Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We Need Material for ‘Sector De Hogar’

Last April 28 when we met in the village of Cruze Sandoval with all of the pronoei teachers of the Mochumi District, we asked each of them what they needed for their classrooms. Most of their wants were for the items we usually donate…chairs, tables, etc., but every one of them also asked for “material para sector de hogar” which translates to material for the home sector. We had never heard that request or term before and explained that we needed to understand what it was they were asking for and why. Their responses were both informative and fascinating.
Much of Peru is still considered to be what is described as a macho society. By ‘macho’ I don’t mean guys sitting around the house in wife-beater shirts swilling beer and occasionally getting up to beat their wives. Some of that does exist but not in the vast majority of households. What does exist is a clear division of labor that is not in favor of females. In the small villages what this means is men work in the fields while women clean the house, sweep the grounds, feed the kids and get them ready for school, feed the livestock, get water from the community well, cut or gather fire wood for cooking, go to town to purchase needed items, wash clothes and hang them to dry, shuck peas, beans and corn, kill and clean a chicken and cook everything in preparation for the man and children returning home for lunch. She performs similar tasks for the remainder of the day, finishing with laying out clean clothing for the man and kids to wear next day before turning of the lights.

The men’s routine is much simpler. When they’re not working in the fields, they usually can be found sitting in groups under a shade tree discussing whatever while drinking their favorite beverage…probably brought to them by their wives. Helping with household chores is not something men normally do, those chores being regarded as women’s duties. Remember, we’re talking about small villages here, but that mindset exists even in larger cities. 

Over the last few years there has been a growing movement of protests and programs aimed at eliminating physical and mental abuse toward women, and promoting respect for women in general. Late last year the Minister of Education in Lima added a course called home sector to all government schools curriculum. The purpose of the course is to promote respect for women and the work they do, and to teach young kids that men sharing household work is a good thing.

In the upper level grades the teaching is done by lecture. In the lower grades like kinder and pronoei, teaching is supposed to be accomplished by play-acting with the use of props simulating a home setting. We don’t know what if anything the government is supplying to national schools to assist with the program, but as always pronoeis are left to their own resources to get the job done.

In this photo of the pronoei in Carrizo Bajo there is a miniature table and chairs located lower right. That’s all they have so far to implement the program.

The pronoei in the village of San Miguel incorporates some of the classroom furniture with other items they’ve managed to find to more closely resemble an actual home setting.

The following are internet photos found while researching the subject of Sector de Hogar, probably taken in larger cities where the parents association has the resources to donate the items pictured.

We’re certainly in favor of eliminating spousal abuse. Less well defined is the issue of attempting to change the men-women relationship and division of labor culture that has been in place for centuries. I remember several of my older female relatives, including my mother and her sister, and a few celebrities like Dale Evans, the wife of Roy Rogers saying that women were perfectly satisfied with their role in the home and that equality of sexes was “nonsense”. It would not be surprising if it were learned that many Peruvian village women, especially the older ones have that same attitude.

The question we at Promesa Peru are asking ourselves is, would donating items for the Sector De Hogar program be in line with our definition of supporting education, or is it a social program better left to the villagers and local government to sort out? We’d welcome reader comments on this subject.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Busy Morning in the Mochumi District

Our first stop this morning was at the pronoei Corazon De Maria in the village of Carrizo Bajo.  The teacher Carmen Salazar, the kids and members of the parents association were waiting for us. The tables and chairs had been delivered two days ago.

We brought with us a whiteboard, two storage shelves and books and puzzles. What a different atmosphere those items brought to the classroom. Two weeks ago the kids were sitting on bricks and boards. Now there is a more formal, legitimate feeling, and the whiteboard and shelves will add to it.

The kids, Carmen, the parents and us would like to thank  Clif Brown, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Denny Wallette for providing these kids with the opportunity for a better education.


From Carrizo Bajo we went to Huaca Quemada and the pronoei Little Explorers where members of the parents association began assembling shelves before we had even finished unloading.

The expression on the teacher's face, Esther Castro says it all. Everything is shiny new and ready to be used. And once again we thank Clif Brown, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Denny Wallette for their generous donations. You folks did a lot to help schools in the Tucume District last year, and so far this year you've earned the thanks and respect from many people in the Mochumi District.

The costs for both projects were:

                                                                           Carrizo Bajo      Huaca Quemada
4 tables & and 16 chairs*                                     $357.61             $353.46
2 storage shelves                                                        52.13                 52.13
1 whiteboard                                                               51.64                 51.64
Erasers & markers                                                        5.21                   5.21
12 puzzles & 12 books                                                44.16                 44.16
Transport furniture from carpenter to village      12.16                 10.65
Transport whiteboard & shelves from Chiclayo   15.23                 15.23
                                                      Total                    $538.14            $532.48

* - The cost difference for chairs and tables was because they were paid for on different dates and the dollar had risen against the Peruvian Sole when we paid for Huaca Quemada.

We have three projects under our belt so far this year, and invitations to many more villages. We may be looking at another project next week.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Meeting in the Village of Cruce Sandoval

Occasionally during the school year pronoei teachers in each district will get together to talk about common interests and problems. The meeting is usually called and chaired by the district coordinator. Such a meeting took place this morning at the pronoei 'Mi Segundo Hogar' (my second home) in the village of Cruce Sandoval in the Mochumi District.

