Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It was a White Christmas!!

Sam and Mike, our 26- and 22-year-old sons flew in to Lima early Sunday morning, then took the bus up to Huancayo.  We attended the Christmas Devotional with the local Mission Zones on Monday, then mostly dinked around on Tuesday (though I wouldn't necessarily count renting and watching the last Harry Potter movie as dinking around), and got neglected chores taken care of.
So, it was Christmas morning, and you had to do SOMETHING!!
Huaytapallana is a beautiful, 18,000+ foot, snow-covered mountain some 25 km up the canyon behind Huancayo.  It looks like this on a clear day:
Unfortunately, it's "summer," which is the rainy season, and it wasn't a clear day.
 We started at about 14,300 feet, and began the climb.
 A local adopted us along the trail.
 Rest stops were fairly frequent as the steep trail and the altitude took their toll.
We finally reached the "saddle" at 15,055 feet, from where that first picture was taken, but arrived in the middle of the clouds.  A nice sign had gone up since we were last at this point, and a third had already been pried off and burned. 
 After adding to the height of the rock cairn,
 we descended through the clouds.
 Back down to the car, which surprisingly still had its mirrors and wheels.
Now it's time for naps and cooking for the missionaries, who can't wait to get more of Paula's turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, etc.  Even the Latinos appreciated Thanksgiving.
We hope you had a white Christmas, though we hope you didn't have to risk High Altitude Pulmonary Edema to do so.
Dave & Paula

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Quiz time!

OK, what makes a buzzing sound and smells like burning wires?
Wrong!  It's a 120-volt appliance when it's plugged into Peruvian 220 volts.
The results can be frustrating and cost money.
So far, we've lost a laminator at the office, because I waited too long to get a transformer and someone plugged it in, and Paula bagged a 500-watt transformer using her 1500-watt pancake griddle.
Warning!  Delicious 220-volt pancakes are not worth this!!
Anyway, yesterday, I burnt out the motor on the shoe dryer (see previous post on homemade shoe dryers), an old friend made by an old friend with whom we used to windsurf and kitesurf.  It has proven indispensable for drying wet suit booties, and more recently missionary-type shoes.
So, after doing what I needed to this morning, I went to our local Maestro store, which is as close as you'll get in Huancayo to a Lowe's or Home Depot.
I will have to admit, and I did so to Paula, that I had a couple of hours of guilty pleasure playing with tools and making a big, happy mess in the kitchen.
In the end, the Dr. Winston Trice Shoe Dryer Mark III (Now Mk. III.01) was as good, or even better, than new, with its 220-volt fan motor humming happily along.
We hope that a) your shoes don't get wet, and b) you don't forget you're in Peru.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Well, that was quite the little detour...

On a recent Sunday morning, attempting to enter the Central Highway portion that is under repair (and has been for four years - about 3.5 years longer than the initial estimate), we learned to our dismay that the closing time had been changed without warning to 7:00 AM instead of the 8:00 AM to which we had been accustomed.  "Desvio" means "detour," and it's what the lady with the paddle signs said we had to do.
Well, what a lovely passage of the countryside!  We drove on the dirt road through bucolic villages awakening to the sunny morning.
However, the road got sketchier and sketchier as we climbed, sharing it at times with other travelers. The lady on the horse answered, "Sure.  Cars go through here frequently!" We unfortunately didn't hear the next part, under her breath, "Yeah, sucker gringos, the last one was in 1987.  Heh, heh."
It only got worse.  We spent a lot of time in 4-wheel drive, dodging all sorts of stuff.  Then it turned ugly.  This was the approach to one of several curves where the center had fallen out.
Just like the L.A. freeway, no?  At the 2.5 hour mark, on what should have been a 45-minute passage without the "desvio," we found the worst corner.
I made everyone get out of the car, buckled my seat belt, checked the air bag light, and went for it.
In my mind, I could just hear folks in Salt Lake on the other end of the phone, asking, "He was driving WHERE when the CAR GOT SWALLOWED UP??!!
Anyway, we and the car made it through, late for the church session we were to attend.  We put a big red "X" on the map next to this route, which even had a name, "La Cumbre," meaning "The Peak."  We quit mentioning to the locals that we had driven it when they started making the "he's loco!" sign to each other.
We hope your Sunday-morning drives are not as exciting.
On a serious note, we appreciate the continued prayers for our safety.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's beginning to look a little like Navidad!

Paula has progressed from the Yule-maniac stage where I finally had to limit decorations until after the 4th of July, to a more mature level.  It is still necessary to do something, even in a cramped apartment in the highlands of Peru.
So, off to the Christmas section of town!
Per protocol, each store was about four feet wide, and efficiently packed with everything a reasonable, or unreasonable Yule-obsessed Peruvian might need.
I was a little disturbed when I glanced up to see a banjo-strumming snowman, and a Santa that looked like he was about to break in to my house.
Nevertheless, we were soon the proud owners of a Golden Tree Economic. (See
Paula found a place for it, rearranged whatever was previously there, and got to work. (Note: it's going to be really tough to get those little sleeves back on the limbs, but she'll find a way.)
The lights can play electronic Christmas music and flash in patterns.  Yippee!
Instant Christmas!
Hang the doodad on the front door, crank up Jose Feliciano, and it's Navidad time!
We hope that your preparations are progressing in like fashion.
Dave & Paula

Friday, November 29, 2013

Huh, the turkey was a little, say, different...

