In the silence of Everything
Hello! I am Sara del Pilar and I was born near of the ocean in Mancora, Peru. I have come to Quito, Ecuador where I have lived 30 beautiful years. The last years, I have been living in Rosario (Argentina) because I was studying, and I came back to Quito at the end of 2019. I was tired of the books and the city. I felt I needed to stop for resting and start again. I focused myself for a week to recuperate my brain. I connected again with nice friends, who I have not seen lately due to the agitated life I was living. One of these people was Sister Jeaneth Andino (DMSR) who I have met for many years and who has shared life and work with me. She was the person who invited me to come to the Peruvian Jungle for a year. From that moment I thought that something good was coming to my life, I did not want to lose it, that is why I quickly accepted the invitation and I started to prepare my trip, I sold things, I gave away others, I legalized my degrees and I told my dear friends “I will be back in December.”
I arrived to Peru in february 2020, after spending some comforting days with my family, I traveled to the jungle, to Sepahua district on Tuesday March 3rd, 2020. Jeaneth and I had planned to travel together from Ecuador, something that was not possible. I felt safer being with her. Although I am Peruvian, I felt foreigner in my own land. So many years living abroad made me feel strange.
For the first time, I traveled by the river in a big boat for seven hours. I was in the middle of many people and many things. The music was loud. There was a big televisión set for watching movies. The river had a lot of water and we were traveling very fast. I started to feel scared, I looked for my life vest, but I did not find it and a man told me “Sit down, during the trip you will receive one” (I never got it). Suddenly, for a moment, I felt I was in danger and I started to pray. As the boat was leaving the town, the noise and the fear disappeared. I felt relaxed and safe. I took my thermus of pure Coffee and served myself a cup of it, while I was looking the beautiful landscape. The boat was sailing near the Riverside. It stopped in some places to let people to descend and in other places to let food sellers to offer their products.
We continued our way in a cold afternoon. The speed we were travelling splashed water to our hands. I felt I was further and further in the middle of the vegetation. Other boats crossed our way and greeted us happily and suddenly we arrived to Sepahua.
I got off the boat carrying my small luggage, where I brought my computer and some coffee filters, and I took a motocar towards “La mission.” I was received by Fray Ignacio Iraizoz, a very nice and close man, who tooke me to the teachers’ house, where I was going to stay for three days since I was going to live in “Casa Verde.” The Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary were expecting me in their community with food and a hot cup of coffee. They received me with pure love and helped me to unpack. I felt at home and loved from the beginning.
On Wednesday, March 4th, I got dressed up for the school full of illusion. To be a teacher in my country -and in the Peruvian Jungle- made me very happy. I met some teachers from “Padre Francisco Alvarez” school. I spent three days learning the work methodology and studying the year program. School activities such as sowing, fishing, cleaning the roads, preparing food with the parents, selling and dancing were very attractive. They were different to what I was used to, but they made me feel full of illusion and I began to feel comfortable in that place. I went to the school for three days and then everything stopped. A lockdown was declared in the whole country because of COVID-19.
That week, Father Ignacio had given me “La casa verde” (The Green House), where I was going to live the whole year. I would share it with two more teachers who were on their way, but due to the virus, they did not arrive. I looked for the best room and unpacked my luggage. The house was big for one person. A kitty came to me and I called her Selva (Jungle), in honor to the place where we are.
In this house I had experiences that made me face myself. At night I listened to all sort of noises. At night, animals walked near the house, the light went out and there was a lot of rain, thunders and lightning. I prayed to all saints searching for protection. One night, a very ugly and stinky animal was on the roof of my bedroom. I was told it was a country skunk, but I left it undisturbed since I was also told that at dawn it would have left. So, I let it in peace, and everything was fine.
Everyday Father Ignacio and the sisters asked me how I was, and I answered them “I’m fine! Learning and adapting me.” Many times, I’ve told my students the same, but now I just had to live it and it was very difficult. I had to face snakes -I felt panic every time I saw them. I called Father Ignacio: “I found a snake” and he answererd me “I’ve prayed so no one bites you.”
Aracely, a teacher from the area, came to give me company. Her presence helped me to feel safe and it helped me to learn many things, such as using the machete, which one day helped me to kill a snake. I also learned to cut plants. Father Ignacio hired people to cut and burned the plants around the house. A deep cleaning was made. Father Ignacio told men working there “I want this place clean, so no snake will come.”
Sisters Mechita and Yuri (Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary) came to “Casa Verde” to know how things were going. In one of their visits they invited me to live with them in their community so I could sleep well. Mechita and Father Ignacio told me that the snakes were from the area and that I only needed not to disturbed them. I tried to be friendly to everything that scared me, I started to live my reality and I decided to assume the consequences of my decisions calmly, trusting in myself, in God and the people who took care of me.
One night I walked with Sister Mechita to the kitchen’s community for having some coffee, and suddenly, I saw a small snake on the floor. I showed it to sister Mechita and she calmly looked at it and said “Stay away from here, you are in the wrong place” and with her foot she moved it to the grass. I was in shock and she said, “Don’t be afraid, they are countryside animals.” The sisters and Fathers live happily in the middle of that danger. I was told that if the virus arrived to this place, we were all going to suffer a lot and for that reason Father Ignacio said in one his sermons “Here we are connected with all the community by Radio Sepahua, having our lives in God’s hands and if we have to die, it will be because of God’s will.”
There were surprises every day, Covid-19 lockdown was one of them, everything had come together in the same time and place. It did not depend on me, I just had to let this reality to be, without fighting anything or anybody. During lockdown, I started to think about what God wanted for me with all this. I wanted to find the answer to why I am where I am. Some time ago, I had asked God a space to rest because my life was going too fast, my head was full of things and the pollution of big cities was affecting my health.
Suddenly, I felt that God had answered me by taken me to this place full of peace, where you can listen to birds singing, the sound of rain, where the sky is full of starts every night and the moon and the lightnings light up darkness. Also, there is the peace of the jungle, where you only see the police car patrolling once in a while and where you listen to the engines of the boats moving few people. Life here is not fast and the time is immobile. This made me to stop by force everything I was doing, and I could listen to how God was calming my hectic life. Suddenly, it was like being on holidays in paradise. I was working very little. I wanted to meet the students for whom I have come, but since nothing turned out as planned, I decided to live the day and do right the few things I had to do.
I thank the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary and Dominican priests for helping me to live this experience, which I am sure, it would help me to become more human and it will improve my professional performance as teacher. What I have shared here is very little in comparison to what I have lived. I cannot find the words to express so much goodness and beauty that I have found in Sepahua. For the rest of my life, I will surprise myself by God and for the people who are close to me. “God pays them for the privilege of the experience.”
Sara del Pilar Guerrero Marchan.