Patricia, bottom row left is the Mochumi District coordinator. Last year she was the coordinator for the Tucume District and was the primary reason we were so busy in that district. This year she has called on us to help the pronoeis in her new district. Standing next to Patricia is Carmen Salazar from the village of Carrizo Bajo. Donations for her school, and for the school of Esther Castro (bottom row extreme right) from Huaca Quemada should arrive the second week in May.

There are 13 pronoeis in the Mochumi District; a relatively small number given the many villages in the district. The other 11 teachers have invited us to visit their schools, which are scattered all over the district, and some quite a distance from the city of Mochumi. We will try to visit all of them over the next few months. It was also suggested that we meet with the mayor and his people to coordinate our efforts to help the pronoeis.

A few weeks ago we were sitting back twiddling our thumbs waiting for calls for help from the villages. Now we've already got more invitations than we can handle, and more will be coming. It happens that way every year.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Estimating Promesa Peru Project Costs

We're usually close on our project cost estimates. It's not difficult to do if two key factors are up to date. We use the Excel spread sheet below to do the estimating. This example is the actual estimate for the village of Carrizo Bajo. I forgot to enter a quantity for whiteboard erasers/markers.  Click on it to enlarge.

It all starts with column B, the unit price in Peruvian soles. Those are the prices we have to constantly monitor to keep the spread sheet accurate. Notice we don't have unit prices for school supplies. That's because we haven't been asked to donate school supplies for some time, and it takes a lot of work to check all of the prices for the items that comprise school supplies, such as paper, pens. pencils, scissors, glue, erasers, etc. If we are asked for school supplies we'll have to go through that process.

The other key factor is the exchange rate in cell I1. We check that number daily. The rate has been on a downward trend ever since it reached a high of 3.535 in February 2016. As the rate drops the cost in dollars increases. For example, those same 16 chairs that cost $246.84 now, had a price of $226.63 in February last year. Applying that same percentage difference to whiteboards, shelves and transport amounts to a significant difference in the total project cost. Incidentally, the same applies to donations.

For every $50 donation, we receive $48.25. PayPal takes $1.75. But because we pay the bills in soles, we're receiving less money as the rate drops. In February last year $48.25 gave us 170.32 soles. With today's rate of 3.241 we receive 156.38 soles. Obviously we'd like to see that rate increase. Back to the spread sheet.

With both the unit prices in soles and the exchange rate up to date, all we have to do is enter quantities. The spread sheet calculates all the other numbers. We pay particular attention to the percent numbers in column G. That number tells us if we need to look for different suppliers or different modes of transportation to control costs. Notice in the spread sheet we have a quantity of 3 in transport. That's because we have to hire a motocar, not mototaxi to transport the chairs and tables from the carpenter in Tucume to the village of Carrizo Bajo, a distance of 13 very difficult miles. The further away we operate from Tucume, the more that cost is going to increase.

And speaking of transport, we've just learned that the furniture for Carrizo Bajo and Huaco Quemada will be ready for pick-up on Tuesday May 9, so we should be in those two villages shortly after that.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Good Morning in Los Bances

Parents, kids and the teacher had good reasons to celebrate this morning. Yesterday they moved into their new classroom, which is actually the village town hall but is rarely used except on weekends and some evenings. Rather than have it sitting empty the villagers decided the pronoei should use it.

Also yesterday, the new tables and chairs were delivered. everyone was happy with the quality and colors. Usually 5 tables and 20 chairs would fill the typical classroom, but here they seem lost in all the space.

This morning we gave them puzzles and books as promised. We usually tell the teacher the names of the people who donated the items, in case they want to recognize those individuals. Though they don't always get the spelling right their thanks is sincere and heartfelt. We and they thank Denny Wallette, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Clif Brown for making this project possible.

The cost for this project was:
5 tables & 20 chairs - $447.08
Puzzles & books - 45.38
Transport - $15.41
Total - $507.87

As we were leaving with beans, chicha, and a turkey they had given us, the teacher Martha (wearing the apron) asked us for a chocolatada next December. She said she was asking now because she wanted to be sure they were first on our list. On a devilish impulse Maribel told her she was third. She looked crestfallen.

During the mototaxi ride back to Tucume our driver stopped to help a fellow driver. His moto had broken down. We towed his moto several miles to a small village where a repair shop was located. No payment was offered nor did our driver expect it. The reason I mention this is because it's funny how a minor incident like this can trigger long forgotten memories.

Many years ago on a rainy spring day in Wisconsin I was driving into town when I saw a woman parked on the shoulder helplessly staring at a flat tire. I had time and didn't mind getting wet so I stopped and changed tires for her. When I was finished she offered $5 to me. I told her to forget it...that maybe someday her husband would change a tire for my wife. She looked at me with a puzzled expression and then asked, "But how will he know who she is"?

We had to wait about 20 minutes for passengers at the Tucume combi station, so to use the time Maribel got a good start on shuckin' beans. Fortunately the turkey had already been killed and cleaned when given to us. It was a good morning. We were back in Chiclayo by noon.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Village of Huaca Quemada

Huaca Quemada is a small village located two miles west of the city of Mochumi. The closest we can come to an English translation is 'burnt-out mountain or hill'. Like the village of Carrizo Bajo that we visited on the same morning, the village homes are scattered over a wide area. We were there to see the pronoei Pequeños Exploradores...'Little Explorers'. We like that name.

This is without a doubt the best physical facility we've seen for a pronoei. The brick school was intentionally built 12 years ago as a pronoei, which is very unusual. When local authorities build a pronoei it is usually modular. The building is sturdy and reasonably well maintained. The concrete column with four holes held a plaque probably placed there during the building's inauguration. It was probably metal so suffered the same fate of nearly all metal plaques in Peru; it was stolen and sold. Most commemorative plaques these days are made of plastic. They don't normally get stolen.

