they were not to nap. Though we didn’t speak Spanish well enough to understand her, her gestures clearly told us that the toddlers had to stay awake. She even took one to the sink and splashed water on his face. It was heart-breaking.

Close to noon, another woman came in and they started taking the little ones, two by two, to feed them lunch. After they ate, they went down for their naps, whether they were tired or overtired. And, in somewhat of a daze, the four of us wandered downstairs to wait for the bus to pick us up.

One of the courtyards on the orphanage grounds.

Meg and I surrounded by the orphans and their toys. The window was their own contact with the outdoors. They loved it when we held them up to the window so they could watch the world go by.

Lahe, one of only two girls, waiting for lunch.

Jaime and me

Monday, August 8, 2011

There's more than Incan Ruins out there

When you think of ancient civilizations that lived in Peru, the first - and probably only - one you think of are the Incas. Before that time however, the Wari civilization thrived in central Peru. The capital city, which at one time supported a population of 10,000, lies in the mountains between Ayacucho and Quinua. Between the years 550 and 900 AD, this culture flourished, and though the Incan culture is much more famous, the Wari lasted longer and made their only contributions to the world.
Due to lack of funding, these ruins have not been completely excavated and are not totally understood.
But the ruins definitely have their own beauty and allure.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Need some good luck?

The beautiful village of Quinua, an hour’s drive from Ayacucho, Peru, is known for its pottery.

One of the specific types of pottery that is especially popular are figures of houses and churches. The tradition is to place these on the roofs of homes and other buildings for protection. They are supposed to bring good luck to those inside. Even the church in Quinua had these cute replicas on its roof.

Now, I may be wrong here, please let me know. I certainly understand that everybody needs good luck; I know that I sure do. But instead of counting on an inanimate object to supply that luck shouldn’t I be praying to God instead. If I think that putting something on my roof is going to help me out, isn’t that idol worship? I shouldn’t be turning my attention to a cold piece of pottery. Instead, I need to turn my eyes to my Lord and Savior.

So be careful not to commit the sin of worshiping idols. Don't make idols to be worshiped, whether they are shaped like men, women, animals, birds, reptiles, or fish. And when you see the sun or moon or stars, don't be tempted to bow down and worship them. The LORD put them there for all the other nations to worship. But you are the LORD's people. Deuteronomy 4:15-20 (Contemporary English Version)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quaint Quinua

On Wednesday afternoon, while I was in Peru in 2009, Rudy, the director of CCS in Ayacucho, took us for a ride into the Andes Mountains and the small town of Quinua. Quinua is an absolutely adorable little town, right on the edge of the cocaine trade. That just doesn’t seem right, does it?

Above the village, is the site of the Battle for Ayacucho, which won independence for Peru in 1824. In 1974, this obelisk was built in commemoration of that time in South America’s history.
After Rudy told us all about this victory, as well as pointing out the trails out of the mountains where cocaine was trafficked, we walked into town where we purchased the delightful pottery which the town is also known for.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Crazy can be in any country

On Wednesday, Angelina and I volunteered at the medical clinic in Ayacucho. She had been there already a couple months and knew the language, so she was actually productive. I watched a few exams and helped weigh and measure a few babies.

At the appointed time, we went out near the front gate of the clinic to wait for the van from Cross Cultural Solutions to pick us up. An elderly woman approached us. She seemed lost and confused. Angelina directed her to the registration desk and assured her that they would help. The woman went inside for a minute but then came right back to where we were sitting. For some reason, she seemed to have adopted us.

The van from CCS came about that time to pick us up. We greeted the driver and started to get in. The old lady went ballistic. She started yelling at the driver, that he was kidnapping us, and tried pulling us out of the van. We tried our best to communicate that everything was ok, that this was our ride, that we knew the man. But she just kept hitting the van and trying to hit the driver through his open window. Finally we just yanked the door shut behind us and told the driver to floor it.

I felt so sorry for the old woman; she was so upset. The poor little thing. I think I have a patient or two just like that at the clinic where I work back home.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Look at the Clinic

When I first signed up to go to Peru with Cross Cultural Solutions in 2009 and they asked if I had any special areas of interest, I told them that I worked in a clinic, so would like to experience their health care. On Wednesday, I had that opportunity.

Angelina, one of the students who was staying in Ayacucho for several months, took me to the clinic that day and showed me around. Wow, it was a hodge-podge of buildings and rooms, all run fairly efficiently it appeared, but just very different from back home.

The back side of the clinic. Hmm? Looks different than what we are used to, doesn't it?
The minor procedure room. I watched one of the students debride a leg wound here. Nothing fancy, he did it the same as any of the surgeons back home would.
This is where the post-partum women stay for a few hours after delivery, before they go home.
This poster just cracks me up. Even with my very limited Spanish, I easily figured out what it was saying. In case you don't have a clear enough view of it, it is basically promoting breast feeding, comparing it to dining at a fine restaurant.