Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Our Missionary Friends in Peru

We were very sad to learn that our friends the Brashers had to return home to Salt Lake City.  We had planned on calling them last week for an evening of pleasant conversation and the delivery of a pint of strawberry jam RA had made. They had been away traveling in Colombia doing what they do, helping missionaries. There was and is a significant need for the work they did and the good they accomplished. I am sure the mission presidents are feeling the loss of this great couple and servants of the Lord.

They have had the responsibility for the mental health and psychological wellbeing of maybe 2,000 missionaries in the Northwest South America Area. They traveled throughout Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia , Peru, and Venezuela. This has been a challenging and rewarding assignment for them. It was not an easy one as the language presented some challenges in traveling. Both of them have worked harder than anyone I know to stay in the missionfield battling ailments and health related issues. We admire them so much for their service and desire to fulfill their missions. They have been examples to us all for their faith, dedication, and endurance.

We miss them as our friends.  They wanted to meet our kids who were traveling to Peru early in August but they needed to be in Colombia.  We look forward to that evening of conversation and dinner when we return home.

Here's to you our friends and fellow missionaries! We miss you and our prayers remain with you.

With them at the Larco Museum here in Lima

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Lima Temple closes for two weeks -- Vacation time

The Lima Temple was closed for the first two weeks of August. This occurs every six months to allow for maintenance and upkeep.  We used the vacation time to travel to several destinations in Peru.  Not bad for a full time mission. Where else can you have four weeks of vacation plus Christmas and New Years? Several of our family including a grandson came to visit for a week. We made our second visit to Cusco and Machu Picchu. This time we were a little better prepared having had six months to brush up on Inca history, lore, and astronomical alignments.
The Angel Moroni is getting cleaned and additional gold leaf
Our first trip was to the Casma valley, about three hours north of Lima, where we visited the oldest solar observatory in the Americas. It is known as Chanquillo. A currently unknown culture built the observatory and fortress about 400 BC. It has been determined the fortress was not for defensive purposes but ceremonial in nature.
Thirteen stone towers line the hilltop as seen from the fortress.
This solar observatory allowed the local inhabitants to tell
within a day or so the date of the year. 
We next traveled south of Lima to a coastal location called Paracas. It is home to the Islas de Ballestas or the Ballestas Islands.  They are known as the little Galapagos Islands of Peru and were not a long boat ride from the Hotel Libertador where we stayed. We circled the islands with our daughter and grandson and saw thousands of birds, sea  lions, dolphins, and even a few penguins. We toured the National Reserve of Paracas, which is one of the dryest regions on the planet and yet its western boundary is the Pacific Ocean.  The Humboldt Current keeps any rain from falling. Our guide explained that in a year not more than a centimeter of rain falls.
The hotel pool and reflection pond at the Libertador in Paracas
Fabulous food, even Josh enjoyed it

