Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adapting to Change


A few years ago two Canadian couples visited Chiclayo, Peru and asked Maribel and I to guide them to non-touristy places. On the first day we took them to Collud, one of the more primitive villages in the Lambayeque Region. Stepping out of the car their faces took on a stunned expression. One of the women muttered, “My God…it’s like walking into a National Geographic article.” As is so often the case, being told in advance what to expect doesn’t do it…you need to see and feel it yourself.

Now, I am not saying that the town of Rossville, Georgia where we now live is anything like those Peruvian villages I grew to love, but in the past six weeks we have often had the feeling that we’ve stepped into the 1940s. Take this morning for instance.

We’ve got nearly all of the furniture we want but haven’t found a TV stand we like. We live in rural Rossville. It’s more like country than city. About a quarter mile from our house on a side road is a collection of old buildings…a few houses, a gas station and a used furniture store. We were on our way to downtown Chattanooga; about a 20-minute drive when we decided to check out the store. If you’re familiar with Norman Rockwell paintings you’ll have some idea of what the ‘town’ looks like as well as the store front and interior. The building served some other purpose years ago. Now it is crammed full of used furniture, mostly wooden items. Prices range from $50 to $150. There weren’t any TV stands but there were a few tables that could serve as a stand. In a corner was a table and matching chair with some of the most beautifully grained wood I have ever seen, with a $150 tag on it. I looked long and hard at that item but decided we didn’t need it.

While we were inside looking around the proprietor was out back unloading some chairs from an old pickup truck. He looked to be about 80, wearing faded jeans and plaid long-sleeve shirt, a baseball cap and worn leather boots. When he had finished his work and came into the store his southern drawl was so deep and so slow that neither Maribel or I could understand him (the southern drawl has been a problem for us more than once. When I commented to a woman that I couldn’t understand her accent, she said, “I’m from Tennessee and this is the way we talk! You’re the one with the accent!).

When we left the store I shook hands with the man and thanked him for letting us look around. That led to another five minutes of near unintelligible conversation. The whole experience…the town, the store, the man was indeed reminiscent of the 1940s. And that’s not an isolated case. There are what I call pockets of the past all over this area, including downtown Chattanooga. In time we’ll get used to these pockets of the past but at the moment there’s a feeling of being off balance when we find ourselves in these situations.

I had my army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in the early 1960s. When I returned home after six months my mother asked, “Why are you talking like that?” It was then I realized I had picked up a southern twang. A few days ago, after only six weeks here, Maribel asked why I was talking like that. I think I’m adapting to change.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Village of Paredones San Juan


On the official Mochumi District map the name is Paredones. Ask anyone who lives in the village and they will tell you the name is Paredones San Juan. The San Juan part has an interesting story behind it. An unofficial village historian who seemed to know what he was talking about told Magali that on July 16, 1624 when the Spaniards were governing the area the villagers protested to the governor that the village had no water. In response a canal was built that to this day brings water from some distant source. The canal was named Saint John.

No one is sure how the name Paredones came about or even what it means, though it is possibly associated with the hill (in Spanish ‘huaca’) the village was built upon.

The huaca was apparently part of a Moche culture village dating back to approximately 800 AD, and like all such huacas associated with the Moche culture it has been illegally excavated over time by individuals hoping to find pottery to sell. Those people are referred to as huaqueros. They usually work at night with hand shovels. Wherever they have been the landscape resembles a cratered moonlike surface.

There are over 200 families living in and about Paredones San Juan. Like most villages in this area, the economy is based on agriculture with mangos being the dominant crop.

The name of the pronoei is Las Fresitas, meaning little strawberries. The teacher, Mariela Sandoval (right) has been there 8 years. This year she has 24 students. The building is a crude structure and there is little inside that would suggest it is a classroom.



To equip this classroom as we normally do would be an expensive proposition:

6 tables - $166.26
24 chairs – 369.46
4 storage shelves – 104.68
1 whiteboard with markers – 60.04
Teaching aids – 96.06
Transport – 65
Magali’s salary – 49.26
Total = $910.76

That’s a lot of money. Promesa Peru has $35 so we have a long way to go but we believe this village and these kids are deserving. We’d like to try to help them, or at least see how far we can get. Please help by visiting the Promesa Peru website to donate whatever you can. Thank you. 


Friday, July 7, 2017

Huaca de Toro is complete…on to the next?


On Wednesday, July 5 Magali was at the village of Huaca de Toro delivering the last of the items Promesa Peru had promised to the pronoei. Everybody looks happy, and most importantly the kids are off the floor.