It's a relatively large building with lots of interior space and includes a restroom, also very uncommon. The classroom was not used for the last two years. The reason for that was simply because there were no kids in the 3 to 5 age range. This school term 6 kids registered, and first-year teacher Esther Castro knew there were more so she went knocking on doors to find them. She now has 16 students enrolled.

Esther is the sort of teacher we like to see. She's vibrant; a natural leader and very good with the kids. She has already earned the respect of the parents association. She has asked for 2 storage shelves, 4 tables and 16 chairs. We were told that the plastic chairs and two wood tables that were in the school prior to its closing last year had been returned to the owners. She doesn't want a whiteboard, saying that the old plaster chalkboard is perfectly serviceable.

The carpenter we use in Tucume has increased the price of tables to $27.75 from $24.69 last year, but has held the cost of chairs to $15.42. His prices are still the least expensive of other carpenters we've checked.

The tables, chairs and storage shelves will cost $407.03. We'd like to add some teaching aids...puzzles, books etc for another $50. Transport will bring the total to $500. After the Carrizo Bajo expenses have been paid Promesa Peru will be broke so we have no money for this project. If you can help us please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

### Update on other projects ###

The furniture has been delivered to Los Bances. We will be there Tuesday to deliver teaching aids and take photos.

We received the money to finance the Carrizo Bajo project. Thank you. The furniture order has been placed. We still need to buy the storage shelves. Hopefully we can return to the village with everything in place the first week of May.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Something You Have Never Seen Before

Do you have any idea what you're looking at in the following photos? What you're not looking at is the work of Picasso or any other modern artist. Nor are you looking through a microscope or telescope. And while I would love to tell you that Maribel and I discovered wall art in a secret cave, that's not the case either.

Take a moment to sit back and study the photos. Be sure to click to enlarge them. If you're of a certain temperament maybe the photos will speak to you, perhaps tell you of the history of the planet or universe, or maybe even the meaning of life.

Beautiful, aren't they? What you're looking at is the surface of two stones, each no more than two inches in length. We found them on a shoreline of the Chinchipe River in the village of Zapotal in the Jaen province of Peru. We have a collection of stones from all over Peru. We pick them up and keep them because of an odd shape, unusual color or blend of colors but never have we seen stones with this kind of detail. The lines and shapes are so intricate and graceful and seem to complement each other. It's therapeutic just to look at them.

We have no idea how these stones were formed. If there is a geologist reading this we'd appreciate any insight you can give us.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Village of Carrizo Bajo

Carrizo Bajo is the first village we have visited in the Mochumi District. We actually visited two pronoeis this morning, the second being in the village of Huaca Quemada. Both are on the Mochumi District map. We need to get a little more information about Huaca Quemada before agreeing to try to help them, but Carrizo Bajo in our view certainly qualifies as a Promesa Peru project.

In English carrizo means reed. In Peru these reeds are very thick, up to one inch in diameter and when peeled and dried are used to construct fences and as interior support for mud walls. Bajo means below which implies that there should be a village named Carrizo Alto (above) but if so it is not on the map.

Carrizo Bajo is one of those villages where the houses are widely scattered, making it impossible to take a photo of the village. There are about 200 people living here. The economic base is a repeat of all other villages in northern and often women working in farm fields for absentee landlords.

The pronoei 'Corazon De Maria' (Mary's heart) is a modular building constructed by the district government over four years ago. It is in surprisingly good condition for that age (these pre-fabs are flimsy and without constant attention don't last long), which usually indicates an active parents's association. It also indicates a strong lobbying effort to get it constructed in the first place.

Carmen Salazar has fifteen students though only eleven were present today. Carmen is young but has four years of experience teaching at pronoeis. This is her first year at Corazon De Maria. She has an easy going personality and seems to have a good rapport with the kids who are also quiet, perhaps having taken on their teachers personality.

That the classroom has needs is obvious. We feel that a whiteboard ($53), two storage shelves ($50), four tables ($111) and sixteen chairs ($247) would furnish this classroom nicely. Another $40 for transportation brings the total to $501.

Maria in the turquoise blouse is the village president, and is also president of the vaso de leche (glass of milk) program. She says she knows a carpenter who may be able to make the furniture for less money. We will wait to hear from her before placing an order. The woman in the pink blouse is Maribel's sister Magaly,  who sometimes helps us with projects.

When the Los Bances project is completed (the furniture is supposed to be ready April 21) we will have approximately $200 remaining to use for the Carrizo Bajo project. We're going to need another $300 to finish it. If you can help us please visit the Promesa Peru webpage to donate. Thank you.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Peruvians Love Inaugurations!

In the western world when the word inauguration is used it usually means a formal ceremony with dignitaries to mark the beginning of something grand; a new president, the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the London Tower, etc. Peru does that too, inaugurating new schools, hospitals, parks and the like, but inaugurations are not held only for big ticket events. It is customary to have a formal ceremony for the opening of a new bakery, pharmacy, private office and such. A new house, apartment or condo also qualifies for inauguration.

Being a predominantly Catholic country the ceremony usually involves a priest walking from room to room, sprinkling holy water and blessing the enterprise. If a priest is not available any lay-person can do it. Maribel has often drenched people with holy water while blessing a new dwelling. She laughs while doing it. That doesn't seem very solemn to me. After the object has been blessed, token (teeny weeny) drinks and sandwiches are given to the invited guests. These kinds of ceremonies usually last from 30 to 45 minutes.