A penguin and sea lions on the Ballestas Islands
In addition to the Andes Mountain chain, the largest in the world, the cliffs along the seacoast just south of Paracas and the Islas de Ballestas were formed from the upthrust of the Pacific Plate subducting under the South American Plate. This thrust, including some volcanic activity, has brought both basalt and porphyry granite to the surface.  This distinctive red granite is some several billion years old and among the oldest rocks on the planet.  A red beach exists because of the action of water and wind on the red granite cliffs.
Playa Rojo or the Red Beach at Paracas
Josh enjoyed the deserts in Peru including lucuma ice cream
Next we journeyed, six of us, to Cusco and a return trip to Machu Picchu for RA and I. Our flight was delayed four hours, so our time to tour the great fortress Sacsayhuaman above Cusco was limited. We wanted to see the cathedral where the painting hangs done by Quechua native artists showing Christ and the Twelve enjoying cuy or guinea pig on a platter for the Last Supper. Time did not permit a visit but we found a photo on the web to share. Among other things a number of holidays observed by the Inca/Quechua people were taken over by the Spanish and became Christian traditions and observances. The practice of melding together distinct cultures is known as syncretism.  The cuy for the Last Supper is a wonderful example of this.
It is a guinea pig or cuy on the platter. Unlikely that one average sized cuy even miraculously could feed the Lord and the Twelve. They are small, though efforts are underway here in Lima to breed larger cuy.
This was the most important temple in the Incan Empire. Known as Inti Qancha,  Qori Qancha or the Temple of the Sun. It was lined with solid sheets of gold both floors and walls. The gold was removed to pay for the ransom of the last Emperor Atahualpa. Mostly, it was destroyed to build the Dominican Monastery that occupies the site presently.
All of us at Sacsayhuaman. The stone work was classical Inca and beautiful.
The Inca understood seismic loadings better than anyone for more than 500 years to the present day.
This lintel has withstood massive earthquakes through the centuries and even the Spanish conquistadores.
We made several stops along the way in the Sacred Valley between Cusco and Machu Picchu including the fascinating Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo. Locals in the village still live in stone houses and structures dating to the mid 15th Century. They have the claim of being the oldest continuous lived in dwellings in the western hemisphere, or the world for that matter. Ollantaytambo was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacuti.  There are interestings carvings in stone on a mountain side including the Incan God Viracocha and an Incan Emperor, presumably Pachacuti.
The Winter Solstice at sunrise would illuminate the carved face of the Sapa Inca
bringing the promise of longer days and another growing season to the Andes.
Viracocha carved in the face of the cliff.  Universally worshiped in
pre Spanish Peru as the great creator god.  During the reign of Pachacuti the
Sun God became preeminent in the theology of the Inca as an effort to bring 
unity and consolidate control by this emperor of the Incas. His claim was that
he descended from the sun. 
Mary with a baby llama in the Sacred Valley near Cusco
Celestial alignments for solar and star gazing were essential parts of the religious life of the Inca and the earlier people of the Andes. Fortunately, for Peru and the world, the conquistadores never came to Machu Picchu or it would have been destroyed, as was nearly every other location where they visited. Buildings were literally ripped apart as the conquistadores were looking for hidden stashes of gold between the stones. Machu Picchu remains a place that in every way is as breathtaking as its 8,000 feet of elevation.  In the words of National Geographic explorer and archaeologist Johann Reinhard, it is one place where "reality exceeds expectation."
Adam and Natalie with Huayna Picchu in the background
Looking toward the Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana Stone
We climbed to the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu, about a two hour roundtrip hike on Inca Trail. Over this mountain peak the rising solstice sun would illuminate the Intihuatana Stone and most importantly the Torreon or The Temple of the Sun.
The Sun Gate in the distance and the trail on the right leading to it.

From the Sun Gate looking toward the Intihuatana Stone
Mary at the Sun Gate
Some tired tourists at Machu Picchu
Our favorite restaurant in Lima on our last night with the family.  It is owned and operated by a family from Arequipa Peru. The ribs, chicken, cuy and papas fritas are the best. It is called "A La Leña.:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tree ripened bananas and temples older than the pyramids of Egypt

