Smiling faces on social media, upbeat prayer news and encouraging reports of God’s provision…..Our first three months in Peru have been a positive experience but have also shown us that ‘missionary’ life is harder than it looks:
- Things take longer. I read a blog a couple of months ago entitled “today I made a copy ”; a fictional account of a mission worker. Yet it is true. As short termers we are spared much of this, so we’ve not needed to queue at 5am to get immigration paperwork, nor make several trips to the notary simply to do the paperwork for buying a car. I still haven’t really adjusted my expectations of what I can do in a day. For us it is a five hour round trip to Iquitos before you’ve done anything there. And even if travel isn’t required, things take longer. We have phone and internet provision, but the speed varies between slow and no signal so even basic emails can take an age. Many web pages will not load and Facebook isn’t quite the same when you can’t read the updates.
- It is physically demanding. I love the jungle but there is no getting away from the fact that the heat and humidity sap your energy. It is tougher when you are ill…..shivering with a fever when the thermometer reads 34 and you are soaking the bedsheet with sweat is not fun.
- Language is tiring. Speaking another language is (for me) a constant struggle; listening requires much more attention. Reading and writing, they take time and energy too.
- The reverse learning curve. It would be nice to think we are learning something of the language and culture and we are. However, the longer I’m in Peru the more I realise how little I know and the more I realise I need to listen and learn. Because it is not simply learning ‘Peruvian’ culture, there are lots of cultures and everyone needs to be understood for who they are.
- I will always be an outsider. No matter how much I want to blend in and be part of the team alongside the local leaders. In health matters, we have insurance and can leave to get treatment. With food, we discovered you can buy tins of pate in the supermarket…… but just because you can buy it here doesn’t mean others want to eat it. And who else but Brits would take oats and mix it into a sludge that’s stiff enough to put a spoon into?
None of this is a particular surprise; we had made loads of two week trips before so knew what it was like. But things that are easy to live with (mosquitos, mud, humidity) or without (mains water, internet) for a couple of weeks require more adjustment to live with for two months or two years.
We’ve really enjoyed the first three months, and are looking forward to the next three as we keep adjusting to our new ‘normal’.