Lima Life #6: A Scary Sneeze and the Guy with the Gun

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Hola de Lima! The time is really flying and is beginning to wind down…only three more weeks to go!

The last week was certainly an interesting one. It was only a four day week since Monday was a national holiday in Peru as the country celebrated the great Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul. “But wait,” you’re thinking, “that’s a religious thing! A national holiday for a religious thing?” Absolutely! Of course here the Church and state are separate, but can you really ever separate yourself from the driving force of your life and culture?

Entonces, thanks to all who have been sending their well-wishes for my health and asking for updates. For those who haven’t: seriously? We’re moving through the various stages and types of sicknesses. We’ve had the food poisoning and the vomiting and “tummy issues” and the fevers and the body aches. Currently we’re in the midst of the common cold. The climate in Lima and I do not get along. It’s technically winter here as I’ve mentioned before so the weather is very sporadic. It is cloudy and misty in the morning and sunny and hot after school. Or it’s real sunny in the morning so I don’t wear a coat and then it’s windy and raining for the walk home. We’re also being impacted by El Nino which I first learned about in an episode of something on the Disney Channel when I was probably 9, and so it’s neat that I get to experience it in real life.

The common cold is just that: common. Everybody gets a good ol’ cold once or twice a year or so and there’s not usually anything special or alarming about it. But when you’re away, as I’ve been blabbing on about over the last 3 weeks, being sick absolutely sucks. Suddenly the sneeze that you write off at Mundelein becomes a sure sign of Cholera while living in Peru. Ryan, tranquiillllooooo. Who’d have guessed that even a sneeze could be scary? I’m just ready to be done being sick so I can get out there and enjoy the last few weeks.

To celebrate the fourth of July, we all took a trip a la Embajada de los Estados Unidos in Lima and, man, what a compound. That place is massive.

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There was a friendly Peruvian soldier stationed out front who was clearly watching us very closely even though we were practically the only people on the block. Then we tried take a picture with the sign but we got a little close and we got yelled at. What a compound. What a gun that guy had. Makes you feel good to be an American, actually. In a weird way.

No comments about my hair, please.
No comments about my hair, please.

Anyway, after that we had a nice dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe – Lima where I had my PULLED PORK and COCA COLA YESS followed by a too-legit-to-quit BROWNIE SUNDAE. It was a perfect night.

And to top it off, Jimmy got interviewed for a university documentary regarding his views about posting ads for prostitution in the newspapers.

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Now all’s well that ends well I suppose. Here’s hoping this cold takes a hike so I can get back out there and enjoy the time that remains.

Please keep me in your prayers and I would love to keep you in mine.

In Christ,
RA

Lima Life #5: Clinica Javier Prado and the Fountain

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Lima Life #1, #2, #3, #4

Greetings all:

This week featured the final demise of last week’s illness, although it did not go out without a fight. While the details are literally disgusting, I did earn a nice little trip to the fantastic Clinica Javier Prado in the San Isidro district of Lima. In Peru, there are public hospitals and private clinics. The hospitals are generally overcrowded so the wait is very long for care that is not often very good. The clinics are private so if you’ve got the cash, that’s where you go. Naturally, I was pretty nervous about all of this because when you’re abroad anywhere, the clinic is the last place you want to be going. When we travel, we try to make sure that everything is ready and will go according to plan; we’ve set up flights, trains, hotels, car services, host families…..and while all of these things might fall through, there will always be another flight, another train, another taxi, another sunny day for the trip to the beach. But what about when your body fails? When a health emergency comes up? Because there won’t always be another body. When you meticulously plan every detail and then it’s….your body that doesn’t work? You have to be kidding!

But that’s happened to me twice now, and both times I got to experience a foreign health system. Both times I was petrified and ended up being pleasantly surprised. This time around, the director of my school took the morning off to personally take me to the clinic. I couldn’t believe that. She was so helpful in translating everything for me and making sure I understood. The doctor was a total boss (he reminded me of one of my uncles) and was super helpful and nice. He gave me some awesome meds (yes!). Before I went to the doctor on Friday I could not walk very well or sit down (long story) but now, Monday night, I’m running, sitting, and lying on my back like never before. Thanks, doc!

Earlier in the week we went to the Parque de la Reserva which is home to the Circuito Magico del Agua; basically it’s a big park filled with awesome fountains. At night, all of the fountains have awesome lighting and there is a huge show with the fountains synched up with music. Very neat. It was a great way to get out after being cooped up all of last weekend being sick and a great way to celebrate being halfway done with the program.

