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.