Friday, August 28, 2015

Answers to some recently asked questions

We’ve gotten some questions from several readers in the last few weeks that we’d like to respond to.

First, why are we spelling the name of the village Reynoza with a Z when all of the photos show it with an S? The answer is that official documents in the office of education in Tùcume spell it with a Z, including the official roadmap of the Tùcume District. The spelling is not consistent even in the village. The lettering above the door of the primary school uses ReynoSa, while the spelling above the pronoei school is ReynoZa. We’re using Reynoza to be sure that our required paperwork matches the official spelling.

Secondly, a sharp eyed reader has asked who the ‘gringa’ is who has shown up in several Reynoza photos. Her name is Chiara and she is a charming young woman from Germany who, through the cooperation of an organization the purpose of which I don’t completely understand was placed with a sponsor family in Tùcume and assigned to the primary school in Reynoza to learn and assist for a 3 month period. She has become so enamored with Peruvian culture and its “friendly people” that she recently extended her stay for another 3 months. She is looking forward to seeing and taking part in a December chocolatada.

Another question we’ve been asked is what if anything is happening regarding the issue of a permanent school in the village of El Pavo. It’s gratifying to see that readers are following and have an interest in that story. The situation remains unclear. The basic issue as I understand it is that the authorities in Tùcume agree on the need for a permanent school location in El pavo. The sticking point is that the villagers want a pronoei while the authorities want to build a kinder “sometime in the future”.

The reason why the authorities want a kinder is because a kinder is a national school that would be built, furnished and maintained (in theory) by the Minister of Education of the Lambayeque Region with funds from Lima, thus having minimum impact on the Tùcume District budget. The villagers want a pronoei because it would be controlled by the district and village, and would probably happen sooner than the national government could construct a kinder. Another reason the villagers want local control is because their long-time director/teacher Amelia does not have the education degree necessary to teach in a national school. If a kinder were built Amelia would be replaced with a Lambayeque appointed teacher.

Degree or not, we feel that Amelia is completely competent to continue teaching 3 to 5 year olds as she’s done for years…whether it’s in a building called a kinder or pronoei is irrelevant. But we also see the benefit of a kinder, with brick and mortar walls, water and electricity and restrooms as opposed to a pronoei prefab shell with little else.

We’ve been asked to accompany a delegation of villagers to the mayor’s office in Tùcume, and though we have a preference (a kinder with a grandfather clause to retain Amelia) we don’t feel it’s our place to advocate a position one way or the other. We’ll keep in touch with the situation and if it should occur that there is an opportunity for Promesa Peru to assist with getting a school built we’ll revisit the issue.

Thanks for your interest and questions.

Monday, August 24, 2015

An Interesting Morning in Los Reynoza

We assumed that out visit to Los Reynoza this morning to drop off two storage shelves and uniforms would be an in-and-out proposition but that wasn’t the case.

The uniforms fit perfectly, much to the satisfaction of the kids, mothers and teachers. The school has a field trip planned for tomorrow at the Tùcume museum and the school director, Fulgencia Lizana told us that the kids would be wearing their new uniforms.  It’s too bad we can’t be there. We know the kids wear their uniforms for school activities outside of the classroom but we’ve never seen it.

We were happy to see that the gas cooking stove and kitchen equipment we donated last month has triggered a larger project. An unused classroom is being converted into a kitchen/cafeteria. A carpenter has begun work and will soon install shelves for the pots, pans, plates and cups we donated and prepare a safe area for the stove. We were concerned about how the village would pay for cooking gas, but thanks to an unsolicited but much appreciated additional donation by the Alice Cool Foundation we were able to present a cash gift to the village authorities that will enable them to purchase the propane gas bottle and enough gas to last from 6 to 9 months according to the teachers. With the money given them today a delegation of parents will go to Tùcume this week to buy the gas bottle.

The cost for this project was:
Kitchen equipment (stove, pots, pans, plates & cups) - $119.42
Uniforms (25) - $493.63
Storage shelves - $50.96
Gas for the cooking stove - $76.43
Transport - $56.04
For a total of $796.48

In our view this is money well spent. It will help to keep the kids in school, and the new kitchen/cafeteria will provide a healthier environment as well as adding more classroom time.

It was evident that the village women and the students had put a lot of thought and time into their desire to show their appreciation for the things we had given them. There were many hand-made signs showing some pretty impressive creativity and skill.

The women had prepared a delicious lunch of fresh fish, sweet potatoes, peas and corn. After lunch we were presented with three beautiful ornamental table towels. The photo doesn’t do justice to the detail or vivid colors.

Some months ago I broke a lamp on a night stand and haven’t yet gotten around to replacing it. The folks at Los Reynozas didn’t know that but thanks to them I don’t have to. The base of the lamp is made from two gourds: the shade from sheets of bamboo.

We appreciated these gifts but what meant more to us were the individual hand-made envelopes with letters enclosed from each student. All of the letters thanked us for the kitchen equipment and uniforms. Most of them promised to take good care of the uniforms. This letter from Ever went further and was touching. We will keep all of them.