Went in the middle of a fountain, took a selfie, and lived to tell the tale.
Went in the middle of a fountain, took a selfie, and lived to tell the tale.

I’m sure what is in store this week, except for our super patriotic 4th of July plans…..but you’ll have to wait until next week to hear about that.

Just a reminder that if you have prayers or questions, anything is fair game.

#LimaWhileYouWorkIt

In Christ,
RA

Lima Life #4 (a Little Late): Chelsea Dagger and the Little Things

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Lima Life #1, #2, and #3

Greetings, all. Sorry this is a little late this week, as I know so many of you sit and wait all weekend at your computers for these little updates. Sorry to disappoint but we’re back on track.

Did you hear? The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup! It was awesome! A few of us went to our usual American sports bar for some Hawks and some Cusquena. Both were of very high quality. There we so many Hawks fans and only a handful of Lightning fans. We were not alone among the “regulars”: Americans living in Lima who came out for pretty much every game of the series. Of course, all those people who weren’t from Chicago but cheered against Anaheim in Game 7 ended being Bolt’s fans and they became less and less cordial as the series went on. But we couldn’t see their frowns due to the shiny silver of Lord Stanley’s Cup. It was great to feel at home for such an awesome moment in Chicago sports history.

Lima is not, quite honestly, feeling like home but it does feel good to say that it’s not the big, confusing city it was a month ago. Tomorrow (6/24) is not only one month in Lima but also marks the halfway point of our Spanish classes. Hard to believe, but I’ll take it. We’ve finished 80 hours of Spanish in 4 weeks! In my Spanish class in college we only did about 50 hours over the course of 15 weeks. It’s fast, it’s intense, and it’s flying by.

I was pretty sick over the weekend, hence the late post. It was gross, it was uncomfortable, and most of all it was grace-filled. I literally cannot stand being sick. I like to think that I’m not like a typical sick man: whiny and needy (or moreso than usual), but I absolutely hate being sick and it puts me in the absolute worst mood. It’s so boring! So somewhere between the fevers, “gastrointestinal difficulty,” and bad attitude I was able to find what I really wanted and have been craving: love. The love of God, of course, through prayer and in the works of his people especially my host family. But also say a little prayer for my poor mother who has the hardest of it all when I’m sick and abroad.** Her concern and her constant texting and desire to be with me and helping me is not just proof of her love, but is itself her love for me from 3,779 miles away.

Not a very exciting week, but hey….that’s life sometimes, right? Sometimes it’s just the little things, you know?

Til next time!

In Christ,
RA

**If you don’t know about the time I got kidney stones in France, don’t ask.

Why We’ll Never Understand Pope Francis

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The fact that we’re seeing headlines about Republicans rejecting Francis’ encyclical because of this or that, or of “mainstream science” responding in this way or that way, or Rush Limbaugh calling him a communist are themselves proof about why we will never understand the thought, the motives, the actions, the speech of Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is not a republican, democrat, independent, member of mainstream this or out-of-touch that; he’s not Marxist, communist, socialist, or capitalist. He’s Christian. You don’t have to be a Christian, but if you want to understand where the Pope is coming from on anything, you have to learn to think and see the world like a Christian.

What does that mean? Basically, in terms of the encyclical, it means that the world, indeed the entire universe has a single creator. God is not a bad high school father who creates and runs away. God is a provident creator, profoundly in touch with his creation because he himself is found within his creation. Creation reveals God to us; not just the created persons who are created in his image and likeness but everything, even rocks and trees and the ozone layer and flies and rabbits and cows. Everything.

What’s more….God gave man dominion over all of his creation.

God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earthGod also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food. And so it happened. Genesis 1:28-30

The implication of this is startling and indeed troubling to a world that has lost touch with its Creator. Instead of praising the Lord for his goodness and for giving us this beautiful planet that is, by virtue of its origins, sacred, we as a society cry out “I AM SACRED!” We have come to believe the lie that humans are the center, humans are the means, and humans are the end. We believe that we’re it, we’re the best there ever was and ever will be. This is why, I think, instead of really trying to find solutions (for any other reason besides political/economic gain), we are more content with pointing fingers at one another. It’s become a race to prove whose idea is not just sacred (because I came up with it after all, duh so of course it’s sacred) but THE MOST SACRED.

