October 31, 2011
Monday was Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year. Usually I have some epic costume ready to go, often teaming up with Jeff. But this year looked a little different, I got up early and headed for another country on a motorcycle. I guess I was dressed as a tough-looking motorcycle guy who was actually quite nervous. It was about 2 ½ hours to the border, and when I saw the “Chile, 10 km” sign my stomach jumped a little. But whatever, people do it all the time so who cares.
I knew that every border is a two step process. You have to check yourself in or out, and then you have to check the motorcycle in or out. I checked myself out of Peru first. In line I saw a guy wearing an MSU shirt, he went there and is from Plymouth! He lives in Peru now. I discovered I needed special papers for the bike, so I found those, filled them out, and then got stamped out of Peru. I then went to the customs agent to do the paperwork. I knew I had crazy complicated paperwork, but my guy in Lima didn’t explain what I needed to do. So I just asked. The first few customs agents just looked at me weird and sent me to someone else. Finally, someone told me that they couldn’t process my paperwork and I had to drive 30 minutes back to Tacna and go to the customs office.
So I went. When I arrived, there was a really nice man who tried to help me. But November 1st is a major holiday in Latin countries, and most people had Monday and Tuesday off. He told me to come back Wednesday. He tried calling the men who could help, but no one could come in. But remember, I was already stamped out of Peru, so I didn’t really exist anywhere. He told me to drive to the border to get stamped back in. So back to the border I went. Basically after talking to a bunch of people including a really nice customs lady for an hour, they sent me off saying it wasn’t really a big deal.
That means I was stuck in Tacna for two days, OR I could drive all the way back to Moquegua and stay at Hogar Belen. I remembered when I said goodbye to Sister Loretta I told her if I had more time I would love to stay. I had more time. Even though my tires were getting low and I was hot and tired at this point, I headed back. I really wanted to spend more time with the kids. So even though I didn’t do a thing to celebrate Halloween, I would consider that a pretty decent day.
They were happy to see me and right away we made plans to catch shrimp in the river the following morning.
So the next morning five of us set off to the river. Essentially, you feel around a rock for the pinchers of a shrimp. If you feel something, you trap it underneath the rock and reach in with both hands and grab it. I didn’t really know how fast shrimp were, but somehow I got lucky and caught 3 of them. It was really fun. The other guys caught about 10 each and soon we had a huge bucket full of shrimp. That lasted into the afternoon, and I asked if the boys wanted to help me work on the bike. It was in dire need of a wash, a clean air filter, and a chain cleaning/tightening. They were happy to help. Everyone pitched in and after a half hour it looked amazing. That was the first wash since I left way back in June. After that, since it was a holy day, everyone at Hogar headed off for 6:00 pm mass. It was a long walk, and Arturo and Carlos asked if we could go there on the motorcycle. So the three of us piled on and headed up the steep hill to San Francisco church.
I sat there on the cross outside the church watching the sun set over the city. The sounds of the pre-mass music floated through the air. It was a moment I wanted to remember. It was a strange yet good feeling to be sitting outside a church with a group of orphans in a strange city far from home with a beautiful view in front of me.
We sat right up front next to Sister Loretta. Even though it was in Spanish, 22 years of Catholic mass is still imprinted in my memory. I knew what they were saying anyway. The church was very nice, and the priest was friendly. After mass we were going to play more soccer, but most of the guys wanted to head back, and I was tired as well. Besides, I was getting up at 5:00 am to watch soccer practice and get back to customs.