Friday, April 20, 2012

It's Hugo Time!!

No, really.  It's Hugo's own weird time.  Notice anything different in the pictures below? Other than the fact that I'm a cheapskate and usually wear the one on the bottom?
As we discovered when the plane landed in Valencia, Venezuela, all the clocks are 30 minutes ahead.  Sure enough, our friend Hugo Chavez, on Sunday, December 9, 2007, shoved the country even further out of touch with the rest of the world.  "I don't care if they call me crazy, the new time will go ahead," he said.  And they did.  Call him crazy, I mean. 
By the way, a brief lesson in pronunciation.  It's "Hugo," as in "Ooooh!  Go!!" as opposed to "Jugo," which is pronounced as if with an "H" at the beginning, and which means "juice," as in another crazy guy (see "Simpson, O.J."), or "Yugo" (see "Automobiles, Yugoslavian, Crummy").
Anyway, we had the opportunity to travel to the Venezuela Valencia Mission this week at the invitation of President Jorge Montoya and his kind wife.  We were able to attend Zone Conferences in the cities of Valencia, Barquisimeto and Maracay, meeting with all 106 missionaries in the Mission.  The Montoyas are quite young, from Quito, Ecuador, with three kids in tow.
I had the honor of giving of giving a brief presentation on several health subjects before taking off with an Assistant to the President to check out health clinics and hospitals while they continued with the conferences.  I think this was when I was talking about dengue fever or rabies or diarrhea; that always crack them up down here.
I believe that 'spellbound' comes closest to describing the mood among many of the participants.
Once my scintillating presentation was through and I was gone to the clinics, the group had a great time learning new principles and doing group participation.  The Montoyas' youngest, Valeria was off the day from school, bored, and came in a taxi after a while; she's the Mission Mascot.
President and Sister Montoya were an inspiration to me.  They obviously love their missionaries, and  lead by that principle; the missionaries do what they are supposed to out of love and respect, and not out of obligation.  There was a great feeling in the groups.
As you'll notice from the picture below, we were the lone Gringos; North Americans are no longer able to serve there.
All visits have to end, so we packed up and headed back to Bogotá today, and (*surprise!*) were almost diverted to Cali because of strong thunderstorms over our fair but rainy city.
We hope that your watches are set on something other than Hugo Time.
Dave & Paula

Saturday, April 14, 2012

This Just In; They're Not Stealing the Car!

As you have learned below, we've entered the First Winter of the year, with its attendant major rain, often accompanied by major lightning and thunder.
Sometimes, with disastrous results.
However, more commonly, the strikes hit the tall buildings and the mountains, both of which are really close to us, so we get some very impressive thunder.
Which sets off all the car alarms in the neighborhood, which elicits exactly the same response as when they go off all the time anyway.  
Pretty soon, it just becomes part of the background noise.  
We hope the lightning, thunder and local car thieves leave yours alone.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cooking in Colombia

To begin with, I want to apologize for being in so many of the pictures. For some odd reason, David, who is the photographer in our family, likes to take pictures of me.

Cooking here in Colombia is interesting. Rule #1: Fresh is always cheaper than canned or frozen. Note Exhibit A below. A 12-ounce can of Hunt's tomato paste costs $4.65, at today's exchange rate.  A 14-ounce can of canned tomatoes costs about $3.50.  The equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes costs about $.70

So I walk a few blocks to the twice-weekly vegetable market, the Placita Movil.  David and I are easy to spot among the maids, who know a lot more about the produce than I do.
Or if we can't wait for the market, the Harris-Teeter of Bogota, Carrulla, has several stores within walking distance.  Shopping really is fairly civilized here, although you may not recognize some of the produce.
Rule #2:  It takes longer to cook dinner.  Luckily, I like to cook, and cooking keeps me warm in our always chilly apartment.  An easy way to change all those fresh tomatoes into spaghetti sauce is to slice them in half, then grate the tomatoes.  No chopping or peeling involved.  The lovely tomato pulp is in the bowl, and the skin is left in your hand.  Simmer until it reaches the desired consistency.

Rule #3:  Sometime you can't get there from here, so go local.  Our inventive and crazed Chilean Elder Serey was going home, and wanted an American Thanksgiving dinner.  I found turkey at Carrulla, made rolls and mashed potatoes, and a tropical fruit salad (OK, not traditionally American, but delicious anyway.)  But what about homemake Cranberry sauce, a must-have at every Henderson Thanksgiving table for years?  Well, we do have Mora berries, somewhat related to blackberries and raspberries, but not as sweet, and they thicken on their own like cranberries.  The Mora berry sauce was delicious.
What to drink?  Refer to rule #1.  Fresh limónada is cheap, about $.80 for two quarts, including the sugar. Note the industrial-strength juicer bought at 7 de Agosto, a crazy local market. It makes quick work of limes (no lemons here) for limónada.
Fresh squeezed orange juice is cheaper than bought, although it is a fair amount of work to save $1.00. We buy it bagged.
In short, although the kitchen is small, and lacks a dishwasher and garbage disposal, which I always considered essential to civilized living, I am grateful for what we do have.  An oven, unlimited hot water, enough cookware to meet our needs, a washer and dryer (which double as handy counter space) and the resources to enjoy this lovely and strange country.  We are content.

Paula & Dave

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Excuse me, the FIRST "winter??!"

At four degrees above the equator and 8,500 elevation, there is very little variation in length of daylight (about 10 minutes), angle of the sun (pretty much straight overhead at noon), temperature (see below), etc.
TodayApr 1Mon2Tue3Wed4Thu5Fri6Sat7Sun8Mon9Tue10
CloudyCloudyCloudyPM ShowersScattered ShowersScattered ShowersScattered ShowersShowersShowersMostly Cloudy
CloudyCloudyCloudyPM ShowersScattered ShowersScattered ShowersScattered ShowersShowersShowersMostly Cloudy
Nevertheless, we were perplexed to read in the paper the other day, 
"Primer invierno del año irá hasta mediados de junio."
A reasonable translation of this would be "The first winter of the year will run until the middle of June."  Excuse me, the first winter?!  
That's right.  With the aforementioned lack of variation in much else, they've got to call something, so it's "winter" any time there's more rain than usual.  This can be applied even to an individual day, for Pete's sake.  Folks will say, "Yeah, it's winter today," and the next day when the sun shines, "Yep. Summer."  Huh??!!
OK, we'll go along with it, after all, we're the outsiders here.  So when's the second winter?  Great question!  That's from October to December, and that's when we arrived last fall, when it rained 55 days in a row. 
We hope you're having a great spring, or fall, or whatever you call it wherever you are.
Dave & Paula