Monday, February 27, 2012

Take Back the Night!

No…this isn’t about reclaiming a derelict neighborhood, or combating drug dealers or thieves. It’s about taking on and defeating far more sinister evils…flies and mosquitoes!

See the thing is, it’s February which is a terrible time to be in Chiclayo. The heat and humidity are relentless. You pray that April will arrive soon. You wake up in the morning with that same clammy feeling you went to bed with. Showers don’t help. You’ve got your windows and doors open 24 hours in the hope that a breeze will keep the temperature out of the 90s F. You don’t have air conditioning – nobody does. Legend has it that one guy had AC in his bedroom some years ago but stopped using it because the electricity bill was too expensive.

And of course with the open windows you’re constantly shooing flies off your food and yourself. But that’s not the worst of it. Right after sundown the mosquitoes start making their grand entrance. This has been an unusually bad summer for mosquitoes all over Peru. So about the time the flies become inactive, you find yourself patrolling; flyswatter in hand hoping to eliminate those mosquitoes that have made it inside and are ready to feast on you as soon as you go to bed. When Maribel and I actually began applying insect repellent to ourselves before going to bed, I knew something had to be done.

Following a leisurely stroll up and down the aisles at Sodimac recently I returned home with the following items:

10 firing strips ¾ x 1 ¼ x 95 “

10 nailing strips 5/16 x ¾ x 84”

4 meters of screen material

Enough nails to last my lifetime

It took the better part of two days to build a screen door for the balcony and two window screens. It took that long because I had to stop every 20 minutes to cool down and drink vast quantities of liquid.

That was two days ago. We’re still going to bed and waking up feeling clammy, but we are not scratching mosquito bites nor are we shooing flies. In fact we have not seen a representative of either in our house since installing the screens. For very little money and not too much effort we’ve eliminated what was a serious nuisance. Now if only I could figure out a way to build April.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Remarkable Lady

Last December during a chocolatada at the school in Las Colmenas we noticed a middle aged, diminutive lady standing outside of the school. We assumed she was a local woman who for whatever reason didn’t want to take part in the activity. When the chocolatada concluded she was still there and literally chased after our moto taxi as we were leaving. We assumed she wanted a toy or candy for a child, but having nothing left to give her we didn’t stop. Last week by chance we learned that the woman running after us is the director of a school near the city of Chongoyape and that she wanted to ask if we could in some way help her school kids. Yesterday Maribel and I returned to Chongoyape to see if we could locate her and learn more about her school (and also to relieve a feeling of guilt on my part for ignoring her).

This is Lady (pronounced Laddie) Gonzales Saenz. It wasn’t hard to locate her. Everyone in town knows her. It turns out that chasing after strangers to plead her case isn’t unusual behavior for her. Several merchants told us she regularly calls on them asking for things like a can of paint, a bag of rice, a pair of shoes and anything else that can be used at the school, and can be very assertive with her requests.

This is her school. Its name is I.E.I. #118 NiƱo Del Milagro. It is located in the tiny village of Tierras Blancas (white lands). When it opened its doors for the first time in March of 1984 Lady was there as its first director. It is kinder only, with 40 students ranging in ages from two to five. Lady teaches the older kids. She has the help of Joana, another teacher who teaches the younger kids. School hours are 8:00am to noon. When school is finished Lady, Joana and several mothers provide lunch from food donated by the Lambayeque Regional authorities.

It didn’t surprise us to see how well the school is maintained inside and out. As mentioned, Lady is an assertive individual and I can well imagine mothers and fathers willingly painting and cleaning the school under her ‘persuasion’. Personally, I would like to see more school directors like Lady, and Martin in Monte Hermoso. Too many of them simply accept circumstances, as opposed to Lady and Martin who are imaginative, dedicated and tireless, and who make things happen. The houses surrounding the school are typical of poor villages. The moto taxi driver who took us to the school confirmed what Lady had told us – the people are very poor and the kids attend school barefoot.

Lady has asked us to help with school supplies. She gave us the requirement list published by school authorities in Lambayeque. The list is really meaningless…at a cost of about $22 per student it is far beyond the means of most families. For 40 students the total is $880 which is beyond our means also, but we will do what we can. If anyone would like to help, please visit the Promesa Peru web page.

I always enjoy the ride to Chongoyape. It is near the foothills of the Andes Mountains, which means creeks and rivers and green valleys. This is the rainy season, and the Baden Juana River amongst other has overflowed its banks, flooding the highway for about a half-mile. It doesn’t hamper travel and people take advantage of it to wash clothing, vehicles and to swim and play in. Also, Chongoyape has a reputation for the best pastries in northern Peru. Tell anyone in the Chiclayo area that you’ going to Chongoyape and you will be swamped with request to bring back pastries. We look forward to going back there again on March 1st when school starts.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Moving Day…

For whatever reason, you’ve decided it’s time to move. Maybe you need a bigger/smaller place, or can’t handle the stairs anymore to the upper level, or want to be closer to school or family. Or maybe you just want a change of scenery. Chances are that learning of an available house/apartment is what prompted you to relocate. Chances are also good that you’re not moving very far…probably not more than twelve blocks from your present location and usually less.

Moving ‘day’ is really a misnomer. Moving will have begun days in advance, with friends and family members casually hand-carrying items to the new location as time permits and when they’re in the area. A casual observer wouldn’t even notice a ‘move’ was taking place until the day comes to move the big stuff.

And how do you get your big stuff moved? If the new and old locations are close enough, say within three blocks, it could be on the backs of family members on foot. If the distance is too great or you’re lacking in strong-backed family members, you could call a moving company….well, a moving company of sorts. You’re not going to get a humongous van with hydraulic ramps and six bonded professional uniformed men equipped with dollies and tape and boxes and padding material to safe guard your heirlooms. Not here in Chiclayo you’re not. What you’ll get are two guys who own or have borrowed a vintage truck and who have no concept or interest in getting your furniture to its new home undamaged. But most people don’t use them anyway.

Most people know of a relative or family friend who owns a truck who would make the truck available at a reasonable price. This is less expensive than a moving company but has its drawbacks. The truck is usually decrepit and small which could mean many trips, and also will probably result in furniture damage.

The least expensive option, and probably the easiest on your belongings, is to contract with several moto taxies. They don’t normally do this – their main business it to transport people, but if it’s attractive enough financially they’ll take the job. These guys can pack a surprising amount of stuff in and on their motos. Plus it’s in their interest to handle your stuff carefully because they see and transport you every day.

These three motos made three trips with about 40 minutes in between, which means our former neighbor didn’t move very far. We’re wondering who our new neighbors will be. I hope they don’t have chickens.