As can be seen, the course was very complicated, and without being able to see, a good grip on the rope was all that kept the missionaries on the path. Hna Esplin threads her way along the rope threaded through the soccer netting.
Distractions included all sorts of obstacles, including water balloons, noisemakers, jeering and catcalls, and of course the tempters doing everything they can do deceive and discourage. I will admit to being a pretty effective tempter by sitting on the rope! That stumped a few as they couldn't figure out how to get past me. Hey, sometimes people are your obstacle, and you have to go around or through them.
Those who held on to the rod/rope clear to the end got their reward. Today, Elder Lundell represented the Lord and instead of fruit, those who were faithful got a piece of cake.
After, everyone gathered in the capilla, and the Zone Leaders instructed on the principle of "holding to the iron rod" and the allegories surrounding that admonition in 1 Nephi chapter 8. The leaders did an extraordinary job of connecting the experience with the scriptures, and had a lot of enthusiastic participation from the missionaries who were present, who just had a "hands on" experience with some of the challenges of remaining faithful to correct principles, teachings, and instructions.
In consistent form, those who failed, but confessed and repented were forgiven, and receive a piece of cake as their reward. It was a great experience and these missionaries will remember it for a long time.
We had to make a bus change in Sicuani, and get on a bus to Espinar. Usually, you get off with your luggage, go into the terminal, buy the ticket for the next leg, and depart within 15 - 30 minutes. This time, there was a bus pulled up in the other lane, and the driver was hollering "Yauri", which is another name for Espinar. He grabbed our bags and threw them in his bus, and waved us on board. It was nearly full, and I realized we didn't have assigned seats, so I hollered "quales asientos?" and he hollered into the terminal, then yelled back "treinta uno, treinta dos", so we got 31 and 32 and were off. The whole exchange took about 20 seconds. With no time for a bathroom break, which ended up being pretty uncomfortable.
The bus was oversold, and some of the passengers (thank goodness not us) had to stand for most of the trip. Again, a stop along the way, and this time the choclo vendors gets on. Choclo is the giant corn. It's delicious when boiled, and its served with a slab of queso (cheese) for 3 Soles. We really like Choclo, its' fun and tasty to peel it off 1 kernel at a time and eat it, but we do like to have a little closer inspection of the preparation and selling of it, so we passed on this batch. But it sure did smell good.
The ride to Espinar takes about 2.5 hours, and our seats were in the back of the bus. The road winds up from the valley through an interesting canyon up to the high plains on top, where the Andes range is visible to the east. Hna J took advantage of this to get a little nap. In preparation for the bumps and twisties that she knew were coming on this ride, she had taken her Dramamine earlier, and it pretty much knocks her out. The pill settles her tummy down as well and helps her endure the trip. She's really been a trooper, and has traveled on everything from airplanes to Tico taxis and everything in between including crowded, noisy, smelly, smoky, inter-city buses.
Espinar is a mining town, is in the altiplano, or high plains of Peru at nearly 14,000 ft elevation. It's the highest district in the mission. The air is noticeably thinner here than in Cusco, and we can tell the air is thin in Cusco where we live. We had prepared for cold and wet, but we lucked into a window of good weather. We arrive in town, and get a taxi to take us to our hotel. When we get there (pictured). There's no hotel! No sign, no street address, the first floor is a construction zone, the second floor is a dance hall. There is a flight of stairs leading up, and on the 3rd floor, we find a small desk with keys hanging on it, so we figure there is a hotel here. After a call to the reservations center (some guy's cell phone), we confirm that it is in fact our hotel, and there is a room reserved for us.
After settling in, we set off to find the missionaries who will be helping us with appointments for the next 3 days. We can't raise them on their phone, so we head toward the main plaza (called Plaza de Armas in each city or town). As we approach, we see there's a party and parades, and bands going on. It's the celebration of the anniversary of the founding of Espinar, and we're right in the middle of the party. Peruvian's don't need much of an excuse to party, march, dance, and sing, and they're in full swing all around the plaza. After a few minutes we see some familiar faces in familiar attire with familiar haircuts and familiar plaques (missionary tags). We get their attention, and Elders Halverson and Cardenas make their way toward us.
