Wednesday, December 28, 2016

If it’s raised or grown in Peru...


...you can find it in Moshoqueque. Moshoqueque is like a small city inside Chiclayo that is dedicated mostly to selling food. In terms of size it dwarfs Chiclayo’s famed mercado modelo. To someone not accustomed to third-world farmer markets it is blocks and blocks of absolute bedlam.

Moshoqueque awakens at about 3:30 AM when farmers begin converging on the site with trucks full of produce and livestock. And there are buyers there to greet them at that hour. Many of the buyers have kiosks on the spot to resell whatever they buy. Other shoppers are from small grocery stores in Chiclayo, or come from small villages miles away. These people are buying for their families, but also probably sell to neighbors much of what they purchase. It’s worth it to get up at that time and to travel some distance; prices in Moshoqueque for a comparable food item can be as much as half of what it would cost in a store.

Streets in the area that were once asphalt paved now look like scarred battlefields. Wondering the aisles through rows of kiosks crammed with people is at first awkward, but there is a rhythm to the traffic and once found walking is manageable.

Many of the kiosks are selling identical items, with only a slight variance in price. There are sections where a particular product is dominant, for instance fish or meat. And there is a section of several square blocks where livestock is sold. Here you can buy live chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, sheep, pigs, goats, calves and I don’t know what else. Only the calves were allowed to stand. The sheep, pigs and goats were lying on their sides with their legs tied. If you don’t want to kill the animal yourself, there are men nearby who will kill and clean it for you. These men are very aggressive and will be in your face the moment you stop to look at an animal.

We were in Moshoqueque this morning in search of a ham. We were not able to locate a cured ham anywhere in Chiclayo so decided that a fresh ham would have to do. We were told that many vendors in Moshequeque sold fresh hams at half the price of a Tottus or Plaza Vea supermarket, and that turned out to be true.

The ham that Antonio is holding weighs 8.8 lbs and cost $14.30, or $1.63 per lb. The Plaza Vea price was $2.97 per pound. Curiously, Antonio does not buy pigs from the farmers who deliver to Moshoqueque, but instead buys from a farmer in Morrope, because he says the meat is tender with better flavor. He doesn’t kill his pigs, instead hiring a man to do it.

Our New Year’s Eve dinner, traditionally eaten at midnight will not be the ham I’m accustomed to. It won’t have the red color or the smoky, salty taste. It will be what amounts to a pork roast, but hopefully with cloves, pineapple slices and a honey glaze it will satisfy us and the rest of the family, who don’t know what a cured ham tastes like anyway.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Congratulations Brian!...


...for achieving your degree in business administration. It probably seems to you as if it took forever to reach the point in life you are at now. To your mother and for a shorter time me, it was the blink of an eye.

Your mother remembers attending your kinder graduation as if it were yesterday. You were five, and probably didn’t have much of an idea what the ceremony was about, but to her it was the accomplishment of your first educational milestone. And like all mothers, she was proud of “her Brian” and had thoughts and dreams of your future success.

I was here for your grade school graduation and vividly remember you proudly escorting your mother up the stairs to the second-floor ballroom, to be formally presented to the other graduates and their families.

I didn’t know at the time that you had been elected ‘mayor’ of your graduating class, so was surprised when you stood to make a speech. There you were; microphone in hand scanning the audience as you spoke, as if this was something you did every day. I told your mother that I was impressed with the way you conducted yourself the entire evening, and that you probably had the tools to be very successful. She already knew that.

Last Saturday your mother and I and other members of your family attended your college graduation party. I can’t begin to estimate the number of people who were there, certainly in the high hundreds. I do know there were dozens of professors, other graduates and friends who stopped at our table to speak with you and share your and their happiness.


It was fun watching the hundreds of young graduates, all dressed to the nines dancing, drinking, and laughing. You and they certainly earned this party. It’s been a tough four years at a top-rated university that has a reputation for being demanding.

In May your formal cap-and-gown graduation takes place. We’ll be there to applaud your triumph. You did it Brian…you did it! We’re proud, and we hope you are too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Pablo the Pavo


This is Pablo the pavo. He was given to us by the folks from the village of Los Bances. He is now living on our roof. While that is not unusual, most people don’t have a turkey living on their roof, even in Chiclayo, but as the holiday season approaches, the roof-top turkey population soars. Many Peruvians who don’t raise their own turkeys prefer to buy them alive, because they know what the bird has eaten in its last days; usually corn and lettuce, and that it was fresh.

There are two kinds of turkeys in Peru…black and white. Whites are raised for their meat on large scale turkey farms. They are mostly sold in the frozen food sections of supermarkets. Pablo is a black, which means he was raised in semi-wild conditions, often having to fend for himself in terms of food and shelter, though his owner would provide just enough food to keep him in the area. As a result blacks are thin and tough to eat. Peruvians prefer blacks because they say the flavor is better.

Gobbling and peeping turkeys are sort of the unofficial Christmas carolers in Chiclayo. Walking the streets, especially in the early morning is a treat if you like turkey music. Our turkey doesn’t gobble. He peeps a lot. That’s because he is not quite full grown. Unfortunately for Pablo his time to grow is limited. On the morning of the 24th Pablo will bid the world goodbye. There is no hope for a presidential reprieve.

