Personal Project: Welcome to the Jungle
Other than reading Bird by Bird and Several Short Sentences, I have spent the majority of my Personal Project reading, typing, and taking notes on my Nana and Papa’s letters from their years as missionaries in Peru.
They received the call to Peru in 1956, arrived in 1957, and stayed until 1970. During that time they wrote regularly to their parents in the States. These letters take up four binders, and I am only halfway through 1959 — the middle of Volume 2.
I’m not sure yet how I want to organize my retelling of these stories, but I don’t think I want to tell them chronologically. Nana and Papa already did that.
I could write about the animals in the jungle. Or stories of healing and dying. I could write about the church and how the people tithed and worshiped and were baptized. I could write about the Campa Indians and their customs and superstitions. I could write a chapter about all the times my mom almost died.
But as I process the letters, those stories appear in the background, and it’s the portrait of my grandparents that comes into focus. My young, brave, resilient grandparents. Nana is a bit obsessed with etiquette and appearances, but she is also generous, appreciative, and badass in her own conservative way.
And Papa doesn’t write as often, and he’s frequently traveling, but he builds things out of wood and plays with his babies and seems to be comfortable in high altitudes and sinking canoes and straw beds on muddy ground.
And I think that’s my story.
They are my story.
I’m excited about developing the last two and a half binders. And I hope that my snapshot will capture them clearly.