The physical items…3 tables, 12 chairs, 2 storage shelves, 1 whiteboard, erasers and markers cost $380; within $3 of our estimate. Transportation came to $63, $8 more than estimated. Magali’s time was 8 hours for $49, though we suspect it took longer than that and she is donating to the cause. The total project cost was $492.

We and the people of Huaca de Toro thank Chris Raupe, Clif Brown, Denny Wallette, and The Alice Cool Foundation for making this project possible.

This was Magali’s first solo project and our first remote project. Overall it went better than anticipated. There were some communication delays, primarily due to Magali’s other roles as a wife, mother and teacher, something certainly understandable.  

Magali has visited several villages this past month but is recommending that we donate to only one of them; the village of Paredones San Juan mentioned in an earlier post. Maribel and I still have not had the time to study the information Magali sent to us, and with preparing for our house closing on Monday it will probably take a few days more to sort it out.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

An Update on the Village of Huaca de Toro


After several false starts the Huaca de Toro project is underway. So far the system with Maribel and I in the US and Magali in the Lambayeque Region has worked smoother than we’d expected. Magali has done a good job when visiting the villages of taking photos and gathering information, identifying needs and offering her opinions to us. Delays were caused by a condition we did not anticipate but probably should have…how to get the money from the US to Peru.

Paypal didn’t work, because although Paypal says it works in Peru, only one bank in Peru ‘partners’ with Paypal, and as I understand it that bank requires a minimum balance and minimum deposit. An internet attempt to send money through Wells Fargo apparently seceded until we received notification that it had failed.

Yesterday after registering with a store here we were able to send the money directly to Magali in Chiclayo through Money Gram at a reasonable fee. Today she will be purchasing the storage shelves and whiteboard. Usually the carpenter who makes the chairs and tables requires 50% down before he begins work, but on Magali’s word that the money will be coming he started two days ago. That’s rare in Peru. Hopefully we’ll have photos of the new classroom furnishings at Huaca de Toro early next week.

Magali has not been idle while waiting for the cash to arrive. She recently visited the village of Paradones San Juan. Maribel and I are strapped for time now but hope to be able soon to study the photos and digest all the information Magali sent to us about the village. It certainly looks like a Promesa Peru project.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Things We Didn’t Expect


In Peru, before I lost my awkward tourist mannerisms, I was panhandled nearly every day. It would usually start as a friendly discussion, “You are not Peruvian…where are you from?” Inevitably it would lead to, “Senor, two soles for bread please?” In addition there were women sitting on sidewalks in the downtown area; a baby in their arms and pleading to buy their candy. I often saw many of those same women over the years, sitting in the same locations with babies who never seemed to grow.

We’ve been in the US for three weeks now, and I have been panhandled several times, each time beginning with a seemingly friendly comment. We’ve seen many men (and some women) standing at main intersections holding hand-printed signs reading, “homeless – hungry – God bless.” We saw three college-age kids sitting under upturned shopping carts in a slight rain hold a sign saying “please help us.” At least one was a female. They had smiles on their faces as we passed, making me think that perhaps this was a college survey for a sociology class. We expected to see these things in Peru, but was not expecting them in the US. Maybe we had lived a sheltered life up there in northern Wisconsin.

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We’re not sure when the closing on our house will happen but we do know that when it happens we’ll need furniture and a car quickly. Yesterday we were at a car dealer in one of those small towns I mentioned in a previous post. We were talking with a salesman about a particular SUV we liked, when Maribel mentioned it was smaller than most SUVs and could be a problem for transporting furniture items to our house if we needed to. The salesman replied, “No problem…come into our dealership and borrow one of our trucks. We do that often”. Okay! Then I raised another possible issue.

Maribel hasn’t driven in nearly eight years, and will need some practice before taking to the road again. If we were to buy the car we were looking at, we’d be at the dealership with our new car and the rental car. We’d need to return the rental to the airport, and I obviously can’t drive both. The salesman, never missing a beat said, “We’ll deliver the car to the airport for you.” When I asked him if he was really serious about the offers he was making, he looked at me with a slightly offended expression and said, “You’re in Georgia now.”

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Speaking of motor vehicles, we did not expect the seemingly constant congestion on the interstates and secondary highways going through and around the city. The city population is less than 200,000 yet traffic conditions are equal to Miami during rush hour. Stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper is the norm during peak hours. That is something we never considered during our research of the area. We thought we had left behind the chaos of Chiclayo streets during ‘hora punta.’ We are very happy that we chose a home in one of those outlying communities, with enough shopping and entertainment support to allow us to go into the city center only when we choose to.