Pablo doesn’t know his time is limited, and even if he did he probably wouldn’t react. Turkeys seem to me to be pretty stupid. You can pick them up and they don’t do anything. People walking downtown selling turkeys usually have two in each hand, held upside down by the legs. The turkeys bend their necks so that they can see things right side up, which looks really comical, but that’s the only thing they do, seemingly not concerned with their circumstances.

You can take them in a vehicle – car, combi, taxi or mototaxi (shown) and they sit quietly, as if enjoying the ride. When in a vehicle though, you need to have them wrapped. Turkeys are fierce poopers. I mean, pooping is something they are really good at, second only to eating. Most vehicle drivers won’t transport an unwrapped turkey, and if they do you probably don’t want to ride in that vehicle.

At midnight on December 25th Pablo will once again be the center of attention. More precisely he’ll be in the center of a platter, surrounded by empanadas, sweet potatoes and other items that have given their all for the cause. 

Thank you Pablo.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A good time at the Los Bances and Alto Peru chocolatadas


We didn’t miss a beat this morning when our transport phoned 30 minutes before our scheduled 9:00 AM departure to tell us that he couldn’t make it. Living in Chiclayo you learn that things like that are normal. Two days before we had discussed that possibility and had plan B and plan C in place if necessary. Plan B worked just fine.

Our first stop was Alto Peru where we unloaded all the items for their chocolatada including the entertainers, and then proceeded to Los Bances where Martha, the kids and parents were waiting for us. The classroom is so small that there was barely room for the things we brought. The chocolatada meal was to be eaten in some other location. We stayed just long enough for the parents and kids to see and appreciate the items we delivered, and to listen to some speeches. The good news is that Martha will have a different, larger classroom next year for her 20 students. When she asked about the possibility of Promesa Peru helping with some additional furniture we told her to call us when the new term begins next March.

On our way out Martha presented us with a live turkey on behalf of the parents association in appreciation for our earlier donations and the chocolatada. That is a kingly gift in Peru, where a live mature turkey sells for a minimum of $40. On the combi ride back to Chiclayo the turkey was mostly tranquil; peeping only occasionally. The other passengers didn’t pay any attention to it.

The cost for the Los Bances chocolatada was:

Toys - $23.47
Paneton – 29.33
Candy – 20.41
Transportation – 12.48
Total - $85.69

Back at Alto Peru everything had been unpacked and organized. The ‘Chikidalinas’ entertained for an hour. Perhaps it was because there were more of them, but these kids were even more energetic than those at El Carmen last Friday.

As usual the men and older villagers did not attend, but many of them could be seen watching from a distance. And some were seemingly not interested at all; just going about their normal business.

The traditional meal was served after the entertainers had finished. The chicken had an especially delicious flavor to it. I’m told the flavor came from a special marinade.

The kids were a bit reserved when receiving their toys. We suspect that was because their mothers had told them to conduct themselves properly. We’ve noticed that discipline in these remote villages is a concept that is strongly enforced and followed.

The Alto Peru chocolatada cost:

Toys - $110.00
Paneton – 33.83
Candy – 11.77
Entertainment – 52.86
Transport – 30.25
Total - $238.71

Both the Los Bances and Alto Peru chocolatadas were made possible by Chris Raupe, “a friend in America”, Amy Brown, Denny Wallette and others. Thank you.

The completion of these chocolatadas today will mark the end of Promesa Peru’s activities for this year. It’s been a good year. We’re looking forward to 2017.

Friday, December 16, 2016

We knew this would be a lively chocolatada


Every time we’ve been in the village of El Carmen, the teacher, parents and kids have been enthusiastic and energetic. Today the energy level was at maximum.


The Chikidalinas are a mother-daughter team who have been performing at a variety of activities for a few years. They are very good at relating to younger kids in the three to five age range. They led the kids through dances, songs and games. The kids had never played musical chairs and at first didn’t understand the object, but when they realized what the goal was, and that a prize would be awarded the competition got fierce. Actually, every kid who took part in the activities received a prize.

After an hour, when the kids and Chikidalinas ran out of gas (it was hot in that room!) we all sat down to the traditional chocolatada meal…hot chocolate, chicken, empanadas and paneton. As usual it was finger-lick´n good.


We had to leave before the toys were handed out because the Chikidalinas had another engagement, however the toys had been unpacked earlier and every kid in that room knew exactly what was there and which one they wanted. There is no way this boy is not going to get this truck.


The cost for this chocolatada was:

Toys - $82.91
Candy – 11.77
Paneton – 29.42
Entertainment – 52.94
Transportation – 39.12
Total - $216.16


We want to thank Chris Raupe, Denny Wallette and “a friend in America” for sponsoring this chocolatada.

Monday we’ll be in Alto Peru and Los Bances for their chocolatadas.

Monday, December 12, 2016

I was at a birthday party Saturday night….


…but I’m not sure what town I was in. It was either Mocupe or Nuevo (new) Mocupe. There is a difference. Mocupe sits in a valley close to a river originating in the mountains to the east and emptying into the Pacific Ocean, about 6 miles’ distant. Quite a few years ago during an El Nino the river flooded and destroyed much of the town. Many of the residents moved to higher ground, about 1 ¼ miles to the north, and Nuevo Mocupe was born. In the meantime, some of the more optimistic villagers began rebuilding the original town, and so today there are two Mocupes…not that it matters because everyone who lives in the area simply says Mocupe. Except for those who say Ucupe, which as I understand it was an ancient Moche culture town that stood just to the west of Nuevo Mocupe. All that remains of Ucupe is some archeological ruins.

