The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Adventures in Eating, part 2

The Mechanic and Manuel
Once a week we have been sent out for “Community Visits” in which we practice our newly acquired training as Cross Cultural Witnesses to learn about a community.  We’re sent out with a native speaker and a set of questions to ask to get people talking about their community.  Last week we went to Conception, a prosperous and proud town that we learn was the place where the Chileans were defeated in this much remembered war in the 1879-1884, also called The War of the Pacific.

Today we are in Sakiya, and once there we talk to a mototaxi mechanic, and then are invited into typical shop that carries warm cokes, DVDs, food stuffs, and several aging powderpuff girls backpacks hanging on the wall.  It takes a little getting used to drinking warm cokes, but that is how it is served here, I guessing because this whole area feels like one large walk in cooler, and really they are not that warm. 

The shop is run by Maria, but owned by her daughter who comes by later to check out what all the gringos are doing in her shop.  Sakiya is a bit of a depression place, nothing like Conception, but the daughter invites us back next week for the Festival of St. James, one of the monthly festivals that bring life to this town.  She even invites me to stay in her house--she likes my eyes—and it’s a playful give and take between the different cultures.   As late afternoon comes on and she is still telling us about the town, Maria grabs a bag of leaves, and carefully pealed orange peels and rummages around in it.  She grabs a handful of leaves and motions for me to accept.  I stick out one hand, but both Maria and her daughter make a big commotion.  “No, no, no!” the native speaker translates, “you have to accept with both hands open.”  I put both hands together, and she pours a pile of leaves in it, and then goes around to the group, offering, and each putting both hands out to accept.  We’re not really sure what is going on at this point, but wait to see where this goes.

He daughter pours some leaves in her hand, and Maria selects out one leaf and folds it carefully. She makes the sign of the cross across her chest and pops it in her mouth.  She does this with several more leaves, and then motions for me to do the same.  Are these coca leaves?  They look like they came from a ficus tree, and I recall seeing bags of them in the market.  Coca leaves are a mild stimulant that Peruvians chew for a variety of reasons.  In our previous community visit to Conception, we had met two old ladies who were chewing Coca leaves to starve off hunger; Maria explains that to Peruvians, are like a cup of coffee.

So I carefully select a leaf, fold it, make the sign of the cross, and pop it in my mouth and chew.  Several, but not all of us gringos do the same.  Then Maria grabs a small vessel and folds a leaf in half and uses it to scoop its dark and grainy substance, and pop the whole mess in her mouth.  It’s a substance of questionable linage, but she explains this is the traditional way, with the ashes of the quinoa plant and a little sugar added to soften their bitter flavor. Apparently it also increases their punch.  It’s a little bit spooky, because it looks like dirt, but I’m all in at this point, and so as we are learning about the city, we’re packing the sides of our mouths with a big wad of Coca leaves, and my cheek begins to tingle.  Now coca isn’t cocaine, anymore than grapes are wine, and after we leave her shop, each of us spit our wads out into the gutter.  

The next day it is after breakfast, and I’m enjoying a few minutes of quiet time before the day’s lectures begin.  Manuel, comes and sits next to me as I am enjoying the morning sun.  It will be the only time I am fully warm that morning.  He was with us on yesterday’s Community Visit, and wanted to know how I had enjoyed the Coca leaves.  The evangelical community, I have learned since learned, is opposed to their use, but then we’ve been drinking gallons of coca leaf hot tea since we got here, to help with the altitude sickness.   Manuel and I working without an interpreter, so there are lots of laughs, hand motions, and como?.  Eventually it the conversation is reduced to

            Coca primera?  (was this the first time you tried chewing coca?)
            Si!                    (yes)
            le gusto?          (did you like it?)
            Ok                    (it was ok)
            Otra vez?          (will you try it again?)
            No                    (no)
            Soledad uno     (this will be my only time)

And the Peruvians laughed, I’m thinking because they are happy I’ve tried something of their culture, or it could have been Soledad uno, which I later learn means the lonely one.