We returned from two days of touring archaeological sites in the Casma/Sechin Valley, which is about four hours north of Lima along the Pan American Highway. We visited several sites. The oldest of the structures datse to about 3500 BCE. These constructions predate the pyramids of Egypt by a thousand years, making them the oldest in the Americas as well.  Sorry, George Potter, but they predate the Jaredites also. We have been studying and reading about these fascinating sites including several journal articles. Very good information comes from professionals trained in the field such as Peru's well known archaeologist Ivan Ghezzi. He is a Yale PhD, and has extensively studied these sites in the Casma/Sechin Valley and others from Peru's past. 
Seen from the air, the oldest of three different Sechin Complexes
We also hiked about the oldest solar observatory in the Americas and to a hilltop fortress overlooking the valley or pampas. The complex is named Chankillo. It dates to the 4th century BC. We hoped to observe the setting sun in the solar observatory but clouds prevented us. Though Casma Peru is known as the city of eternal sun, the included photo required some 'photoshopping' to illustrate the rising sun between one of the 13 stone towers on the hill.
The residents of Chankillo could determine the month of the year by 
observing the rising or setting sun from either side of this hill which
had 13 stone towers or torres piedras. Their year like the Inca, 2,000 
years after them, started with the Winter Solstice of June 21. 
The fortress on the hilltop overlooking the valley. Two wooden towers once 
stood in the center.  The fortress was likely used for ceremonial functions
more than as a defensive structure. This conclusion was reached  for a variety of reasons
 according to Dr. Ghezzi. 
The fortress walls were 12-15 tall in places but all had suffered serious damage
from the 1970 earthquake.
Three distinct constructions of the wall are evident in this outer wall of the fortress
The fortress overlooking the valley is three walled, but a serious earthquake in 1970 damaged this site and much of Northern Peru. The earthquake ranged from 7.9 to 8.1 on the Richter Scale and lasted only for 45 seconds. Over a million people were left homeless and estimates are that 80,000 Peruvians perished in the disaster. Relief efforts were slow in coming as the Pan American Highway was too severely damaged to allow passage. Many archaeological sites were damaged including this fortress at Chankillo whose walls before 1970 had been much taller. Many of the structures destroyed were adobe, not designed for any seismic loadings. No tsunami was created by this quake where the Nazca Plate subducts under the South American Plate. Peru is no stranger to serious earthquakes and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. This area stretches from Japan through the Aleutians and down the West Coast of the US and through western South America.  90% of the world's earthquakes and 80% of the largest earthquakes in the world occur along this Ring of Fire. Volcanos too, dot the map along this horseshoe shaped ring.
This photo from the news archives of Peru needs no caption
In Casma we enjoyed incredible food including a speciality of the area, called Ceviche de Pato con Frejoles. I would not have ordered duck as there was cuy de pica (pepper spiced guinea pig) on the menu. It is also one of the local favorites. I have not had duck before in Peru but our friend C ordered it, so I tried it and was very pleased. This restaurant had a photo of Peru's last president on the wall with the owners.  If Alan Garcia ate there you know it had to be good.
I had thought all cebiche was uncooked fish or seafood but 
this was wonderfully cooked duck with beans and rice
Coming and going through the valley we passed orchards of mango, papaya trees, bananas, asparagus and cotton fields. Peru is world famous for many things including its Algodon Pima Cotton.  The cotton plants were much taller than anything I have seen in the Southern US or Arizona.  Shirts made from this Peruvian cotton have a shine and softness almost like silk.
The cotton plants were easily six feet tall. 
Oranges and bananas in your yard, imagine 
We love the archaeological sites and certainly nothing compares to Machu Picchu. We are returning there next week with family. The high point of this trip was the encounter we had with the 81 year old patriarch.  We walked through his farm and orchards to get to this oldest ruin in the Casma Valley, called Sechin Bajo. Sr. Silva offered us fresh bananas picked from one of his trees. We had eaten his oranges and we stopped on our return from the ruins to pay him. There were six of us plundering his orange tree and maracuya vines. He was very happy to receive payment and asked if I liked "platinos frescas?" "Claro" or "of course," I responded.  He was very happy to share his fruit with us. We had a pleasant conversation about how good the bananas and oranges were and how much better the food in Peru is than the USA. He seemed very pleased that I liked so many Peruvian dishes including cebiche. Anyone who knows the difference between store bought tomatoes and something you grow yourself in your garden can understand what it could be like to have tree ripened bananas and oranges too.
Our new friend Señor Silva looks better at 81 than I do at 63. He attributed it
to his diet of organic fruits and vegetables that he grows on his farm. That is
his house to the left. Part of it is made from adobe the other from dried sticks
bound  and woven together and covered with clay and other earthen materials. 
We have observed this same type of composite waddle and daub construction in
the earliest structures we have visited. It is once again becoming popular as a 
sustainable form of home construction.
We visited longer and he told us of the site and how many people had come to it.  He is hoping the archaeologists will get the funding to continue to work at Sechin Bajo.  Scientists believe further excavation could result in older ruins, pushing back even further civilization in Peru. Our new friend Sr. Silva asked that we return. I would like to do that again one day. We wish we were more fluent in his language.  He has undoubtedly seen many things and has many stories to tell. There are more ruins in
the complex to be visited and hopefully on a clear morning watch the rise of the sun over Chankillo.
The stairs to the Sechin Cerro or 3rd period construction are divided in two
as is the entire temple complex.  Scientists theorize this was symbolic of the
duality of life. It was about opposites for the Sechin people. 

A Sechin warrior carved in relief at this third period temple
mural. He is carrying a war club. The mural, larger than life,
included many depictions of decapitations, severed limbs,
and eyeless victims expressing pain. Some question has
been raised whether they should be interpreted as mythical
characters, or as part of ritualized warfare, rather than actual
battle or combat.