The birthday we attended was a typical Peruvian birthday with lots of loud music, food, drinking and dancing. Some of the dancing was influenced by the town of Zana, located nearby. In the 1600s and early 1700s Zana’s population was mostly slaves brought from Africa. After a couple of manmade and natural disasters much of the Spanish and native population relocated, leaving the area to the black slaves. They developed their own customs and culture, including a variety of dances. The ancestors of the slaves are still in Zana today and their dances are seen throughout the Lambayeque Region and beyond.

Slave dances are lively affairs and have certain movements that are normally associated with them. Usually the dances are performed by experienced performers, but at parties, after the alcohol has been flowing for a while it’s not unusual to see villagers doing their version of a slave dance.

With a little imagination it is not difficult to see through the smiles of these dancers and realize that a slave is being punished.

Another classic slave dance movement is more difficult to explain. A length of material or paper is attached to the back of a dancer, apparently representing a tail. A second dancer tries to ignite the tail. I do not know what this movement, called Prendeme la vela is supposed to represent. 

The food served at the party was cabrito…goat with beans and rice. The beverages were beer, and a Peruvian cocktail called Chilcano. The ingredients are pisco (a Peruvian wine though it tastes more like whiskey to me) and ginger ale, at a 1 to 1 ratio. Add a splash of lime juice and some ice cubes and you’re good to go. Warning…the ginger ale softens the harshness of pisco, but does not negate its effect.

At one point in the evening, no doubt after having patriotically consumed his/her fair share of Chilcanos, someone decided that I looked like Bruce Willis. After due consideration others agreed. That triggered a series of ‘selfies with Bruce’. I wonder how many Facebooks I was on yesterday morning?


Saturday, December 10, 2016

December´s first chocolatada went very well


I hadn’t realized how poor the neighborhood of San Francisco, Campodonico here in Chiclayo really is until I took the time to walk around it this morning while the women were setting up for the chocolatada. It is one of several areas in the city that visitors would probably label as a slum.

When we arrived at 10:00 AM little preparation had been done.  When our taxi arrived a bust of activity took place, with mothers and kids coming from all directions, most bringing plates, chairs and other things with them. We later learned that they were not sure we would really come, and didn´t want to disappoint the kids if we didn´t show up. Their doubts quickly disappeared when we took the candy, panetone and toys out of the bags.

We had to leave before the toys were distributed and the traditional chocolatada meal was served, but not before taking photos and receiving the appreciation of mothers and kids. There was not room in the small building for a group photo including everyone, and it was too hot outside. This was a happy group of people, and we think this chocolatada is going to last far into the afternoon. They will enjoy and remember it for a long time.


The cost of this project was:
Panetone - $29.33
Candy – 20.41
Toys – 86.26 (21 toys at an average cost of $4.11)
Transport – 4.49
Total - $140.49

This chocolatada was financed by Chris Raupe and Denny Wallette. Chris and Denny, an entire neighborhood in Chiclayo knows who you are and thanks you for what you´ve done for them.

Others folks have contributed to the remaining three chocolatadas this month. The next one is El Carmen on the 16th. Stand by for photos.



Friday, December 9, 2016

Musing and Reminiscing about Eleven Years ago Today


Exactly 4018 days ago, on December 9, 2005 at 6:15 am I arrived at the Chiclayo, Peru airport. Now…I’ve made a lot of bad decisions and wrong moves in my life but arriving in Chiclayo on that day was not one of them. But let me back up just a bit. In early 2010 I began writing a memoir. I’m still working on it. I’ve made a lot of revisions between then and now, but what hasn’t changed is the very first paragraph of the first chapter. It reads:

“Though I didn’t know it at the time, an email I sent on Saturday, September 3, 2005 at approximately 3:00 PM would mark the beginning of what I’ve come to view as the second phase of my life. The first phase lasted exactly 64 years 8 months and 12 days; the last few years of which had been especially rough with a divorce, forced early retirement, a ton of money lost in the tech stock crash, and more recently a relationship that was on its last legs. No…even if I had known that that period of my life was passing I wouldn’t have mourned it one bit. In fact I would have celebrated. I would have had an even bigger celebration if I had known that the coming years were going to more than make up for what I’d gone through and give me greater happiness than I could ever have imagined. Every day is better than the last. And that’s the truth.”

So much (all?) of our lives is governed by chance…a chain of events in that if one little event in that chain had changed, our lives would be dramatically different. I had a friend in Miami; Dino, who had developed an internet relationship with a woman in Chiclayo. He wanted to go there to meet her, and though he spoke Spanish he didn’t want to go alone so asked me to join him. I didn’t speak Spanish and didn’t even know where Peru was. As an inducement, he sent me a photo and email address of a friend of the woman he was communicating with. Her name was Maribel and for the next two months we sent emails back and forth using Google translator. I felt comfortable and so did Maribel. I told Dino I was in and to make the flight and hotel arrangements, which he did.

