Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Folks from Alto Peru Thank You

This morning we arrived at the pronoei Los Niños Y Su Mundo in the village of Alto Peru with chairs and tables, storage shelves, a whiteboard and a few toys.

The classroom is cramped. The things we delivered this morning absolutely fill it. When we were there 13 days ago the teacher, Karina Chaponan had 14 students. Now she has 16. That presented a minor problem because we had bought only 14 toys. Karina quickly resolved the issue by saying the toys would be school property to be played with by all.

We haven’t often seen villagers so excited and appreciative about school equipment. We heard comments such as, “…now it is a place to learn.” Something even rarer – a man from the village appeared with tools and began drilling to mount the whiteboard. As we were about to leave an older woman who seems to be one of the leaders insisted that everyone assemble outside for more photos, but not before giving us three bags of food including a freshly killed duck.

We were asked about the possibility of a chocolatada in December. As I mentioned in my post on June 17, Alto Peru is the kind of situation we look for. They are the first village this year to ask for a chocolatada. We make those decisions in September-October but right now we’re thinking Alto Peru is a prime candidate.

The cost for this project was:
4 tables & chairs - $205.28
2 storage shelves – 52.76
1 whiteboard – 48.45
14 toys – 14.79
Transport – 36.42
Total - $357.70

From the people of Alto Peru and from us, thank you to Chris Raupe, Jim Glen, Clif Brown and the Alice Cool Foundation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An Eye Opening Meeting in Lambayeque

Our knowledge of the pronoei educational system increased exponentially this morning at a meeting of the Lambayeque Province pronoei coordinators held at the Unidad de Gestion Educativa Lambayeque (UGEL). The English translation is Education Management Unit of Lambayeque.  I will use UGEL when referring to this office.

The pronoei program is only one part of UGEL responsibility. Fernando(seated center) is the director of the pronoei program. He has 15 coordinators reporting to him. The group meets weekly. The purpose of the meeting is for Fernando to update the coordinators on any changes or new directives, and for the coordinators to report on the status of each pronoei in their district.

To make this a little clearer let’s look at this map of the entire Lambayeque Region.  The Region is divided into three provinces: Lambayeque, Ferreñafe and Chiclayo. Each province is divided into districts. Lambayeque Province for example has 12 districts as outlined in white. There are 15 coordinators for the 12 districts because some of the districts are too large for one coordinator to supervise. One of the things we learned today is that there are 205 pronoeis in the Lambayeque Province alone. There may be as many or more in the other two provinces. Promesa Peru has barely scratched the surface.

A university degree in education is required to be a coordinator. The coordinator’s job is to constantly visit her pronoeis to insure that the school is operating properly. Are all the registered students actually attending class? Is the teacher showing up on time? Can the students perform at the expected level? Are there unsafe conditions? Are there signs of child abuse or health issues? The individual coordinator reports are compiled and forwarded to Lima.

When a vacancy for a teacher at a pronoei exists it is the responsibility of the coordinator to interview and select a teacher from a list of 4 candidates supplied by the village’s parent’s association. A teacher and the teacher’s pay are provided by UGEL…nothing more. To qualify for a teacher the village must have a safe classroom. Recently a delegation from a village in the district of Olmos came to UGEL requesting a teacher. They replied yes when asked if they had a suitable classroom. Upon investigation it was discovered that the parents had cut 4 trees at an 8 foot height that roughly formed a square; wrapped material around the trees to form walls, and used thatch for a roof. No teacher for them.

We were unable to determine the cost of a prefabricated classroom, but did learn the mayor of Morrope in the Morrope District will pay half the cost if the village can provide the other half and a lot to build on.
The district of Salas is located high in the Andes mountains. It is classified as the poorest district in the province. We were asked if Promesa Peru could donate classroom furnishings to pronoeis in that district. We responded that the cost to transport tables, chairs, storage shelves, etc would be more than the value of the donated items. One of the eye-openers for us happened when Fernando replied that UGEL has two trucks that can be used to transport school items anywhere in the province, including Salas. If true we'll finally be able to get to some of the poorer mountain villages. We’ll find out soon, because Fernando and the Salas coordinator invited us to visit one or more of the schools with them.

As I understand it we will use one of the trucks to travel to a small mountain village, and from there walk to the remote communities. Maribel and I both heard Fernando say we would have to walk for 7 hours and would sleep overnight. We sincerely hope the walking part is not true, and I’m not too crazy about sleeping overnight.

