Tuesday, September 20, 2016

San Jose’s Mayor…a Different Breed

Regular readers will probably remember that at nearly all of the schools we visit the common complaint is that "the mayor will not help us”. Teachers and parent association members often go to a mayor’s office requesting help of some sort for their school but the response is always “…there is no money”. Today we met the exception to that rule.

This is Macario Fiestas Fiestas, the mayor of San Jose. He is the first and only mayor so far to phone Promesa Peru to ask for help for his schools. He is in the second year of a four year term and based on what we saw and the people we talked with he could probably be elected for life.

During his first two years he has:

Established a therapy clinic for handicapped people

Created an artisan’s association to export products to Italy.

Formed a mother’s association to make products for sale in Chiclayo and elsewhere to augment household income

Started training classes for motor repair so fishermen can repair their own boats and motors

Badgered regional authorities into building a new kinder in San Jose that will be completed soon

Macario was born in San Jose as was his father who was an eleven-year mayor until he was killed by terrorists in 1985 during Peru’s communist uprising. Macario was a fisherman prior to being elected mayor.

There are seventeen caserios (villages) in the San Jose District and Macario can talk at length about each of them. He knows the locations, teachers and condition of each pronoei. He and three of his staff members took us to visit some of the poorest this morning.

Pronoei Rayito De Luz (Ray of Light) is located in the village of Bodegones. The school opened last March with Karina as its teacher. The building was donated to the parents association, whose members cleaned it up as best they could. Karina has nine students and tentatively has fifteen registered for next year. She also has an incredible amount of creativity and imagination. Every toy...every teaching aid was hand-made by her.

She created a ‘store’ to teach business and math. The ‘kitchen/bedroom’ is used to teach household skills. Classroom furniture consists of a few plastic chairs. She didn’t know we were coming so wasn’t prepared when we asked her what she needed. We would very much like to provide what has come to be our standard package; a whiteboard, two storage shelves, four tables, sixteen chairs, and a selection of teaching aids. The cost of these items will be about $600.

The mayor impressed us by saying if we can donate those items he will find the money to provide a door and window for the school. We don’t have the $600. We need your help. Please visit the Promesa Peru webpage to support the pronoei Rayito De Luz. Thank you.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Five Days in Pucallpa

Pucallpa is a city located in the Peruvian rainforest on the Ucayali River. It is the 14th largest city in Peru with a population of 210,000. Pucallpa is an Incan Quechua word meaning ‘red earth’. It is generally recognized as having been founded in the early 1800s by missionaries, though people have lived in the area for several thousand years. In the early years rubber was the economic base. Now lumber, oil and agricultural products sustain the economy. Tourism is not a significant contributing factor at present. The city can be reached by air, boat and car, though the last two modes are chancy depending on weather conditions.
Anyone visiting Pucallpa looking for a jungle/rainforest experience will be disappointed. The interior of the city looks like any other large Peruvian city; even the principal park lacks a display of rainforest foliage, or any foliage for that matter. The Ucayali River forms the border of most of the north and east edges of the city and it is here that the visitor will see evidence of the rainforest and its contribution to the city’s economy. At several locations boats are frequently arriving loaded with fruits and vegetables including bananas, pineapple,yuca, aquaje, cocona, cashu and camu camu. Some of the products are sold on the spot to individuals and local businesses or transported to coastal cities. A good place to view this activity is north of the Plaza de Reloj (Park of the Clock – named for a clock tower). The park is a short walk from Pucallpa’s major hotels.

When you’ve had your fill of watching the people working you can rent a peque peque in the same location and take a ride on the river. You won’t see jungle, exotic birds, insects or animals but you will get a good feel for all of the activities that make Pucallpa tick. You’ll see logs up to eight feet in diameter being loaded and unloaded on barges. You’ll see concrete, rice and other items that aren’t available locally being unloaded. The people who own and operate the peque peques are natives and have a wealth of knowledge about anything you’re likely to see. Incidentally, the boats are called peqeu peque because that is the sound their engines make. The standard boat tour takes one hour and costs about $9 for two people. It’s well worth it.

