Thursday, September 29, 2011

“Fresh of the moment”

I opened our freezer out of curiosity the other day and found nothing but ice cube trays. No ice cubes…just trays. The refrigerator below it wasn’t much different, having only butter, milk and eggs as its tenants. I don’t know why the eggs are in there – they’re not sold refrigerated. Eggs here are big and brown and have shells akin to an armored truck. It takes a real effort to crack them, and when you do you’re greeted with a slight musty odor that carries through to the taste. You can buy white eggs at three times the cost of the brown but almost no one does. Keeping eggs in the refrigerator is probably just a habit Maribel picked up in the US.

In the US our refrigerator/freezer had lots of tenants. In the freezer you’d find a variety of pizzas, frozen dinners, turkey slices, fish, ground chuck, ice cream, and of course several packages of Johnsonville Brats. I maintain that if you die without having eaten a brat, your life was not worth living.
The same can be said for cheddar cheese produced in Wisconsin, which brings us to the refrigerator. Our refrigerator was always full, mostly with cheeses, fruit, sandwich foods and left-overs plus the usual assortment of odds and ends.

Our pantry had a wide variety of canned goods including vegetables, fruit, beans, etc. The pantry also had potatoes, onions, sliced bread and hard rolls. To me sandwich and hard roll are inseparable whether we’re talking hamburger or baloney. If it’s not on a hard roll, I don’t want it. Anyway, the point to all of this is that in the US when I was hungry, anything I wanted was probably in the house. We would do the shopping for the week on Tuesday (for no particular reason) and maybe go into town twice per week for milk and bread.

It’s different here. People are obsessed with “fresh of the moment.” You buy only enough for the upcoming meal and only from a trusted vendor because you don’t want to buy anything left over from yesterday, which is why most Chiclayo women prefer to shop at street markets rather than the large chain stores. While at the market in the morning you may decide to purchase food for dinner tonight, but that’s a stretch. And you never buy anything for tomorrow.

The bigger stores like Tottus, Metro and Plaza Vea do have frozen food sections and canned goods, but they’re miniscule compared to those in the US. Of the canned goods, peaches and tuna are big sellers, though I’m not sure why. Frozen food cases have mostly ice cream, with a smattering of vegetables and turkey burger patties. The fresh food sections have a good variety of fruits, vegetables and meats displayed attractively but I’ll bet the markets just outside sell ten times as much, again because many women are skeptical of how fresh the food really is, plus prices are generally lower.

Personally I would rather take my chances on wrapped meat, fish and poultry in refrigerated cases in the supermarkets rather than the stuff I see hanging from hooks in the sun having flies shooed off of it, but that’s not how Maribel sees it. She’s been shopping this same market and from many of the same vendors long before the supermarkets showed up and I don’t see that changing, though she will acknowledge that sometimes (she insisted I add sometimes) meat purchased from the street market versus Tottus is “muy duro” (very tough).

I enjoy eating most Peruvian dishes and Maribel is a good cook, but there are times when I’d love to open the freezer and take out one of those greasy Hungry Man chicken dinners or Tombstone pizza. Oh well…next trip to the States.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Boro has got some problems

During a previous visit to the village of Boro we learned that the village does not have municipal water and that the wells are contaminated - not an unusual condition for many small desert communities. During a recent visit we became aware of an equally important problem, which also explained the piles of bricks laying throughout the village. In March of this year local authorities prohibited new and in progress construction because of the archeological ruins in the nearby mountains. The villagers claim this is a reversal of a decision made over ten years ago when authorities granted permission to farm and build houses on lots where clear evidence of title existed.

As mentioned in an earlier blog (August 8), Boro is a fairly recent community comprised of immigrants from the highlands. Many of them have constructed squatter shacks with the intent of first manufacturing their own bricks at no cost and then constructing houses. Many families were in the process of building their houses when the government edict preventing construction was issued.

Maria Bazan is the grandmother to these five kids. They have been living in these conditions for several years, always with the hope of someday living in a brick house which now is very much in doubt. Four of the kids attend the village school. Much of the family’s nourishment comes from the “vaso de leche” program and a free noon meal from government donated food. Maria’s son…the father of the kids works in Trujillo and returns on weekends. We’re not clear as to where their mother is.

We don’t know if there’s anything we can do to help these people but we’re going to try. Salomon Morante Velasquez (on the left in the photo) who is an attorney and Promesa Peru board member will represent the village in discussion with local authorities in an attempt to find a solution to the building problem.

On Sunday, October 9th Promesa Peru will sponsor a medical campaign at the Boro school as we did at Collique Alto last July. We’ve been told to expect 100 adults and 50 children. We already have the commitment of several doctors and nurses, and have approximately ¼ of the medicine we’ll need. If possible we’d also like to give some inexpensive toys to the kids. It was sad to learn that the only toys the Bazan family has are the make-believe horses the boys were ‘riding.’

We expect it will take another $300 over what we have now to finance the Boro medical campaign. We could sure use some help. If you or anyone you know would be interested in contributing please visit the Promesa Peru web page.

We and the people of Boro would appreciate it.