We'll be attending another meeting next Monday to learn more and to talk further about a visit to Salas.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Chiclayo…A Spy Capital

It was a typical Chiclayo morning. Maribel and I had gotten up at 7:00 and were sitting at the breakfast nook we affectionately named ‘El Bistro’ drinking coffee and watching the activity on the street. People are creatures of habit. For the most part we see the same people doing the same thing every morning; mothers taking their kids to school, street thieves snatching cell phones, dogs snarling at each other over turf rights, and taxis slowly cruising the streets looking for customers…with one exception.

Every morning at exactly 7:55 the same taxi arrives and parks at the same corner at the same spot. At precisely 8:00 a young woman appears, seemingly out of nowhere always wearing neutral, non-descript clothing and frequently carrying a slim leather laptop briefcase. She gets into the back seat of the taxi, never smiling or saying anything to the driver. We often wondered if there was something mysterious going on. Where does she live and why doesn’t the taxi pick her up at her house? Why don’t we see her around in the neighborhood? Is she a married woman having an affair, or is something more sinister involved?

We were watching that same routine unfold last week when Maribel called my attention to something we hadn’t noticed before; the taxi’s registration number. It was there all the time, right in front of our faces. How could we have missed it? Is it possible that HMSS – 007 is a code for Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that the taxi driver is none other than James Bond? Is the woman – let’s call her Nikita a master spy?

With that premise in mind, other pieces we’d noticed fell into place. Nikita continually glances in all directions as she approaches the cab. The driver too seems on edge, constantly looking about. We also noticed that occasionally he eats a tamale for breakfast and throws the banana leaf wrapper out the window onto the street. Shortly after they leave a street sweeper shows up. Sometimes it looks to us as if she picks out the wrapper from her sweepings and places it in her pocket. That doesn’t make sense…unless that wrapper contains a secret message to be passed on to headquarters. I had to know. I had to know if Nikita, the taxi driver and street sweeper were part a spy network. I was all but certain they were but what was their purpose and who were they working for?

Two can play the spy game. At 7:45 am several days later I was standing on the corner dressed as a fruit vendor so no one would be suspicious. I had a pail of oranges to complete the disguise. What I had not planned on was women constantly distracting me and blocking my vision by offering to buy my oranges and then arguing with me about the price (I was asking 2 soles per kilo – they offered 1 sole). A second problem with my plan soon became apparent. I had made no provision for following the taxi. I watched helplessly as it disappeared down Calle Arizola.

Undaunted I was on the corner again at 7:45 the following day dressed as a fish peddler with a pail of smelly rotting fish to discourage any would-be buyers from bothering me. A local restaurant owner offered to buy the fish provided I gave him a 50% discount. We settled on 35%. My brother in law who owns and operates a moto was parked on the opposite corner, ready to pick me up on my signal and follow the taxi.

Everything worked as planned except for the ticket my brother in law was given by a policewoman because motos are not allowed in central Chiclayo. He was really angry. When I offered my sympathies he told me to, “…blow it out your burro!” Anyway, Nikita got out of the taxi at the Plaza de Armas and sat on a bench. She may have been checking to see if she’d been followed or perhaps she was waiting to surreptitiously pass information to an accomplice. I wouldn’t doubt that a drop did take place, but if so I didn’t see it. This woman was good…very, very good but I was determined to be better!

Ten minutes later Nikita crossed the street and entered a small restaurant. She sat at the counter rather than a booth or table. She ordered coffee and cabrito. Nobody eats cabrito for breakfast. Restaurants don’t even serve cabrito in the morning because it takes several hours for the goat meat to cook. Nikita had to know that. I suspected that ‘cabrito’ was a code word, and was sure of it when the waitress responded with, “We only serve cabrito on Sunday.” A clear sign and counter sign if there ever was one. I made a mental note to check out the waitress.

Nikita ordered chicken soup. That’s not a code word. If it was, half the people in the restaurant were spies. Chiclayanos like chicken soup for breakfast. Not the chicken soup that you and I are accustomed to. They like ‘sopa de gallina’ (soup of gallina). I can’t give you an English word for gallina. I don’t think there is one. As near as I can tell a gallina is a very old - make that ancient chicken that can’t lay eggs anymore so is consigned to a cooking pot. You can boil it for a week and it still comes out tough. Even the breast is like shoe leather. It’s another one of those things about Peru that I…………...this has nothing to do with the story, does it.