But the pope, yelling by means of an encyclical into our frenzied chaos, is saying “HELLO OVER THERE! We already know who is the most Sacred! We already know where all of this came from! And thanks to modern science, we’re beginning to understand what is happening to His creation and why.”

The Pope knows that if climate change is true, and he asserts that it is, big companies like Fossil Fuel providers and the people who support them could lose billions of dollars in business and maybe have to close. I’m not sure the Holy Father is really very concerned about that. To be fair, I’d guess he’s concerned about the economic well fare of the leaders and employees of those companies (remember, people with whom we disagree are still people, too).

So as long as we continue to point fingers and yell at each other, nothing is going to get any better. We see this as merely a political issue; it’s not a political issue…it’s a politicized issue. The pope is not coming at this from the vantage point of political gain but from his role (one among all of us, btw) given to him in Genesis 1:28. He’s a steward of the earth. I’m a steward of the earth. You’re a steward of the earth. Hilary Clinton is a steward of the earth. Rush Limbaugh is a steward of the earth. And since it’s the Vicar of Christ’s place to write encyclicals and teach the faithful a thing or two, he’s trying to do just that. But when I’m the most sacred thing in my life, or my business is the most sacred thing in my life, or when anything besides What is Truly Sacred is the most sacred thing in my life, is it any surprise that we don’t understand when someone tries to tell us about Him? St. Francis of Assisi cared for the environment not because he was a hippy, but because he knew personally and gave a damn about the Creator, the most Sacred.

All of this politicizing gets us nowhere. People wheeling and dealing on this issue are not stewards of the earth, but mere stewards (I’m so politically correct, watch this:) and stewardesses on GoinNoPlace Airlines: Proudly Serving the Golden Calves.

Lima Life #3: Poco a Poco

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Greetings from the beautiful Edificio Bolivar 431! (that’s my building). This was a pretty fun week! It was Jimmy’s birthday, which was another excuse to go to Chili’s.

Happy Birthday, Jim!
Happy Birthday, Jim!

Let’s jump right into it. This has been the hardest week so far in Lima. Granted, it’s only been three weeks. But this week was the first week that didn’t fly by. I am feeling a little discouraged about the whole Spanish thing. I don’t feel bad about that, though, because I think it’s totally normal. When I was learning philosophy and I did not understand any of the concepts at first, at least I could explain myself or have someone else explain a particular philosopher’s main argument. But when you’re trying to navigate and learn but are confused and you literally do not know what to say or what others are saying to you….it gets a little overwhemling.

I remember when I was in France and was the only seminarian in our group who spoke French and although I was confident in my ability I was still incredibly overwhelmed trying to figure things out and translate everything. That’s kind of what’s going on here except whenever I make a mistake in class or say something stupid at home (when I first arrived, instead of saying “me gusta mucho” (I like it a lot) I was saying “mucho gusto” (nice to meet you)” “Oh wow, this food is great! Nice to meet you!”) there would be that little voice in the back of my head whispering so gently, “Ryan, you’re a moron. MORON.”

But every time this happens, someone comes along and literally says “Ryan, tranquilo. Poco a poco.” Literally every time. This is a gift! Thank you, Jesus. Accepting these “pocos” as true and devoting myself to learning Spanish is a sacrifice that I gladly offer and that I pray is holy and acceptable in the sight of the Father. That was my prayer at the beginning of the week, anyway. Then one day I was praying the Liturgy of the Hours and these words from Psalm 40 stuck out to me:

“You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, but an open ear. You do not ask for holocaust and victim; instead, here am I.” Ps. 40:7

God is very funny. Right after I resolved to offer up this learning Spanish as a sacrifice and to renew my desire to give myself to this summer assignment, those are the words I read. It seems to me that God would rather I didn’t crave external affection and affirmation at all. Instead, I want to be totally filled by the love, presence, and internal affirmation of the Father, made known to me Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Whether we’re studying languages or closing a business deal or going to high school or literally whatever, God doesn’t ask us to kill ourselves over small things, over things that in themselves have no bearing on eternity. Instead he asks us to do something much more difficult than build rockets, stop climate change, or solve every issue of civil rights. He asks us to love. To love him, first and above all, and then to love our neighbors as ourselves.

So this week, I’m going to focus on Jesus. I want to see and follow the Lord of life who lives in me and whose “poco a poco” will always trump the devil’s moronic accusations. I’m reminded of the words of the Sister Maria Magdalena who took care of us during our retreat in Norcia, Italy:

“If you wish to be successful, abandon your thoughts and open your heart.”