Another location to rent a boat at is Lago Yarinacocha, a popular fun spot on the northwest tip of the city. It sits atop a gently rising cliff above the river, and during the rainy season is often flooded which is why the many open air restaurants and houses are built on stilts. It is a noisy, dusty place. The single road is choked with moto traffic and boat operators aggressively competing for customers. With the roar of the moto engines and music blaring from nearly every restaurant It is a chaotic experience verging on sensory overload. Peruvians love it. It is worth seeing…one time.

Here the boat tour is two hours round-trip, with a stop at the village of San Francisco. The standard cost is $27 for two. There is nothing to see on either river shore but sand and trees. The stop at San Francisco consists of a visit to several artisans and a tiny museum. Years ago the community had a native theme for tourists, with the villagers dressed in costume and portraying life as it was before the Europeans arrived, but that stopped when the government provided water, electricity and a road. In our opinion the boat ride and village visit is a waste of time and money.

Yarinacocha does boast of having several of the most popular restaurants in Pucallpa. Two of them; the Anaconda and Balsa de Oro float on the river beside each other. We had lunch at the Balsa de Oro where Maribel had venison and I had wild pig. The quality of the food and service was good though quantities were small.

Pucallpa has the reputation of having no tourist attractions, and depending on personal preferences that could be true. We spent five days there and never lacked for something to do. Beside the peque peque ride, park of the clock and Lago Yarinacocha there is a nature park with a zoo, a small park (Lupuna Park) featuring an historical 200 year old tree, two shopping malls, both with cinemas, and a tiny museum.  Of them all the museum was the highlight of the trip for me.

The Don Agustin Rivas Vasquez museum is on Tarapaca Street close to the Plaza de Armas and is very easy to miss when walking by. We had to track down a woman to open the museum for us. It is a small second-floor room filled with impressive wood carvings. The spirit and imagination of the man comes through in each sculpture. We spent two hours there examining each piece; each one carved from a single piece of wood, and talking with the woman. Though he has not lived in Pucallpa for many years Agustin Rivas still owns the building; has a bedroom there and returns during Christmas to visit friends and family. There is a detailed internet article about him for anyone interested in learning more.

Other activities are driven by the climate. Many businesses close from 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm because of the heat. The ice cream and juice shops stay open and make a lot of money during those hours. Early afternoon is a good time to be in one of the air conditioned malls, cinema or hotel room. Pucallpa has several 1st class hotels catering mostly to business people. We stayed at the Casa Andina and were very pleased with everything.

All in all it was a good experience. We will probably never return to Pucallpa but are very glad we made the trip.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Very Special Day in Tùcume Viejo

In August of 2014 Promesa Peru made its first donation in the Tùcume District to the primary/secondary school in Tùcume Viejo. Since that time we’ve donated to 20 separate projects in 16 different Tùcume District villages, but were still surprised when we received an invitation to attend the inauguration of the new school yesterday in Tùcume Viejo. The old school had been completely demolished and in its place stood a modern four-building complex.

These photos show the same view of the main entrance two years ago and now.

Upon presenting our invitation at the gate we were ushered to front row seating along with the mayor (second from the right) and his staff and several officials from the District office of Education. There were about 300 people in total. There was a flag raising, a blessing, many speeches, and gifts presented to people associated with the old school. We received a wine caddy. After the formalities several groups of students entertained the audience with native dancing.

Following the dancing those of us with invitations (about 30) were taken to the school’s cafeteria for a meal of cabrito. After eating, Maribel and I were asked to step to the front of the room where we were presented with a certificate by the mayor and school director acknowledging and thanking Promesa Peru for the work we’ve done to help the schools throughout the district in the past two years. It was a proud moment for us…to have our work recognized by city and district officials. As good as that recognition felt there was an even prouder moment waiting for us when we left the cafeteria and stepped outside into the school yard.

Many of the pronoei teachers we had worked with these past two years made the trip from their villages to Tùcume to add their thanks and appreciation. There were Saida from El Carmen, Karina from Los Sanchez, Lucy from Moyocupe, Maria del Rosario from San Antonio, Gloria from Payesa, Karina Chaponan from Alto Peru and Amalia from El Pavo as well as several mothers who had asked to accompany the teachers.

It was difficult to stay composed as they held up their banners and cheered us. The other 250 people including the mayor had no idea what was happening but they joined in anyway.