After placing her order Nikita went to the restroom, taking her briefcase with her. I’ve watched enough spy movies to know that restrooms are favorite places to leave secret stuff to be picked up by an accomplice. After she returned to the counter, and not seeing another woman enter the restroom I casually entered it myself when no one was looking. It was a two-staller. I entered the first one and searched everywhere I could think of. Nothing. Wanting to get out of there before being discovered I hastily opened the door to the second stall. An old woman sitting on the toilet began to scream and hit me with her purse. I later learned that pervertido is Spanish for pervert.

Exiting the restroom as quickly as possible I returned to my table located immediately behind Nikita. I saw that she was intently looking at a document. Had it been in her briefcase or did someone slip it to her while I was in the restroom? If so did that mean they were on to me? I had to see what that document said so I slowly stood, and moving directly behind her looked over her shoulder. At that moment the old woman emerged from the restroom, kicked me in the leg and shoved me. I bumped into Nikita, knocking her face into the hot sopa de gallina. Not wanting her to see my face I did the only thing I could think of. While she was screaming in pain I quickly ran from the restaurant shouting, “get out of my way!…the museum closes in five minutes!” If I’d had more time to think I would have chosen a different destination. Chiclayo doesn’t have a museum.

From my vantage point behind a tree in the park where I had taken refuge following my hasty departure (I ignored the dog peeing on the leg that the woman had kicked) I saw Nikita exit the restaurant. I knew it was her even though only her eyes were visible beneath the cotton gauze covering her entire face. Though she looked like a crowd scene extra from one of those cheap mummy movies she seemed composed and unconcerned. From the restaurant she walked two blocks west and stopped in front of a book store on Calle Juan Cuglievan. I knew that something was about to go down. Book stores and spies go together like ham and eggs. A moment later she went inside. It was a small store. I didn’t think I could go in without her noticing me so I stood outside at the window hoping to keep her in sight. There was no one else around except for a shoe shine man at his stand.

Nikita pretended to browse in different areas of the store, finally stopping in a back aisle.  She removed a book from the shelf. I could just make out the title…Espias Como Nosotros. She paged through the book for several minutes. Next she looked around, returned the book to its original position and took a step back. As she did the entire shelf slide to the left, exposing a hidden doorway! I was right all along! Here was the proof I needed! Nikita had disappeared through the doorway. I wanted desperately to get to that secret door before it closed so I began to run toward the store entrance.

A strong arm restrained me. It was the shoe shine man offering to shine my shoes. Flinging his arm aside I continued toward the door. As I ran images flashed through my brain …Chiclayo’s mayor presenting me with a ‘Hero of Chiclayo’ plaque. Peru’s President giving me the ‘Savior of Peru’ medal. There would be speaking engagements and a book (“How I Did It”) and a movie (“He Out-Spied the Spies”). The CIA would offer me a high paying job to train their agents. An invitation to speak at the United Nations would have to wait.

He grabbed me again, this time with both arms and hissing into my ear said, “Señor, your shoes are very dirty! Sit down now!” I saw that the shoe shine brush he was ominously pointing at me wasn’t a brush at all. It was a cleverly disguised gun. This was no shoe shine man! It was Nikita’s accomplice - the taxi driver James Bond!! How stupid of me. I should have realized there would be hidden security outside of their headquarters. I broke free and ran toward the park. I could hear Bond’s footsteps gaining on me. I had to do something, and fast!!

I’ll never know who Nikita works for or how extensive the spy ring is. There won’t be any awards for me. No speeches, no book, no movie and no high paying CIA job. Bond pumped three .38 caliber slugs into me. I died moments later.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pondering the Path of Promesa Peru

Back in 2008 a handful of friends with Peru connections sitting around a table loaded with food and drink in California talked about doing something to help poor families in Peru. With limited financial resources we weren’t sure what we could do, but agreed that Maribel and I would explore ideas when we returned to Chiclayo. For no good reason we gave our effort a name…Promesa Peru.

Our first venture was very modest. We contributed $50 for a chocolatada in a village named Capote. That was it for the year 2008. During the next five years, 2009 through 2013 there were seven projects for $2400. Most of that was our own money. Contrast that with twenty projects totaling $8776 in 2014 and 2015.

