Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Good Night for Gumbo

It’s cold in Rossville, Georgia. Well, I mean not Wisconsin cold, but 24 night and 42 day feels cold. Maybe those 10 years I spent in Chiclayo Peru has lowered my tolerance for cold.

And speaking of Peru, that’s where Maribel is now. She wanted to spend the holidays and her father’s birthday with her family. I wasn’t ready to return to Peru. Not enough time has elapsed. If I went back now it would feel as if I had never left. I wouldn’t appreciate it. It’s kind of an - absence makes the heart grow fonder, if that makes sense. So Maribel is in Peru with family and I’m alone. That’s not all bad.

I am in a situation where I can completely ignore Christmas. If Maribel were here I would have to deal with a tree, lights, decorations, cards and that interminable Christmas music. It is a scientifically proven fact that having to listen to ‘Have a Holly Jolly Christmas’ more than 30 times per day is the leading cause of tonsiloptis of the blow hole. And of course everyone knows that listening to Johnny Cash’s or Neil Diamond’s versions of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ results in instant insanity.

Another advantage is that I didn’t have to wait until midnight to eat Christmas dinner. That has been the tradition in Peru for years. Probably no one knows why anymore. Turkey is the traditional main course. The turkey is covered with a marinate that has also come down through the years. I am confounded as to why. To me that marinate ruins a perfectly good gobbler.

I didn’t have turkey for Christmas. I went to a local grocery store and cruised the aisles hoping that something would jump out at me. In the checkout line my basket contained a 4 ½ lb fresh chicken, a package of instant mashed potatoes and a can of cranberries. The woman in front of me had much more. She dropped some of it on the floor. As I was helping her pick it up she remarked that her family had insisted that she make her famous gumbo tonight to “take off the chill”. Now, I don’t know gumbo from shoe polish but to make conversation I remarked that it was indeed a good night for gumbo, and then as an afterthought jokingly asked, “Where did you say you live”?

That woman reacted to my comment as if it was the funniest thing she had ever heard. Then she used it as a segue to talk about her gumbo, in a volume intended to be heard by everyone in line. I was on my way out of the store when I heard a loud voice behind me say, “Now don’t you let me see you following me to my car, ha ha”! I replied without turning, “Then don’t look.” There was much laughter.

Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Disastrous Loss in Peru

The temple of Ventarron has been in existence for over 4,500 years. It was discovered about 15 years ago and has been actively excavated since that day. Two days ago the site was completely destroyed by fire including what is thought to be the oldest mural in the Americas. 

The fire was caused by employees of a sugar cane company who had set fire to nearby fields to burn sugar cane stubble. The fire quickly spread, engulfing the entire archaeological site. Everything was lost including records of the excavation which were kept on site. 

More than one-half million US dollars had been earmarked for the protection and excavation of Ventarron and the nearby archaeological site of Collud. It is unknown how much of that money was spent. There was no reported damage to Collud.

Maribel and I would often visit Ventarron to watch the progress of the excavation. We could reach the site from our home in just 20 minutes. 

This is the mural that was destroyed. It is thought to be more than 2000 years old. The colors were much more vivid than in this photo.

This photo shows an artist's rendition of what the temple looked like based on measurements taken by noted Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva. 

Authorities in Lima have dispatched investigators to Ventarron to determine if the sugar company is responsible. The outcome of that investigation won't change anything. The remains of one of the oldest and grandest temples in the Americas is lost. What a shame.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Promesa Peru to Cease Activities

After seven years of supporting education through classroom furnishings and school supplies in Peru’s Lambayeque Region, the board members of Promesa Peru have decided to close the doors. Factors leading to this decision were excessive demands for Magali’s time, who is Maribel’s sister and the Promesa Peru representative in the region, and the difficulty of administering school projects remotely from the USA.

One example of administrative difficulty is that we have just now gotten the final cost numbers for the village of El Cerezo, a project completed October 10. The delay was no one’s fault...simply a result of a more complex system. The cost figures for that project were:

1 whiteboard - $52.45
Markers and erasers - $7.71
3 tables - $83.31
15 chairs - $231.41
2 storage shelves - $52.45
17 books and puzzles - $68.19
17 pairs of shoes - $166.62
Magali’s time - $61.71
Transport - $64.79
Total - $788.65

As of this writing Promesa Peru has $29.26 in its bank account. The money will be turned over to Magali to be used for a chocolatada (Christmas party) at a Chiclayo school of her choice. We will be publishing a complete financial report for the year 2017 when all the numbers have been crunched.

There have been many donors during these past seven years. We cannot possibly thank them all but do want to recognize in particular Chris Raupe, Clif Brown, Denny Wallette, and especially The Alice Cool Foundation who never failed to bail us out when money was tight.

This is a sad day for us, but we do have the satisfaction of knowing that we have helped dozens of schools and hundreds of students, and that there are people like those mentioned above who care about the future of a little boy or girl in a poor desert village in Peru.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

El Cerezo has got their stuff!

When Magali arrived in the village of El Cerezo yesterday morning with all the items that had been promised to the school, there were only five parents and the teacher there to greet her which is unusual because normally anywhere from 10 to 20 parents are anxiously waiting. The good thing is that those five pitched in immediately, some unloading all the items, some arranging the tables and chairs while others helped with assembling the shelves.

