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.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Bodegones Project is Complete

Our working relationship with San Jose’s mayor Macario Fiestas and his staff is looking more and more like a solid partnership. In a previous post we wrote about his personal involvement with us in the village of Bodegones and now we’ve received photos showing that his staff picked up the tables and chairs from the carpenter and delivered them on the day promised to the pronoei during our absence .

We haven’t seen the furniture but in the photos it looks to be of good quality, though perhaps a little big for 3 to 5 year old children. Macario expressed his appreciation for the donation and commented that he was surprised at the short time span in which it was accomplished. We expect to be visiting him in the near future to talk about plans for 2017.

In the meantime we need to get to work fulfilling the promise we made to Martha in the village of Los Bances that we would help her after we returned from our vacation. We’ve got a good start on the $200 needed for this project but still need more help. Please visit the Promesa Peru webpage to help us to help Martha and her students. Thank you.

My Annual Search for a Really Ugly Shirt

I admit it…I’m a cheapskate. I remember sitting in an economics class where the professor said that children of parents who came of age during the Great Depression tended to be frugal. I think there’s some truth to that. When we go to the United States Maribel is the shopper, though she too is a penny pincher. I limit my buying to mundane things like coffee filters and light machine oil (difficult to find in Chiclayo). The only firm shopping goal I have is a quest to find a really ugly shirt.

My search criteria are simple. First, the price must be under $10. Secondly, the material should be rayon. It gets really hot in Chiclayo and rayon is both cool and comfortable, though it comes back from the laundry looking like every airport baggage handler in the world had taken a turn at trying to destroy it. Third, the shirt must be what is known as a Hawaiian shirt. Most guys don’t wear Hawaiian shirts. Not in Miami, Naples, Clearwater Beach or here in Chiclayo. Why is that? It seems to me that anywhere there are palm trees there should be Hawaiian shirts. In the movies the only guys who wear them are goober type characters who also wear shorts, straw hats and socks with sandals. I don’t care. I like the shirts. Wearing them gives me a casual, carefree feeling.

The $10 price limit makes the search interesting. Kohl’s, JC Penny and other stores carry Hawaiian shirts in brands like Batik Bay and Island Shores but the price is usually from $25 to $40. Sometimes the shirts are on sale for about $15 but that’s still outside of my self-imposed limit. That’s what I like about the K-Marts of the world. They have those bargain racks with shirts priced as low as $2.98. When all else fails I can usually count on them.

This is last year’s winner. It came from Kohl’s and cost $7.99 on a clearance rack. It’s a Croft&Barrow made in Bangladesh. It isn’t rayon but it met the price criteria and it is ugly. In high school art class we were told to never ever combine blue with green and to this day I still cringe when I see that color combination.

This year I thought I was sunk. We’d been to Kohl’s, Pennys, Sears and many other stores including K-Mart in Miami and Naples where from a distance I thought I saw a sure winner. There were about a dozen of the same shirt in various sizes made of rayon. The print pattern was semi-Hawaiian…close enough. It had an added advantage in that if I spilled food or drinks on it no one would notice, unless the spill was red or yellow. The brand is Basic Editions, also made in Bangladesh. And as ugly as it was I was sure it would be within my price range. Imagine my disappointment when I saw the $21.99 price tag.

My last hope was K-Mart in Clearwater, and it saved the day. There it was, the very shirt I had seen in Naples for $21.99 sitting all by itself on a $3.99 clearance rack. Once again it was demonstrated to me that cheap ugly stuff can be found if you look hard enough. Now it hangs in my wardrobe, giving me a total of eight ugly Hawaiian shirts; one for each day of the week. Life is good.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

About Maribel’s birthday and Hurricane Mathew; an uninvited hotel visitor and an otherwise great vacation.

Thursday October 6th was Maribel’s birthday. When it works out we usually try to celebrate in the United States with dinner at a good steakhouse. This year the location we chose was Miami. We had reservations at the Texas Roadhouse. They do great steaks and have this ‘ride the bull’ thing on your birthday plus a free drink. Hurricane Mathew brought those plans to a screaming halt.