Two things happened to account for the dramatic increase in activity beginning in early 2014. The first is that the villages of the Lambayeque Region learned that Promesa Peru existed. The ‘discovery‘ began with our visit to the village of San Miguel in April 2014 where  we helped the school create a library in an unused classroom by providing all furnishings and contributing to repair work. Word got out rapidly and we soon had (and still have) more invitations to visit than we could immediately handle. Prior to that we used to locate villages on Google Map and pop in uninvited. We haven’t had to do that in over two years.

The second reason for the increased activity is increased donations. In March of 2014 a very generous man began making monthly donations to Promesa Peru. He still does. In May of that same year the Alice Cool Foundation began and continues to contribute to our projects. Periodic donations by others have helped.

Though we’re proud of what we’ve done, our goal is not to see how many projects we can sponsor or how much money we can spend. Our goal is to provide an opportunity for better education to those schools and communities that need and deserve assistance.

With four exceptions we have visited every school that has invited us. Three of the exceptions were schools located outside of the Lambayeque Region. In the last two years we have donated to 70% of the schools we’ve seen. When we visit a school what we look for is need, cleanliness in the school and community, a qualified and caring teacher, and a parents association that is actively working to benefit the school and students. If we don’t see those things we don’t get involved. For example, if a school's chair or table is beyond repair we view that as a need. On the other hand sometimes all that is needed is a board, hammer and nails. Someone in that village has the ability to make that repair. If they don’t care enough to fix the problem neither do we.

Now, in June 2016 we’re only half-way through the year and have already sponsored eight projects (including Alto Peru which will be completed next week) for $2955. If that continues we’re on track for a 16-project $6000 year. In California in 2008 we never imagined that Promesa Peru would be functioning at this pace.

There are still hundreds of pronoei, kinder and primary schools in the Lambayeque Region we have not seen and our phone continues to ring with invitations. We have no idea and have not talked about how long we will continue to do this. Best guess is that as long as the invitations keep coming and there are people donating who, like us believe we’re accomplishing something we’ll keep visiting those desert villages.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

From Tyre Lebanon to Chiclayo Peru in 2300 Years

I have had a fascination with ancient Egypt for as long as I can remember. There was a time when I could recite the names and reigning dates of each Pharaoh. I knew the dates of discovery of each tomb uncovered in the Valley of the Kings. Now I’ve forgotten much of what I knew and it’s been a few years since I read an Egyptian history book, but I still never miss a documentary on television or any news articles about recent discoveries.

I always dreamed about going to Egypt and actually touching one of the pyramids of Giza, or the Sphinx, and maybe even being able to buy some small artifact to bring home with me. Well…a trip to Egypt hasn’t happened and probably never will. But I didn’t have to go to Egypt to get an Egyptian relic.

I was 16 when I bought an Egyptian coin at Gimbel’s Department Store in 1956 with my second paycheck earned selling shoes during summer vacation. It cost $35 which was a lot of money at the time and why I had to use two paychecks. I kept it in a suede leather pouch in a dresser drawer when I left the house. I didn’t dare take it outside for fear of losing it. In the house it was always in my pocket so I could take it out, hold it and think about the people who handled it in those days and what their lives might have been like. Gradually over time the coin spent less time in my pocket and more in the drawer. I’d guess that in the last 20 years I haven’t taken it out more than a dozen times, and then only when I stumbled across it while looking for something else.

I didn’t know much about the coin when I bought it. The certificate of authenticity stated the metal was bronze and that the head of Zeus was represented on one side, with two eagles on a thunderbolt on the other. It took me awhile to make out Zeus’s face. He’s in profile, facing to his left. The certificate also said the coin was minted during the reign of Ptolemy II, who ruled Egypt from 283 to 246 BCE. This period in Egypt's history is called the Greek Dynasty. Egypt’s glory days were a thousand years in the past, but I didn’t care; it was still an Egyptian coin, predating Cleopatra by 200 years. While doing some internet research a while ago I learned that there were four mints producing coins during Ptolemy’s reign but as near as I can determine only one of them; the mint in the city of Tyre, now in present day Lebanon made double eagle coins. I would love to know the path it took from Tyre about 2300 years ago to a Milwaukee department store.

I had learned where and when the coin was made but one thing that puzzled me was the holes in the center of both sides of the coin. I had always assumed that someone had for whatever reason done that after the coin was made, but I recently learned that the holes resulted from a polishing process in the final production step. A tool very similar to a flat bladed wood drill bit was used to polish the coin and remove any rough edges. The holes were made by the center index of the tool.
Recently when I came across the coin again I sat down for a moment, held the coin and remembered my excitement when I bought it. I felt a tug of regret when putting it back in the dresser. The coin deserved something better than being relegated it to a dark drawer for another 20 years. I dismissed the notion of a small display case to hold it and several other unique items that have special meaning to me. We have enough dust-gathering items scattered around the house.