Going back to my memoir again:

“When Dino phoned a week before our scheduled departure to say he couldn’t go I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t speak the language and don’t know anything about the country, culture or customs. How could I even get to Chiclayo without speaking Spanish? And if I did get there do Maribel and I just smile and nod at each other for the next seventeen days? What if I get sick? Do they even have hospitals and doctors there, and if they do how can I get to them or I tell them what’s wrong with me? These were the questions going through my mind as I sat at the picnic table next to the patio deck. A friend had sent an Oleta Adams CD to me and it was playing on the stereo system inside. I was only half-listening when I heard the lyrics “…and if you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” I had pretty much made up my mind I was going, but those words put the period to it. Too many times in my life I had let indecisiveness control me. I would go to Peru….I was going to dance.

The plane touched down in Lima at 11:30pm on December 8, 2005. It took me awhile to get settled down enough to figure out where immigration and customs were located and what I had to do to get through them but it wasn’t too bad. The only problem I had was my luggage somehow had gotten misplaced but I finally located it. It’s a big airport and there were hundreds of people milling about - seemingly half of them shouting “Taxi Senior?” at me. Feeling that it would be impolite to ignore them I responded ‘no’, and with my hand imitated a plane taking off while saying “Chiclayo!” Brilliant, huh?

The plane for Chiclayo wouldn’t depart until 5:15 AM so I had lots of time to kill. I sat in a chair and tried to sleep a bit but mostly I just watched, trying to develop an understanding for what I was seeing in this strange country. About an hour before the plane was to leave I found myself in a restroom shaving, and experienced the only moment of doubt during the entire trip. I looked at that tired face staring back at me from the mirror and asked…” Tom, what the hell are you doing?”

I arrived at the Chiclayo airport at 6:30 AM on December 9th.  For having spent 8 hours in 3 different airports and 9 hours in the air with virtually no sleep I wasn’t feeling too bad. Standing at the luggage carousel I could see maybe 30 people outside waiting for other passengers. Maribel wasn’t one of them. After a few minutes more and still no Maribel I began to wonder. What if this whole thing was a joke? What if Dino, with the help of Maribel (if that was her real name, and if she even lived in Peru and if she even existed) had put together a gigantic hoax? I could picture him laughing his ass off at this exact moment, knowing I’d be standing in the Chiclayo airport without a clue in the world as to what to do next.

So now what? Do I try to find my way to some hotel? I had no Idea what hotel I supposedly had reservations at or how I would get there. Do I try to communicate with someone in the airport to see if I can get on the next plane to Lima? The phone call to Miami to hire a hit man to take out Dino could wait until later. Grabbing my last piece of luggage off the carousel I took one more look outside and there she was. In the back of my mind I had wondered if maybe the photos she had emailed to me were old or not even her. I should have known better. Standing in front of me was a beautiful woman with that same genuine smile I had seen in the first photo. I walked directly up to her, said hello and kissed her full on the lips. Maribel smiled and said “Welcome to Chiclayo Tom.” She was wearing a white blouse, red slacks and held a blue helium balloon that read Happy Birthday. My 65th birthday would occur in Peru in 3 more days. Happy birthday to me!”

Now it’s eleven years later. I’m still in Peru and about to celebrate my 76th birthday. This morning we ate breakfast at the Don Benny restaurant where we were on that first morning. Then we walked to the principal park and watched the Christmas decorations being put up, as we did eleven years ago. While walking home we stopped at a Topitop store. Maribel bought a dress and blouse. I bought two shirts. We didn’t do that eleven years ago but it felt like the thing to do. Tonight we’ll go out for dinner, wearing some of our new clothing and continuing to reminisce about that first day together and the fantastic years since. Every day is better than the last. And that’s the truth.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

It’s going to be a good December


All four chocolatadas are fully funded, thanks to some folks who stepped forward in response to our recent request for help. That means 71 kids in four different villages will be getting toys, panetone, candy and a decent meal. Two of the villages; Alto Peru and El Carmen will have live entertainment. Los Bances and the vaso de leche program in San Francisco, Campodonico were last-minute decisions so their chocolatadas, because of time and finances will be scaled down, but that beats no Chocolatada at all.

The dates of the chocolatadas are:
Saturday, December 10 - San Francisco, Campodonico
Friday, December 16 – El Carmen
Monday, December 19 – Los Bances and Alto Peru

We’re close to finishing all the buying, organizing, sorting and trying to find room in our house for all of this stuff. It’s a good thing Brian is at the university because he couldn’t get into his room. We haven’t sorted out all of the costs yet but it looks like we’ll be under our estimates.

The parent’s association in Alto Peru and El Carmen have told us that several villagers have volunteered the use of their homes for the chocolatada and have CD players available and people who know how to operate them. This last item has often been a problem at past chocolatadas. Much of the entertainer’s routines requires music.


There won’t be any more school projects this year so the four chocolatadas will wrap up 2016. Any further donations received will be held for projects next year.


We’ll be posting photos of the chocolatadas and thanking those responsible for contributing to them. As always, we wish that the people who contributed could be with us to feel the excitement and accept the appreciation. It’s been a good year, and being able to finish it with four chocolatadas is the pièce de résistance. Thank you.



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I just couldn't do it this morning


Like most people I’ve got a morning routine. Part of that routine includes 30 fast minutes on an elliptical trainer, but only after I’ve had two mugs of coffee to help me rediscover who I was when I went to bed the previous night. By the way, I’ve never taken the time to learn exactly what ‘elliptical trainer’ means. Does it mean that only elliptical people should use it, or that it will teach you how to be elliptical?


