Letter from Peru - 8

 Fr Kevin Dring is originally from Arundel and Brighton Diocese. His letter is illustrated by beautiful pictures which we are unable to publish on-line at the moment. But if any readers would like to see them - drop me an e-mail & I'll forward the original message. J Dear Friends... Queridos Amigos, No. 8 means I'm now into my eighth month and the time seems to be speeding up as the weeks go by. I've never been a great fan of 'slow time' so am quite happy that time passes quickly... and they do say it's a good indication of being happy in your surroundings! The rains have well and truly stopped in Frias and as the temperature goes up so do the number of parties, music and general noise level. My pet bsession: the NOISE LEVEL in Frias. But honestly, if and when you ever find yourself in Frias, you'll say "he's right... how do you live with this?!". If you were in the UK (which most of YOU are) you'd have no hesitation making a complaint to the police or local council. The problem in Frias is that the police and the council (municipalidad) are usually, if not the instigators, at least in the thick of the action. Please don't get the wrong impression - all things becomes more bearable with time... and in fact most of the parties I'm happily present at and have done more dancing in 8 months than in my entire previous 40 years of existence. A lovely celebration took place on Sunday 14th. The 'Dia de las Madres' (Mothers Day). In true Peruvian style it began with a patriotic moment in the Plaza de Armas and the National Anthem being sung... led by a large contingent of mothers in place of honour. Then Mass followed by lunch for 1,000 (yes one thousand!!) mothers care of Manuel the Mayor ... and all cooked in our back garden, starting at 3am. Our back garden seems to be the hot favourite for cooking HUGE quantities of food. Maybe they hope for some sort of 'multiplication miracle' to keep the cost down!! Then the mums danced and danced and kept dancing through the afternoon and the drink flowed and more drink and eventually giggling and happy they wended their way home. Great to see the mums tipsy - usually the prerogative of the menfolk here! The mums really let their hair down - once they'd removed their Sombreros... Now the rains have stopped and the ground is dry we can begin our six months of visits to the many communities in the campo. You may remember that the parish is BIG by UK standards - we have around 100 rural communities awaiting their one annual visit from the priest with the celebration of Mass and everything else that goes with the visit (blessings, visiting the sick, baptisms, confessions, meetings, shared lunch and the obligatory football match ). The roads have almost all been made unusable by four months of daily heavy rains, but the diggers are out in force and the roads already looking in good shape. Having said that most of the parish is only, even in the dry months, ever accessible by foot or mule. Personally I love a good walk but it's tough going at times. The distances are great and so much time seems to be spent going up steep hills and mountain sides. I know they say "what goes up must come down" but sometimes we just seem to keep going UP and UP, occasionally coming across a snake on the path or even a giant tarantula. The one below had already gone to "wherever tarantulas go when they die" but still gave me a bit of a shock. Look closely and you can even see exactly the time / date of this close encounter!! What hairy legs you have... Last Sunday we headed off in four teams to tackle the highest part of our parish - the Meseta Andina or simply Los Altos (The Heights) as it's known locally. Most of the people in Frias only know it by reputation even though it's so to speak 'on our door step'. My good friends, the young volunteers from the US accompanied us. With me were Brendan and Katie, while Ellen and Roger made their way with Sr Palepa. After all the rains the wide open plains of the Meseta were breathtakingly beautiful, full of wild flowers, flowing streams and incredibly happy looking (well fed) animals. We spent four days / three nights visiting different communities. The walking was hard but invigorating and the reception and hospitality wonderful in each place. Many of the folk have never left the Meseta - never seen a TV or had contact with any of the 21st Century technology that is so much part of most people's lives. The rhythm of life is probably unchanged for generations and generations. There's NO NOISE (he says excitedly!!) and the people are relaxed, humble and generous. The staple diet is potatoes of different shapes and sizes. Popular is the 'okka', small and sweet. Also tortillas and fresh cheese, along with different beans and pulses. To drink there's regular supplies of delicious manzanilla tea (camomile) made with fresh flowers straight from the garden into the pot ... sorry if it's beginning to sound like 'Rick Stein in Peru' but when you're walking hours each day at 3600 metres you do get a wee bit peckish!! The people in the Meseta are very poor and humble and live lives of the utmost simplicity. But there's a quality of life, of community and family and a pride in their land and animals that is very touching. They have so little but what they have they generously share. Their lives are lived in real commune with nature and they gratefully recognise the hand of God in the 'blessing of the land'. I'm down here in Chulucanas for a couple of days and then on Wednesday head back into the mountains to visit four more of our communities, this time accompanied by Roger and Ellen. Then in two weeks time my dear parents arrive for a few weeks visit which I'm so looking forward to - seeing them and having a little break. So the next letter will be sometime at the end of July. Until then, as ever, please pray for me and the good people here. Amidst the hardship of life here there are always smiles and laughter (and parties), but underneath life really is very TOUGH for the majority. Next Sunday Peru returns for the second time to try and vote for their next President - the first, a month ago, being indecisive. Pray for a good new government that will be close to the needs of all Peruvians, but especially close to the poor and most needy who make up the vast majority of the country. Take care and Dios les bendiga! Con mucho afecto, Kevin

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