As always the kids got a kick out of the new furniture, and books and puzzles. The teacher, Anhela Diaz was expecting only pencils and paper in addition to the furnishings and was thrilled to receive those teaching aids.  

As much as the classroom furnishings were appreciated, it was the seventeen pair of brand new shiny shoes that stole the show. The parents knew only that Anhela had asked for the kids shoe sizes but did not know why. One pair of new shoes is one thing less to worry about for the parents in these villages.

Yovana was one of the students without shoes noticed by Magali’s during her first visit to El Cerezo. While her face in this photo didn’t seem delighted, Magali saw that she would not put down the shoes. We think that Yovana, her mother and everyone else at the pronoei Huellitas de Christo in the village of El Cerezo yesterday morning will remember that day.

These folks know who made this day possible for them. They and we thank you for your continued support.

Barring an emergency situation at a school, El Cerzo will be Promesa Peru’s last school furnishing project for this year. If possible we would like to sponsor a chocolatada (Christmas party) in December, or at least be able to contribute to one. Chocolatadas cost anywhere from $300 to $600. Usually at this time of the year we have a good portion of chocolatada money put aside. Not this year. After El Cerezo we have about $42 remaining. We’ve got 6 weeks to raise money for a Christmas party for an as yet unknown school. If you’d like to help us make Christmas special for about 20 kids, please visit the Promesa Peru website. Thankyou.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Been to Murphy Lately?

For no particular reason Murphy was our choice to celebrate Maribel’s birthday yesterday.  We wanted to drive into the Appalachian Mountains so called up Google maps and threw a figurative dart that landed on Murphy, North Carolina population about 1600 people. The map showed a museum, riverwalk, a couple of antique stores and what looked to be a nice restaurant - Murphy Chophouse. We thought that would be enough to occupy us for the day and the scenery would probably be worth the drive, which turned out to be two hours including the time spent asking people, “Where are we?” and “How do we get on HY 74?”. Let me expound on that last sentence.

It is my assumption that the departments of transportation in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina have severe budget restrictions that precludes putting up informational traffic signs. Nearly every time we drive to a destination we’re not familiar with we get lost, including our trip to Murphy. And it should be so simple…interstate 75 to HY 74 to Murphy. And yet we got lost in the city of Cleveland twice, coming and going. Highways 74 and 64 are the same road for a long stretch. After some time of driving through Cleveland Maribel commented that there had been no signs for quite a while. I had noticed the same thing…nothing that indicated we were still on the highway or that the highway had turned or simply stopped. Sometimes there are signs, but of a size and location I wouldn’t expect. And often there are signs saying for example, Murphy with an arrow pointing in the direction of the destination, but nothing indicating the distance. Would it cost that much more to add the distance? We’re at a point where we build in travel time to stop to ask for directions.  Okay…back to Murphy.

About two miles out of Murphy you start to see the build-up of commercial enterprises, usually indicating a city of some size. Upon entering Murphy it does play bigger than 1600 people. The Unicoi Turnpike is the main street and is where most of the attractions/businesses are located. Most of those things that would interest a tourist are located within two blocks of the intersection of Unicoi Turnpike and Valley River Avenue. There is no cost or time regulations for on-street parking. We parked directly in front of the visitor center (second building from the right in the photo) and left our car there all day.

The visitor center should be the first stop. The woman we talked with was very knowledgeable and personable. And they have more maps, brochures and other printed material including menus for every restaurant in town than I have seen in medium size cities. Unicoi Turnpike is an attractive, wide main street with flowers planted about everywhere you look. There is a strong sense of community pride that was later confirmed in our conversations with the residents.

After leaving the visitor center we stopped by the Cherokee County Museum. The admission charge is $3 and is worth it. The museum is small but is packed to the rafters with memorabilia from the cities/counties history. The main theme has to do with the Cherokee Indian’s historic presence and their eviction by the US government in 1838 known as the Trail of Tears. Here I learned that the Cherokees had a written language, a formal government, schools, and were farmers on their own land as early as 1821. Supposedly in 1830 they were more literate as a group than were the white settlers. And here I thought that at that time they were still dressed in breech cloth riding around on horses and waring on other tribes.

Our next stops were at several antique shops. Just like in the Rossville area, some shops looked and felt like junk stores, while others had an exclusive look and their merchandise and prices reflected it. There are a couple of art galleries that we didn’t get to nor did we see the Riverwalk, mostly because we spent too much time chatting with store owners and the museum curator. Murphy residents like to talk about their town.  

We did want to include dinner in Murphy as part of Maribel’s birthday celebration and as I wrote earlier had intended to eat at Murphy Chophouse, but several people expressed a preference for ShoeBooties restaurant so we ate there. Service was good. Everything else; environment, quantity and quality of food was…okay. We wish we would have stayed with our original plan.

Murphy is a nice town to visit. We will probably not return but if some day we’re in the area we wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

What do I do with this blog?

I don’t know what to do with this blog. Over the years there have been readers from 140+ countries. Many were one-time visitors, some were occasional and others constant. I assume all had/have at least a passing interest in Peru. Some have sent emails to me with questions about Peru regarding just about every topic you could think of. I’m proud to say that I was able to answer the majority of their questions. Several Americans have told me that they retired to communities in Peru based in part on information I had given them. All of the information and opinions I offered to those who wrote to me and in this blog came from first-hand exposure. I saw, felt and experienced nearly everything I wrote about. Name a major city in Peru and I’ve been there, with Tumbes being the single exception. Name a tiny remote desert village in the Lambayeque Region and chances are I can name the school teacher and president of the parent’s association. Now I no longer live in Peru.