Pretty soon we locate Elders Delgado and Alen. As always, the elders are pleased to pose for a photo, as long as they can stick their thumbs up.
Our appointments don't start for a couple of hours, so we have time to watch the parades and dancing. It's pretty much like the parades and dancing everywhere, so I haven't included pics of those, but here are a couple of interesting photos: The Peruvians, especially the women have thick, dark, shiny hair, that is usually braided. Look at these braids, they are as thick as Hna J's wrists. At the ends, they will usually tie tassels or yarn to hold them, and give a little more interest and sometimes color. Most women around the world would give a lot to have beautiful hair like this.
So what do you do if you're 4ft nothing and the parades and dancers come by? Why, since you're prepared and packing your own stool, you just plop it down and stand on it, and you get a better view than anyone except the front row. I never underestimate the cleverness and ingenuity of the Peruvians. These women's dress is totally functional as well as traditional: Felt hat, manta (blanket), the all-purpose carryall from babies to groceries to sheep, as well as serving as a coat, warm heavy velvet or wool skirt, and leggings. This pretty much serves for all-season, all-weather dress.
Espinar, like most towns here, doesn't give a real priority to public works projects. It's not hard to tear up a street, but it takes many months to get whatever repairs they were planning on finished, and the budgeted money is usually spent (or diverted, or unaccounted for, or the mayor leaves town) before the project is completed. Every time I can bet someone that a new street project will never be finished before we leave, it is always a sure bet to win.
We get set up and down to work in the very nice capilla built while Elder Hasler was the branch president here about 10 years ago. It's now grown to a ward, and the Bishop's madre and esposa are here as our first appointments for Family History. Hna J drives the computer and runs the meeting while I try to solve some pesky technical problems.
The problem in Espinar is that we're on the very thin edge of Claro WiFi service. To get a better signal, I relocate the phone to a low roof outside, that is line-of-sight to our computer, hoping to get a better signal. The elders are always willing to help, and Elder Alen boosts up Elder Delgado to place the phone on the roof of the pump building inside the chapel fence. I'm rather paranoid about letting the phone out of my hand, after the previous one was stolen in Andahuaylas, but with the weak signal we have, I'm desperate. At least here I can keep an eye on it, and it's not visible from the street.
On the last day, the people scheduled for our daytime appointments don't show - then EVERYBODY arrives at 6:30pm. A total of 18. We were happy to see them all, but it did take a little scrambling. The Elders were very adaptable and helpful. Luckily the Bishop arrived and gave us access to the clerk's computer, so I ran that while Elder Halverson ran mine. Luckily we had brought an extra supply of Mi Familias and Templos magazines, and were able to show some new videos as well. Hno Lucho the ward clerk arrived after a while and saw our dilemma with slow internet connection, so he whipped out his phone and brought up his biTel WiFi. As if by magic, we instantly had a max signal, and we were able to speed through everyone's work. I think there's an alternate solution here to our single-source WiFi signal that I've got to check out. Another device or another network?
We finished our 3 days of work in Espinar with a lot accomplished, and a lot of new friends. Of course Hna J always makes the most new friends and she grabbed her new amiga Adriana for a quick photo. Note Hna J's portable heater against the wall. It goes everywhere with her when we travel, except down to the jungle areas. It's given good service, but is starting to get a squeaky bearing, and we're hoping it lasts for another month or so.
Back to the hotel for one final night. Hna J settles down with her iPad, pillows, her little portable heater on, and a ball of Alpaca yarn she's rewinding. We would have to classify this hotel room as one of the most spartan that we have stayed in here, but it was clean, secure, and had "agua caliente unlimitado 24 horas" as well as a basic breakfast. Two more bus rides tomorrow (5 hours total) back to Cusco and we'll have survived another adventure here. We would not have missed this trip, the wonderful members and leaders here made it very rewarding and memorable, and we hope that we were able to impart more love of the gospel, family and their antepasados. For sure, this is only the opening of family history work in Espinar, and the people are already looking forward to meeting Elder and Hermana Poulsen in a few months.