We got an invitation from Elder and Hermana (Sister) Hasler to travel with them to meet with a small group of members in Pitumarca - go to Google Maps and find this location, about 120km SE of Cusco. First we left at 7am and made our way to the "express" bus to Sicuani. Express means that it makes only a couple of stops along the way, including the one where we got off. The Hasler's are assigned to Records Preservation, and spend most of their days taking photos of civil records that contain names, births, deaths, property transactions, etc. They are wonderful, and are our mentors here. Note the vendor selling drinks and snacks to the passengers.
Seated on the bus, and ready for the 2 hour ride to our first stop. The seats are pretty comfy.
At the first stop, we got to walk about through the little town about a half mile to another bus station.
Next, onto a smaller bus called a "rapido". If you've heard me refer to a "chicken bus", this is it. Only today instead of chickens, there was a bag of fresh llama skins in a bag at my feet.
Out of reverence, I don't take any pictures during the Sacrament and Sunday School meetings, but they are held in a small, humble chapel in the little town of Pitumarca. They held a full 3-hour block of meetings, and the leaders and teachers are all from this town - how dedicated they are. The meetings were conducted in Spanish and Quechua, the local language which predates Spanish by probably a thousand years. Some of the older citizens in these areas speak only Quechua. Here is a photo of Hnas Hasler and Johnson after the Primary (children's) meeting. Hna Hasler has a bag of treats, and everyone got one.
A photo of us with the local leader (this is not even a branch, but the older brother functions as the Branch President) and his assistant. Note how tall I am. The woman on the right is one of the local members, and the colorful dress is not a costume for tourists (of which there are none in this town), this is the way the women dress here. There is a baby in the back shawl of the younger woman, wife of the young man above her. During the meeting which the young man conducted, he had everyone participate with questions and answers (including me), and they all could read from the scriptures, either in Spanish of Quechua. A total of about 26 local members were present.
After the meeting, the members gave us a couple of small bread rolls each, a nice gesture of thanks from these humble people. Elders Allen and Palomare are on the right. They serve in this town, about an hour by bus away from the next Elders. Elder Palomare is from Ecuador, and speaks Chechua as well as Spanish. He's holding a bag of bread and treats that we brought for them. Elders always appreciate little extras that their small budgets might not otherwise allow them to have - and its a pleasure for us.
On the way back to the bus stop, we passed through the local market. Among other things for sale, a couple of fresh alpaca skins. The local markets are held in the town square once each week (sometimes more, depending on the size of the town), and you can buy most anything there that you can think of - and somethings that we don't even know what they are.
Below is a traditional fountain in the square. Note the puma heads on the fountain. The puma is one of the symbols of the Quechua people. Unfortunately, we didn't get an express bus back, so it took longer, but we did get home at about 5pm after a tiring but a very rewarding day. It was very humbling to us to see the dedication and testimony of the local members - in their own little group, a long way from places that have larger branches, wards, and stakes. One thing we have quickly found about the Peruvian people, is that if you love them, they love you right back. It's so wonderful to make new friends every day.