Several days later I noticed that Maribel was wearing the necklace and earrings that a silversmith in Monsefù had made for us partially from my design six years ago. With periodic polishing the jewelry still looks as if it were made yesterday. I had seen coin jewelry but it never occurred to me that maybe mine could become part of a bracelet, necklace or broach. Two days later we were in Monsefù talking with the silversmith about possibilities for the coin.

This is the result of that discussion. No more sitting in a drawer for this coin. Though its new home will be a jewelry box it will frequently be out in the public eye, hopefully being appreciated by those who notice it (and if they don’t notice it I’ll tell them about it!). The chain and metal holding the coin are copper. Other options were gold or silver, but we both felt shiny copper would be the most attractive combination with the coin’s tarnished bronze color. The irregular shape surrounding the coin's contour was necessary because we didn't want the coin altered.

Maribel wears the necklace proudly and I feel good about the coin once again seeing the light of day. I wonder about its future. Who will the next owners be? Will it continue as a part of a necklace? Where will it go when its time in Chiclayo is over? I’ll never know the answers to those questions, but I’m content to enjoy the coin’s present circumstances.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Come See the Village of Alto Peru

It doesn’t look like a typical Lambayeque Region desert village. It more resembles the scattered jungle villages Maribel and I had seen some years ago near Iquitos on a tributary of the Amazon River. There isn’t much here other than a few houses, some livestock pens and a pronoei (on the right).

Six months ago the pronoei Los Niños y Su Mundo didn’t exist. The kids were walking two miles north to the larger village of Los Bances. In January the parent’s association was notified that there was no room for their kids in Los Bances for the coming school term. At a hastily called meeting of the Alto Peru parent's association an unused room attached to a private house was offered for a classroom. Calling it a room is probably too generous – ‘space’ would be more appropriate. The walls are crumbling and the roof had long since disappeared. 

The members of the parent’s association who met us there this morning were eager to show us the painting they had done and the roof they had erected last month. It’s only a sheet of galvanized metal resting on bamboo crossbeams and doesn’t cover the entire opening, but they were rightfully proud of their accomplishments.

Karina Chaponan has seven years of pronoei teaching experience. She has 14 students this term and will have 3 more next year. The hodgepodge furnishings are borrowed from the villagers. There has been discussion of locating an inexpensive lot to build a new pronoei on, but it’s likely that is just a dream that will probably never happen.

Karina and the parent’s association asked for 3 tables and 4 chairs…nothing more.  Alto Peru is the kind of situation we look for. It’s a poor village, the need is obvious, the teacher is qualified and caring, and the parent’s association has shown initiative.

What we hope to donate is:
4 tables - $144.97
4 chairs - 55.57
2 storage shelves – 48.32
1 whiteboard – 42.28
Transport – 25
Total - $316.14

If you’d like to contribute to the education of the kids in the village of Alto Peru please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. A donation of $14 will buy a chair - $36 will provide a table. We need your help. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Locos De Amor – A Movie Review

Maribel and I watched Locos De Amor last week while in Piura. We watched it again last night at the Cineplanet in Chiclayo. I don’t ever remember going to a theatre twice in one week to see a movie. To me it’s that good….it’s that entertaining.

Locos De Amor is a Spanish language Peruvian movie filmed in Lima. The genre I would guess is romantic musical comedy. To my knowledge everyone involved in the film is Peruvian including cast, crew, producers and directors. In my opinion the level of professionalism in directing and editing matches anything coming out of Hollywood these days, as does the acting of the local performers. The plot is light and simple; basically four women having relationship issues with the men in their lives, and yet the performers bring so much to their characters that it was impossible for me not to get involved in the story and root for happy endings.

The men are not virile, ruggedly handsome, larger than life personalities. The women, though attractive are not raving beauties with killer bodies. These performers are next-door neighbor type people. That’s one of the reasons this film is so enjoyable…because it’s so easy to relate to them; to share their feelings and circumstances.

The few dance numbers are a pleasure to watch. The early impression of each is campy but that’s soon replaced with, ‘hey…this is really pretty good!’
The songs are old and well known. Many of the audience members in the packed theatre were softly singing along with the performers, who while not having concert level voices were more than adequate, their voices reinforcing their common folk personas. Some of the songs were funny, others poignant. All in my opinion were captivating.

