Seven of us piled into the Toyota Landcruiser and drove off a half dozen miles from the lake. We were going to visit our friend Eusebio before leaving Peru. Where the road ended, I scrambled out to walk another half mile across the barren altiplano landscape — three children in tow, baby on my back, husband in front, and our trusted friend, Ed, in the lead.
We were warmly welcomed by Eusebio and his wife when we arrived mid-afternoon, and they invited us into their small tin roofed adobe hut. White-washed walls brightened the otherwise dark dirt-floored interior. Sheep, llamas and pigs roamed their backyard. A large loom sat in front of the house with piles of raw handspun wool in baskets beside the crude structure. Several other smaller huts formed the remainder of the homestead. Puffs of smoke blew out of the chimney.
They offered us seats on handhewn chairs and served sweetened mint tea with fried bread, gracious hospitality shown by people of faith born into a harsh indigenous Aymaran social fabric on the altiplano of Peru.
Eusebio had spent four to five days each week of the past seven escorting Ed and my husband from village to village as part of a fledgling Peruvian herd health program, identifying needs, examining sick animals, vaccinating, castrating and teaching community leaders. He served as guide, helper, technician, translator and liaison in each of these communities. The people loved him and thus trusted the words and work of his two accompanying friends. On Sundays, Eusebio functioned as pastor in his small community meeting. It was a hand-to-mouth existence around Lake Titicaca, where a family's diet consisted mainly of potatoes prepared in one form or other, while sheep, pigs, llamas, chickens and eggs are sold often for cash, rather than consumed for much-needed protein, by those who raise them. Social mores and attitudes in this subsistence level society often paralleled the landscape's roughness.
During our weeks with him, Eusebio always exhibited a ready smile, a gentle spirit, and a keen sense of humor along with a twinkle in his eye. To me, he was a sinewy brown angel with gleaming white teeth. Coming out of our American culture and environs where time is so precious, and carefully meted out so as not to waste any, I often wondered how he could afford to leave his home and wife, children, weaving, and farm responsibilities for such an extended time to serve where he could not be monetarily compensated, to give when there was nothing extra. Seizing what might be my last opportunity, I broached the subject during this visit.
Eusebio laughed, and his image, a glowing face with sparkly eyes, was forever etched in my mind and on my heart along with his responsive words : "Nos perdimos el tiempo por Dios” (“we lose time for God”). These words have served as a beacon of light to me for over twenty-five years.