I use it every morning except Sunday because I’ve convinced myself that I need one day of rest during the week. I don’t like riding it. At about the two minute mark the muscles in my legs and arms begin to protest, as do my lungs, but gradually they settle down and accept their fate. And there is benefit from using the machine. For the first 10 minutes I let my legs do most of the work, and I can feel them tighten and tone. The next 10 minutes I use only my arms, with the same results. The last 10 minutes I use arms and legs and speed up to get a cardiovascular workout.

It is a strenuous but boring 30 minutes. To help take my mind off the torture I’m going through I turn on the radio. Probably most people who do that listen to jazzy workout music. I listen to new-age like Enya and Yanni. There are other things to distract me. The machine is next to a window so I can see what’s happening on the street. It’s not a great view and there is not a lot going on but there are some things to occupy my mind for a few minutes. For instance, there’s a fish peddler who every morning parks his fish cart directly below my second-floor window. He has a bullhorn and for about 15 minutes exhorts people to buy his fish. He thinks he’s a stand-up comedian. He says stuff like his babies will starve if no one buys his fish, or eating chicken causes cancer. Usually he has a few customers.


I work up a pretty good sweat during the workout. When it’s finished I hang the gym clothing to dry, and then usually sit at this computer reading the news and waiting for my body to cool down so I can shower.

This morning I turned on the radio, got on the bike and started peddling. Then I became aware that I did not want to do this. I told myself that this isn’t Sunday; to remember the physical benefits; that there is no reason not to do it, etc, but I got off.

Now it will be on my mind all day. The guilt may even reach the point where I’ll do the 30 minutes this afternoon. But probably not.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Still got pain?...here’s a few more things to try.


Okay, so Maribel’s relief from the cupping therapy didn’t work…or at least didn’t last long. So she bought a plant called Rue (ruda). It is a plant I had never seen (or smelled before) before. The aroma is an attention getter. The Aztec Indians used to make a potion from the plant to cure many illnesses. In modern day Peru the leaves and stem are vigorously rubbed on the body as near as possible to where the ailment (whatever it may be) seems to be located. I did that last night. Our bed still smells like ruda as do my hands even after several washings and a shower. The plant did a great job of clearing our sinuses but didn’t touch Maribel’s pain. It’s time to call in the heavy artillery.

She is going to resort to a diagnostic procedure called ‘soba de cuy’. This procedure needs to be performed by a curandero (healer). The curandero rubs a live cuy (Guinea pig) over the afflicted person’s body while chanting prayers. There are three possible outcomes from this process. 1) the cuy could die immediately over the location of the problem. Say the animal breathed its last over the person’s liver. The curandero will open up the cuy and sure enough, the cuy will have a liver disease. 2) If the cuy doesn’t die the curandero may kill it anyway; open it up and look for some abnormality. 3) The curandero may let the cuy live and try to make a diagnosis from the animal’s actions.

When the cause of the illness or pain is determined, the curandero will prescribe the appropriate treatment, usually some herbal concoction and the avoidance of whatever caused the problem. Presumably the patient gets to keep and eat the cuy.

While it should be obvious (I hope) that I’m writing tongue-in-cheek about these practices, I want to emphasize that Peruvians have used these treatments and believed in them for many generations. When I point out to my friends in the USA that there is absolutely no credible clinical evidence that the supplements they buy from places like GNC work, the invariable response is, “Maybe so but I know my body and I know it works.” Tell a Peruvian that ‘soba de cuy’ is superstitious nonsense and you’ll get essentially the same response, along with a smile that seems to say ‘Maybe we know something that you don’t’. Maybe they do.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Got pain that won’t quit? Come to Peru for the cure.


You’re in Peru. You’ve got pain that won’t go away. Maybe it’s in your shoulder, thigh, back, foot, or head and it hasn’t responded to the usual pain-killers. Before going to a doctor who will listen to you for 40 seconds and then write a prescription for pills, or tell you that your ailment is due to the seasonal change of climate and then write a prescription for pills, try a couple of the popular home remedies that most Peruvians swear by. One caution…don’t laugh at or denigrate these methods in front of a Peruvian. They take them very seriously. I know!

According to conventional wisdom your pain is probably from one of two sources. You have a buildup of positive ions which is hampering your blood flow (Peruvians don’t call it positive ions), or you have air in the affected area. The way to deal with built up ions is described in this US patent application number 11/458,686 applied for on July 20 2006:

"This invention discloses a method of treating pain using an elemental bar of sulfur passed over a painful area of the body to relieve the built up positive ions. The elemental sulfur interacts with the painful part of the body and crackles as the surface crystals of the sulfur become ionized or change form. The charge that builds up in the sulfur shorts the inflammation signal and resets the gain of the nervous system. This in turn leads to a faster recovery process."

Sounds like voodoo…right? A few years back I had a lingering headache. Maribel bought a bar and insisted that I allow her to rub it on my head. Within seconds I heard the crackling noise mentioned in the above patent application. Within minutes the headache was gone. Now, I doubt if there is anyone in this world more skeptical than me. I don’t believe in any of the alternative medicines including chiropractic, acupuncture, or the hundreds of supplements in health stores which have never been proven by clinical experiment. But I do know my headache stopped. And a few months later it happened again, with the same results. And I still don’t believe it was the Sulphur bar that did it. These days when I get a minor headache or pain I always forget to try the bar. Maybe a third time would convince me.