This is a link to a five minute video of the making of Locos De Amor. I think you’ll see the essence of the characters. You don’t need Spanish to understand it.

Here is another link that gets more in detail and includes interviews and segments of songs and dances.

If you’re living in Peru you’ve probably already seen the movie. If you’re living outside of Peru, maybe you know someone here who would send a copy to you (pirate versions are already on the streets – it’s a fact of life in Peru). I think you will appreciate and enjoy Locos De Amor. It’s a feel good movie that really does make you feel good.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Couple Days in Piura

Piura is not my favorite Peruvian city. Day time temperatures year round are too hot, and there isn’t much to see there. You would think that Peru’s fifth largest and second oldest city would have more to offer. Piura residents may take exception to my saying ‘second oldest city’ but the fact is that Pizarro first founded San Miguel de Tangararâ, about 40 miles northwest of Piura. Sometime later the location was deemed ‘unhealthy’ and the Spaniards relocated in July 1532 to present day San Miguel de Piura.

One attraction is the home of Admiral Miguel Grau, a war hero who died in combat in the Pacific war with Chile. Wikipedia says that Grau was born in Paita, a city on the coast to the west of Piura  but most sources claim he was born in Piura and moved with his family at age nine to Paita. Either way the home, which has been completely reconstructed contains lots of period furnishings and Grau family memorabilia.

A scale model of the ship Huascar that Grau was commanding when he was killed in battle October 1879 is on display. Following Grau’s death the Chilean navy captured and repaired the ship and then used it in defeating Peru. The ship is maintained as a memorial ship/museum in the port of Talcahaune, Chile, which is resented by many Peruvians who, “…want our ship back!”

We were in Piura to celebrate Brian’s 22nd birthday. He had mid-term exams during the day but we were able to spend evenings with him. He is six months away from receiving his bachelor of business administration degree.  The restaurant Las Canastas was a good place to eat, drink and celebrate.

One of my axioms while traveling in Peru is that there is always something of interest to see if you look for it and that proved to be the case on this visit to Piura. We were walking in a neighborhood we hadn’t been in before when we came across this hotel among a group of large, older homes...mansions really. The street is one block from the Piura River and at one time was obviously a wealthy section of town. Now it is run-down and considered an unsafe area to be in, especially at night. We entered the hotel, were met by the owner, and left an hour later after touring the property and enjoying pleasant conversation.

Cipriano (photo) told us his father came to Peru from Romania as a young man in 1934. He wanted to escape the pre-WWII turmoil in the region, and had heard that Peru was a land where hard work could lead to wealth. He met and fell in love with a Peruvian woman. They married and had five children. The man did well as a farmer and in 1974 was able to purchase the hotel property, which at that time was a private house in need of repair. He added a wing and updated the entire property while trying to preserve it’s charming past.

Cipriano took over the farm when his father bought the hotel, putting to work the bachelor degree in agriculture he received in June 1964 from the University of California. While in the USA Cipriano married a California woman. He didn’t offer any details about the marriage or his life in California and we didn’t ask. In 1980 he sold his farm and took over the hotel. Now at age 77 he spends his days serving his guests and insuring that the property remains in tip-top shape.

Maybe on our next trip to Piura we’ll brave the neighborhood and spend a few nights in Hospedaje Los Cocosinn. We’d like to experience the feel of this grand old building.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

El Carmen, Moyocupe and San Antonio projects completed

We made a brief trip to Tùcume this morning to see if the classroom furniture for El Carmen, Moyocupe and San Antonio had been picked up and if the teachers were satisfied with it. There were no complaints. The Moyocupe classroom is indicative of the other two schools. Shelves had been assembled, whiteboards mounted, and the room was dominated by shiny new chairs and tables. The teacher, Lucy Lopez said she was very satisfied with the carpenter’s work, and went on to talk about how important the furniture is for her and the kids. She said that beyond providing organization, personal space for work materials and comfort, the furniture adds a formality and legitimacy to the teaching/learning process that is sensed by her and the kids. We hadn’t thought about that. It makes sense.