The question is, what do I do with a blog titled ‘My Slice of Peru’ when I am no longer in Peru? I could continue it…I have friends and family in Peru, and I do read several Peruvian on-line newspapers so I am informed and could write about happenings in Peru, but second-hand information is not the same. If I can’t see, smell and feel something first-hand I can’t bring life to the words I write. I’ve discovered this with Maribel’s sister Magali sending reports to me about villages she’s visited as our Promesa Peru representative. Taking her words and trying to describe a village, school or person I haven’t seen feels to me like I’m writing blind.

I enjoy writing. When I come across something of interest to me I like to share it with anyone else who might have similar interests. I’ve been asking myself if anyone would be interested in a blog titled My Slice of Rossville, Georgia. Certainly the people who live in this area don’t need to read about it, and it really isn’t all that different from anywhere else in the country anyway. So what do I do? While I’m trying to decide, let me talk a bit about our life here in Rossville so far.

We don’t really live in the city of Rossville. As far as I can tell we live in the township of Rossville. We have city water but because we don’t live in the city we have to pay a private contractor to remove trash. That’s okay with me. Our house is in a semi country setting. The only noise we hear is lawn mowers on weekends, an occasional dog barking and if the wind is right the distant sound of traffic on US 2, otherwise known as Battlefield Parkway. The quiet is one major difference from Chiclayo, and is much appreciated.

Speaking of battlefield, the Chickamauga Battlefield Park is an eight-minute drive from our house. It is a huge parcel of land comprised of fields and forests. There is a visitor center with knowledgeable park rangers. There are free maps of auto tour routes and hiking trails. Everywhere in the park, even in the thickest parts of the forest are monuments to various military units, indicating which unit, what action they were involved in and the date and time. There are other monuments erected by the various states honoring soldiers and units from their states. Walking one of the trails during the early morning or late afternoon and sharing paths with deer that are unafraid of humans is an uplifting experience. We do this two or three times each week.

Working in our backyard, getting it to be what we want is another enjoyable activity. I cut a lot of brush and scrub trees during the first month here, which resulted in a huge brush pile. Burning regulations in Georgia are strict, so we’re burning the pile a little at a time in the outdoor grill we built. We both like to sit outside at sunset, watching the smoke from the dying fire twirl slowly into the air and enjoying the aroma of a wood fire.

A couple times each week we drive into the city (sounds like a country bumpkin, doesn’t it?). The city is downtown Chattanooga, only 15 minutes from our house. There really isn’t much to downtown Chattanooga but what there is is worth seeing. The area at the north end of Broad Street is centered around the aquarium; probably the top attraction in Chattanooga. There are nice views of the Tennessee River to be had from many vantage points. Broad and Market streets offer many restaurants, some jewelry stores and a few novelty shops, but there is a disappointing lack of boutiques and other businesses that would attract tourists and local shoppers to the area. Or maybe we just haven’t found them yet.

Serious shoppers go to the Hamilton Place commercial district. The center piece is the enclosed two-level mall featuring the usual selection of mall shops and a food court. Surrounding the mall are many large chain stores…Kohls, Target, Walmart, Pier1 and a host of others. Restaurants include Red Lobster, Outback Steak House and others. To walk through every store in the district  would probably take from two to three days.  

There are many antique shops in the area, some small, others the size of a mall. We like to walk through these shops, not looking for anything in particular though we did buy a vintage telephone table and hall mirror to use as a sort of memorial to Maribel’s mother. We were surprised at how rapidly items in the stores disappear, to be replaced by other things. The old adage, ‘one person’s junk is another person’s treasure’ certainly applies here.

There are several changes we want to make to the house. Neither of us will be fully comfortable calling it “home” until those changes are made, though we have no regrets about buying it. And we have no regrets about returning to the USA. That said, we are talking more lately about planning a visit to our home in Chiclayo, but that’s a way off yet. In the meantime, what do I do with this blog?

Friday, October 6, 2017

We have the shoe money for El Cerezo

Our thanks to Denny Wallette who answered our call for help to provide shoes to the kids in the village of El Cerezo. Magali will need time to get the kid's shoe sizes and purchase them so we don't yet know when the shoes and other items will be delivered. We will post the status of this project as it progresses.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An update on El Cerezo

We have the money to provide the items needed to the pronoei Huellitas de Christo in the village of El Cerezo. Since informing Anhela Diaz, the teacher at the pronoei of our decision to help the school Magali has received several phone calls from village residents expressing their thanks and eagerness to see the new tables and chairs. Those calls from villagers are a first…we don’t remember that ever happening before.

Something the villagers don’t know is that we received a donation for the purpose of buying shoes, not only for the two girls pictured and mentioned in our previous post about the village, but for all 17 kids. In checking on shoe prices in Chiclayo, Magali reports that the least expensive shoes that are not ‘junk’ cost $9.26 per pair. We are $60 short of the total amount needed for the shoes. If there is anyone who would like to help us to provide shoes to the students please visit the Promesa Peru webpage.