The method to get rid of the pain caused by air accumulated in the affected area is to do something called cupping therapy (Peruvians call it ventosas). The Chinese have been doing this for over 3,000 years, and it was probably they who brought it to Peru. Apparently cupping therapy in not unknown in the United States and is used by some athletes. Wikipedia has this to say about cupping therapy:

"Cupping therapy is a form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin. Cupping has been characterized as pseudoscience. There is no good evidence it has any benefit on health and there are some concerns it may be harmful. Through suction, the skin is drawn into the cup by creating a vacuum in the cup placed on the skin over the targeted area. The vacuum can be created either by the heating and subsequent cooling of the air in the cup, or via a mechanical pump. The cup is usually left in place for somewhere between five and fifteen minutes. It is believed by some to help treat pain, deep scar tissues in the muscles and connective tissue, muscle knots, and swelling; however, the efficacy of this is unproven."

Maribel had severe pain beneath her right shoulder blade last night. Massage and ibuprofen did not help. Neither did the sulphur bar. This morning her sister administered cupping therapy. She placed a small lit candle on Maribel’s back, then placed an ordinary water glass over the candle. The candle quickly burned the available oxygen and went out, but not before creating suction and raising, to me an alarming amount of red, raw looking flesh into the glass. It resembled a huge pimple getting ready to burst, but it didn’t and supposedly the bad air was removed during the process. All that remained was a deep circular indentation from the edge of the glass that will hopefully fade over time. If not she can add some features and make a smiley face out of it.

Maribel is at this moment without pain and is singing as she prepares our lunch. Try to tell her that cupping therapy/ventosas is voodoo…go ahead; just try!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The chocolatadas for December are on target


Thanks to some recent donations the villages of El Carmen and Alto Peru will have their chocolatadas in December. We´ve purchased all of the toys, panetone and candy for both villages.  The only remaining expenses are entertainment and transport, which is about $200 total and we have most of that. In the hope that more donations will be coming we´d like to sponsor two additional mini-chocolatadas.
   
Last month we made a modest donation to the pronoei in Los Bances. At that time we refused the parent´s association request for a chocolatada. We have since learned that they have had no luck in getting donations and have given up on a chocolatada for this year. We´ve refused many chocolatada requests in recent months but of all of them Los Bances is one of the more deserving. Martha, the teacher has 14 students…7 boys and 7 girls. We´d like for those kids to have a good Christmas. We can do that by providing a box of panetone, some candy and inexpensive toys, all for about $75.

These are the kind of toys we´re talking about. The truck costs $2.05, the larger doll 1.95 and the smaller .89. They are not great toys but the kids will be very happy to get them. We won´t provide entertainment and there will be no transport cost because we´ll drop off the items on our way to the Alto Peru chocolatada on the same day.

The other mini-chocolatada we´d like to sponsor is right here in Chiclayo. The neighborhood of San Francisco, Campodonico is only 10 minutes from central Chiclayo but it might as well be on another planet. It is a drug-infested high crime area and it looks like it. Taxi drivers are reluctant to go there. The residents are very poor. The neighborhood qualifies for the government´s ´vaso de leche` (glass of milk) program.

Elizabeth (red blouse) has been in charge of the program for two years. Monday through Friday she gets up at 5:30 to receive the 50 liters of milk delivered by a local farmer contracted by the government. She had washed the large milk container the previous night. The 21 kids start arriving at about 7:00 am with a container for the milk brought from home. The milk is taken home and boiled, to be eaten with a modest breakfast. Often oats are added to the milk and that´s all there is for breakfast. Elizabeth would like the kids to have a Christmas party. So would we. Twenty one toys like those mentioned above will cost $40. Paneton and candy would be another $50. There will be no entertainment or transport cost.

For about $165 we can sponsor two mini-chocolatadas that will make December a little brighter for 35 kids and their parents. We´re determined to do that. We hope you can help us. If so please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ernest Hemingway´s Peru Connection


I have had an interest…curiosity really, about Ernest Hemingway ever since seeing the movie The Old Man and the Sea in 1958. I liked the film so much that I read the book, and then read The Sun Also Raises. I grew to appreciate his writing style…basic words, short sentences direct and to the point minus the stiff flowery prose so prevalent in that era. In fact one of his peers commented that Hemingway has never used a word that would cause the reader to refer to a dictionary, which pissed off Hemingway when he heard that, but that’s another story. I became curious about the man himself, which prompted a visit to his boyhood home in Oak Park, Illinois where he was born July 21, 1899. It was only an hour drive from my home in Milwaukee. This was in the early 1960s. The internet had not yet arrived so I had to go to the library to look up the address in an old city directory. The house was privately owned so I was limited to looking at it from the sidewalk. Now it’s a museum.

Beyond reading more of his work I didn’t think much about Hemingway until 10 years ago when Maribel and I visited the popular beach town of Mancora in Northern Peru on the Pacific Ocean. While there we learned that part of the movie The Old Man and the Sea had been filmed at the village of Cabo Blanco in 1956, and that Hemingway had fished and stayed at the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club for more than a month during the filming. Cabo Blanco is only a 30 minute ride on commercial transport so we spent an afternoon checking out the town, starting with the Fishing Club.