Paula is excited to cook Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow for the office and the adult Family History missionary couple across the hall.  What?  You did Thanksgiving on Thursday?!  How quaint.  We do things a little differently here, like Thanksgiving on Saturday.  That's because no one has heard of the holiday, mostly because the Pilgrims only made it to Cuba or something. 
Anyway, Paula mixed her famous rolls,
and baked a great pecan pie.  It should be noted that one has to bake such a pie at very low temperatures; at 11,000 feet, things boil more rapidly, and would bubble over.
Lily, our housekeeper, was excited to let Paula know that she had spotted early Christmas turkeys at the store, and scored one.  However, when Paula was getting it ready, taking things out of the inside, she discovered something that's usually not included with the euphemistically named 'giblets.'  I heard her surprised exclamation clear back in the euphemistically named 'office.'
She kept digging, and discovered other treasures to delight any good Peruvian Thanksgiving table.
I'm sure she'll figure out a delightful presentation for the extra, uh, items.
We hope your Thanksgiving dinner wasn't too boring.
Dave & Paula

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Things unique to this Mission, mostly

Most Missions don't have an oxygen tank in the office.  And, if they do, they usually don't have two oxygen tanks in the office.  We do.
We have now had several missionaries, adult and young, who have suffered from serious altitude effects, and even several who have had to spend time in the hospital because of it, or who have had to get to lower altitude - fast.
In the culinary theme, we boast of having pachamanca.  Preparation begins with the heating of stones over a fire, and the meat is then placed on top. The fire is covered with grass and earth, and the resulting oven is opened up after around an hour and a half. Usually, a large quantity of meat is cooked, perhaps a whole sheep, to serve several people.  Or, you just leave the pile of dirt, and head to the closest Pizza Hut.
 It is reported to also be quite tasty.  Minus the dirt.
We have tocosh.  This will be important to those of you who happen to like potatoes that have been placed in a mesh bag of grass, covered with stones, and left undisturbed for six to twelve months. Once fermentation has occurred, the tocosh is dried in the sun and stored for future use.  Tocosh is claimed to contain penicillin (along with who knows what else), and it is said that once you get past the stench, it is quite tasty.  OK....
We also have cuy.  Isn't it cute!
Also very tasty!
Most Missions have a 'Mission Home.'  We have boxes.
Does your Mission have Soviet-era Mil MI-17 helicopters at your airport (your only airport)?  Didn't think so.  Wimps.
We'll keep you posted as we discover more uniquities in this, the Peru Huancayo Mission.
We hope that your airport gets some cool camo-colored helicopters soon, too.  You wish.
Dave & Paula

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Smells like dirt and cut grass... must be - Paula!

When we came to the Mission in June, a local house had been rented for the six missionaries that work in the Mission office, big enough to house missionaries coming in for leadership training, sick ones, etc.  It's a very interesting house, with an outside spiral staircase, strange rooms, etc.
Paula noticed recently that the gardens hadn't been taken care of in a while.  What?! 19 to 25 year old single males not caring for the gardens?!  Say it ain't so!
She happily bought some implements at the local Maestro store (the Lowe's equivalent) and when we had some free time this afternoon, she went at it.
 Gradually organization began to be restored.
Weedwacker?! Hah! This small patch of grass had met it's match - Paula with some shears.
Yes, that's a swimming pool, and Yes, it's empty, and No, I have no idea who in their right mind would have installed a non-heated, outdoor pool in Huancayo, and No, the missionaries can't fill it.
So Paula had a great couple of hours puttering in someone else's yard while I worked on my laptop and kept her company.  She had a big grin getting back in the car to go home, and smelled happily like dirt and grass clippings.
We hope that your spouse is as easily and cheaply entertained.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Mission Presidents' Seminar

Twice a year, we leave the Mission for four days for a meeting with the other 29 Presidents in the South America Northwest Area, which includes Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
This year, folks flew to Cusco, where we ate too much, and got to visit and sympathize with our friends serving in those countries, about half of whom are from Latin America, and about half gringos.
 Paula got to be warm for a couple of days, so for her the meeting was a success.
The specific location was in a lovely valley near Cusco, with surrounding mountains, a few capped with snow.  And we ate too much.
But, as with everything, it was eventually back to reality, to face new challenges back in Huancayo.  Somehow, the plane was able to take off.  Did I mention that we might have eaten too much?

And by the way, that pretty valley had great cell phone reception, unfortunately.
We hope that you can have a wee bit of time in your schedule to recharge the batteries.  And we hope that your cell phone coverage doesn't reach you...
Dave & Paula