We’re looking forward to Magali’s report and photos when all the items are delivered to the village. We’re not sure when that will happen but we’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

About standing for a National Anthem

Shortly after arriving in Chiclayo, Peru I was walking on Balta Ave and came upon some sort of ceremony. Street ceremonies are common in Peru. There was a stage with officious looking people on it, and a military band was playing officious sounding music. There was room on the opposite sidewalk to walk past so not knowing what was happening I continued on. A policeman stopped me; pointed to the stage and the crowd of people standing and singing with their hands over their hearts and indicated that I should do the same. I complied, and when the music stopped continued on my way. I was a little miffed about that policeman ‘forcing’ me to take part in something I didn’t understand, though if I had known the music was the national anthem I would have stopped out of respect.

The Peruvian national anthem is ubiquitous. It will be heard at the opening of a new park, street, store, school and school activities, sporting events and just about anything else you can think of. And what is interesting is to watch the faces of people during the playing of the anthem. They are not just going through the motions. They are very animated and their faces reflect a fierce pride as they sing. Sure, there are some whose attention is elsewhere but they're a tiny minority. Peruvians, like citizens across the world complain about their governments. Political protests, sometimes violent are part of the culture but there is no doubt about their allegiance to their country. I admire that feeling and demonstration of pride and loyalty.

The headlines today in the United States are all about President Trump’s comments respecting the national anthem, and various people’s/group’s reaction to those comments. There are 14 National Football League games scheduled today. There will be a significant number of players and others who plan to protest the anthem by sitting or other means. The media will have a feast detailing who did what. I’ll be watching as many games as I can today, but not the pre-game ceremonies.

I wouldn’t want to see obligatory participation in respecting the national anthem. In the grand scheme of things participating or not is probably no big deal, but……..

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Desert Village Named ‘The Cherry’??

Actually, the name is El Cerezo, which translates to cherry and it is located about 15 miles directly east of the city of Mochumi. The population is approximately 130 in the immediate area. The economy is agriculture, with the rice being the major crop. In the distant past there was a large plantation that raised cherries, giving the village its name, but the plantation and its cherries vanished to be replaced by other crops. There is no organized artisan community, though several of the women make trinkets to sell in Mochumi and elsewhere.

Anhela Diaz on the left in the photo has been teaching at the pronoei Huellitas de Christo for three years. Patricia, who is the District Coordinator for pronoeis in the Mochumi District is the other woman. The school was built as a joint project 10 years ago by the community, who donated the lot, and the Mochumi District who erected the building and a separate restroom and sink.

The two girls in sandals in the photo are sisters. Their mother apologized to Magali for the sandals, adding that they do have shoes at home that are in good condition but are kept in a box for special occasions.  

The building is in good condition inside and out and is reasonably well equipped except for the plastic chairs that were donated 5 years ago by the city and are starting to break. The whiteboard behind Anhela is cracked right down the middle and held together with tape. Anhela has 17 students who seem to be happy and have a good relationship with her.

Also present to greet Magali was Manuel, who is president of the parent’s association. His aunt, Guillermina Solano Aquino is 87, unmarried, and lives with her brother who is Manuel’s father. Guillermina is proud of her nephew and his commitment toward the pronoei where he has two kids attending.

The villagers have asked for a replacement for the whiteboard, teaching aids, two storage shelves, three tables and 15 chairs. Those items, together with transport cost and Magali’s time would total $621.06.

3 tables - $83.18
15 chairs – 231.05
1 whiteboard with markers and erasers – 60.07
2 storage shelves – 52.37
17 books and puzzles – 68.08
Transport – 64.70
Magali’s time – 61.61
Total – $621.06

We think this is a good project. The teacher and parent’s association show the kind of spirit we like to see. We have $286 toward this project. We need $335 to finish it.

Please consider helping us to help this school and community. You can do that by visiting the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you from us and the village of El Cerezo.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The village of Tepo project is cancelled

During a visit to several villages in the Mochumi District last Wednesday, Magali stopped at Tepo, the subject of our last post on September 3 to determine what items would be suitable to donate to the primary school. During that visit the director of the primary school informed Magali that she would be resigning at the end of the school term in December. Magali then had a discussion with members of the parent’s association and was told that parents would no longer be boycotting the primary school and would be enrolling their kids from the pronoei in that school for the next term.

We had said in our post about Tepo that we felt that the pronoei was not needy but decided to donate to it and the primary school as an inducement to increase enrollment at the primary school if donations were received. With the director’s decision to resign there is no need for an inducement, and given that the pronoei is reasonably furnished we are canceling the project.

One interesting aside…as Magali was preparing to leave Tepo a woman asked if she could ride with her to a clinic in Mochumi. During the ride the woman, Rosa Santisteban Cajusol told Magali she had seen many changes in Tepo during her lifetime. We don’t doubt that. Last week on August 30 she celebrated her 104th birthday. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The villagers of Tepo need to forget

In the past in the village of Tepo the primary school I.E.P.N 11238 was a normal school with twenty-some students between the ages of six to eleven, two teachers and the director. The death of a nine-year old girl six years ago at the school altered that situation to the present day. Neither the director nor the parents would talk about the details of the circumstances, though Magali did learn that an investigation resulted in clearing the staff of any negligence. Blameless or not, the community held the school and staff accountable for the incident. Parents stopped sending their kids to the school. When enrolment dropped to only a handful, Mochumi authorities removed the two teachers, but retained (probably a mistake) the director as the only teacher. Though the death occurred six years ago the stigma remains. At present the primary has nine students, though there are many more students in Tepo eligible to attend. The school looks and feels to be in a state of limbo; it’s continued existence to on a day-to-day basis.

