Monday, September 22, 2014

Sunday Morning Musings

[This post actually did start in the morning and was prompted by thoughts of breakfast. I kept getting pulled away from it before I could finish it. I had about decided to delete it before going to bed when I thought – why not post it as a sort of ‘a day in the life of’ type thing? Anyway, here it is.]

Even after being in Peru for over six years I am still occasionally asked what I miss most from the United States. There are a lot of things I miss… a ton of things. But on Sunday mornings what I miss most is a big, greasy 8,000 calorie American breakfast.

This is Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast. It’s torture for me to look at this photo. I last ate this breakfast in March in Monterey California. Bacon, eggs, ham, sausages, hash browns, toast, pancakes and all prepared in a way that is unmistakably American, as is the waitress who appears at the table every ten minutes, pot in hand asking, “…more coffee, hon?”

Now, in truth Maribel can come very close to duplicating the Grand Slam right here in Chiclayo. The pancakes and syrup, toast, bacon and eggs (if she uses white eggs – the brown are the norm here because they cost less but to me they have a musty taste and odor) taste nearly identical. A thick slice of ham is difficult to find in stores, and she has to make the hash browns from scratch, so it’s a lot of effort  but I sure appreciate it, even if she doesn’t do the, “…more coffee, hon?”   

Forget about finding a Grand Slam breakfast in Chiclayo restaurants. A few restaurants offer what they call ‘desayuno americana’ – American breakfast. It consists of a piece of toast, one egg scrambled or fried (fried eggs are always burned around the edges and the yoke is hard), and one square slice of what is referred to as ‘hamòn’ – ham. If it wasn’t labeled ham on the menu you wouldn’t know what it was. It’s sliced so thin that it’s nearly transparent. You could use it for window material. If you rolled it and folded it, it would be smaller than a sugar cube. I have had pieces of ham bigger than this stuck between my teeth after a Denny’s breakfast. With scrambled eggs the ham is cut into ½ inch squares. You don’t notice them so you can’t be sure if you’ve eaten them or if they’re still on your plate. The entire breakfast, minus the toast amounts to about ¼ cup in volume, about the same amount as the crumbs the waitress would wipe up after a real breakfast.

We’re looking at a trip to the States in November. I have already scoped out the Denny’s, IHOPs and Perkins restaurants in the area we’re planning to be. Next I’ll look at museums and other attractions. I like to do the important things first.


Another subject we’re talking about this morning is a phone call we received yesterday from a school director in the village of La Esperanza in the Sechura District of the Lambayeque Region. Chiclayo is on the southern edge of the Sechura Desert… one of the driest, most inhospitable places on earth. The village of La Esperanza sits smack in the middle of it. We have not been there, and were surprised to learn that the school director – Jayò, had heard about us from a school psychologist in Chiclayo. Jayò had some interesting things to say over the phone about the village and her school.

La Esperanza (in the center of the photo) has about 25 families living in or near the village. There is no electricity. Water comes from a community well. The local economy is based on raising livestock – always an iffy business in the desert. Annual rainfall is less than 4 inches, and this year the rainy season didn’t happen, so there is no natural food and the cost of buying feed is prohibitive. As a result many animals are dying and the families are suffering. Parents are getting up at 5:00am to make the two-hour trip to the city of Olmos to work, leaving their kids to fend for themselves. That means no breakfast at home for the kids, and no lunch because the school has no means to feed them. They eat an evening meal when their parents return from Olmos.

Jayò’s school is a one-room building where 20 primary students from 7 to 13 years old attend class from 8:00am to 1:00pm. She said that when the desert wind blows hard, half of the school’s roof “…flaps like a bird’s wing.” The classroom is where Jayò sleeps weeknights, on the floor in a sleeping bag. On weekends she lives in Chiclayo with her husband and daughter. She joked (I hope) about waking up with desert coral snakes and scorpions as companions.

She has invited us to visit the school. That would involve a two-hour combi ride to Olmos. In Olmos, as I understand it, there is a man with a truck who makes the two-hour daily trip to La Esperanza and other caserios IF he has sufficient passengers. Which means that Maribel and I would also be sleeping for at least one night on the classroom floor.

We’ve been in caserios without electricity, but never at night, and have never slept over. The prospect sounds both intriguing and daunting. We need to talk more about it.


It is now Sunday afternoon, and the Green Bay Packers have just been defeated by the Lions. It is going to be a long, long football season for us Packer fans. Maribel and I both need to do something entertaining to pick up our spirits. Maribel has an idea.

Perhaps you’re thinking that playing bingo on a late Sunday afternoon at the Jesuits’ House for retired priests is not exciting. What if I told you that 1st prize was a sack of rice? Second was a bag of sugar, and third a bottle (large) of cooking oil. Would that get your heart pumping? We didn’t win, but it was fun watching the faces of the winners…grins as big as if they’d hit the daily double.


It’s 10:30pm and Pittsburgh has just beaten Carolina. I like that. The Steelers are one of the original NFL teams. I root for them unless they’re playing the Packers.  Now I can finish this post and go to bed with a smile on my face.

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