Sunday, July 30, 2017

It is no wonder....

It is no wonder that Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  The name itself translated means "Old Mountain" and is often referred to as the Lost City of the Incas.

Machu Picchu made its debut in the National Geographic magazine in 1913.  It is amazing to see the photos from an old Kodak camera in the hands of the man that found the ruins.  (click the link below)

For centuries Machu Picchu was hidden to the world.  In 1867 it is claimed that Antonio Rimondi discovered the ruins without actually understanding or knowing their significance.  It would not be until 1911 when they would truly be discovered by history professor Hiram Bingham.  Hiram went intentionally seeking the remains of the Inca Citadel or the Lost City of the Incas.

While, in my humble opinion, there are no photos that will ever be able to accurately portray the vastness, the details and the beauty of this location, I would love to share some facts with you as you look at the photos that we captured on our visit.

To start with the country of Peru to a tourist is seemingly very large, in part due to the fact that travel and the infrastructure of the country is not what we are used to experiencing here in the states.  We flew from Lima to Cusco the day before our excursion, and spent 9.5 hours of travel the day of our sight seeing adventure for the pleasure of experiencing 3 hours at the ruins.  Please understand it was worth it, but at the same time surprising.

Here, Sleepy and I are in the city of Aguas Calientes (now officially named Machu Picchu), which is the primary access point to Machu Picchu.   We arrived in the city after a 30 minute bus ride to the train station, and a 3 1/2 hour train ride through the mountains.  From this point we had another 30 minute bus ride to the site for admission to the ruins.  

The site is was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983, and is protected as part of the National System of Protected Nartural Areas by the state.    The site is aprox 32,592 hectares.  1 hectare = 2.47 acres. Suffice it to say, this space is expansive!   Additionally, the Incas planned out the site down to the minute details that included elaborate irrigation and drainage systems, and over 600 terraces that were built to protect the city from sliding down the side of the mountain.   

I believe what was most difficult for me to wrap my mind around was that it took between 50 & 70 years to construct the site, and each year it is estimated that 50,000 men worked on the project.  Remember there are no steel tools, no wheels. Ropes and brute strength hauled, nudged, and cajoled massive boulders into place.  

Each piece chiseled to fit snug against or on top of the previous piece.  To this day the structure is still solid and even a needle can not penetrated through the cracks.  Oh, and one more mind blowing piece of construction information, they used no mortar to hold these enormous and heavy boulders in place!   

It is stated that this area was prepared for the king/emperor of the Inca's, King Pachacatec.  He was the 9th emperor of the Incas.   It is said that in 1450 roughly 300- 500 royalty lived in the current day Machu Picchu.   It is astonishing to me that hundreds of thousands of  men would have worked on this project and never lived to see it finished, potentially neither would some of their sons.   Over the years following the death of the King, the city gradually fell away from everyone's official memory. Which is not be hard to comprehend, as there were not roads in place to traverse to the area. Only 169 human remains were found in the early 1900's and 68% of them were women and children remains once the site excavation began. 

These rocks are said to be 250 million years old.  History states that the rocks were formed as deep as 5-10 miles into the earth's crust.  Because of the Andean uplift the rocks surfaced and were prime objects used for building materials. To stabilize these large rocks the Incas had to create elaborate terraces, walkways and platforms which lead to them creating the buildings and irrigations systems.   

See a brief description of the Andean uplift, according to Wiipedia: 
Andean orogeny. The Andean orogeny (Spanish: Orogenia andina) is an ongoing process of orogeny that began in the Early Jurassic and is responsible for the rise of the Andes mountains. The orogeny is driven by a reactivation of a long-lived subduction system along the western margin of South America.

Even before the site was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu was experiencing many visitors annually.  Tourism from the 1980's until 2013 increased 700% causing the country to create new regulations regarding visitation to the site.   As of July 1st 2017 (7 days prior to our visit) the government started limiting the number of guests to 2,500 a day with specific visitation hours; an am time and an afternoon time.  Additionally, you are now required to have an official ticket for your timed visit and you must be accompanied by a tour guide that can only take you on pre-arranged routes, and there can only be 20 individuals in a group.  You may also not re-enter the site once you begin your tour.  The only restrooms are outside the ruins, so it is strongly encouraged to pay your soles and use the facilities before embarking on the tour.  The only way you can re-enter is with a second ticket.  The grounds have security patrolling the area.  It is illegal for you to sit on the ledges, to remove rocks or greenery from the site.  If you are caught participating in any of these activities you can be asked to leave the park as well as assessed a monetary fine.  I asked our tour guide if you could "rent" the space, like have your wedding there, or use the grounds for other celebrations.  The country forbids such activities on these protected grounds.  Additionally, they do not repair or restore areas of the ruins that may happen to be crumbling or in some other state of disrepair.  The idea is to keep the area as true to what it looked like upon it's discovery and original un-earthing.  

While the altitude in the city of Cusco is higher than the highest peak we traversed on Machu Picchu, which is where this photo was taken from, one could still feel the affects of the 8,000 plus feet above sea level.  Again, at this point I was attempting to really wrap my mind around the magnitude of what I was seeing and how it all came to be! 

As with any great adventure, there has to be a fun story to share, and Sleepy gets the great memory to go with seeing an amazing site.  Alpaca's roam free and because of all the tourists are somewhat domesticated.  The certainly do not live in captivity here, but frequent the lush green grasses and hillsides.  On this particular day, Sleepy was photographing this momma and her baby. 

We were preparing to walk on by their location, which was below us as you can see, this momma got it in her mind to come on up to our layer of the hillside.  Sleepy, quickly re-engaged her camera and kept on snapping some up close and personal shots of this beauty! 