The parent’s association is not supporting the primary school and the appearance of the classroom shows it. The government is providing only minimal support, citing declining enrolment as the reason. Promised repairs for the recent flood damaged walls are probably in the distant future if at all.

The pronoei Mi Mundo Magico (My Magic World) is inside the primary school, using a classroom no longer needed. Curiously parents seem to have no reservations about having their kids attend class at the site of that girl’s death six years ago, which seems to indicate it is the director/teacher they are avoiding.

In contrast to the primary classroom, the pronoei is well maintained. Malena Seclen has been there since 2013 and appears to have a good repour with the parent’s association. She has an enrolment of twenty kids ages three to five. She would like to replace the plastic tables, some of which are broken, with five wood tables. She has chairs from the primary school. She has also asked for a whiteboard and storage shelf.

The pronoei in Tepo would normally not meet our criteria for donation, however here we feel is a condition that needs to be addressed and possibly Promesa Peru could help. We’d like to donate the items asked for to the pronoei, and provide teaching aids to the primary school. It is our hope that by demonstrating our interest in the primary school, the parents may soften their view and send their kids to I.E.P.N 11238 when they finish at the pronoei.

It’s not a good situation to have classrooms empty when they can be cleaned up for little cost, nor to have an experienced director/teacher being limited to a token number of students. There would be so many advantages to the kids and community to have I.E.P.N 11238 up and running again but for that to happen the villagers need to forget what happened…or what they think happened six years ago.

The cost for pronoei items would be:
Five tables - $139
One whiteboard – 53
Whiteboard erasers and markers – 8
Storage shelf – 27
Transportation – 47
Total - $274.00

We are not sure what would be appropriate to donate to I.E.P.N 11238 at this moment but would limit the cost to $100. We need $374 to accomplish this project. If you agree with our objective and would like to contribute please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Southern Version of 'Up North'

In my last post I mentioned that we were enjoying the trees on our land, but afterwards it occurred to me that I hadn’t really taken the time to look at them. It was sort of like a reverse of that old chestnut, ‘couldn’t see the forest for the trees.’ I did a mini survey and discovered that we have seven varieties I think I’ve identified and several others that I have yet to put a name to.

At the very top of the photo, to the right of the coffee cup is a chestnut seed. There are lots of seeds still on the tree and on the ground. When I have the time I’d like to learn how to roast them to make them eatable. Moving clockwise from the chestnut is a leaf and seed pod from a catalpa tree. There were lots of them in my Milwaukee neighborhood when I was a kid. We called them Indian cigar trees, though I don’t know how that name came about.

At the bottom of the photo is a tree I had never seen or heard of. My neighbors tell me it is a water oak. If it didn’t have acorns I wouldn’t believe it was an oak at all, though Wikipedia seems to confirm what they told me. To the left of the oak is, I believe, a species of Cyprus. It is the only one on the property. Above the Cyprus is a species of spruce. The tree is surrounded by vines and undergrowth – a situation I want to deal with soon because a vine known as English ivy can kill a tree. Between the spruce and coffee cup is a pecan. As with the chestnut, I’d like to learn how to make the nut eatable.

The oak to the left and pine in the background are especially impressive. Some rough measurements and calculations put both trees at somewhere between 65 to 70 feet tall. Using a tape measure at a height of 48" on both trees, the pine measured 75’’ in circumference with a diameter of 23.9”. The oak has an incredible 183” circumference and 53.28” diameter.

In my early teens acorns and pine cones brought back from family summer vacations were like religious objects to me...emissaries from 'up north'. I'd line them up on my dresser and think about where I got them from, and wish time would go quickly so we could go back soon. Oh sure...there were oaks and pines in some of Milwaukee's parks but that was not the same. They were in controlled city environments, like animals on display in a zoo. The real up north was Wisconsin forests that were wild and un-managed. Our backyard in Rossville, Georgia isn't up north, but the smell of the earth; the sound of the acorns and pine cones falling to the ground plus the raucous calls of blue jays and crows are pretty darn close.The chestnuts and pecans are a bonus. I'll take it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Life is Good

A recent teacher’s strike in Peru has disrupted the early portion of the school term for the second consecutive year. The protests involve President Kuczynski’s election promise to increase teacher’s salaries. As I understand it there was a small increase granted some months ago, and a promise for a larger increase later this year but many teachers don’t regard these actions as keeping his promise. To my knowledge pronoei teachers have not taken part in the demonstrations but during unsettled times parents tend to keep their kids at home and we’re told that at the moment school attendance is down. If I can offer a brief opinion here, in my view Kuczynski offers Peru the best opportunity they’ve had in many years to see solid progress away from their third-world status…if the population and opposing politicians would cooperate with him.

Despite the turmoil Promesa Peru has completed five projects in the Mochumi District this year. The villages are identified on the map. Magali has had two more villages request that she visit; El Tepo and Salitral (also on the map), both much closer to the city of Mochumi than the other villages we’ve donated to. Magali has no information for us at this time about the villages but hopes to visit both of them next week. Should a project result for one or both of them transportation costs should be reduced.

