Fr Kevin is a priest from the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton Dear Friends... Queridos Amigos, Greetings from Chulucanas... and Frias. One of the most difficult practical adaptations you have to make here is to the varied climate. Sitting here in Chulucanas writing this letter, sweating (at night) and the heat on the rise as we begin to approach the "summer" here on the coast. Tomorrow morning I head back to Frias - two hours drive into the mountains - where soon we'll be beginning again the "winter" of rains... and damp cold. The weather recently has been "confused"... hot when it should be cold and cold when it should be hot.... wet when it should still be dry. People are nervously talking about another "El Nino" , or as it's known here "El Fenomeno". The last "fenomeno" was in 1998 and before that a major disaster hit in 1983 when huge damage and destruction was suffered by the people. Basically it means massive rainfall which washes away the crops and causes untold suffering. Please say a prayer for the non-materialisation of "El Fenomeno"!! Recent weeks have pretty much been filled with visits to the campo and some of our many rural communities. Most are VERY happy to be visited and prepare with great enthusiasm, meeting in the evening for prayer and sharing, re-gathering in the morning for the celebration of Mass followed by shared food and a party, with maybe a football match thrown in. Sometimes, though, the reception is less enthusiastic. With communities, as with individual people, there are the "weak" and the "strong" - the challenge is to build up the weak! Always the wonderful children keep us smiling as we move from village to village... Anyone who knows me well, or even a little bit, will know my interest in food! Even though I've lost 10 kilos in a year I feel fit, thank God, and mas o menos enjoy everything that's put before me. Below is a typical plate in the campo from a shared lunch....... delicious! There are, however, one or two items that I meticulously try to avoid. One of these is PIG, or "chancho" or "coche" as known in these parts. Why?... because, without going into gory details, their hygiene practices leave a lot to be desired. One morning in the campo as I was washing outside the house I looked at the huge pig wallowing in the mud and thought "thank God (s)he's not for breakfast". Into the house I went to find a plate of pig liver and gut with boiled maize awaiting me.... We're in the thick of elections once again - this time not for El President but for the Alcalde Municipal (the Mayor). It's actually BIGGER than the national campaign. We have six candidates in Fries. Nearly every house has been painted with the name and "party colours" of their preferred candidate.. blowing any chance of electoral anonymity!! One candidate recently, addressing a crowd in one of the villages, was suddenly attacked by a mob from one of the other candidates - gun shots were fired in the air and a brawl ensued. The man who fired the gun has since acted as godfather for the baptism of one of the 5 children (all baptised together 2 weeks ago) of the "attacked candidate"... which I take to mean , like good Christians, they've put the incident behind them!! We had an open "foro politico" in the Church with all candidates presenting themselves to the public. Very successful with over 500 people attending. On a sad note I recently celebrated the funeral of the fourth man in the parish - in a year - to be killed in a drunken stabbing. It's a real problem here - the drink! Brewing their own fermented cane juice ("canaso") and then consuming large quantities coupled with carrying machetes and knives (the practice of campesinos) makes for a dangerous cocktail. On a lighter note - which thankfully are a lot more frequent - I've yet to come across anyone who spells my name correctly. "Dring" was spelt on an official document as DRUIW, while the most bizarre "Kevin" spelling was in a campo visit to Chupicarumy. Very touchingly they'd decided to put a welcome sign over the Church door - Quevi's in town... A few thoughts and images. I've now been a year here and the time has passed incredibly fast. There've been plenty of challenges but I constantly feel touched by the sincerity and humility of the people I have the privilege to serve. Thanks be to God and also for your prayers and support. Keep well and hasta pronto amigos.
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