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.