This was a proud day for the city of Tùcume Viejo, their new school, and for Promesa Peru. We will remember it for a long time, and thank the donors who made it possible.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Unusual Morning in Surupampa

We had been navigating the dirt mountain road from Motupe to Surupampa for nearly two hours, stopping only once when an old man hailed us to ask if we’d seen his black burro. We had seen many burros…and cows, pigs and goats but not a black burro. There is little to no traffic on this road and frequently it’s necessary to get out of the vehicle to shoo the sleeping animals out of the way. Burros and goats seem to understand that they need to move but cows and pigs just stand there as if waiting to see what happens next. They move only when the slowly moving vehicle is close to making contact. I guess I don’t blame them, their only option to get off the road is a steep ascent or decent.

This sow and her piglets took a lot of urging before they moved. The apparatus around the sow’s neck is there to prevent the pig from entering and eating in the corn fields.

There were five of us; the driver, Maribel and me, and two PEMU coordinators. I’ve mentioned before that the new road to Surupampa is rutted and boulder strewn and the ride is violent. Three people in the back seat in those conditions is not tolerable so when one of the coordinators announced that we were within a half-mile of the village a cheer rang out. The driver blew the horn several times to alert the villagers that we were coming, giving them time to assemble for the usual welcome.

When we pulled into the village there was no one in sight. I thought that maybe they had planned some sort of surprise and would rush out to greet us at a given signal, but no. After five minutes of horn blowing two men appeared from out of the brush. One of them had a key to the pronoei which he opened and then stood back while the driver and I unloaded the truck and placed the donated items in the classroom.

A few minutes later two kids appeared. They had no idea what was happening and didn’t even show interest in the toys and candy. We took a few photos (the women are Maribel and the PEMU coordinators); explained to the men how to assemble the storage shelves and hang the whiteboard, and that was it.
We were told that everyone including the kids were working in the fields. The coordinator said she had alerted the village two days ago that we were coming today in the morning and had no explanation for their absence. One of the village men told us that both the teacher and his wife were sick. It was disappointing not to see the looks of appreciation on the faces of the villagers, or to see the excitement of the kids about their new furniture, candy and toys, but our mission was to deliver needed items to the school, and that we accomplished.

During the ride back we met the man looking for his burro. He had not found it and said he would start watching the sky for circling vultures.

The cost for this project was:  
4 wood tables --- $144.29 --- 23.86%
16 metal chairs --- $262.84 --- 43.47%
1 whiteboard --- $51.17 --- 8.46%
Markers & erasers --- $8.96 --- 1.48%
2 storage shelves --- $47.96 --- 7.93%
Teaching aids --- $66.66 --- 11.02%
Candy & toys --- $15.28 --- 2.53%
Transport --- $7.49 --- 1.24%
Total - $604.65

Notice the transport cost, which consists of having the storage shelves and whiteboard delivered to our home. If we had had to pay for a private carrier to transport all of the items to Surupampa from Chiclayo it would easily have cost $150. As uncomfortable as it was, the PEMU truck saved us a lot of money.

Chris Raupe and the Alice Cool Foundation made this project possible. We thank you, and we know the people of Surupampa appreciate what you have done for their school.

As an aside for anyone interested in such things, this is the location of Surupampa according to my GPS unit. I was surprised at the altitude…I thought we were much higher.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Present for the Village of Los Sanchez

Last April 19 we completely outfitted the new Pronoei in Los Sanchez with physical furnishings. What we didn’t provide was teaching aids. The teacher, Karina has been getting by with a few notebooks and pencils bought with her own money along with government provided text books. That situation improved this morning when we presented Karina and the kids with puzzles, coloring books and crayons, reading books and tangrams, all with educational themes tailored to 3 to 5 year olds. For the kids the icing on the cake was a few inexpensive plastic toys that light up.

This was not a Promesa Peru project. It was the result of a generous unsolicited donation we received with instructions to use it for Los Sanchez. Karina asked us to extend her heartfelt thanks from her and the kids to “Señor Clif Brown”.
On a related matter, on May 3 we and a delegation from Los Sanchez meet with the mayor of Tùcume to explore possibilities for building a pronoei in the village. The mayor asked Karina to submit a letter of solicitation formally requesting that a school be constructed, which she did. Nothing has happened since then.  We are told that many people are dissatisfied with the mayor’s lack of activity and are pushing for a recall. It is not likely that the Los Sanchez request will be receiving government attention anytime soon.
On July 19 we published a post asking for donations for the pronoei in Surupampa. We’re happy to report that we have the funds for that project and have purchased the teaching aids, whiteboard, chairs, and storage shelves. Maribel was able to locate two 3-shelf models that cost considerably less than 5-shelf units.