Friday, July 20, 2012

So What is Cross Cultural Training?, part 2

So What is Cross Cultural Training?, part 2
It is said that the worst animal to tell you about the sea is the fish that swim in it, because a fish won’t know anything about water until they are one out it, and that is not the time to ask.  So it is that we receive Cross Cultural Training in a culture that is not our own, so that maybe, we begin to understand how the cultural waters we swim in, have affected us.
First of all it is cold here in Huancayo and neither the hotel nor the buildings we take classes in are heated, so all 50 of us are bundled up against the cold all day long.  Suzanne says, “it really doesn’t matter what I wear because nobody is going to see it” because every day it we’re dressed in winter coat.   By cold I mean high 40s, low 50s all the time, in the cafes, and other places everyone is bundled up.  Located at about 10,000 feet, the thin air makes it easy to lose your breath when climbing.  Yet Huancayo is strikingly beautiful, and the people are kind, and the food delicious.  I just “wish they’d turn the heat on” (que Gary P. Nunn’s song London Homesick Blues).
There are about 50 of us, one-third from Peru, and the rest from a smattering of countries, and the States.  I can’t show pictures of them because about half of the North Americans are heading to closed countries, where the fact they are going as Cross Cultural Workers won’t be known.  This was underscored earlier in the week when the news reached us that a missionary couple had just being expelled from Morocco because a post on Facebook had outed them as missionaries.    
Among the Peruvians, there are pastors and missionaries to the jungles of Peru. In their questions and comments, I come to appreciate the difficultly of their calling, and how thoughtful they are about following it.  We’re all humbled by Manuel, who has started 368 churches.  Each day we try to talk, by “talking” I mean each of us struggling with in our shallow command of the other’s language, but in his presence, I feel this other worldly all accepting love.  There is no judgment, it is a love like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.   
Abram, Manuel & Steve 
Manuel gave his testimony this week and we hear how he has planted churches all over this area.  He comes into a community and finds those whom the community has lost, “the crazy, drunken, and cursed.”   Through fasting and praying he begins to minister to those people, and then they to each other, and slowly they becoming the family each had given up hope of finding.  Eventually this new community becomes a body of believers who then reach out to the community that had once abandoned them.  He does all this with no money or support. 

Manuel even started churches in the areas were where the Shining Path was active in the 1980s.  The Shining Path is the brutal terrorist organization that was responsible, in its heyday for some 70,000 Peruvian deaths (according to the Council of Hemispheric Affairs).    In one area where he was working, Manuel was captured along with five others.  

They were blindfolded and handcuffed before being taken to another community, where they were essentially placed under house arrest in the hands of a Church in that community.  It turns out it was a church Manuel had started years before, but the terrorists didn’t know that.  After a week, the terrorists came for them and initially the church refused to turn them over, but then they were given a choice, which was not really a choice: hand them over or their families would die. 

They took Manuel and the five others to the soccer stadium, where they were beaten, and shot, and left for dead.  He remembers kneeling in a line, and then the back of head started feeling warm, and then nothing else. 

The terrorists left the bodies in the stadium to rot as a warning to the village to not resist the Shining Path.  A man from the church untied Manuel’s hands and feet and then laid him out, but nobody moved the bodies.

Five hours went by, and then Manuel wakes up.  He goes to the home where the church meets (it was the home of the man who had untied him) and knocked.  The believers open the door and saw it was him, and then slammed it shut, thinking his spirit come to haunt them.  Manuel talks to them in that same kind voice I have heard all week, and eventually are they let him in and offer him refuge. “All of the others were dead,” he says, and we see his eyes grow wet.

“Do you want to touch my wound?” he asked through the translator.  “He is asking you a question,” the translator added, “he is inviting you to touch his head so that you know his testimony is true,”.  So many, but not all of us come up there in no particular order, and touch the bullet hole in our brother’s skull. 

After the testimony, I went with another missionary to the bus depot nearby to pick up a package.  Walking back we saw a man struggling to walk in what we would call the passing lane of a busy highway.  He was swinging a bag full of empty 1 liter plastic bottles, and each step was a labored and difficult.  The missionary felt the spirit’s prompting to ask if he could assist him, and after a few minutes we helped him to the side of the road and began to flag down a taxi.   His name of Raul.

Just before the taxi arrived, Raul reached over and took my hand.  At first I thought he was wanting to steady himself, or maybe shake it, but he directed it to his head, like he wanted a blessing but then he pressed my fingers on a deep indentation on his head.  About the same time as the missionary translated,  my brain screamed, “its just like the hole in Emmanuel’s head!” 

“The police shot Raul in the head,” the missionary said, and “he wanted you to feel the bullet hole.”   I wanted to know why, to ask more, but a taxi arrived, and now we were working to get him into it, to let him be on his way to the market and sell his bottles.

A few days later I was telling Manuel this story, interpreted by the wife of the missionary I had shared the experience with, about touching two heads, with two bullet holes in them within15 minutes and he said: “You are beginning to understand the difficulties we  face here in Peru,” maybe, but I am nowhere near understanding what God was doing in those 15 minutes.    

This is Cross Cultural Training; I am indeed a fish out of water. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

So what is Cross Cultural Training, part 1

This was the last picture my camera took before dying.
When we were talking about coming to Peru for Cross Cultural training, our friends were asking just that was and as you recall we were a little bit vague on the details, not because we were being secretive, we just didn’t know.  Now we have a clearer picture. 