As for Maribel and I, we’re both feeling more comfortable with our new home and community. We pretty much have the interior of the house the way we want it, though we’re still looking for unusual pieces to fill some empty spots. With that thought in mind, we’ve taken to visiting antique and second-hand stores…something I’ve never done before and am really enjoying. Negotiating prices is the norm in these shops but I think these people have never been exposed to a Peruvian negotiator like Maribel. After a particularly lengthy session of offer and counter offer, one man commented to me that if it had lasted much longer he would have ended up paying Maribel to take the item.

We have a large back yard with trees and are enjoying working on it to shape it/them to our likes, and also built a brick grill where we cook, eat and relax…a pleasure I have missed during the years in Peru. Life is good here but I do have to admit that both of us have started talking about when it would be a good time to visit Chiclayo. We are very happy to have our house in Chiclayo available to us to visit whenever we want to.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Better Late Than Never…

On July 8 we wrote about the village of Paredones San Juan; their pronoei and the prospect of furnishing the classroom. We had estimated a cost of $910 to cover the project. For several weeks we had no response to our request for donations and it was beginning to look like we would not be able to contribute anything to the village. Fortunately the Alice Cool Foundation, our long-time friend and supporter contacted us, offering to underwrite the entire project.

Magali was swarmed upon arrival yesterday morning. Several mothers had told her that they were not sure she would come, or at least not with the promised items. Villagers have often been disappointed when promises made by local governmental authorities are not realized because of lack of funds. Promesa Peru is proud to say that we have never reneged once a promise has been made.

The Alice Cool Foundation’s generosity allowed us to deliver 6 tables, 24 chairs, 4 storage shelves, 1 whiteboard with erasers and markers plus puzzles and story books for each of the 24 students. Magali said there is a completely different environment and attitude among the kids and their mothers. We’ve seen this before…the new furnishings creating a seriousness and formality to the learning process. Teachers have told us that attendance almost always increases after we’ve furnished the classrooms.

The project cost was $943…$23 over estimate, again due to transportation of the furniture from the carpenter to the far distant village.

An interesting side note is that two of Magali’s former classmates who are in the business of manufacturing classroom furniture contacted Magali seeking our business. Both of them quoted prices that were in excess of 20% more than our carpenter in Tucume has been charging us. That’s good information.

Again, our thanks to the Alice Cool Foundation for contributing to the education  of these kids.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adapting to Change

A few years ago two Canadian couples visited Chiclayo, Peru and asked Maribel and I to guide them to non-touristy places. On the first day we took them to Collud, one of the more primitive villages in the Lambayeque Region. Stepping out of the car their faces took on a stunned expression. One of the women muttered, “My God…it’s like walking into a National Geographic article.” As is so often the case, being told in advance what to expect doesn’t do it…you need to see and feel it yourself.

Now, I am not saying that the town of Rossville, Georgia where we now live is anything like those Peruvian villages I grew to love, but in the past six weeks we have often had the feeling that we’ve stepped into the 1940s. Take this morning for instance.

We’ve got nearly all of the furniture we want but haven’t found a TV stand we like. We live in rural Rossville. It’s more like country than city. About a quarter mile from our house on a side road is a collection of old buildings…a few houses, a gas station and a used furniture store. We were on our way to downtown Chattanooga; about a 20-minute drive when we decided to check out the store. If you’re familiar with Norman Rockwell paintings you’ll have some idea of what the ‘town’ looks like as well as the store front and interior. The building served some other purpose years ago. Now it is crammed full of used furniture, mostly wooden items. Prices range from $50 to $150. There weren’t any TV stands but there were a few tables that could serve as a stand. In a corner was a table and matching chair with some of the most beautifully grained wood I have ever seen, with a $150 tag on it. I looked long and hard at that item but decided we didn’t need it.

While we were inside looking around the proprietor was out back unloading some chairs from an old pickup truck. He looked to be about 80, wearing faded jeans and plaid long-sleeve shirt, a baseball cap and worn leather boots. When he had finished his work and came into the store his southern drawl was so deep and so slow that neither Maribel or I could understand him (the southern drawl has been a problem for us more than once. When I commented to a woman that I couldn’t understand her accent, she said, “I’m from Tennessee and this is the way we talk! You’re the one with the accent!).

When we left the store I shook hands with the man and thanked him for letting us look around. That led to another five minutes of near unintelligible conversation. The whole experience…the town, the store, the man was indeed reminiscent of the 1940s. And that’s not an isolated case. There are what I call pockets of the past all over this area, including downtown Chattanooga. In time we’ll get used to these pockets of the past but at the moment there’s a feeling of being off balance when we find ourselves in these situations.

I had my army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in the early 1960s. When I returned home after six months my mother asked, “Why are you talking like that?” It was then I realized I had picked up a southern twang. A few days ago, after only six weeks here, Maribel asked why I was talking like that. I think I’m adapting to change.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Village of Paredones San Juan

On the official Mochumi District map the name is Paredones. Ask anyone who lives in the village and they will tell you the name is Paredones San Juan. The San Juan part has an interesting story behind it. An unofficial village historian who seemed to know what he was talking about told Magali that on July 16, 1624 when the Spaniards were governing the area the villagers protested to the governor that the village had no water. In response a canal was built that to this day brings water from some distant source. The canal was named Saint John.

