Thursday, September 27, 2012

Are You ready for some Football?!!! Part Two

An agreement was reached last night between the National Football League and referees union that will put real, professional referees back on the field for tonight’s game and the full slate of contests this weekend. Both sides denied that last Monday night’s debacle in Seattle that cost the Green Bay Packers a victory was the stimulus that ended the standoff that has lasted for months, but sources for both groups acknowledged that it created a sense of urgency.

A statement made exclusively to My Slice of Peru by a highly placed source within the National Football League and speaking on the condition of anonymity said:

“The league was prepared to wait out the firestorm of protests from all directions caused by the Packer’s loss Monday night. We were ready to gamble that all the furor would blow over in several weeks, but after reading in My Slice of Peru about how disappointed the Chiclayo Peru chapter of the Green Bay Packers Fan Club was with the dismal performance of the replacement referees and seeing the expressions of sadness, disbelief and anger on their faces, we realized that we had to bring an end to the situation.”

The entire sporting world is feeling a sense of joy and relief with news of the new contract. Lost amidst the jubilation is the fact that the Packer’s record will remain at 1 win and 2 losses instead of the reverse. For the city of Green Bay…known in the National Football League as “Title Town” there will be no celebrating.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Are You Ready for some Football?!!!

The Chiclayo Peru chapter of the Green Bay Packers fan club was ready last night. We had plenty of beer, pizza and snacks and were geared up to celebrate the Pack’s victory over the Seahawks. And the Packers did win, but unfortunately the replacement referees, continuing their ongoing on-field imitation of a Three Stooges comedy skit as they have done throughout this young football season, gave the game to the Seahawks. To my knowledge the Seahawk quarterback is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw a game-winning interception.  

The furor being expressed today by players, coaches, television commentators, sports writers and everyone else knowledgeable about football (with the exception of Seahawk players and fans of course) will probably have no effect. The proper thing to do would be to declare the game a Packer win, or at least proclaim the game null and void and reschedule it.  Neither will happen. Instead a statement will be issued by the league office couched in hollow sounding weasel words about the “replay being unclear”…”possible dual possession”…”replacement referees are trying hard”…etc. Yeah.

To NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the referees union, we football fans in Chiclayo have a message for you……..

                 GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Plain of the Bull

Pampa del Toro (Plain of the Bull) is one of many villages on the outskirts of the city of Tuman. The name dates back several hundred years when the area was a vast plain populated by domestic bulls. No more. The plain was long ago replaced by sugar cane fields, and the bulls by cows, burros, chickens, pigs and people. Pampa del Toro is not a pretty village, nor are its neighbors Miraflores and Acapulco. As is the case with most sugar cane villages, poverty is extreme and life is a struggle.

We were at Pampa del Toro this morning at the invitation of Cristina Cabrales(center right) and her daughter-in-law Rosani Delgado. Cristina is the ‘Mother Teresa’ of several villages. She acts as an intermediary between the villagers and authorities in Tuman; she mediates minor disputes, and every Monday she and friends walk through the villages inquiring about conditions and reading the bible with those who request it.

Cristina had assembled a large group of women in her home, many with children, to meet with us and tell us what life is like in Pampa del Toro. Each of them had a story to tell. Maribel filled many pages in her notebook, and later commented to me that she became depressed listening to some of these women and the conditions they’re facing. After general discussion a large group of women took us on a walking tour of their neighborhoods.

A typical Pampa del Toro street scene. Kids playing at the door (until we got too close and then they would run inside) and mothers peeking out from Windows. I never have understood why or how the men manage to disappear.

This is Nelly Herrera with her children inside their one-room home. Nelly has a job sweeping streets in Tuman. Her husband, like most husbands does not have a steady job. Steady jobs don’t exist in Peru…not in the outlands at least. A man earns a living by cutting sugar cane today, perhaps working on a construction project tomorrow, and maybe doing odd jobs the next day….if he’s lucky. That’s life in these villages…it’s day-to-day.

This is Jessica Saavedra in front of her home with her son Eduardo and daughter Olenka. Eduardo is epileptic and has recently been diagnosed with skin cancer. Olenka has an eye condition and is unable to attend school because of it. Health problems run rampant in settings like these. Often it’s the kids who are sick, and often nothing is being done about it. It’s not that these parents don’t love their kids…they do. The problem is they don’t see a solution, or don’t know how to look for a solution, or don’t have the resources for treatment so they do nothing. They often need someone like Cristina to take them by the hand and guide them.

Here is certainly one of the causes of health problem . This well and others like it are scattered throughout the communities. They are the only source of water. We were told that municipal water will soon be available after main connections are completed. That doesn’t mean that connections to the homes, which are the home owner’s responsibility will be made any time soon.

We had an unusual incident occur during our walking tour. I had noticed that a police vehicle had been following us wherever we went. Shortly after I entered Nelly's home to take photos, the truck pulled up in front of the house and one of the officers got out; approached the house and asked what we were doing. Cristina and Maribel were explaining when I asked if there was a problem. The officer said, “No, there is no problem, but we are very concerned about you (me) walking in this area, and especially showing your camera.” He went on to say, “There is much crime and drugs in this area, and too many young men with nothing to do.” Informed of our plans, he said he and the other officer would feel more comfortable if we would ride in the police vehicle while completing our tour.

