My adventure in Pampachiri started long before I even got to the city. I left from Chiclayo on Saturday morning, headed for the airport in Lima. I got there late in the evening, and settled in to spend the night in the airport. I got an email later from a few of the other people on the team who were also camping out at the airport and trying to connect with me, but I didn’t see it until later, so I just found an isolated corner of the airport, used my backpack as a pillow and pulled my jacket over my face, and went to sleep. Thank goodness for earplugs :). Early the next morning, I got in line to check into my flight, and finally met up with the rest of the group – it’s pretty easy to spot a large group of foreigners with extensive amounts of medical supplies in the small airport in Lima.
The flight to Andahuaylas was fairly uneventful, other than the normal chaos that comes with transporting lots of bags and people. After we landed in Andahuaylas, we had to hang around the airport for several hours until the buses came to get us on the 3 hour trip to Pampachiri. And when it finally did arrive, it was too big to actually make it all the way to the “airport” (I use the term loosely), so we had to bring all of our bags and the medical supplies by foot until we got to the buses. I was very glad at that point that I had packed so lightly – my backpack that I used for the entire month was actually much smaller than most of the other personal bags for the week and a half mission trip. Always an adventure! I love it ^_^. It was even more complicated because of the enormous amount of medical supplies that they brought – it was too heavy to fit in the tiny plane from Lima to Andahuaylas, so it had to be bussed in several days earlier from Lima to make sure that it got there on time.
Before I met up with the group, I had some concerns about how I would assimilate with a group of people I had never met, especially since I had missed all of the training that they had together in the States before leaving. I needn’t have worried. They accepted me instantly. By the time we got to Pampachiri, I felt like I had known them all my life. Same thing with Ingrid and Carlos (our hosts), and the other Carlos (Ingrid’s cousin). I like to call him Carlos the Second :). In fact, as the week, went on, I found myself spending more and more time with the Peruvians in the evening, and less with the Americans. I loved them all, but since I got to see so much of the Americans while we were at clinic during the day, I tried to spend my time in the evenings learning from the Peruvians. They taught me slang Spanish, and Peruvian folk songs, and all about their national and personal histories. It was really fascinating; definitely time well spent. I really connected with the Peruvian culture and the people that I met while I was there. It’s definitely a place that I will be going back to.
My job as part of the mission team, since I have absolutely no medical experience and zero desire to change that fact, was serving as a Spanish-English translator. Definitely one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever done. I would say that my Spanish is at a pretty decent conversational level; however, speaking medical Spanish is a completely different language. Whew. Many of these terms I didn’t even know in English, let alone Spanish. On several occasions every day, I found myself having to ask the doctors what a word meant in English first, before I could move over and translate it into Spanish. And then sometimes there was an added bonus if the patient only spoke Quechua; then we had to do the same process through 2 separate translators. Yikes. It was quite a challenge. But it was fun. Of course there were some times when I wanted to give up and go home, but overall I really enjoyed it. Something I’ve noticed about when I travel: when I’m in the States I’m happy and comfortable, but when I’m abroad I feel….fulfilled. In a way I’ve rarely or never felt when stateside.
The daily devotionals we had as a group were also a huge encouragement to me. I particularly liked Tuesday’s devotional, which was on the story of Jesus healing Jairus’ daughter. The title was “seeing the unseen,” and talked about how God is working behind the scenes to put the pieces of our lives together for our good. We may not know or see how He’s doing that, but we can be confident that He is. As I talked about in my previous blog, my trip to Pampachiri was the culmination of weeks of God teaching me just that very thing. As a translator, I not only got to tell people about good health and hygiene, but I also got to tell them about Jesus and what he’s done in my life.
Aside from that, my ability to communication in Spanish meant that I was also able to enjoy a traditional festival that happened while we were in town, go on a couple of hikes with Ingrid and Carlos the Second and some people from the group, and have late night discussions with Carlos and a few of the younger doctors, with me serving as a translator and lots of laughter all around. Pampachiri was more than just a mission trip. It was a time of relaxation and rejuvenation, an answer to my prayers that my trip be more than just sightseeing, an encouragement and affirmation of my worth as a child of God, a reminder of His fervent desire to bring more people into that family, a glimpse into the lives of some very passionate and inspiring people from several different countries, a taste of human hardship – but also grit and determination – and what I can do to lessen that hardship. It was truly an incredible week. I can’t wait to go back!!!