June 30, 1999: Arriving in Peru

Cloister in Dominican priory in Lima, Peru

This is the first installment of my journal, and it comes a bit late. I have been here for three days and I have seen much already. I just didn't know what to write, what to say. It has been great and terrible. Perhaps you are tired of seeing it already at the bottom of my emails, but I need this quote from the Cowboy Junkies to explain:

What would I tell you if you asked me why I'm crying?
Would I point above at the Red Tail gracefully soaring
or down below where his prey is quietly trembling?
-Michael Timmins, Cowboy Junkies

Right now I am definitely in the "prey" mode, even though many things here are like the gracefully soaring hawk. To be honest, I must tell you both. First, the Graceful:

This is the main cloister of the Priory of the Holy Rosary here in Lima where I am staying (commonly called Santo Domingo). There are at least three cloister gardens and it used to be bigger! It has recently been somewhat restored and is incredible. The rooms are huge and the first floor walkway is lined with hand painted tiles and 16th century paintings of the life of St. Dominic. There are roses and other flowers in the garden and a fountain in the middle. In the next couple of days, I will write more about this place. It is where three very famous dominican saints are inturred, Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres and Juan Masias.

Next, the trembling: I had forgotten how isolating not speaking the language can be, always a wall between myself and others. The Provincial, Linus Dolan, is an American and has been Very hospitable, but nonetheless, I have been very close to panic. I am not sure they are ready to use the internet more, nor do I have the ability to communicate what I need to to teach them. In Miami before I came, I had severe allergy attacks and thought it would only get worse. The town is very dirty, but I hear that it is much better than it used to be. All of these combined to say "what the hell am I doing here???!"

The best part is that it got me to pray. I am here for the sake of the Gospel, like all of the other crazies who ever lived in these rooms so far from their homes. God wanted me to come, and She can make this work. The first thing I have been praying for is the gift of language, and it is working. I can already "charlar" better than you average tourist. Seriously, my Spanish is growing by leaps and bounds, and I must give the credit to God! Miracles happen! The other bright part is the great hospitality of the brethren working its magic on me. They are all very kind and only a few steps away.

So panic is at bay, and I am living in that wonderful in-between where fear meets faith and most life worth living happens.