Monday, September 01, 2008

Starting new

One year after my last post, I'm taking up blogging again.

I'm moving to Chad. New country, new blog. My Africa stories will be posted at

But I don't leave until September 29, and won't actually arrive there until the first of October. So give me a little time to get started.

Let's stay in touch.

Love, Ansley

Thursday, September 06, 2007


We live as those who are on a journey home, a home we know will have the lights on and the door open and our Father waiting for us when we arrive. That means in all adversity our worship of God is joyful, our life is hopeful, our future is secure. There is nothing we can lose on earth that can rob us of the treasures God has and will give us.
John Oxenham

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18

For our citizenship is in heaven.
Philippians 3:20

Sunday, September 02, 2007


On Friday morning Carly and I sat down at the table and made a plan. The newbies washed the dishes as we drew maps of Pucallpa and wrote lists of things that needed to be accomplished.

Carly's job was harder: she chose to take the five new student missionary girls into the center of town where they would change money, buy mosquito nets and tupperwear bins, use the internet, and call their families in the States. Each step must be led and guided by Carly through the city, the girls don't know their way and must have a translator at every stop.

My job was simpler: spend a few mintes telling the neighbors goodbye, take a taxi to Shirley's to get the truck keys and the truck, then take the truck to the airport to pick up Jenni, Brent, and Mr. and Mrs. Neish, who were going to visit for a few days. Then I would leave Jenni with the truck to get work done in Pucallpa while I returned to 38 in a taxi in order to buy groceries and go home to cook dinner for a crowd--our household of 17 people.

Everything went smoothly. I met our newest arrivals and helped them with their luggage, I stood on the edge of the pista and flagged a taxi. I sat there, sharing the cab with four adults and three children, and the wind whipped our faces.

This is my last day in Peru, I thought to myself. This is my last day.

I cried all the way to the market.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The trees speak

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Modern plumbing

On August 2, 2007, running water arrived at Km 38. This was a most momentous occasion, as for 12 months we had been hiking to a pit toilet for the potty, taking bucket baths, and washing hands and dishes in a plastic tub. There is just nothing like running water.

The shower was completed first. Then the utility sink behind the house got hooked up, and suddenly we had a place to scrub potatoes and wash the rice. The next day when we returned from errands, the toilet, complete with toilet seat, was ready, and there was even a tiny sink in the bathroom.

I couldn't handle it.

"Carly!" I squealed, "There's a SINK in the BATHROOM!"

Emily, being inside the house, yelled out, "There's a SNAKE in the bathroom?" Emily is one of the new student missionaries, who arrived just days ago.

Before I had a chance to reply, there was a scream from behind the bathroom door, occupied by Kristin, another newbie.
"There's a FROG in the TOILET!" she hollared.

There actually was a frog in the toilet. Carly and I looked at each other and laughed. Welcome to Peru.

The Newbies

If you're happy and you know it

The kids listened with remarkable silence as Carly read the story of the birth of Jesus from our Children's Bible. Carly held up the felt board we made out of a large piece of blue felt and a cardboard box and she juggled the pages of the Bible while I placed our felts on the board at the appropriate time.

The star felt moved across the vast blueness and came to rest above a felr stable, littered with golden straw. The three wide-eyed wisemen trotted across the board in pursuit of the felt star, and the children laughed.

We often start our program with only a handful of kids, 30 or 40, and they steadily trickle in as we sing "Adentro, afuera, arriba, abajo," or "Las gallinitas pica."

We love to see the kids come from our families, the kids who we talk to every day, whose pets we know the names of. We see them arrive, dragging their younger siblings behind them, and we beam in their direction.

The story finishes, and as Carly puts the felts away in the market bag, I lead the kids, all up on their feet, in the closing song. There is an enormous and energetic crowd of them now.

We sing "If you're happy and you know it," which in Spanish translates, "If it's true that you're saved____" and then an action, like stomping, or handclapping, to illustrate that you are, indeed saved.