+Jesus, give me what I need to want to do your will. Open my eyes to see you, my ears to hear you, my heart to receive you, and my mouth to proclaim the glory of your name. Amen.

In Him,
RA

Lima Life #2: Have Courage and Be Kind. And Pray.

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Greetings from Lima!

First, some housekeeping: I’ve got a little article in the St. Anne’s bulletin this week with the link to this site and some info about it, so if you’re coming here from the bulletin let me be the first (and only) to welcome you here! Look around, explore the archives. Posts pre-2011 are also pre-seminary so take those with a grain of salt.

Also, two new pages to tell you about. I’ve started taking your prayer requests via email. Click here or see the menu to the right to get to the form. Also, if you’ve got a question about any Catholic (or anything, really) click here  or also look to the menu on the right for that page as well.

Now, to Lima:

It’s been another whirlwind week. Yesterday my host mom told me at least 5 times how surprised she was that another week had already gone by. To be honest, I am surprised about it too. I think that’s mostly to the keeping of a regular schedule. When I’m home on break and every day is different, the days and weeks tend to drag on. But at seminary or here when the day is planned and every day is pretty much the same, I think the days and weeks tend to go a little quicker. Here’s the daily schedule at a glance:

7:30am: me levanto y duchar.
8:00am: Mi familia y yo desayunamos.
9:00am-1:00pm: Clases de Espanol a El Sol, Escuela de Espanol.
1:00-2:00: El almuerzo.
2:00-5:00: Tiempo libre (para la tarea, descansar, etc)
5:15-6:15: La hora santa a La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Fatima
6:30: La Santa Misa
7:30: Mi familia y yo cenamos
8:30: Mas tiempo libre.
10:00(ish lol): Duermo!

Yes, I know there are no accent marks and several mistakes. Gimme a break, it’s only been two weeks!

By now you’ve all seen the Cinderella movie, and if you haven’t I highly recommend it. A main theme through it all is the motto of Cinderella’s mother: “have courage and be kind.” This short phrase is a perfect answer to someone who wonders what the most important thing to remember while travelling. THe world is big and scary sometimes, yes, and so you’ll need to have a lot of courage to put yourself out there, ask for help, and do what needs to be done in order to get on the right plane or in the right taxi or have enough money or whatever. But the world is also incredibly kind and generous and open. Just because there is a language or cultural barrier doesn’t mean that people in other places in the world are somehow less human than me. Senor Lima, for example, has a completely different upbringing than Signore Roma, who has a completely different life story than me. Yet somehow we are able to relate and communicate because everyone knows, desires, and understands kindness. Have a little courage, put yourself out there; learn the language, try the food, convince yourself to be excited about having to put the toilet paper in a little trash can instead of flushing it (yeah…). But above all, be kind; smile at people on the street, hold the door for people, step out of the way on the sidewalk, say hello to doggies.

But an even greater way to be successful when travelling? Pray. A lot. Pray before you leave, pray at the airport, pray on the plane, pray in the taxi, pray pray pray. Travelling can really suck sometimes, especially when flights are delayed and companions are annoying. It is first of all because of God’s providence that you are travelling in the first place and, especially when doing an immersion or study abroad where you’re actually living somewhere, it is God’s providence that will sustain you. When things go ary, I’m always reminded of the great words of Job:

“We accept good things from God; should we not accept evil?” Job 2:10

Hopefully nothing legitimately evil happens to you while travelling, but it probably won’t be all bunnies and roses, either. God has many gifts for us when we move around his great earth, sometimes the greatest gifts are cloaked in angry family members or flight delays or unexpectedly closed museums.

Without a doubt, the greatest lesson of travel comes from the prophet Isaiah with a little help from his friend St. Paul:

“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.,’ this God has revealed to us through the Spirit…We have not received the spirit of the world but the spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God.” 1 Cor. 2:9-10,12

The world is seriously an awesome place. And it’s all just freely given to us by God. What a gift! And whenever I leave for a trip somewhere, I always have my expectations. Those expectations, and rightfully so, are shattered and replace, one by one, with something so much more awesome and beautiful.

So have courage and be kind. But most importantly, pray.

In case you missed it, here’s a pic of my Lima parish, Our Lady of Fatima.
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In Him,
RA