A Historia Familiar conference was scheduled for Sunday in Sicuani, about 2.5 hrs south. When Hno Meneses, the advisor to HF in the mission, and Hno Delgado, the Area Manager invited us to go with them to the conference, we thought they were renting a car. What they really meant is that we could ride with them on the same bus, which we did. Hno. Degado has thumbs, just like missionaries, as Hna J points out.
We arrived in Sicuani in time to check into our hotel, and get a quick bite before the conference started. The only place open was El Fogon, which had been recommended to us for its delicious pollo abraso, or roasted chicken. When we order 1/4 pollo, we also get a small salad and chicken foot soup. Hna J is a little sad, as this is probably the last time she'll get chicken foot soup for the rest of her life.
The families in Sicuani are very active and enthusiastic about Historia Familiar, especially with a couple of featured speakers, and a new meeting format for this conference. About 55 people were there when the event started, and nearly 80 by the time it was over - and then about 30 of those stayed over for some additional help with their familysearch accounts and family trees.
The format was a little different than we have seen: In addition to the featured speakers (Hnos. Meneses and Delgado), 6 families were selected to present and talk about their families. It was really interesting to see and hear the different presentations, which ranged from reciting names from their Mi Familila folletto to a fully scripted PowerPoint presentation, and everything in between. The variety and creativity were especially interesting. Hno. Edgar has his family tree shown on an actual tree, with branches going everywhere. He's put a lot of work into this, and not just for this event. It's as descriptive as a fan chart, and really easy to follow the family lines into tios and primos (uncles, aunts, and cousins), much easier than the available fan chart view on familysearch. All the other presentations were interesting, and it was a big deal for each family to get up and speak about their family, ancestors, and history. It's when the names, dates, and places become real people that you know about, their lives, challenges, accomplishments and foundation for their descendants to come that they really become alive - even though they've passed away.
We claimed a table in the corner and ran 2 computers for about 3.5 hours - which was longer than the conference was scheduled for, but the Sicuani members were so excited to get their families from follettos into the familysearch program that they were willing to stay. Note that Hna J is driving our MAC, which she's quite familiar with, and I've got a plain old PC laptop with a Spanish keyboard, which I now have figured out, so I don't hit the keys that are in different places, and make the special characters ñ, á and others when needed to correctly spell names and places. Two others computers were running as well, and we got to meet many new friends that evening.
We appreciated the help of the Sicuani Zone Under the direction of Elders Pavon and Denham, in organizing translation for us. We also got to see our missionary friends whom we know from other areas. Being here almost a year, the missionaries may get changed to different sectors 2 - 4 times. The last time we saw Elder Denham, he as in Puno, and Hna Hill, Elder Pavon, and Elder Martinez were in Cusco.
We wrap up the conference after the last computer is shut down, and the last member leaves. Time for a last-minute photo with Hnos Delgado and Meneses. We really appreciate their dedication to promoting Historia Familiar in the mission, and for sponsoring events like this.
We stay at Sicuani that evening so we dont have to make a bus ride back in the dark, on twisty roads that may be littered with rocks falling down the hillsides in the rainy season, or cows, pigs, horses or llamas that may wander across. A good night's rest, and we were up and ready to head back to Cusco in the daylight.
We had a Christmas Birthday meeting scheduled with Hno. Felix and his hijos Uripe and Joe. Felix is a single father, and is very dedicated to being a good dad, teaching his kids correct principles, and making sure they are fully involved in Church activities as well as school. The theme of the meeting was birthdays. Since we're not going to be here for everybody's birthday, we put a candle around the cake for everyone present, 7 total. Everyone got to make a wish, then carefully blow out their candle only, when we finished, there was an 8th candle in the center representing the birth of the Savior, and we had a few points to make about that, including a couple appropriate videos, the Savior's candle remained lit til we cut the cake in pieces. A final wrap-up by Hnas Hansen and Paez tied the theme together nicely, and it was a very memorable evening. This attractive torta is tres leches (3 milks) chocolate cake, and is very moist and delicious. We will really miss the fine little family, and may not get to see them again so this evening was very special to us.