No one is sure how the name Paredones came about or even what it means, though it is possibly associated with the hill (in Spanish ‘huaca’) the village was built upon.

The huaca was apparently part of a Moche culture village dating back to approximately 800 AD, and like all such huacas associated with the Moche culture it has been illegally excavated over time by individuals hoping to find pottery to sell. Those people are referred to as huaqueros. They usually work at night with hand shovels. Wherever they have been the landscape resembles a cratered moonlike surface.

There are over 200 families living in and about Paredones San Juan. Like most villages in this area, the economy is based on agriculture with mangos being the dominant crop.

The name of the pronoei is Las Fresitas, meaning little strawberries. The teacher, Mariela Sandoval (right) has been there 8 years. This year she has 24 students. The building is a crude structure and there is little inside that would suggest it is a classroom.

To equip this classroom as we normally do would be an expensive proposition:

6 tables - $166.26
24 chairs – 369.46
4 storage shelves – 104.68
1 whiteboard with markers – 60.04
Teaching aids – 96.06
Transport – 65
Magali’s salary – 49.26
Total = $910.76

That’s a lot of money. Promesa Peru has $35 so we have a long way to go but we believe this village and these kids are deserving. We’d like to try to help them, or at least see how far we can get. Please help by visiting the Promesa Peru website to donate whatever you can. Thank you. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Huaca de Toro is complete…on to the next?

On Wednesday, July 5 Magali was at the village of Huaca de Toro delivering the last of the items Promesa Peru had promised to the pronoei. Everybody looks happy, and most importantly the kids are off the floor.

The physical items…3 tables, 12 chairs, 2 storage shelves, 1 whiteboard, erasers and markers cost $380; within $3 of our estimate. Transportation came to $63, $8 more than estimated. Magali’s time was 8 hours for $49, though we suspect it took longer than that and she is donating to the cause. The total project cost was $492.

We and the people of Huaca de Toro thank Chris Raupe, Clif Brown, Denny Wallette, and The Alice Cool Foundation for making this project possible.

This was Magali’s first solo project and our first remote project. Overall it went better than anticipated. There were some communication delays, primarily due to Magali’s other roles as a wife, mother and teacher, something certainly understandable.  

Magali has visited several villages this past month but is recommending that we donate to only one of them; the village of Paredones San Juan mentioned in an earlier post. Maribel and I still have not had the time to study the information Magali sent to us, and with preparing for our house closing on Monday it will probably take a few days more to sort it out.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

An Update on the Village of Huaca de Toro

After several false starts the Huaca de Toro project is underway. So far the system with Maribel and I in the US and Magali in the Lambayeque Region has worked smoother than we’d expected. Magali has done a good job when visiting the villages of taking photos and gathering information, identifying needs and offering her opinions to us. Delays were caused by a condition we did not anticipate but probably should have…how to get the money from the US to Peru.

Paypal didn’t work, because although Paypal says it works in Peru, only one bank in Peru ‘partners’ with Paypal, and as I understand it that bank requires a minimum balance and minimum deposit. An internet attempt to send money through Wells Fargo apparently seceded until we received notification that it had failed.

Yesterday after registering with a store here we were able to send the money directly to Magali in Chiclayo through Money Gram at a reasonable fee. Today she will be purchasing the storage shelves and whiteboard. Usually the carpenter who makes the chairs and tables requires 50% down before he begins work, but on Magali’s word that the money will be coming he started two days ago. That’s rare in Peru. Hopefully we’ll have photos of the new classroom furnishings at Huaca de Toro early next week.

Magali has not been idle while waiting for the cash to arrive. She recently visited the village of Paradones San Juan. Maribel and I are strapped for time now but hope to be able soon to study the photos and digest all the information Magali sent to us about the village. It certainly looks like a Promesa Peru project.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Things We Didn’t Expect

In Peru, before I lost my awkward tourist mannerisms, I was panhandled nearly every day. It would usually start as a friendly discussion, “You are not Peruvian…where are you from?” Inevitably it would lead to, “Senor, two soles for bread please?” In addition there were women sitting on sidewalks in the downtown area; a baby in their arms and pleading to buy their candy. I often saw many of those same women over the years, sitting in the same locations with babies who never seemed to grow.

We’ve been in the US for three weeks now, and I have been panhandled several times, each time beginning with a seemingly friendly comment. We’ve seen many men (and some women) standing at main intersections holding hand-printed signs reading, “homeless – hungry – God bless.” We saw three college-age kids sitting under upturned shopping carts in a slight rain hold a sign saying “please help us.” At least one was a female. They had smiles on their faces as we passed, making me think that perhaps this was a college survey for a sociology class. We expected to see these things in Peru, but was not expecting them in the US. Maybe we had lived a sheltered life up there in northern Wisconsin.


We’re not sure when the closing on our house will happen but we do know that when it happens we’ll need furniture and a car quickly. Yesterday we were at a car dealer in one of those small towns I mentioned in a previous post. We were talking with a salesman about a particular SUV we liked, when Maribel mentioned it was smaller than most SUVs and could be a problem for transporting furniture items to our house if we needed to. The salesman replied, “No problem…come into our dealership and borrow one of our trucks. We do that often”. Okay! Then I raised another possible issue.