One of our instructors told us about a conversation he had with a young person sitting next to him on the flight down here.  She was a successful businessperson, returning to Peru from a business trip.  They talked along familiar themes, about business, family and hopes for the future.  She was successful in all that she said about her life, and it was something she had worked hard to achieve.  “She was,” he said, “like many of the young people I know in the states.  They are working hard to be successful, but what they long for is significance.”
The Plaza near our hotel during the day.
The goal of our training here is to learn effective ways to connect God’s Word with God’s World, in cultures beyond our own.  By God’s Word we mean more than The Bible, and in connecting this to God’s World, we hope to help people find the significance that is a natural longing each of us feel for the lives we lead.

The Cross Cultural training that we are receiving here is Peru is hoping to address some of the mistakes past missionaries made, mistakes that were sometimes disastrous to the receiving culture because the gospel was not clearly articulated from the sending culture. 

According to Bronislaw Malinowski, humans have seven basic survival needs:

1. Food and drink (Metabolism)
2. Housing and clothing (Bodily comforts)
3. Movement and transportation
4. Safety and injury prevention
5. Health, hygiene, and healing (including rest and recreation)
6. Sex and reproduction
7. Growth and maturity

We toured some Wanka-Inka Ruins, and this overlooks the valley
These needs are supplied by a culture in ways that are unique to the society, and ultimately come to define how life is lived within that culture[1].  If missionaries (or Cross Cultural Workers) come bringing a  gospel that is not clearly articulated from their own culture they can mistakenly introduce a lot of baggage that is not relevant to the message of the gospel, and especially not helpful in connecting God’s Word with God’s World. 

So in our Cross Culture Training we are learning about ourselves, learning to be learners in the different places we plan to serve, and hopefully beginning to understanding the influence our culture has had on us.  
The Plaza at night is quite a happening place.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Williamson County couple headed to Ghana as missionaries

Here is the article that appeared in the Austin American Statesman.  [click here] to read on-line, or read below. 

Williamson County couple headed to Ghana as missionaries

By Claire Osborn
Published: 10:23 p.m. Sunday, July 8, 2012
 — Steve Buchele, an assistant pastor at St. Phillips United Methodist Church in Round Rock, and his wife, Suzanne, a Southwestern University professor, know where they really belong: Ghana in West Africa. They were chosen this spring to be missionaries there for five years by the national nonprofit Mission Society.
The Bucheles, who have three children, said they previously lived in Ghana for a few years teaching and preaching and fell in love with the country. Suzanne Buchele, a Fulbright scholar, spent June teaching computer science as a volunteer at Ashesi University located in Berekuso, Ghana. She will also be teaching at the university when she returns as a missionary in 2013.
"There's so few people who have Ph.D.s like me, and even fewer have them in math or computer science," she said. Life is hard in Ghana — electricity is spotty, the roads are terrible and people don't know English that well, she said.
"One way to help the people over there is to educate them," Suzanne Buchele said. "One teacher affects hundreds of students."
Steve Buchele lived in Ghana as a child when his father taught agricultural engineering at the University of Ghana in 1968 and 1969. He returned to Ghana in 2006 when his wife won a Fulbright scholarship to teach at Ashesi University, and they both stayed until 2008, he said.
During that time, he became an intern for the Mission Society, and his job included working with a church youth group, preaching and accompanying short-term mission teams who came to work at the Lake Bosumtwi Medical Clinic, he said.
The work done at the medical clinic left him with strong memories, he said.
"Worship was amazing over there," Steve Buchele said. "The high point was the offering where everybody would dance and sing and bring gifts forward. When somebody sang, it was coming from the heart and it was not a performance."
The only way to tell residents that medical supplies had arrived at the clinic was to bang on a steel beam that would echo around the lake, he said.
He said he sometimes had to explain the local culture to the mission teams at the clinic.
"When a baby died and the team had trouble with why the mother had waited five days before bringing the baby to the clinic, I explained how she must have gone to the local spiritualist doctor first and later decided to try Western medicine when the fever did not go down."
When he came back to the U.S. in 2008, Steve Buchele said he found that being in Ghana had changed him. His family's life became simpler because they were less concerned about keeping up with trends such as seeing the latest movie or television show. "We still love those things, but they don't define us anymore," he said.
"I realized that it's not what you do that will last but the relationships that you build," he said. When he returns to Ghana in the summer of 2013 for the Mission Society, he said he will work on establishing a church at Ashesi University.
The Mission Society, based in Georgia, chose the Bucheles because "they have demonstrated the kind of learning and humility we are looking for in missionaries," said Jim Ramsay, a vice president for the society. "They are not coming to Ghana to solve everybody's problems."
Ghana has "a mature church tradition," he said, and the Methodist church of Ghana is about 200 years old.
The multidenominational Mission Society sends missionaries to about 40 countries, Ramsay said. The Bucheles said they will be raising money for the society this year to help pay for their assignment.
Steve Buchele said he and his wife can't wait to return. "When we are there, I feel like we are being the people that God was thinking about when God created us," he said.
Contact Claire Osborn at 246-7400