I had a different perspective, grabbed my cell phone quickly to captured the moment that Sleepy stepped back quickly to get out of the way of this lovely lady as she sashayed on by...

All in all, a great story for the memory book!  
We finished our visit by stamping our passports with the official Machu Picchu stamp!  

This is one thing that I am hopeful I never forget and the images and memories live on in my mind even in to my old age.  If not I am sure glad I will have this blog post to look back on and refresh my memory!  You can't make this stuff up! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Finding a Place to Serve

            I had no idea what to expect on my first international mission trip in Peru. Thankfully God planned out everything from the start to the finish, and it was better than I could have ever hoped.

After our brief tourism section of the trip and one very long boat ride we arrived at the bank of the village. The welcome was a big celebration of dances and smiles. As we walked down the mile long path to the village with our supplies in hand I was more focused on how heavy the wood felt on my shoulder than dreaming about what was to come. Even then I don’t believe I could have imagined what I was soon to experience.

As soon as I arrived at the church frame that we would be working on, I noticed the small group of curious kids that had begun to gather around. Although I only know a little Spanish, I thankfully remembered how to ask their names. As I struggled to remember names I could barely pronounce, I wondered how I could connect with these kids with our limited shared vocabulary. I desperately wished to ask them further questions to get a feel for what they enjoyed doing and what their culture was like.

Work on the church had just begun and I was eager to do my part. I began to feel disappointed as I looked around and realized that…I had no place. With 37 sets of hands for one saw and four walls, all spots had already been taken. I watched for an opportunity to jump in, but I just felt in the way. As I wandered aimlessly with my eyes peeled, I started to doubt my purpose in being there.

I noticed a group of kids all being entertained by Morgan and a few pieces of wood. I thought about how simply that connection was made without words. A few more were standing close to me, kind of looking around not sure if they should try to interact. So I decided to go for something basic, tickling. Immediately as smiles began, my heart was filled with joy. One girl (who I later learned was named Eloivi) made me chase her all around. I started feeling ok about not having a job. As the day went on I and a few other girls spent the hours running, laughing, and playing games like Pato, Pato, Gonzo (Duck, Duck, Goose).

At the end of the day as we started back to the boat, all of the kids ran up to walk with us. I strutted down the path with a girl holding my hand at each side. I felt like I belonged, like I was home.

As we reached the river, all of the kids decided to go swimming. As I watched them all jumping into the water that was deemed to dangerous for us, I thanked God for the opportunity to be there and learn from them. So even though what I expected to happen didn’t, I enjoyed exactly what God had planned for me to do.

After that day I did get to help some in building the church, but I spent most of my time with the kids. At the end of it all a few things struck me about these kids. The first was how fearless they were. Whether it was jumping in a muddy polluted river, walking a mile down the road with people you just met without telling your parents, or jumping over fire they did everything with a courage that I admire. The second was their selflessness. I watched two little boys grab containers and fill them with water, so that one of our girls could clean her muddy shoes. Another time I got down on my knees to take a picture, and when I stood up two of the little girls wiped the dust off my pants for me. Also some of the kids gave us gifts out of the little that they had. They gave us everything from pieces of gum to handmade necklaces. To be given gifts by people who need to sometimes rely on what little is given to them, was pretty humbling. The last and most important thing I saw was that these kids know who Jesus is. One day we watched the Jesus film, and Eloivi asked me what the movie was. I didn’t know how to respond in a way that she would understand. But then as I struggled with the words to say, she asked if it was Jesus. I was so surprised I could barely get out the word si. The girls also sang songs about opening their eyes to the Lord. It brought me great joy to know that they knew who he was.

Although I am back in America the kids are still in my thoughts constantly. I have faith that God has already been doing his work in that village, and I am so thankful to have been a small part. It brings me great comfort to know that the kids will be brought up with people who fear the Lord all around them. My prayer is that they grow up to be happy, healthy, and love Jesus more than anything else.

Con Dios todo es possible.

                        -Hannah Brady

Hannah and her dad, John went with our team to Peru.  Many things about this trip made my heart soar with joy, but none so much as parent and child serving together.  What a great memory to share with your children, and what a great legacy to build for your family, serving the Lord together.  Thank you Hannah for sharing your story !

I am happy to report that you really can't make this stuff up!  

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Art of Viewing your Surroundings

There are many things that I learned on my trip to Peru.  One was simply the ability to just be.  Be still.  Be observant.  Be diligent.  Be peaceful.  I was able to unplug from technology and enjoy my surroundings.  Somethings I had to be okay with just experiencing instead of trying to capture the experience with a camera.  Since Sleepy kept the camera on her most of the time, I also had the pleasure of viewing her experiences upon returning home through her artistic eye.

None of the following photos are edited.  They are raw and unfiltered, just as we viewed them in the moment.  The photo though that stands out the most is one that I will only be able to carry in my minds eye, and that is the clear, unobstructed view of the Milky Way.  Every star, every planet present.  The view so clear and so clean, it was as if you were sitting in the planetarium.

Please enjoy scrolling through theses shots.  I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think that Sleepy did an amazing job of not only capturing the extraordinary, but also the ordinary day to day.

Here they are in no particular order....

The wonder and the beauty of Peru was in all the places that we traveled.  Lima, Cusco, Pucullpa, Machu Picchu, the Ucayli River and the village of Vista Alegra.  It was a great comfort to me that even though I was 2533 miles away from my home, the sunset and the sunrise were part of the the same landscape at home, marking the passing of the days until our return.

Again, there will be many moments that we did not stop to take a photo of, and some of those sadly, I wished we had, but we will just have to remember them in our minds and hearts.  If you are ever thinking about taking a trip like this, may I be so bold as to say it is life changing and heart changing.

Look for more post, with a few guest writers, just so you know that I am not making this stuff up!