Maribel hasn’t driven in nearly eight years, and will need some practice before taking to the road again. If we were to buy the car we were looking at, we’d be at the dealership with our new car and the rental car. We’d need to return the rental to the airport, and I obviously can’t drive both. The salesman, never missing a beat said, “We’ll deliver the car to the airport for you.” When I asked him if he was really serious about the offers he was making, he looked at me with a slightly offended expression and said, “You’re in Georgia now.”


Speaking of motor vehicles, we did not expect the seemingly constant congestion on the interstates and secondary highways going through and around the city. The city population is less than 200,000 yet traffic conditions are equal to Miami during rush hour. Stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper is the norm during peak hours. That is something we never considered during our research of the area. We thought we had left behind the chaos of Chiclayo streets during ‘hora punta.’ We are very happy that we chose a home in one of those outlying communities, with enough shopping and entertainment support to allow us to go into the city center only when we choose to.

It seems as though we have a lot to learn about living in the south. We’re looking forward to the journey.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Huaca de Toro is a go!

On June 15, we wrote about the village of Huaca de Toro and the equipment needed for the pronoei Mi Nino Jesus. We’re happy to report that thanks to Denny Wallette and The Alice Cool Foundation we have the money to go ahead with that project. The time table for the delivery of the items has not been worked out yet but should be within the next week.

We learned a little more about how the village got its name. There is a hill in the distance that, using a little imagination, resembles a reclining bull. At various times in the past people have reported seeing a bull running in the area at night. It was so long ago that the story has been relegated to legend, but still, no one goes there in the evening.

When looking at the photos and reading the report from Magali, Maribel and I both felt good that Promesa Peru is continuing, and yet a little sad. For the first time in eight years a Promesa Peru project is happening and we’re not there.

So where are we? We’re in the United States. Before leaving Chiclayo we spent months researching weather, taxes, cost of living, geography, crime rates and availability of leisure time activities. We ended up focusing on one metropolitan area, and so far it looks like we made a good choice.

It’s a nice town…not too big and not too small. The 117 page official visitors guide book is full of things to do and places to see, as well as the usual listings for hotels and restaurants. We walked four miles of the river walk today, stopping to talk with just about anybody who indicated a notion to pass the time. People are friendly here. We talked with fishermen fishing on the bank of the river that flows right through the town and learned that although catfish are the prized catch, the river holds perch, crappie, bluegill, rock bass and walleye among others.

Trees are everywhere; so are birds and squirrels. There are no palm trees, but plenty of pine and oaks along with others that I have yet to identify. The town is in a valley surrounded by mountains. Flat terrain is at a premium…you’re always walking or driving on an angle. It’s a good thing they don’t often get snow or icy roads here. In fact January is the only month with an average low temperature below freezing, but the average January high is 50 so any snow or ice melts quickly.

The city is within easy driving distance of three major cities and is itself surrounded by smaller bedroom communities just 20 minutes from the city center. It’s the best of both worlds…all the advantages of a big city while living in a home in a country setting. 

We felt so good about the area that we made an offer on a home in one of those smaller towns and it was accepted. Now we’re in the process of going through all the stuff involved in buying a home. We’re told we’re within ten days of closing. We hope so, ‘cause living in a hotel is not fun.

Another thing on my mind is what to do about this blog? I don’t live in Peru anymore, but I’ve got so many memories and experiences during my time there that I probably could continue writing about Peru, but that would somehow feel like cheating. I don’t know if anyone would be interested in reading about My Slice of Smalltown USA. I guess I’ll wait awhile and play it by ear.

In the meantime, Promesa Peru is still in Peru and is alive and well, and needs your help to continue providing an education for those village kids. You can do that by visiting the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Village is Huaca de Torro

On Monday when Magali Mestar, our new Promesa Peru representative in the Lambayeque Region visited Huaca de Toro, she learned that there are about 20 families living in this little village located about 15 miles south west of the city of Mochumi. Huaca de Toro means land of the bull, though no one knows or remembers how the village got its name.

There is a small chapel in the center of the village named La Manito de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo. Inside the chapel is an ornate statue of a hand (upper center). The villagers refer to it as the hand of Jesus, and every August 5th there is a three-day celebration of the “little hand of Jesus.” Throughout the year villagers pray to the hand, asking for a good growing season, avoidance of illness, and prosperity for family and friends.

Monday through Friday the chapel is home to the pronoei Mi Nino Jesus (my baby Jesus), where Regina (left) has taught for two years. She has 12 students ages three to five who attend more or less regularly. The furnishings are sparse, and the few chairs are broken or nearly so.

There has been discussion with the mayor of Mochumi about constructing a modular pronoei, perhaps as soon as august, though there is no guarantee. If a building is constructed, it will be just a shell, with nothing else provided, so whether class continues in the chapel or a new building, equipment for the school will still be needed. 

We would like to provide 3 tables, 12 chairs, two storage shelves and a whiteboard. Those items will cost $377.44. Transportation will be costly because we’re talking long distances for the furniture from Tucume and remaining items from Chiclayo. That will cost about $55. Magali’s time at an estimated 8 hours will add $48.90, for a total project cost of $481,34.

We believe this is a good project. If you agree with us and would like to help, please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

By the way, We think that Magali did a fine job gathering information and taking photos on her first solo project. And there is no doubting her ability to relate to the villagers.