The vast majority of inaugurations are held for small-scale neighborhood events. Marie planted a new shrub? Pablo got a new tire for his tico taxi? Juan and Esmeralda have a new front door? Hey!....let's inaugurate!! Nobody is going to convince me that these so called ceremonies are anything more than an excuse for a party. Last night in Las Muses park an inauguration took place to commemorate the grand opening of Carlos' food truck.

It was coincidental that last week I read an article about food trucks in Milwaukee. I didn't know Milwaukee had food trucks. I didn't know that food trucks existed anywhere in the USA outside of that weird Coney Island section of New York (to my knowledge Promesa Peru has never received a donation from Coney Island so I feel okay insulting it). Back to Carlos' food truck.

The ceremony began with the unveiling of the truck's interior. Everything was shiny and squeaky clean. We'll see how long that lasts. Carlos made a speech about the truck, and how he intended it to be a long-term business for his son and son-in-law. Then different family members took turns blessing the truck and sprinkling it with holy water.

The ceremony ended with free Pisco Sours distributed to the guests. When the drinks were finished the crowd converged on the truck to order food (not free) from the menu. The empanadas were especially good, filled with meat and a tasty sauce.

Carlos' truck joins about six others that normally park in the evening on that stretch of the road bordering Las Musas park. We hope the business is successful. We'll do our share to support it, as long as he continues to sell those delicious empanadas.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A return to the village of Los Bances

Our return trip to the village of Los Bances this morning was an enjoyable one, but before we get into the visit some comments about the journey to get there seem appropriate.

Riding through the cities of Tucumè and Mochumi it quickly became evident that those towns and the surrounding area were hit much harder by the floods than Chiclayo was. Many of the roads including the main highway were washed away, leaving only rutted, muddy passageways. In both towns on both sides of the street there were many lots containing piles of rubble where businesses and houses recently stood. In the Tucumè cemetery the bottom row of the above-ground tombs is under water. We were told that the city has been pumping water out of the cemetery since the rain stopped two weeks ago.

In the countryside, small creeks and canals had reached heights of more than 15 feet above their normal state. Most of the bridges, maybe 10 to 12 feet in length survived but are in need of urgent repair. The gravel roads are pockmarked and in places impassable.

This photo shows the main (only?) intersection in Los Bances. A building in the center and two on the left collapsed. The pronoei we visited today is the most distant building in the center of the photo.

Despite all the recent hardships it was a cheery group that greeted us this morning. Martha (on the left in the group ) seems pleased with her new classroom. She has more room than in the previous quarters, and she needs the extra space because she has 20 students this term as opposed to 13 last year.The name of the pronoei is Manitos Traviesas; in English 'naughty little hands'.

Martha has one table and two wooden chairs for her 20 kids. She has asked us for five tables and 20 chairs. She would also like some puzzles and books to accommodate the additional students. She still has those we donated last year, and the whiteboard and storage shelves. The estimated cost for 20 chairs is $340. For 5 tables it is $100. Puzzles and books will be about $60. The total is $500.

The good news is that, with the money from donations carried over from last year and donations received so far this year we already have enough to pay for this project. To anyone who may have been thinking about donating to Promesa Peru this year, please hold on to your money until we need it for a future project. And there will be future projects, perhaps as soon as next week.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Chiclayanos are settling in

Every day life in Chiclayo has nearly returned to normal. Trucks and buses to and from Lima are getting through, though the Pan American highway is still restricted in some stretches. Empty store shelves are being restocked with milk, bread and a host of other food items that had not been available for the last two weeks. The small bakeries are receiving flour and sugar from Lima. Normally they would get their sugar locally but the floods have brought the sugar cane processing plants to a halt.

Military planes are still flying into and out of Chiclayo's airport, though they are no longer transporting people. Instead they are transporting food, medicine and other supplies to the Piura Region north of us. I don't understand why they are stopping at Chiclayo when Piura is only another 40 airplane minutes away but there must be a good reason for it. Anyone contemplating a visit to the Piura Region would be wise to put their plans on hold. Damage has been incredible...much worse than our region. It will take many months to clean up the destruction.

Chile and Colombia came to Peru's aid, supplying food, medicine and aircraft to transport them. We saw several Colombian helicopters approach the Chiclayo airport. We assume they came direct from Columbia rather than  going out of the way to Lima. Now that Colombia is experiencing floods it may be Peru's turn to help them. There are 290 deaths so far in Colombia.

Sites where buildings have collapsed in Chiclayo are being cleaned up. All that remains of a house two doors down from ours is the front wall, and that is being held up with braces. Everything else is gone. After all the rubble has been removed I'm sure the remaining wall will be taken down. The cinema in the Real Plaza mall has reopened after being closed for three weeks because of water damage.

Schools in the Lambayeque Region officially opened today, though we suspect that parent's will take a wait and see attitude before sending their kids to classrooms. We have received five invitations to visit schools; three of them in the Mochumi District. This is one of two districts we wanted to target this year, the other being San Jose. We hope to visit the Mochumi schools on Wednesday. We expect to be very busy very soon.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

And now food shortages

Four days ago in the late afternoon there was a brilliant rainbow to the east of the city. Our neighbors took it as a sign that the rain was over. So far they’ve been right. No rain for four days and most (not all) of the streets in Chiclayo are dry. We consider ourselves to be lucky. The cities to the north, east and south are still getting hammered.

