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.