Life update: Apartment life, new church and salsa dancing

It’s been awhile since I did just a standard life update. While there are numerous super important ideas I have about climate change, including stories from a week of conferences and a march, I figured it’d be good to keep you all in the loop on what’s going on.

So let’s start with the biggest change: I moved into a small apartment a week ago. Well really it’s a small room with a private bathroom and basic kitchen shared with four other tenants. It is nice in some ways, but also kind of a bummer in others.

Specifically, this is not ideal for a YAV year. The Peru YAV program boasts a strong host family experience as part of the program. It’s one of your main ways to access community on the “living simply” budget. Due to various challenges around finding a family that met program requirements and budget, I’m in an apartment. It’s not unprecedented, but it’s also not ideal.

Likewise, the move-in process was surprisingly fast. As in, we found the apartment, checked it out, signed the lease, and I moved in all within one day. Jenny said that was fast even for Peruvian standards, but added that the rental market moves fast in Lima, a consequence of the shortage of adequate housing and high in-migration.

The speed of the loop definitely threw me for a loop at first. I had not been expecting the move out of Jed and Jenny’s to happen be such an abrupt moment. After I had some time to acclimate though, I could see some benefits.

Specifically, I am getting to control my own food consumption and budget using program funds. This found me navigating a market with Jenny, learning how to check for quality of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve been through markets with families before, but I’ve always been able to take a backseat role. It’s interesting how much more quickly I learned the vocabulary when I was solely responsible for what I’d find on my plate that week.

There were no major revelations, but I did learn some market vocabulary. For example, “un mano” (hand) of something is the equivalent of five of it. We have a similar phrase in English though it is far less common than it seemed to be, here in Lima.

Mainly, as I continue grocery shopping, I am sure I will have far deeper reflections on the economic and social dynamics of a Limeño market, which I always dig.

On a positive note, Jenny and I have several options in mind for a possible host family. So I might be moving again, but it will be to a place with a family, seeking to involve me in their own community.

That being said, my social life has started to have a pulse recently.

I attended Cristo Rey Iglesia Luterana with a friend I met at a climate change conference, David Romero. David works there as the director of youth. There were a lot of fantastic moments at that church.

For example, the church took a moment to sing a welcome for its new members. Likewise, they recognized new visitors (i.e. me) and sang to them and numerous folks came and shook our hands as we stayed seated in the sanctuary.

The youth in the church were clearly celebrated and it truly enriched the service. There was an adorable and spot-on dramatization of the angel’s visitation of Mary, which youth put together during Sunday School with David. An almost five-year-old read to us about joy before lighting the fourth candle on the advent wreath. Later on she presented an especial of “Jingle Bells” played on the recorder (and just one verse, so it didn’t slip into grating).

That’s not what grabbed my attention so much about this church. No, that was the incredible sermon by Pastor Pablo Espinoza wherein I heard my new favorite church quote: “In Paleolithic times, gynecology was just in the mind of God.”

The sermon explored how Mary is characterized in the current narrative of the birth of Jesus. I learned a considerable amount of reinterpretations, if not new facts.

Church wasn’t the only new part of my Sunday. I also started free Salsa classes. They’re offered by two of the youth with the Joining Hands Network, Norman and Angel, in a local park.

I went with Jenny, but Norman kept us from dancing as a couple. Apparently our mutual inexperience was not helping any of us and he could not bear to watch our struggles. Instead, I danced with the highly experienced and good-humored Elisia who helped walk me through the steps and was happy just to be dancing.

And truthfully, I’m not good at Salsa. Still, I think I might someday get the hang of it if I keep at it. We stuck to simple steps for the first day and while I was far from the best dancer, I had an idea of some of the steps.

Amusingly, we danced in a circle, which added a switching of partners dynamic. Of course, that makes it more fun, but moreover, it allowed every woman there to see me struggle to keep pace. Though, I also got experience dancing with many different partners, which is useful for applying Salsa skills outside of a small park in Lima. Dance is a social activity and that’s exactly how I am learning it.

Overall, it’s been a good few days and admittedly, much needed. Maintaining the fortitude to stay committed to this YAV year has tired me a bit. Plus, I’ve been on the lonelier side without a host family, especially now at the holidays. Plus, I’m a flexible dude, but it’s been a considerable amount of changes.

The point is this past weekend was the sign of some bright lights on the horizon.

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