The folks of Los Reynoza showed a sincere appreciation for what they were given and we in turn would like to do the same. We thank Chris R., Clif Brown, the Alice Cool Foundation and others for helping the people of Los Reynoza. Without you it doesn’t happen.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Surprising City of Clinton Iowa

Meaning no disrespect to the folks of Clinton, we had expected our side trip to Clinton during our annual visit to the US of A to be more of a task than a pleasure. We had assumed the community would be just another boring Mississippi River town that time had passed by. The only reason we had for stopping there was to try to locate the grave of my great great grandfather. We found his gravesite and much more.

Bernard Henry Meyer was born in Hanover Germany in 1821. I don’t know when he entered the United States but he was in Clinton (at that time in the village of Lyons, since absorbed by Clinton) in 1853 where he married Anna Maria Schnier, who died in 1863. The 1854 state census shows his occupation as tailor but by 1860 he owned a saloon/restaurant business on 3rd (today McKinley Ave) and Main Street that he would operate until his death.  

The Lyons Iowa that Bernard saw in 1853 was much different than the one we saw as we walked the street where his business was located, though by the time of his death in 1879 the village had grown from a raw frontier town to a modern city. The church where he was married - Saint Irenaeus still stands as do several older buildings that he would have seen.

With the genealogy portion of our trip taken care of we wondered what to do with our remaining one and one-half days in Clinton. As it turned out we filled every minute with something of interest. We started with the historic walking tour, and after that walked on the Riverwalk – a beautiful trail that features parks and other attractions along the Mississippi River, including the Clinton Marina and Showboat Landing, an old riverboat where live theater is staged. By the way, apparently it is obligatory for Clintonians (?) to greet others on the street with a good morning, afternoon or evening. These are friendly and helpful people who never failed to eagerly answer our questions and offer advice.

Also located on the trail is the Candlelight Restaurant. By chance we ate there on a Friday evening when margaritas the size of buckets are offered for $2. We both had the ‘ultimate combo’ which includes sizable portions of chicken George and prime rib smothered with sautéed mushrooms and onions along with the usual trappings. This was the best meal we had during our entire trip to the states. The cooling breeze and view of the river is a bonus.

There is an information kiosk for tourists on the Riverwalk and this is where we learned of The Sawmill Museum. There are interesting displays of aspects of the lumber days gone by. Don’t miss the display featuring a discussion between four animated lumber barons of the late 1890s. It is both entertaining and informative. Their saw mills were in the immediate area of the former location of my grandfather’s saloon/restaurant, and I assume he knew these men.

There isn’t much in the way of shopping. The downtown area is attractive but uninteresting. Commercial growth has relocated to the edge of the city. Adjacent to our hotel was a Walmart and Kohl’s store. There was a Target but apparently it lost to Walmart in the battle of the giants and has recently closed.

Though Clinton turned out to be the highlight of our visit it wasn’t the only activity we enjoyed. In Milwaukee we took in the Wisconsin State Fair, an annual event begun in 1851 that for the last three years has drawn more than one million visitors. There are a variety of exhibitions including arts and crafts (our friend and guide Shannon is standing beneath her prize-winning quilt), farm animals and much more. As at most fairs food is a big deal. Everything imaginable is available with my favorite being a smoked turkey leg. There are games to play, carnival rides and parades. In the evening there is live entertainment. It makes for a long day…and a peaceful sleep at night.

Boulder Junction Wisconsin is where my son and I fished for muskys annually for many years. I hadn’t been there in over twenty years and wanted Maribel to see my favorite northern town, and to see how much it had changed. It isn’t the fishing town it once was. Years ago the streets were lined with truck/boat rigs and the restaurants were crowded with fishermen and their guides eager to wolf down their breakfasts and get out on the water. Today it’s mostly tourists shopping in the many boutiques. The hotel owner told us that he has more business in winter from snowmobilers than from fishermen in summer. I don’t know why that has changed.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the Little Bohemia Lodge and restaurant on Little Star Lake. I first ate there thirty five years ago and the place hasn’t changed. It was eighty one years ago that John Dillinger and his gang escaped from the lodge after a shoot-out with FBI agents. While eating we enjoyed the old-time ambience of the restaurant and the view of the lake but the quality of the food was disappointing, especially after I had bragged about it to Maribel. Her broasted chicken and my prime rib were just so-so, lacking in flavor as was the soup. The margaritas weren’t even close to those of the Candlelight in Clinton.  Still, it was a good experience and we’re both glad we went there.

From Boulder Junction we drove to Crivitz Wisconsin, where I had retired to and lived with Maribel for two years after our marriage. Lots of changes had taken place there but one that was very disappointing and sad was that the restaurant at Shaffer Park Resort had burned down last September shortly after celebrating their 75th year in business. It was our favorite supper club and we had our wedding reception there.  We had many good times at that club with the owner Mark Shaffer and Sue, our friend and favorite waitress. Now there is nothing but a grassy area where the club had been.

We finished our visit with two days of shopping and relaxing in Milwaukee prior to an exhausting twenty six hours of airports and airplanes to return to Chiclayo. But we’re back safe and sound and are looking forward to resuming our Promesa Peru activity. We’ve got uniforms to deliver to Los Reynoza next Monday and have visits to the villages of Las Salinas and Salas scheduled for next week.