Busses and trucks are not getting through from Lima. Much of the packaged food items sold in the big department stores; Tottus, Metro and Plaza Vea come from Lima. Milk and bread shelves are empty. Packaged meats sections nearly so. There are signs in some stores limiting customers to one kilo per family of several food items.

Food prices in the above mentioned stores have increased, but not nearly as much as at the farmers markets. This is not just due to transportation issues, but also because fields are flooded. Local growers are taking advantage of the reduced supply to increase prices. So far prices for local baked goods; bread, roles, cakes have not increased but probably will as the baker’s supply of sugar, flour etc. diminishes. Poultry prices have increased slightly. There are a lot of chickens and ducks raised locally so I don’t expect a supply problem, but demand will/has increased so those prices will probably rise.

The air force is still flying into and out of Chiclayo and other cities, transporting people to their homes who were stranded when the floods began.

Four houses collapsed within a two block radius of our home. Others are still not habitable and may never be. In the downtown area several business buildings collapsed.  I have no idea what the total damage figures will be. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of homes lost in Chiclayo is in the hundreds. The washed out roads and bridges will take a while to repair. But already life is going on as usual. The street vendors are out in full force, the streets are once again open to endless lines of combis, taxis and mototaxis looking for passengers, and the mall is again home to huge crowds of people. The cinema was damaged and is still not open; the only reminder of the floods that closed the mall several times in the last month.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Statistics regarding Peru's crisis

My thanks to a reader who saw and sent us this article on UPI news.

The statistics are staggering but they don't tell the whole story. Food prices in Chiclayo and I imagine much of Peru are skyrocketing because transportation is disrupted. This morning at a small corner market a handful of broccoli that usually costs 10 cents was priced at 35 cents. The same was true for other food items.

The Peruvian air force has started flights to transport people in emergency situations to and from Trujillo, Piura, Chiclayo and Lima. The Pan American highway along the entire coast is blocked in many locations by water and or mudslides. Only a trickle of trucks and buses have somehow been able to get through to various cities. Helicopters are delivering food and water to villages that are completely cut off.

It's difficult to watch news out of Lima continuously showing the latest disasters...houses, hotels, buses, and this morning a large segment of railroad track disappear into a raging stream of mud. Many people are accusing the government of not taking enough preventive measures. I don't agree. If the government last year had not done millions of dollars of riverbed and canal dredging and adding concrete banks to waterways, this disaster could have been much worse.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

We’re not even a footnote!

Our street is flooded again this morning. It rained last night, a drizzle stopped about an hour ago, and it will rain again tonight. Compared to what is happening right now all up and down Peru’s coast the condition of our street is not even a minor inconvenience. In dozens of cities, towns and villages in a 600 mile span their streets are not only flooded…they don’t exist anymore, including sections of Lima. Instead there are 5 to 10 feet chasms filled with water rushing toward the Pacific Ocean, occasionally carrying with it a car, bus, semitrailer, house, animals and sometimes people.

All schools in the Lambayeque Region are closed and I assume other regions have done the same. The official reopening has been pushed back to April 3rd. Even if they weren’t closed there is no way we could get to the smaller villages we normally visit. We are very worried that some of the schools we’ve visited in the past may have collapsed and no longer exist. Perhaps entire villages are gone. We don’t know. The devastation happening in Peru at this moment is incredible.

I turn on the television and watch CNN or BBC. On the internet I look at Google or Yahoo news. The headlines on all four are Trump’s latest executive order; Nadal’s defeat at Indian Wells and a mail bomb in France. The situation in Peru is not mentioned…we’re not even a by-the-way. How can that be? It’s mind-boggling…just mind-boggling. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A storm to be remembered

We were at the mall when it hit. We shouldn’t have been there because we saw the big black storm clouds forming to the south, but even though it has rained every night for the past two weeks, the rain usually doesn’t start until after 8:00 pm. The mall is only two blocks from our house so we thought we had time. We didn’t.

This rain was much different from the others. Not only did it start earlier, but there was thunder and lightning; the first time I have seen/heard that in nine years in Chiclayo. And the rain was torrential with a wind driving it. People in the mall quickly sought shelter. Only about one-third of the mall is covered, the rest is open. We took shelter under the covered section, and really just marveled, like everyone else at the intensity of the storm. I haven’t seen anything like it since I left Wisconsin. Everyone had their cell phones out, taking photos and videos.

One half hour later the rain had not lessened. We were all of us waiting for a lull so we could leave, when a woman in a nearby store screamed. We could see that water was coming from the roof in buckets, as if the roof had collapsed. Two employees grabbed brooms and tried to sweep the water outside the store but there was no way they could keep up. Soon everyone just stood and watched…there was nothing anyone could do.

Shortly after that a woman started shouting to the crowd. I don’t know if she was frightened or just plain fed up with the weather, but she told the crowd that we had to pray; we had to ask God to stop the rain. When no one responded, I heard her softly praying/chanting, “No more rain God, please, no more rain.”

When it became apparent the rain wasn’t going to stop people started leaving as did we. We were soaked to the skin when we got home. We had left all of our windows open but we lucked out; there were only a few small puddles under two of the windows.

As I type this the mall is closed and the rain has nearly stopped, after a three-hour downpour. The streets and sidewalks are flooded. Many of our neighbors are removing water from their roofs and houses, as they’ve done for nearly every day the past two weeks. The mall will probably be closed tomorrow but if not I’ll be curious to see what damage was done. I’d be very surprised if only that one store sustained damage.