This is what the club looked like in the mid-50s when Hemingway was there.
This is the club 9 years ago. I sat at what remains of the bar (on the right) where Hemingway no doubt sat and drank until the wee hours.







The club’s buildings are abandoned now but in its heyday the club drew celebrities and wealthy fisherman from all over the world. I must have taken a hundred photos inside and out and I’m glad I did because later I learned that Hemingway stayed in room #5…by chance the only guest room that I took photos in out of 10 guest rooms.


There’s a restaurant in the town, appropriately named Cabo Blanco Restaurant. It was owned at the time by Pablo Còrdova who died last March. Pablo was a young bartender when Hemingway frequented the establishment. The walls of the restaurant are lined with photos taken in the restaurant of Hemingway and friends, with Pablo present in a few of them including the one above the door. Pablo shared a lot of memories with us. His death is what prompted this post.

Local legend says that Hemingway was in Lima where he stayed at the Gran Hotel Bolivar  across from the San Martin Plaza. I can find no evidence to support that claim. Hemingway arrived in Peru at the Talara airport in the north of the country on Monday April 16, 1956 and the following day was settled in at Cabo Blanco. According to one journalist who followed Hemingway during his stay, Hemingway was invited to visit Lima but said his schedule would not allow it. Hemingway departed Peru 36 days later on May 22. The fishing expedition was a failure.  

Not far from the Gran Hotel Bolivar is the Maury Hotel where an older bartender at the hotel bar convincingly claims to have served Hemingway. Again, there is no evidence to support that, but in case it was true we sat at the bar and toasted Hemingway with mojitos and wild daiquiris; two drinks associated with Hemingway. A few years later we toured his house in Key West and drank toasts to him again at Sloppy Joes, his favorite bar where he met his third wife.

In the intervening years I’ve read a fair amount of books and articles both by and about Hemingway, and have formed an impression of the man. Gertrude Stein, who was the unofficial den mother of the expatriate writers and artists of the famed ‘lost generation’ living in Paris in the 1920s, including Hemingway said that Hemingway’s swashbuckling macho image was a phony front to cover up his shy and sensitive nature. I’m not sure about that, but there is no doubt that he carried a lot of emotional baggage during his lifetime.

In my opinion two of the most telling comments come from Jeffrey Meyer’s biography, “Hemingway”, and Bernice Kert’s book, The Hemingway Women”. The last paragraph of chapter 7 in Meyer’s book reads:

“Hemingway’s attack on (Sherwood) Anderson followed the recurrent pattern of his literary quarrels with Ford, McAlmon, Stein, Loeb, Walsh, Stewart, Callaghan, MacLeish, Eastman, Fitzgerald and Don Passos. His reaction to them changed from extreme enthusiasm to vengeful disillusionment. When he became bored with his friends, discovered their faults, found a real or imaginary grievance, or had no further use for them, he would ruthlessly, relentlessly and suddenly break off the friendship.”

Don Stewart, a friend and victim of Hemingway said:

“The minute he began to love you, or the minute he began to have some sort of obligation to you of love or friendship or something, then is when he had to kill you. Then you were too close to something he was protecting. He, one-by-one knocked off the best friendships he ever had”.

Perhaps what Hemingway was protecting was the shy sensitive nature beneath the macho image that Stein alluded to.

Hemingway had four wives – the last three were mistresses-in-waiting during his marriage of the moment. In an introductory note to her book The Hemingway Women, Bernice Kert sums up her conclusions about Hemingway’s relationship with women by saying:

“…no matter what their degree of commitment, Hemingway could never sustain a long-lived, wholly satisfying relationship with any of his four wives. Married domesticity may have seemed to him the desirable culmination of romantic love, but sooner or later he became bored and restless, critical and bullying”.  

Hemingway ended his life in 1961 but to this day remains a popular cult figure, with books and articles still being written about him. For me personally I enjoy and appreciate his written work. It is not up to me to judge him as a man. He is an interesting figure. I am glad to have discovered and trod some of his haunts in Peru and I hope someday to visit his home in Havana and his final residence in Ketchum, Idaho.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

No fish for dinner tonight :(


One of the many things we miss about our home in northeastern Wisconsin is the ability to hitch the boat trailer to the car and in 10 minutes be launching the boat on Lake Noquebay. It was like having our own personal fish market. That lake is a fish factory…as close to a sure bet to catch fish as any lake I’ve seen in 65 years of fishing all over Wisconsin. More days than not I’d catch maybe 6 to 8 largemouth bass and as many northern pike, all of them released. Noquebay has walleye also but in lessor numbers and they are difficult to catch on artificial lures, which is all I used. 

The equipment I used was a Pflueger Supreme casting reel paired with a Heddon Pal 6’ rod. Pflueger is still making reels but they look more like miniature racing cars than fishing reels. Heddon stopped making rods many years ago. The fish is a 37” musky hooked too badly to release.

When we wanted fish to eat we’d use our 5’ ultralight rods with ultralight reels spooled with Stren 4lb test line. Tie on a 1/16th ounce Beetle Spin in black for bluegill or yellow for perch and crappie and have your fish bag ready. The fish in this photo are about average size, though occasionally a real whopper bluegill, perch or crappie would turn up. The bigger bluegills were usually caught in the winter through the ice.

