Monday, April 14, 2014

The Village of Cùsupe

We live within 15 miles of Cùsupe; have ridden through it dozens of times and until last week didn’t even know it existed. It has no principal park, no medical clinic, no government buildings/institutions; it doesn’t even have the small Catholic Church that until now I thought was obligatory in every village. Though the village straddles a descent highway linking Chiclayo to Monsefù, there are no “Welcome to Cùsupe” or, “Thanks for visiting Cùsupe” signs, probably because there’s nothing to visit in Cùsupe. It’s not even possible to point to a specific location and say, ‘this is Cùsupe’ because there is no central location. Instead there are scatterings of dwellings separated by fields of rice, cotton, corn and pasture land. There is no need for stores or restaurants because Monsefù is only 5 minutes away by combi and Chiclayo not more than 20 minutes.  

What Cùsupe does have is a school; I. E. I. 152 Cùsupe – Monsefù, which serves 60 kinder students from the surrounding area. We had been told that kids were going to school without shoes and that there were shortages of basic school supplies, so we visited Cùsupe this morning to check out the situation for ourselves. A woman on the combi we were riding said she was familiar with the village and told Maribel how to find the school. We got off where she told us to and walked in the direction she’d indicated.

After a mile of walking and seeing nothing that resembled a school we were fortunate enough to cross paths with this gentleman who graciously dismounted and explained that the school was about two miles in the opposite direction.  While he was directing us I noticed that his cattle were continuing down the road at a pretty good pace. I was wondering how he was going to catch up to the herd when he remounted and took off as if Geronimo was chasing him. I didn’t know burros could run! Once back at the highway we took a moto-taxi the remaining mile to the school. 

Señorita Maria del Rosario Senmache is the kinder school director and has taught there for 25 years. She is assisted by two additional contract teachers. She told us that, though Cùsupe is regarded as a poor area and is eligible for the government free food program, most of the people are hard-working and are able to ‘get by’ financially. The majority of families earn their living by selling their crops and milk in the nearby cities. Some of the families weave and sell thatch panels used for various purposes.

We saw no evidence of extreme poverty. A very few of the kids wore clothing that was a bit tattered, but all had shoes and most were dressed much better than kids in many of the villages we’ve been in. There was no indication that school supplies are lacking.

The school buildings are well maintained inside and out. Outside there is a small play area that the kids seem to enjoy. We watched for 20 minutes as they screamed and laughed while trying to jump from tire to tire. Señorita Senmache would like to put a roof over this area to shield the kids from the sun.

The remainder of the school grounds is just plain ugly (the school is on the left). Señorita Senmache would like to erect a brick wall around the school because she feels the kids are in danger from cars and moto-taxis taking short-cuts through the school grounds, and also because some ‘undesirable older kids’ occasionally invade the play area. She has appealed to the authorities in Monsefù but no help has been offered.

We agree with the improvements Señorita Senmache has proposed, but aren’t sure this is the type of project Promesa Peru should be involved in. There is no emergency situation and it doesn’t really fit our criteria of ‘helping people to help themselves’. It’s possible we could get involved, but we’d like to see the community take the initiative first.

On a different matter, we received a phone call from Edith Fuentes telling us that her husband has been released from jail and is in the process of looking for work.  She sends her thanks to all who donated to her ‘shopping day.’ This was very good news!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Day of Restaurants

We don’t eat out as much as we used to. There’s no specific reason for that. It’s just that we’ve both been watching our diets…trying to eat a little healthier and exercise more, and besides, Maribel likes to cook. But there was a day recently when we set out on an early morning walk and didn’t return until later that night. In between we ate at three of our favorite restaurants.
They’re not fancy restaurants…Chiclayo only has a couple of upscale restaurants and they’re located in the better hotels. Personally I avoid fancy restaurants. All the elegance is wasted on me and sometimes makes me uncomfortable. I can’t relax when I’m sitting in surroundings that resemble a posh Hollywood movie set or Smithsonian museum display. And I’m uncomfortable reading a menu containing offerings that I can’t pronounce and have never heard of. I usually try to fake the order by authoritively mumbling and casually pointing to the item on the menu. Thankfully the waiter usually doesn’t embarrass me by asking questions because he’s already figured out I’m a rube. Then he’s back with the wine bottle. I always dread that after he removes the cork he’s going to make me do the sniffing and tasting routine but usually he doesn’t …he knows I don’t know good bouquet from road-kill odor. So I nod in approval as if I’m familiar with every wine bottle label that’s ever been printed and he pours.

I like the kind of restaurant where you sit in a booth and a gum-chewing middle-aged woman wearing an apron comes up to you and says, “What’ll ya have hon?...we got pot roast and meatloaf on special today.”  You just know you’re going to get good food and plenty of it and the coffee will keep coming. And if you happen to drop a knife on the floor so what? Nobody’s going to ‘turn up their nose’ at you. Anyway…on to our favorite restaurants.

For breakfast Balta 512 gets the nod. It used to be Romana and everybody still calls it that. It’s one of the oldest restaurants in Chiclayo, having been in business at the same location (Balta Avenue) for over 40 years. It’s clean, the service is good and so is the food. The waiters don’t call me ‘hon’ but they do say “Buenos dias Señor Tomasz.”

The menu lists typical Peruvian fare but what I go there for is desayuno Americano (American breakfast). What comes on the plate is always a surprise. One morning it will be toast with jelly and scrambled eggs with ham. The next morning could be French toast with fried eggs and ham. I suppose I could specify what I want but I like being surprised.  

La Cumbre is the choice for lunch. This restaurant has been open for two years on Santa Victoria Avenue. As of this writing their hours are 11:00am to 3:00pm but there is talk of expanding. As with all of the restaurants we patronize, La Cumbre is clean and quiet with good service and food. The menu is somewhat limited, but what they do they do well. Salads are fresh and crisp, and if you like fish; either fried or grilled La Cumbre is as good as it gets in Chiclayo.

Okay, we’ve had eggs for breakfast, fish for lunch, and now it’s time for some meat, and that means Joshe Grill, located at the intersection of Pacasmayo and Avenue Grau. Here you will find the best ‘lomo fina’ (tender loin) in town. We’ve been eating at this restaurant for years and have never, ever had a bad meal or experience. Even when the restaurant is full it is never noisy, and the service and food quality doesn’t deviate.  They’ve expanded and remodeled recently and I have to admit that I miss the feeling of coziness in the ‘old place’, but they have managed to retain a feeling of intimacy in the new setting.  

If you’re visiting Chiclayo be sure to try one or all of these restaurants. Maybe we’ll see you there.