It’s been slow…

I haven’t posted often in the past five weeks, mostly because nothing of note has happened. We haven’t been anywhere or done anything of interest. It has rained every night for the past two weeks…something I have never seen before. Our streets and sidewalks are covered with water every morning, impeding vehicle and pedestrian traffic though not to the extent of the flood six weeks ago. The entire Peru coast is getting this rain. Older houses, especially adobe are collapsing in many of the coastal cities. Weeds and plants are sprouting up where none existed before. Maybe we’re transitioning from a desert to a lush rain forest.

It’s raining every night and it’s hot every day. March is the hottest month of the year and this year is no exception. This is the first time I have seriously considered buying an air conditioner. I’m talking about portable units on wheels costing from $650 to $950. We’ve done without air conditioning in the past, mostly because its only needed for six weeks or so and we don’t have a place to keep it when not in use. A couple weeks ago I decided enough is enough, so I went to Sodimac and Saga Fagabella to look at them. Both stores had only a few in stock. I couldn’t make up my mind so went home to discuss it with Maribel. We made a choice and the next day I returned to Sodimac. They were sold out. So was Saga Fagabella. Neither store has ordered more because “Fall is coming.” So we’ll suffer through it for the next four weeks like everyone else.

I came across an internet site that compares the cost of living between two different cities. According to that site it is 51% more expensive to live in Milwaukee Wisconsin than in Chiclayo Peru. I believe it…I thought it would be more. It’s been said that a person can live like a king on $1000 per month in Peru. That is certainly not true in Lima, and is stretching it a bit in the other coastal cities, but you can live very comfortably on that amount.

After thinking about cost of living comparisons I thought that maybe a cost comparison of specific, common items in Chiclayo and Milwaukee would make an interesting post. With that thought in mind I went to Plaza Vea, our nearest grocery/department store to look at prices. I looked at one item, lost interest and quit. The one item was Peter Pan crunchy peanut butter in the 16.2 oz size. Walmart in Milwaukee sells it for $2.32. In Plaza Vea it costs $5.80. But that huge difference is true of all imported items. Maybe when it cools off I’ll take up that survey again. I’ll go to the small markets and get prices on fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, poultry and milk. I should be able to get apples-to-apples comparisons on those items.

The school term for national schools officially started on Monday. Some schools in the bigger cities did open, but in the smaller towns and villages the rain has delayed classes until who knows when. Maribel and I are ready to kick off the Promesa Peru year but so far we have no customers! When this rain stops that will change. We’re looking forward to it.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

One of Peru’s More Unique Getaways

Trujillo is the 3rd largest city in Peru and is located on the coast about 300 miles north of Lima or 100 miles south of Chiclayo, from which it is a tolerable four hours away by bus. The city has malls, cines, museums, restaurants for every budget, and several major archeological sites. It’s biggest draw for us is not the city, but its neighbor to the west, Huanchaco.  Many Peruvians prefer Mancora to the north as a favorite beach town but we think Huanchaco has it beat. That is where we were for a five-day Valentine Day vacation.

We stayed at what is advertised as the Mochican Palace Hotel, however the word Mochican is being removed from signs, documents and anything else where it isn’t etched into glass or metal. When we asked why that was happening we were simply told, “it is no more.” In its heyday it must have been one fine hotel, and there are still signs that the staff are trying to keep up the image, such as the bath towel arrangement on the bed for Valentine’s Day. But alas the hotel is generally run down and would need a lot of money…probably too much, to restore it.

The hotel had, but doesn’t have a restaurant now so we went in search of one for lunch. Huanchaco is in reality a one-street town so if you walk far enough you’ll see everything the town has to offer. We saw what looked like a fine restaurant with uniformed staff and an open second story dining room overlooking the sea. The restaurant’s name is Big Ben. It’s not football season, so we’re thinking that maybe we’ll get a chance to meet Big Ben Roethlisberger; the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. Nope. Turns out they named the restaurant after that famous tick-tock in London. We both had fish, and the quality and quantity were excellent, though I will say that it is one of the more expensive restaurants we’ve eaten at outside of Lima. But all the ladies were given a free Valentine’s Day cupcake so that counts for something.

One afternoon we visited the archaeological site of Chan Chan. We had been there six years ago but it was worth seeing again. We hired a young female guide who spoke Spanish and English and who was very knowledgeable not only about Chan Chan but about many sites in Peru. One thing I found curious was that she continually commented on the wealth of Chan Chan belonging only to the king and a few elite, while the workers who built and produced everything had nothing. Further discussion revealed that her beliefs were aligned with feminism and socialism, which she acknowledged. We agreed to stay on the subject of Chan Chan

During the heat of the day we searched out malls and cines in Trujillo for air conditioning, returning to Huanchaco to walk the beach in the late afternoon and evenings. The beach area is about as bohemian as I have seen in Peru. There you will find the 1960 Volkswagen Kombis parked with a make-shift shelters attached and young people in bib overalls selling trinkets and pot. Guys and gals with the Jamaican look will be selling trinkets, braiding hair, painting nails or singing while playing a guitar or an exotic instrument, all hoping someone will put a few coins in a hat. 

The beach pier is usually crowded unless the red flags are flying, which means the waves are too big to be on the pier or beach, though everyone ignores the flags on the beach, preferring to stand on the shore and let the crashing waves pummel them about. But whether open or not the pier area is where the action is at, especially at night.

