Fr Kevin Dring writes from Peru - 6

 (This letter, once again, is accompanied by some lovely photographs which we are unable to publish on-line at the moment. If any readers would like to see them - drop me an e-mail & I'll forward the original message. J) Dear friends... queridos amigos, Amazingly another month passes by! Where does time go? The rains are still falling heavy and steady in Frias and pretty much the whole of the mountain strip of Peru. The people are delighted and say that this is the first year for five years that they've had good rains. Rain means healthy crops, rain is life! There is, though, always that risk of TOO MUCH of a good thing and one or two folk have spoken of a mini - El Nino (or "El Fenomeno" as it's known locally - in '83 and less so in '98 huge rainfalls that caused terrible damage... and even loss of life). The Peruvians seem to have a "saying" and a belief for every moment and situation: "if ... then ...". You could call it superstition. Well, on Sunday (Feast of San Jose) the sun shone through the morning but everybody was saying: "San Jose will send HEAVY rain ... he always does" Just after lunch I prepared to set off for a walk and there was the telltale sound of a large drop hitting the corrugated iron roof. Then the heavens opened and I saw rain like I'd never seen - five hours of torrential rain. A deluge. And then it just stopped... as if nothing had happened. Everyone smiling and winking knowingly...San Jose !! There's always great interest in Frias when a gringo appears. He will be either a priest or a doctor, she a nun or a doctor...or a midwife... or a nurse. Especially the children follow the strangers' every movement with great curiosity. The other week a tall young man from the USA appeared. Is he another Padresito? No his name's Gary and he met his sweetheart Vanessa (local girl) through an internet dating agency. For a town that still doesnt have electricity or any computers (apart from the Mayor) internet dating is NOT a common feature of life. He seems a nice genuine guy so good luck to them is what I say. I kept having to interpret for him, though, so a few Spanish classes wouldn't go amiss before his next visit. What made me laugh was him telling me that as he walked romantically hand-in-hand with Vanessa up the main street some little children called out "Hola Padre Kevin"!!! On April 9th (Palm Sunday) the people of Peru will go the Polls to elect their new President and Congregistas. The main candidates are: Lourdes Flores, a lady from the rich and powerful class not really trusted by the poor but with quite a lot of support - interesting, as of a few months, Chile now has a lady President; Alan Garcia, former President in the '80's who lost millions (or billions?) of dollars through bad financial management but has a lot of popularity among the Campesinos (farmers) who make up a large part of the populace... mainly, it seems, because he set up a system of bank loans available for all farmers, which may of course have been part of the cause of plunging the country into terrible debt; Humala, a right wing former military man who's a bit of a revolutionary and a great friend of Evo Morales (new Bolivian President) and Hugo Chavez (Venezuela) ... and all very anti-Bush and USA, and probably anti-Britain as well; ........... and a few others. It seems that the three Biggies are all running fairly neck-to-neck so we wait and see. A strange law here is that on election day there can be no other public gatherings of any description, including "religious services"... so Palm Sunday will have to be Palm Saturday instead. So much for a Catholic country! A couple of weeks ago I was approached by the "third in charge" from the town hall as I sat in the Church saying my morning prayers. He had a definite slightly anxious "Will you hear my Confession?" look on his face as he came across the Church. Instead he wanted to know - would I be free to bless the new municipal rubbish truck at 12 noon?. Frias really has a lot of rubbish and nobody collecting or disposing of it. GREAT, I said, see you at 12. The beautiful new Volkswagon was duly blessed and then in true Peruvian style the street party continued on through the rest of the day.... involving the police chief and all local dignitaries Finally amigos ... amigas, a little quiz for you - complete the missing text of the poster below, hanging in the parish rooms in Huancabamba. Prize for first correct answer = a drink with the Chief of Police if you ever find yourself in Frias! Shall be back in Frias, and therefore out of e-mail range, until the end of April so wishing you fruitful final days of Lent and - when it arrives - a very Joyful nd Hope-filled celebration of Easter. Dios les bendiga. con mucho afecto, Kevin

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