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Adventures in Eating, part 1

So tonight, after a long day of teaching on Cross Cultural Ministry, we went out (really snuck out) for some Peruvian street food.  One of the missionaries here took us to an anticucheras called Dina, which turns out to be a tent off one of the main squares of Huancayo.  Dina has been in a tent on this location for 62 years, and judging by the business we saw in our short time there, I can see why.  On the menu tonight is Picarones and Anticucho, or mini donuts and fried cow’s heart, along with a sampling of some local drinks.

Dina – street food has been served on this location for 62 years 

Walking the 15 minutes to Dina, Suzanne was not absolutely sure she was going to try the Anticucho or fried cow’s heart, but the smell of it cooking was amazing, and with an appetizer of picarones or mini donuts, even the most skeptical (and queasy stomach) was converted, but not before a sampling of three local drinks.

Local Drinks

First we were served a large pitcher of Chicha Morado, a non-fermented dark purple drink made from Peru’s Black Corn.  It tastes similar to Bissap,  a drink we had in Ghana that is from Senegal and made with the hibiscus flower, though the color of Chicha Morado is much darker.

Chicha Morado
Next was a Chicha de jora, which is a fermented (but not alcoholic) also made from a yellow variety of corn.  It tastes like a fermented apple cider with a caramel after taste. 
Chicha de jora

Picarones or those wonderful fried donuts 

Next were the picarones, or mini fried donuts are made from squash and sweet potatoes and served with a thick sweet syrup that I’m told is a light molasses, but it tastes like honey to me.  Each batch of picarones (either petite or grande) is fried fresh while you watch, and consumed while piping hot. 

Picarones – mini fried donuts Delicious!  

And now the Anticucho, or fried cow’s heart which until we were told otherwise, looked like simple beef kebabs served over some fried potatoes.  We’ve seen, or rather smelled anticucho being cooked on many of the street corners around Huancayo, but we had been warned not to try any street food as it would make us sick.  Challenge Accepted! 

Now I’ve had kebabs in a number of cities around the world, and, except for the rather chewy Ghanaian beef kebabs, found them to be tasty, quick and cheep eats.  Tonight’s offering at Dina was no different.  The story goes that the Spanish Conquistadors encountered this dish, but made from llama meat Later it was adapted by African slaves who, during colonial times, were given the cast offs of the cow that the Spanish didn’t want, organs meats such as heart, stomach, (need I go on?). 

Frying the Anticucho
Except for my mother’s fried liver, I’ve never been much for organ meats, but I really like what those slaves did with the cow’s heart, how they marinated it in vinegar, garlic, cumin, and some kind of pepper I can’t identify.  Then its sliced a quarter inch thin, skewered on bamboo, the grilled, and served over fried grilled potatoes.  

Until the first bite, the thought of eating anticucho is a bit revolting, but taste wins, and it takes little convincing for Suzanne, who ends up having ore than a bite, and I find myself eating several, and still fighting over the last piece (we end up splitting it, after all we are Christians).

Monday, July 02, 2012

Orientation Training – Huancayo, Peru

Its been a whirlwind week for Suzanne, a week that began in Ghana, and ends in Peru (she set foot four continents in five days).  We are both in Peru for Orientation Training with The Mission Society. 

We arrived in Lima last night were we met at the airport with the rest of the team coming and then all caught an overnight bus to Huancayo, where we will be staying these two weeks.  I had thought that an eight-hour bus trip up to the central highlands of Peru would be a torturous trip, but it turned out to be a great way to get here, as we both fell asleep quickly, and woke to the beauty of the sun rising over the Mantaro Valley.   

It is great to be back with our friends from previous trainings with The Mission Society, and to meet new ones.   It is colder than we expected, and the altitude will take a few days to get used to but it is fun exploring a new city, and learning a bit about the culture.

Clock tower outside our hotel room looks over Plaza

Our “half-star” hotel is the Confort Hotel, located just off the Plaza de Constitucion, and very much in the midst of the noise of the city with the sounds of traffic, car alarms, horns, emergency vehicles sirens and that is just during the daytime.  Who knows what night will bring?  Still is good to be with Suzanne, and the fact that we are experiencing a new continent even better.   

Suzanne checking email in our room.