The last verse says, "If it's true that you're saved, say amen!" And then the kids chorus "AH-MEN!" yelling it out, and throwing their arms out wide away from their bodies, as if preparing to give someone a huge hug.

The moment is beautiful, and both Carly and I feel the joy of it.

We are overcome with the chorus of children, belting their lungs out, and throwing their arms open to Jesus.

Health workers

Carly and I have two jobs. By day we are public health workers, and at night we are child entertainers. Our public health program is called Familias Saludables, which is Healthy Families in English. It is a brand new program, designed by the project physician, Dr. Richard, and tweaked in many ways by us, the implementers.

We have found many things that look nice on paper but don’t actually work in the field.

The basic idea is that we have a list of families for each of us, families that have chosen to learn and work in the program, and we visit them every work day for a month, which ends up being about 20 days.

We tried to pick needy families, which isn’t hard because all of them are needy, but we did go to the edges of town, to the run-down, rolling-over, bottom-up houses.

This in itself proved to be a problem because it is hard to talk to someone about nutrition when they don’t have any food to eat. How can you say “Let's work on adding more protein to your diet,” when they don’t even have access to the most basic of carbohydrates—rice, yucca, and platano? It has been a challenge.

Every day during our house visits we fill out a check sheet which allows each family points in five areas—nutrition, hygiene, financial planning, home environment, and family cooperation. This means that even if the family can’t afford food to rank up points in the nutrition area, they can get points for picking up the trash in their yard, or having more time together with the family, or working together to achieve family goals.

We’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a family, and how a family can address and work through many kinds of problems. We have learned about teamwork, responsibility, and the importance of trust. It is important that they trust us, and it is important that we build good relationships.


Wherever I go in the streets of Masisea, my presence is well announced by the children of the neighborhood.

“Grin-GA, Gring-GA!” they yell, “Mira la gringa!” they say to their friends.

Look at the white girl.

Usually I will call them out. I will call them right over.

“What is my name?” I ask them.

They always know. This whole town knows by now, especially the kids.

“Ani,” they respond.

“Right,” I say, “My name is not ‘Gringa,’ my name is ‘Ani.’”

They wriggle, they tip their shoulders to the side.

“Okay, thanks,” I finish, “See your later.”

‘Gringa’ is not necessarily an insult. It is a label that we have endured all year now. If you look it up in a Spanish/English dictionary, the definition is simply a slang word for foreigner. Everyone calls us gringos. The students, the adults, the shopkeepers.

And we put up with it. We are foreigners, we are white, we are different.

But how much nicer to be called by my name. How sweet when the kids wave from their porches and yell, “Hola Hermana Ani!”

We might not all be the same color, but we are still brothers and sisters. It’s important to treat each other with respect. I want to learn their names, too.


Only in the jungles of Peru could you ask people about their protein intake and they would reply, “ardilla!” or “huevitos de tortuga!” which means “squirrel,” or “turtle eggs.”

I love it. I love being so far out in the selva boondocks that the people have their own dialect and traditional clothes that they wear just because they do, not because there are tourists around who want to take pictures. They eat interesting foods, like squirrel and turtle eggs, and a drink made by spitting out chewed up yuca and then letting it ferment. Mmmm.

They fish for piranha and still go to traditional healers when they get sick.

As the word has gotten out that a foreign nurse is in the village, I have been summoned on a handful of occasions to make house calls for wound care. Melina fell and sliced her shin on a piece of taut wire, Adrien was hiking when a nail pierced his shoe and consequently his foot as well, Felisa’s nephew skinned the back of his arm on a falling tree branch, Merlita split open the bottom of her foot on a piece of glass while traveling from Masisea to her community, an 8 hour walk away.

I find each of these people with their own unique remedies for treating their ailments. Some drink potions of brewed local plants, some tie herbal medleys about their necks, some carry a charm in their pockets. Do any of these creative methods work? Who am I to say? Believeing in something works wonders. If you believe it is working, sometimes it really is.