The project costs for the three schools were:

El Carmen  
4 tables & 8 chairs - $229.60
2 shelves – 47.59
1 whiteboard & markers – 50.49
Transport – 29.65
Total - $357.33

4 tables & 6 chairs - $202.27
2 shelves – 47.59
1 whiteboard & markers – 50.49
Transport – 29.65
Total - $330.00

San Antonio
2 tables & 12 chairs - $223.34
2 shelves – 47.59
Transport – 15.41
Total - $286.34

None of these projects would have happened without the support of Chris Raupe, Clif Brown, Judy Berkow, and the Alice Cool Foundation. Please accept our sincere thanks and the thanks of the villagers. They know who helped them.


We’ve covered a lot of villages and a lot of territory in the Tùcume District in the past two years, and thought that maybe there are some readers who might be interested in where these villages are located in relation to each other. This is a map that I began constructing some time ago. I keep adding new villages to it as we discover them. I have no idea how many more villages there are in this area. The southernmost road from Tùcume to San Antonio is asphalt. The others are mostly goat trails. The map covers only the eastern portion of the Tùcume District. The western portion is nearly twice as large with possibly three times as many villages. We’ll be visiting one of those villages next week.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Things always seem to work out

It was a good plan. We had worked it out earlier in the week. The taxi driver we normally use would pick us up this morning at 8:00AM along with three whiteboards and six storage shelves, destined for three schools in different villages. He would drive us to the carpenter’s shop in Tùcume, where we would unload the items from his taxi and place them on a flatbed moto arranged for by the carpenter, along with the tables and chairs the carpenter had promised would be completed by today. Because a flatbed moto has no passenger seating Maribel and I would follow in a standard moto. Our route would be first San Antonio, then Moyocupe and finally El Carmen. From El Carmen we would return to the combi station in Tùcume, and be back in Chiclayo by noon. That was the plan. 

The first indication of a potential problem happened on Tuesday, when a bothersome tooth demanded immediate attention. My dentist insisted that if I did not listen to her this time and have it extracted, I should find another dentist. She pulled it last night. I was thinking that I would not be feeling like traveling today, but surprisingly there is no discomfort at all. The only problem is that my tongue keeps gravitating to the gap, which at the moment feels slightly larger than the Grand Canyon. Let me stay on this topic for a moment.

Occasionally I will get an email from someone; usually a middle-aged man who is thinking about retiring to Peru. Many of the questions are about the cost and quality of health care. My dentist is available for private practice after 5:00PM because she teaches dentistry at two universities during the day. Twice annually she attends conferences in the USA and Lima to keep up to date on the latest technology and procedures. She knows her stuff.

I was in the chair for just under two hours, first to have a chipped front tooth repaired, and then to have the molar removed. Everything was completely painless. The total cost was $17.85.

The second indication that our plan was unraveling was when the carpenter phoned last night to say that his paint sprayer quit working. The classroom furniture would not be finished until Sunday. Maribel and I decided to go today with the items we had as planned and deal with the furniture next week. Our normally reliable driver didn’t show up this morning.  His wife answered his cell phone, saying he had forgotten it and she didn’t know where he was. It took us an hour to locate another driver willing to go to Tùcume.
In Tùcume is where things got back on track. We were shocked when we pulled into the moto station to find that the three teaches, several mothers and students were waiting there for us. They had arranged for moto transportation for themselves and the donated items to their schools. All Maribel and I had to do was get into a separate moto and visit the schools, unencumbered by anything.

San Antonio had asked for chairs, table and storage shelves. Thanks to Promesa Peru member Yescenia they also got a whiteboard and some used books and toys for the kids, as did the other village schools.

The mothers at Moyocupe already had a good start on assembling the shelves when we arrived. Thanks to Judy Berkow they also had a whiteboard. The mothers at all three schools gave us gifts of food, but Moyocupe really piled it on. We left two huge bags of non-perishable items to be picked up later. We’ve grown accustomed to these gifts, but I think I will never lose the respect I feel for these people brought about by the look of pride on their faces as they hand a bag to me or Maribel and say, “This is food from our land.”

El Carmen had both shelves assembled when we arrived. Saida (blue blouse) is the teacher and it was she who mobilized the others to meet us in Tùcume. She also volunteered to pick up her furniture on Monday so we would not have to return, and said she would tell the teachers at San Antonio and Moyocupe to do the same.

All in all it was a very good morning. We plan to return later next week to see the classrooms in action with the new furniture and other items in place. Our thanks to Chris Raupe, the Alice Cool Foundation, Clif Brown, Judy Berkow and Yescenia for their generous donations. You really are making a difference..