And that’s what happened. A bunch of kids piled into the bed of the truck while Maribel and I road in the rear seat. Afterwards the officers drove us back to Christina’s home, and suggested that we call them if we return so they can escort us to insure our safety. Their action speaks well for the police. Unfortunately it doesn’t speak well for a segment of the community.

We do want to return to Pampa del Toro. We want to sponsor a medical campaign to help with the health issues, and would like to give the kids a Chocolatada (Christmas party) in December. Any donations to help us accomplish these goals would be appreciated. Please visit the Promesa Peru webpage if you are able to assist us with a donation. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Neighborhood Street Fair

Diego Ferre is one of many small communities that in total make up the city of Chiclayo. It is bordered to the east by Chiclayo’s airport and to the northwest by the Real Plaza Mall. At some point in its early life each community is given a certificate indicating its legitimacy as an administrative unit and date of recognition. Many of these communities hold an annual street fair to celebrate their anniversary. The purpose beyond celebrating is to raise money for the community, which usually includes the neighborhood church. Diego Ferre celebrated this past weekend.

Diego Ferre’s church celebrated its thirty-seventh anniversary this year. We’ve attended two weddings, a baptism and a funeral service in this church. The church was built mostly from local residents donating to a ‘buy a brick’ program. Much of the proceeds realized from fair sales go toward maintenance of the church.  

A typical street fair lasts from two to four days. It starts with setting up portable kiosks in the street surrounding the neighborhood’s principal park. The kiosks are used to prepare and sell food, house games and hold raffle prizes. Prizes are either purchased from small sums donated or are provided by merchants.

One of the kiosks is used as a jail. For 50 cents you can have the jailer arrest anyone you choose and have them incarcerated. I took advantage of the opportunity. I reminded Maribel that she had forgotten to buy coffee that day and had her thrown in the ‘slammer’.

What I enjoy most about these fairs is the feeling of camaraderie. The people working the kiosks are all local volunteers. Most are long-time residents who take pride in their church and community. Fair visitors not from the neighborhood are treated cordially but reservedly as is common with most Peruvians when dealing with ‘strangers’.  If the stranger wants to, all that’s necessary to break the ice is to make a friendly comment during or after purchasing and consuming some delicious anticuchos and picarones. Voicing the traditional - “barriga llena… corazòn contento” (belly is full, heart is content) will always trigger a flood of smiles, questions and comments faster than the no-longer-a-stranger can reply to.

And returning to the neighborhood days and even weeks after the fair has ended is sure to get you smiles and waves. You may not be a local, but you’ve been accepted and will be remembered and welcomed. That’s one of the qualities I like about Peruvians.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Changes Keep Coming

In the movie - The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad!, Lt Frank Drebin says,

“Jane, since I've met you, I've noticed things that I never knew were there before... birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights.”

If Lt. Drebin (I miss the deadpan humor of Leslie Nielsen) were in Chiclayo these past few months, and especially at the intersection of the Pan American Highway and Chinchaysuyo Avenue he would definitely notice stoplights. This intersection (and many more like it) is the reason I swore I would never drive in Chiclayo. Traffic from seven different directions (five lawful and two otherwise) converge on this uncontrolled intersection. I have often sat in a small corner park watching as moto taxis, taxies, combis, busses of all sizes, private cars, sugar cane trucks and other vehicles all somehow managed to avoid each other amidst the sounds of honking horns and screeching brakes. Though I never saw a major collision, there were occasional fender-benders followed by an entertaining exchange of insults. All of that has changed now.

Lt. Drebin…behold the stoplights!  Readers may be wondering why I’m making a big deal about stoplights. The reason is that stoplights are (were?) not the rule in Chiclayo. Most intersections are uncontrolled. There are stop signs in some places but these are universally ignored – that, or they are stolen for the metal. Add to that the fact that motor vehicles have the right-of-way and you can begin to see why pedestrians feel a great sense of accomplishment in having successfully crossed a street. But as I said, that is changing. Regions in Peru are receiving substantial amounts of money from the central government in Lima, and much of that money, at least in Chiclayo is being spent on infrastructure. It isn’t just this one intersection with new stoplights – they are being installed in many locations throughout the city. And in addition to stoplights large scale civic improvements are taking place. It’s as if the city has launched a modernization/beautification program.

Along with the physical changes there are indications that another change is taking place…this one cultural. Most people still throw trash in the streets but a growing number of them are using recently installed trash receptacles. Another example…last week Maribel and I saw a woman walking a dog. Nothing unusual about that. The dog did his thing on a sidewalk – again nothing unusual...a common hazard pedestrians face is avoiding dog droppings on sidewalks. But after the dog made his deposit, the woman did the plastic bag thing and picked it up! We never expected to see that in Chiclayo Peru. Never! I imagine that local passersby were even more amazed than we were. To a Chiclayano, the only sane explanation for doing that is that the woman has discovered a monetary value for dog droppings.

These are interesting times. I wonder if modernization will have an impact on traditions and customs, for instance regulating street vendors, or other customs that may be viewed as being not in tune with a modern city. I also wonder if older residents view these changes as good or bad. Probably a little of both.