If you’re not into action or the Jamaican scene or exotic music or shoulder to shoulder crowds on the beach, a good alternative is to observe the sunset with a glass of Cusquena beer from the sixth floor of the Mochican Palace Hotel. It worked for us.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Turn left…turn left…turn left…

Anyone familiar with a car GPS might have guessed what the title of this post is referring to. There is a mototaxi; not a car but a mototaxi that regularly patrols our neighborhood either transporting customers or looking for them, that has a GPS. Frequently during the day we hear that female voice saying in English, turn left…turn left. That’s all she says. She never says anything else, like ‘recalculating’, or ‘hey dummy you missed the turn.’ Just…turn left. Obviously there’s something wrong with that GPS, and has been for at least six months.

So why doesn’t the moto driver turn it off or remove it? Maybe it’s a status thing; he thinks potential customers will be impressed that he has a GPS…and in English yet! Maybe he doesn’t know how to turn it off or remove it. Maybe he likes the sound or her voice. What if it’s a political message? What if the driver is encouraging people who may have conservative political leanings to adopt a liberal left point of view? Especially on the heels of Trump’s election. Many Peruvians don’t like Trump, including Peru’s president. They say he is ‘malo’ (bad or evil). Venezuela’s economy is a mess. Very recently Peru approved 6,000 special visas for Venezuelans to come to Peru to work, study and receive health care. When announcing the program Peru’s president said, “Now is the time to build bridges, not walls.”  It’s pretty clear who that message was directed at.

Speaking of the liberal left, there has been a flood (no pun intended) of protests on Chiclayo’s streets and in parks lately. Some of them are in support of the LGBT movement. I admit I had to look up the meaning. Whenever I see LGBT in print my immediate thought is of a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Other protests call for the removal of, “…garbage on television!” I once asked a protester what qualified him to determine what is garbage television. He said he didn’t need qualifications, that it was obvious that anything that didn’t “feed or stimulate the intellect was garbage television.” I asked him if he watched The Simpsons. He said he did, and catching my meaning quickly added, “…but that is not garbage!”

Most of the protesters are very young and very exuberant. It is my impression that they are more focused on enjoying the excitement of the activity then they are on being invested in their cause.

Many years ago I interviewed a newspaper editor in his office (oddly, I don’t remember why I was interviewing him). I asked him what he looked for in hiring a reporter. He said that for a broadcast reporter he wanted a physical appearance and voice that wasn’t distracting. For both written and broadcast, good communication skills were critical. Then he added something that at the time I thought was odd and has stayed in my memory through the years. He said he favored hiring slightly older applicants who “had all of their causes behind them.” He didn’t want reporters to take a position or try to influence, but to report objectively and dispassionately. He said his job was to present the facts and let the readers/viewers draw their own conclusions.

I once had causes. The further in time I am removed from those days of naive idealism the more I forget that I too once thought it was possible to change the path of humanity to a direction that I knew was the right direction! Like those LGBT and ‘garbage’ protesters, I was positive I knew the truth! I wonder if there will come a time when the moto driver’s GPS will say, ‘turn right…turn right…


On an apolitical note, school supplies are showing up in Chiclayo’s stores. Very soon the phone calls will start coming from pronoei directors asking Promesa Peru to help them. We’re looking forward to it. We’ve had two months off and are ready to saddle up.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Flood’s Aftermath

I closed my last post commenting that a military truck had arrived and that perhaps the cavalry had come.

It turns out that there were many trucks that descended on the neighborhood, all filled with military personnel. I’m told the men are students at the military university. All of us were impressed with how they hit the ground running. Some of them organized into bucket brigades and sought out houses with standing water. Homes with elderly people were given priority.

A neighbor allowed me to take photos in her house as the soldiers worked. They were incredibly efficient…buckets were moving hand to hand in both directions almost as fast the eye could follow them. There were eleven men in this team. I also learned, after being hit by a pail that they were not about to let anyone, including a pseudo-journalist disrupt their rhythm. There was at least twelve inches of water in four rooms of this house. Within twenty minutes the water was gone and the men had moved on.

Other soldiers focused on sweeping water from the street into storm drains. When what they were doing became apparent, neighbors…kids, women and old men joined the effort. Peruvians are not afraid to work, especially when it helps their neighborhood.  

A lingering problem is no tap water. Two water pipes burst two nights ago. We are told we won’t have water until Tuesday. Bottled water at stores is being sold from pallets at store entrances, and you have to be fast to get some.

Hopefully this is the final photo I take of this flood. The last of the water is being pumped into a storm drain, and those neighbors not still removing water from their houses are busy gathering up the debris. Soon life will be back to normal.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Is it over?

The rain last night started shortly after 7:00 PM and stopped sometime after 3:00 AM, almost exactly matching the script of the previous two nights. The important difference is that last night’s rain was soft and gentle, the kind of rain that farmers and gardeners love.

The water has gone down about eight inches over night. It is below curb level which means that residents who still have standing water in their houses can finally remove it. Debris that had been floating for several days lies scattered on sidewalks, giving the area the appearance of an abandoned slum. Residents will deal with that quickly.

What still remains, beside the water, is something that I forgot to mention in previous posts…the problems with and odor caused by backed-up sewage pipes. I am very much aware of the odor as I type this…there is no escaping it. I don’t know what has to happen to eliminate it.

Whether the flood is over or not, this seems like the time to reflect on action taken by city authorities. Chiclayo is a large city and we know that there were areas of it that got hit harder than we did. We know that buildings collapsed and there was at least one death. It may be that the president’s visit accomplished something, and that the city responded as best they could in those areas. That didn’t happen in our neighborhood.