The local and national news was all about Mathew possibly destroying half of Florida. All the TV stations were broadcasting nothing but Mathew…the precautions to be taken and the businesses, schools and whatever else closings. “Stay tuned to WXXX – YOUR Mathew storm tracking center!” By mid-day on the 5th the city had virtually shut down. Our hotel posted warnings and procedures to be taken when Mathew hit. All guests were advised to purchase bottled water, flashlights, and non-perishable food to last for several days. It was a forgone conclusion that power would be knocked out. So instead of the Texas Roadhouse we celebrated Maribel’s birthday that night hunkered down in our room with plenty of water, fruit and bakery and two flashlights, while alternately peeking out the window wondering if the flood level would reach our 4th floor room and if palm trees, cars or other wind tossed debris would come crashing through the window. Nothing happened…Mathew was a no-show.

We saw no lightning and heard no thunder. The forecasted deluge never got past the drizzle stage, and if that forecasted 140 mile per hour wind reached 25 I’ll eat my hat. Don’t get me wrong…I’m all for the precautions that were taken, but I am selfishly glad that Mathew decided to go north of Miami. The next morning in the hotel’s breakfast nook I used the waffle machine to prepare a golden brown, powder sugared and syrup drenched waffle. I put a candle we’d bought the night before on it and presented it to Maribel, saying “here’s your birthday waffle.” The look on her face convinced me not to sing.

After a few days of knocking around Miami we drove to Clearwater Beach, one of our favorite destinations. It’s a great town to just relax and unwind. It has a lot to offer but one of its offerings this trip is something we could have done without.
It was 4:00 AM when someone began pounding on our hotel balcony door. I ignored it hoping it would stop but it just got louder. I looked through the peep hole but couldn’t see anyone so I pushed the curtain aside. Looking back at me was a big biker dude. He looked as surprised to see me as I was to see him. He explained that his woman had told him to meet her at this hotel at this room number and he had driven his bike all the way from Orlando to do that. I tried to tell him his woman wasn’t here but he said he couldn’t hear me and insisted that I open the door. Yah…..right….I’m going to open the door for this guy. Just at that time Maribel got out of bed. He saw her and shouted, “That’s her!” I shouted back that she was my wife and that we had rented the room three days ago and this conversion was over and I closed the curtain. The banging got louder. I’m thinking that this guy is going to come through the door or window, so looking for a weapon I picked up the first thing I saw. I was not completely confident that the sight of a 75 year old man in his underwear brandishing a corkscrew would cause this guy to back off. Fortunately Maribel was thinking clearer than me and had phoned the front desk. In less than a minute we heard voices outside and then silence. We didn’t see or hear from the guy again.
Naples was our next stop. We visited relatives and discovered some attractions we hadn’t known about on a previous visit. The city is best described as a wealthy residential community and nowhere is that more apparent than on 3rd street in the fashionable historic district…with one exception: the Third Street Plaza. It is a two-level ultra-modern design with fountains, sculptures and winding walkways fronting the chic store fronts. An inscription on the central clock tower reads, “The Plaza – 1988.” And for at least the past ten years it has been 100% deserted.  A former occupant told us the problems started when the owners “…couldn’t decide what they wanted the plaza to be.” She could not be more precise than that other than to say the rental costs were excessive.

City regulations oblige the owners to maintain the property, thus there is no graffiti, broken windows or other outward signs that the mall is not functioning. Even the foliage is watered and trimmed. Walking through the silent mall even in broad daylight conjures up eerie images of a scenario in a Walking Dead movie. It’s hard to imagine what other use the property could be put to, but it’s also hard to imagine that it can continue to just sit there.

We enjoyed 16 wonderful days in Florida. Now we’re back in Chiclayo with batteries recharged and ready to resume our Promesa Peru activities. Oh…I almost forgot. We brought back with us the Dell laptop that crashed seven days after we bought it last April. The Dell factory replaced the hard drive, motherboard and cable…all under warranty. They also reinstalled the operating system and Office. Now that we finally have a working laptop, all I have to do is figure out how Windows 10 operates.