Just a few days after arriving in Puno we had the chance to go to a town called Ilave which is in the district of Puno but about an hour and a half away from our house. We got up in the morning, walked to the pastor’s house, took taxis down to the little local “bus station”, hopped on a van (about 15 adults and 4 children) and rode out to Ilave. The scenery on the way out there is absolutely beautiful! There were gorgeous green chacras (farms), trees, hills, mountains, sheep, donkeys, and more. We then got off the bus and hopped into other taxis to take us from city center of Ilave to a house out in the country. We arrived after our taxi and van journey, all of us with about 8 bags of used clothes. We walked to one lady’s house and practiced the word (camisiraki) which is ¿Como estas? In Spanish or How are you? In English. In Ilave they speak Aymara, an ancient language. But luckily for us, many residents also speak Spanish.We learned a few more Aymara words like waliki which means bueno or good and petted a calf. He was actually licking my pants for a little while which made me laugh. Then we went over to another house with the clothes and introduced ourselves to many more people. Once there was about 25-30 people there, we stood in a circle and sang praise songs, mostly kid-type praise songs, as we clapped in unison. Next we pulled all the clothes out of the bags and separated them into piles of men, women and children. We started with a few children at a time and dug through the piles to find clothes that would fit each child, then moved onto another set of children. This went on until everyone there had at least 4-5 new clothing items to fit them. Then we let everyone fend for themselves to pick out more clothes and shoes from the leftovers.
It was a great opportunity to show God’s love to these people just by conversing with them, playing with the children, and providing for a need. Because of our time out in Ilave, and God’s words through Pastor Herman and his wife Diana, there were 5 people that day that made a decision to turn their lives around! What a great start! How amazing and faithful is our God!
After the neighbor’s left, going back to their own farms to tend to their daily duties, our hosts’ took us inside the house and served us lunch. We sat down on benches around a little concrete room as our hostess brought in a blanket wrapped up and set it on the floor. It smelled like potatoes. And sure enough. She opened up the blanket and there was a pile of steamy potatoes. Then she brought in a bowl of cheese and two bowls of aji sauce (a delicious spicy sauce made from aji, cracker/bread crumbs, cheese and peanuts). There was all the food on the concrete floor, we weren’t exactly sure what to do. But here is the process……
1) Grab a potato
2) Peel the potato
3) Put potato skin on the blanket
4) Dip peeled potato into aji sauce
5) Take a few bites
6) Dip potato back into community aji sauce bowl (yes, double dip!)
7) Take a few more bites
8) Repeat until potato is completely in your stomach
9) Choose another potato and repeat steps 1 – 8
What an experience! It was awesome and yummy! But then, of course after the salty cheese and eating those potatoes, we were thirsty. So, the host brought in a bucket of well water and one mug. They dipped the mug into the bucket and the first person drank from the mug. Then when that person was done they dipped the mug back into the bucket and it was the next person’s turn to drink the water. I was about the 10th person to drink from the mug. But the water was cool and delicious!
I’m sure you have read the book, “If you give a mouse a cookie”. We’ll, if you give us potatoes and cheese, we will need some water. And if you give us some water, we will need to use the bathroom. But I use the word bathroom very liberally here. A few of us took turns walking out into the field behind the house to a little round shack made of stone. And when I say shack you might think of a wood building with a roof, leaning and creaky. No, this was a stone circle only waist high with a little cutout as an “entrance”. So you walk into the stone circle, pull down your pants, and squat over the hole in the ground carefully placing your feet on the wooden boards so as not to fall in. Then you stand back up and pull up your pants while you stare out at the field and anyone else around. I must say, it gets the award for best bathroom view. But the problem is others can view you too. Haha!
So after we got to know one another, petted the calf, sung songs to our Savior, heard a short message, passed out clothes, spent more time together, took lots of pictures, ate our potato lunch, drank well water, and went to the bathroom, we said our goodbyes to the family that hosted us for the day. Then with some walking, waiting, taxis and combis, we were finally back home in Puno overlooking Lake Titicaca once again. It was an awesome day in Ilave and a great start to our journey here in Puno!