The help we received was six men and a pump. They disappeared after 10:00 PM last night, having accomplished nothing. I don’t know what if anything could have been done about the water, but the police could have at least closed the roads so waves from vehicles didn’t enter houses. Instead residents had to confront drivers with brooms and clubs. I’m sure that sandbags could have been provided, which could have prevented water from entering some (not all) of the houses. If nothing else, government presence would have shown residents that they weren’t alone.

Maybe it’s over, though dark clouds are present to the southwest. This isn’t the first flood this neighborhood has seen and it won’t be the last. Hopefully, as Peru slowly emerges from its third-world status there will be infrastructure in place to better respond to disasters like this.

PS…as I was about to publish this post a truck with military personnel has parked just outside our door. The men are looking over the area, for what purpose I don’t know. Maybe the cavalry has arrived.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Watching Chiclayanos deal with a flood

It’s interesting to watch how our neighbors are handling flood conditions. There is no despair, anger or anguish that I can see, even from two brothers whose house has been pretty much demolished. Everybody goes about cleaning up and preparing for the next rain with a steady resolve, as if it’s something they do every day, and often with humorous banter amongst themselves as they work. But that’s not always the case.

Two doors to the north is a single-level home constructed of adobe brick. It’s been flooded the last two nights and the family living there don’t think it will stand a third night. This morning they rented a truck, packed it with everything they own and took off for parts unknown. During the 1998 flood nearly all of the homes in this area were made of adobe, and most of them collapsed. The government replaced those houses with real brick at no cost to the owners.

Nearby Promart; the equivalent of Menards and Home Depot in the USA is doing a booming business on galvanized metal sheets, PVC tubes and concrete. The sheets are to cover leaking roofs. Tubes will be used to drain roofs as we did, and to attach to pumps to remove water from houses. The concrete will be used for 6 to 12 inch permanent water barriers in front of doors which means residents will have to remember to step over them when leaving or entering.

A city work crew arrived at 11:00 AM with a small gasoline pump, PCV tubes and soft fabric hose. The plan is to pump the water from this intersection into a canal some distance away. Incredibly, the hose running off to the left continues for about 385 meters (421 yards), more than 4 football fields. It seems to me to be asking an awful lot of that pump.

At 2:00 PM the pump began operating. It took time to set everything up but part of the delay was because the crew said they didn’t have money for gas for the pump. They asked residents to chip in but were refused. I don’t know how that was resolved. Anyway, it’s 6:50 PM and the pump is still running. After five hours, based on a benchmark I eyeballed when the process started, the water level has dropped one inch, and that could be because of evaporation. President Kuczynski, that pump is not going to get the job done.

It’s getting dark now, both because the sun has set and because dark clouds are moving in again from the southeast. We’ll see what tonight brings.

And the rain continues…

It is 6:00 am…the dawn of a new day, but a day that offers only hard work for many of Chiclayo’s residents. It rained again last night, much harder than the previous night. At 2:00 am the rain was so intense that visibility was limited. Neighbors fought to keep the rain out of their homes, but by 3:30 most of them had given up and gone to bed.

All that effort last night is why no one is on the street this morning. But soon they’ll be up and doing what they can to remove water from their houses. Yesterday the water in the street was at a mid-calf depth. This morning it is knee high.

Peru’s president flew into Chiclayo yesterday to inspect the flooded areas. He declared a state of emergency and ordered pumps to be placed where needed and any other assistance as required.

I mentioned yesterday that we had a man installing drain tubes to eliminate standing water on our roof. It worked like a charm. During the heaviest time of the rain I watched water gushing out of the tubes onto the street, and this morning our roof is dry.

Today we’re all hoping to see some of the government aid the president promised. But mostly people are hoping that there won’t be a third night of rain.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Chiclayo cleans up after a flood

For the past week much of the printed and broadcast news coming out of Lima has been about the severe flooding in the south of the country. Lima, Ica, Arequipa and other districts have seen extensive damage as rivers overflowed their banks. Houses, cars and even a hotel were shown being carried along by raging rivers flowing down what in drier times is Main Street.

Last night it was Chiclayo’s turn. It had rained the previous two nights with no accumulation, but yesterday there were ugly black clouds all day in the southeast, and older locals warned about what might happen at night. The rain started at about 7:00 pm and became more intense as time passed. By 9:00 there was several inches of water in the streets. At about 9:30 the power went off. A rumor spread that city authorities had intentionally turned off the power to prevent shorting and electrical fires. At midnight water was entering first-floor houses despite sandbags and broom brigades attempting to keep the water out. People were also on their roofs (as were we) removing any water accumulation. Roofs here are flat and any standing water tends to find its way into the structure below. At about 2:00 am the rain lessened and the water level began receding. Weary residents went to bed, knowing that they’d be faced with clean-up in the morning.

The new day, without rain and with power restored saw residents trying to remove water from their homes while at the same time trying to prevent more from entering. Passing vehicles caused waves that entered houses. Most drivers understood the situation and drove slowly. Those that did not were greeted by shouts questioning their ancestry and intelligence.

Today in our neighborhood if you want to leave your house without getting wet you need to wear boots or go barefoot in shorts. Otherwise you’ll spend some time washing and drying your clothing and shoes.

It’s not raining now but dark clouds are above and all around. It could be that tonight we’ll see a repeat of last night. It’s a helpless feeling; watching the rain increase and the water rise and trying to combat it with brooms, pails and sandbags, knowing that nature is going to win the fight. But there’s this…the rainy season will end and flooded streets will be only a memory, for a while at least.