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?’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.