The fishing was enjoyable; we’d do it for hours but the eating was just as good. The flavor of those panfish fried with Maribel’s secret coating in a cast iron pan over a wood fire was absolutely delicious.

These days our fishing is limited to pier fishing in the Pacific Ocean in either Pimentel or Puerto Eten. The locals usually catch fish off these piers, though not many and usually on the small side. Maribel and I often get skunked…like this morning.

The equipment used for pier fishing is primitive but effective. Take a piece of wood and wrap 50’ of nylon line on it. Near the end of the line make two drop loops and attach snelled #4 hooks to the loops. At the very end of the line tie on a sinker…anything that weighs about 2 oz will do, including old spark plugs. For bait most people use conchas. I don’t know what the English word is. They look like miniature clams.

To cast the rig you hold the line about one foot above the second hook and twirl it above your head to get momentum and then let go, holding tight to the wood block. Then you try to detect the bite of those tiny bait stealers and hook them before they strip the bait. We’re usually not successful at that so spend much of our time re-baiting hooks. The under tow at these piers is fierce, and often even a 3 oz sinker, the maximum that is manageable on a hand line will not hold bottom, making it even more difficult to feel fish biting.

Anyway, we got skunked at Puerto Eten this morning, so we’re going to try our luck at Pimentel tomorrow. Even if we don’t catch anything, the blue sky and ocean and the sound of the waves crashing into the shore are reward enough.


Friday, November 4, 2016

It’s time to start planning for Chocolatadas


Every year we get many requests from the villages we visit to sponsor a chocolatada. It is always disappointing for the villagers and us to have to say no but our time and financial resources are limited. The good news is that we believe/hope that we’ll be able to sponsor two chocolatadas again this year. The two we’ve chosen; Alto Peru and El Carmen are both deserving villages with active parent’s associations and teachers who do their best to provide for their pronoeis.

Karina Chaponan is the teacher at the pronoei Niños Y Su Mundo in Alto Peru. She is well respected and appreciated by parents and kids alike. When we equipped her classroom last June she had 16 students, and said more would come. She now has 21 kids which is about all that the room can hold. We’re shooting for Friday, December 16 to have the chocolatada.

Saida is the teacher at the pronoei Mis Pequenos Angelitos in El Carmen. She has 15 of some of the happiest, brightest students we’ve seen. When we equipped her classroom last June we were impressed with the spirit and appreciativeness of the villagers and kids. There is lots of vitality in this poor village.

Chocolatadas are relatively inexpensive. The basic components are toys, panetone (sweet bread), candy and entertainment. These we try to provide. The villagers provide a meal (usually chicken and rice) and hot chocolate.

Toys are starting to show up on store shelves. Based on what we’ve seen we think we can continue last year’s average cost limit at 20 soles ($5.94 usd) per toy. For the 21 kids at Alto Peru that is $124.74. For the 15 kids at El Carmen $89.10 would cover it.
Panetone costs $40 per box, containing 6 loafs. We need 1 box for each village. Candy is about $36 per school.

For entertainment we hope to try something different this year. A clown goes over well with 5 to 12 year olds, but the younger kids in a pronoei usually get frightened, sometimes cry and refuse to interact with the clown. There are two young women entertainers here in Chiclayo who work well with young kids. They are often contracted for birthday parties and have a good reputation. We haven’t contacted them yet but are told that their fee is $55.

The total cost for Alto Peru, including an estimated transport cost of $50 would be about $305. El Carmen, with 6 less students would be about $275. It’s still early but we hope to start raising the $580 now so we can begin purchasing toys as bargains appear at stores. For example, we’ve already purchased 6 toy trucks marked down from $11.81 to $5.89. That’s a savings of $35.52 for those 6 items.

As always we’re going to need help if we’ve going to pull this off. A donation of just $6.00 will buy a toy. Please visit the Promesa Peru webpage to give the villagers of Alto Peru and El Carmen an event this holiday season that they will long remember. Thank you.


Monday, October 31, 2016

The Los Bances project is complete


The desert sun was bright but it was a cool morning and pleasant to work in. Martha, the teacher at the pronoei in Los Bances and me were assembling the two storage shelves we’d brought with us. We assembled the shelves outside because of better light and limited working space in the classroom.

Maribel was inside showing the kids the books and other supplies Martha had said she needed. We had already hung the whiteboard and gave each kid the opportunity to write something on it. The kids seemed to enjoy the books and were handing them back and forth to each other.

Martha is a strong-willed woman. She insisted on helping me to hang the whiteboard and lending a hand with assembling the two storage shelves. After all the work was done and the excitement was over Martha gave a powerful speech. She talked about the importance of education, and about her frustration with the lack of help for the school. At one point, as near as I can recall, she said, “…we ask the mayor and businesses to help us and what do we get? NADA!”...the word literally ringing off the walls. All the mothers vigorously agreed with her.

What we gave them doesn’t seem like much but outside of a bigger classroom she said there isn’t anything else she needs. The cost for this project was:

One whiteboard - $47.66
Erasers and markers - $8.96
Two storage shelves - $47.76
Teaching aids - $73.69
Transport - $26.79
Total - $204.86

The people of Los Bances would like to thank Chris Raupe, Clif Brown, Judy Berkow, the Brunner family and the Alice Cool Foundation for supporting their effort to educate their children.