Thanks to an additional donation by the Alice Cool Foundation we’ll be supplying 4 tables and 16 chairs to the pronoei instead of 3 and 12. The new road to the village is bringing more families to the area and soon the additional seating will be needed. We opted to buy the metal chairs manufactured in Lima. It’s been a good experience so far. The manufacturer called us when the truck was loaded, and the chairs arrived at our door last Monday as promised. The chairs are incredibly strong and should see many years of service.

The 4 wood tables should be ready by Friday. We hope to be in Surupampa early next week. We’re eager to see what the pronoei will look like when it’s furnished as a real classroom.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Chiclayo’s International Airport

The Chiclayo airport, officially known as Captain FAP Jose A Quinones Gonzales International Airport truly became international this month when Copa Airlines began weekly round-trip direct flights from Panama City, Panama to Chiclayo. When Copa announced the flight earlier this year many people including me questioned the reason for this flight. Why would Chiclayanos want to go to Panama? Why would Panamanians want to come to Chiclayo? Whatever the reasons, so far all flights both ways have been full.

Except for the Copa flight the only destination you can fly to from Chiclayo is Lima. No matter your destination in or out of Peru, you have to go through Lima. Being able to fly to Panama from Chiclayo opens up many foreign destinations like Cuba for instance, at less expense, time and effort.
LAN (now Latam Airlines) operates four flights daily from Chiclayo to Lima; LC Peru has two. All flights originate in Lima and will return there the same day. Turnaround time averages 40 minutes.There are no aircraft staged overnight in Chiclayo.

That’s about 700 passengers leaving Chiclayo daily for Lima, most of them having purchased round-trip tickets. Many of them will not go further than Lima; others will be going on to destinations in and out of Peru. None of the internal destinations are reached efficiently. For example, from Chiclayo to Lima to Tarapoto takes 12 hours 47 minutes on LAN. In the past Avianca Airlines flew direct from Chiclayo to Tarapoto. The total time was 45 minutes at less than half the price. Avianca no longer services Chiclayo.

Often travelers comment and complain about the inability to fly direct from Chiclayo to other Peruvian cities, but the people who run LAN and LC Peru are not stupid. If it was economically feasible to fly to multiple destinations from Chiclayo I’m sure they would do it. But just maybe change is in the wind.

The Chiclayo airport is scheduled for major remodeling (artist's drawing of finished project).  Starting in December the runways will be expanded at a projected cost of 64 million dollars. And over the next 5 to 6 years the terminal will be enlarged and modernized to the tune of 200 to 350 million dollars. There will be 8 gates as opposed to 2 now. The portable boarding stairways will be replaced with power boarding bridges (also known as jetways). The stated reason for the renovation is to accommodate the present and projected increase in tourist and business travelers and cargo leaving and coming into Chiclayo.

It doesn’t seem likely that a project of this magnitude would be done just to allow more flights to and from Lima. Maybe in a few years we’ll be able to fly direct from Chiclayo to other South American cities and perhaps even Miami. If that happens one thing is certain…we will not miss those long overnight layovers in the Lima airport.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hey Russia!....what’s goin’ on?

On September 1, 2009 I wrote my first post on this blog. This post is #387. I had a statistics counter program running in the background but never paid much attention to it and forgot about it some time ago. This last weekend I was cleaning out old photos and documents to free up space on the hard drive when I came across and old ‘favorites’ list, and there was the link to the statistics program. I clicked on it and was surprised that it recognized this computer and was still accumulating information.  I like numbers and did an analysis to see where the visitors are coming from. The top 10 countries have remained fairly consistent, except for Russia (click on the chart to enlarge it).

I can think of no reason why the sudden interest from Russia, unless it was the ‘Chiclayo…A spy Capital’ post about Nikita and James Bond, but probably not. If any of you Russian readers would care to enlighten me I would appreciate it. And by the way, Promesa Peru has never had a donation from Russia. We and PayPal will gladly accept Rubles. J