It seems as though we have a lot to learn about living in the south. We’re looking forward to the journey.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Huaca de Toro is a go!


On June 15, we wrote about the village of Huaca de Toro and the equipment needed for the pronoei Mi Nino Jesus. We’re happy to report that thanks to Denny Wallette and The Alice Cool Foundation we have the money to go ahead with that project. The time table for the delivery of the items has not been worked out yet but should be within the next week.

We learned a little more about how the village got its name. There is a hill in the distance that, using a little imagination, resembles a reclining bull. At various times in the past people have reported seeing a bull running in the area at night. It was so long ago that the story has been relegated to legend, but still, no one goes there in the evening.

When looking at the photos and reading the report from Magali, Maribel and I both felt good that Promesa Peru is continuing, and yet a little sad. For the first time in eight years a Promesa Peru project is happening and we’re not there.

So where are we? We’re in the United States. Before leaving Chiclayo we spent months researching weather, taxes, cost of living, geography, crime rates and availability of leisure time activities. We ended up focusing on one metropolitan area, and so far it looks like we made a good choice.

It’s a nice town…not too big and not too small. The 117 page official visitors guide book is full of things to do and places to see, as well as the usual listings for hotels and restaurants. We walked four miles of the river walk today, stopping to talk with just about anybody who indicated a notion to pass the time. People are friendly here. We talked with fishermen fishing on the bank of the river that flows right through the town and learned that although catfish are the prized catch, the river holds perch, crappie, bluegill, rock bass and walleye among others.

Trees are everywhere; so are birds and squirrels. There are no palm trees, but plenty of pine and oaks along with others that I have yet to identify. The town is in a valley surrounded by mountains. Flat terrain is at a premium…you’re always walking or driving on an angle. It’s a good thing they don’t often get snow or icy roads here. In fact January is the only month with an average low temperature below freezing, but the average January high is 50 so any snow or ice melts quickly.

The city is within easy driving distance of three major cities and is itself surrounded by smaller bedroom communities just 20 minutes from the city center. It’s the best of both worlds…all the advantages of a big city while living in a home in a country setting. 

We felt so good about the area that we made an offer on a home in one of those smaller towns and it was accepted. Now we’re in the process of going through all the stuff involved in buying a home. We’re told we’re within ten days of closing. We hope so, ‘cause living in a hotel is not fun.

Another thing on my mind is what to do about this blog? I don’t live in Peru anymore, but I’ve got so many memories and experiences during my time there that I probably could continue writing about Peru, but that would somehow feel like cheating. I don’t know if anyone would be interested in reading about My Slice of Smalltown USA. I guess I’ll wait awhile and play it by ear.

In the meantime, Promesa Peru is still in Peru and is alive and well, and needs your help to continue providing an education for those village kids. You can do that by visiting the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Village is Huaca de Torro


On Monday when Magali Mestar, our new Promesa Peru representative in the Lambayeque Region visited Huaca de Toro, she learned that there are about 20 families living in this little village located about 15 miles south west of the city of Mochumi. Huaca de Toro means land of the bull, though no one knows or remembers how the village got its name.

There is a small chapel in the center of the village named La Manito de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo. Inside the chapel is an ornate statue of a hand (upper center). The villagers refer to it as the hand of Jesus, and every August 5th there is a three-day celebration of the “little hand of Jesus.” Throughout the year villagers pray to the hand, asking for a good growing season, avoidance of illness, and prosperity for family and friends.

Monday through Friday the chapel is home to the pronoei Mi Nino Jesus (my baby Jesus), where Regina (left) has taught for two years. She has 12 students ages three to five who attend more or less regularly. The furnishings are sparse, and the few chairs are broken or nearly so.

There has been discussion with the mayor of Mochumi about constructing a modular pronoei, perhaps as soon as august, though there is no guarantee. If a building is constructed, it will be just a shell, with nothing else provided, so whether class continues in the chapel or a new building, equipment for the school will still be needed. 

We would like to provide 3 tables, 12 chairs, two storage shelves and a whiteboard. Those items will cost $377.44. Transportation will be costly because we’re talking long distances for the furniture from Tucume and remaining items from Chiclayo. That will cost about $55. Magali’s time at an estimated 8 hours will add $48.90, for a total project cost of $481,34.

We believe this is a good project. If you agree with us and would like to help, please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

By the way, We think that Magali did a fine job gathering information and taking photos on her first solo project. And there is no doubting her ability to relate to the villagers.