Every 6 weeks missionaries who have finished their service (2 years or 18 months) are invited to the Mission Home for a final dinner with Presidente and Hermana Harbertson. It was a very special evening for us as well, even though we weren't leaving the following day, we will be gone before the next change, so we were asked to come to this one. These fine missionaries are among those whom we know and have come to love and have had the privilege to work with many of them. Hna Roman is next to Hna Harbertson, then Hna Hill next to the Presidente, and Hna J on the end. Me directly behind, then left to Elder Caprio, Garcia Halversen and Talavera. On the left are the Rhoades who are hanging around this week to finish up a couple of last-minutes assignments, they they are headed home as well. Its really hard to express the love and good feelings we have for all these missionaries, and how much success and happiness we wish them for the rest of their lives.
We get a picture with Presidente and Hna Harbertson. It has been a real joy to serve under their inspired leadership. Presidente has given us clear directions and objectives, but no micro-management, so we had had to figure out most of the details, how-to's and methods that suit our abilities and capabilities to best serve the wonder prople here throughout the Cusco Mission.
Also served at these traditional meals are choco, or giant corn. The kernels are bigger than corn nuts, juicy and tasty, and the best way to eat them is to peel off one kernel at a time and snack it down. On the street, the vendors sell these, but we generally stay away from them due to the preparation and sanitation methods employed (or not). I will say that these samples were delicious, and nary a stomach burble from anything here.
Back at work again, Hna J helps Hermanas Cooper and Davis (this is a shot from Abancay) knock the door of our afternoon appointment. It's not unusual to knock the first-floor door, and get an answer on the 2nd floor. Sometimes it's the family who lives there, because the family on the lower floor often has an open courtyard of considerable size, and they just can't hear the knock (or pebbles thrown gently against the window) to get someone's attention, who then hollers at the person we want to answer the door.
I thought I'd seen the last of chicken feet soup, but Hna decided she wanted to make her own, so I was sent to the local market to buy 1/2 kilo of feet. The first ones I saw were pretty grody, so I went to another, and they looked fresher and cleaner. To assure there are no toenails boiling off and floating around, I used my sidecutter pliers to cut off all the toes, then a sharp knife to remove the foot pad - more details than you wanted to know, right? After a good boil for a few hours it tastes very good, and the visualization makes it extra memorable. So if you're wondering what to serve at the next family gathering, Hna J can give you the recipe.
Friday night, barrio Vista Allegre had their Christmas talent show. These young dancers are Luzkamilla and Kevin, hijos of one of our favorite families. They are quick and light on their feet, and dance in the traditional style. I think Kevin is about at the max age to enjoy dancing with his sister.
The final chorus of Feliz Navidad (Silent Night to you gringos), but this lovely rendition had a Chechua verse thrown in. At least now I can tell when then switch from Espanol. It was a delightful end to a memorable evening with our friends.
Hna J on the trail of some fresh fruits and veggies, of which there is always an abundance here. Some are seasonal, like the red plums, and we bought 1 kilo for 2 Soles, or about 60 cents. They are sweet, juicy, and delicious.
For all of you who don't know what to get us for Christmas next year, DON'T get us pannetone. It is the Peruvian version of fruitcake. It is "the" gift that you give to your friends here, and they buy it by the case, and even the truckload. It is so loaded with preservatives that they will be selling the leftovers for the next 3 - 4 months. The candied fruit leaves an aftertaste in my mouth for about that long.
Just when we think we're running low on appointments for our last weeks, we attend Sunday meetings in barrio Santiago, and load up with 5 new ones. We were invited to their Historia Familiar Sunday School class, which is very well attended and enthusiastic (Hna Liliana the Specialista on left). We recover lost passwords and usernames, create new accounts, and even send family names to the Temple, all in 1 hour.
Our first follow-up appointment is with Hno. Raul, who brings his Mi Familia totally filled out through 3 genrations, and his familysearch username and password in his head. With the help of Elders Chacon and McKay, his page of temple-ready names will hang on his wall as his constant reminder that his next Temple trip will be soon.