Sunday, July 28, 2013


So, there we were, minding out own business, driving along at about 12,000 feet on the high plains of the central Andes, passing through the town of Junín ("Who, Neen?"), when suddenly my eye was captured by THIS!
Holy Guacamole!  It had to be THE GIANT MACA OF JUNIN!!  What, you may properly ask, is a maca ("ma-ca"), and why is there a replica of a giant one in Junín ("Hu-Kneen"), Peru?!
Well, according to an ad I found on Google ("Goo-Gull"), 
"Maca is a potent, ancient Peruvian superfood highly prized by Incan warriors to increase stamina and combat fatigue. To make Navitas Naturals Maca Powder, our farming partners hand-select the finest raw maca roots, which are gently dried and milled at low temperatures."
OK, the low temperature part sounds right.  It is cold in Junin ("Hoo-Nene").  Our missionaries there sleep under five blankets, and take turns by the week as to who will get up at 5:00 AM to turn on the little water heater to be able to not cause permanent damage from the shower at 6:30 AM.  
Another article cautioned that this was a SECRET Superfood, but that I, luckily, could obtain some.
It reminded me of some other top-secret things I had read on Google ("Gew-gle").
However, the generous locals seemed more than happy to sell as much as I wanted!
I dunno, the Peruvian "farming partners" in the "sustainable production" of this superfood in the "breathtaking Andean highlands" looked like maybe they were unselfishly turning over all the crop to the people trying to sell it to me.  Sadly, they did not much resemble virile Incan warrior-types.  
Anyway, you never know what surprises may meet you on the roads of Peru.
We hope that your superfoods are doing the trick, whatever that trick might be.
Dave & Paula

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Well, DUH!!

There are several smaller units of the Church, called Branches, that are so remote that they do not come under the jurisdiction of a Stake (a collection of 6-12 Branches and Wards, the larger units).  We have two such in the Mission, for which I have responsibility.
Last weekend, we visited them, stopping first in Huancavelica.  This is a town once prosperous for its mercury, which was used in the refining of gold mined elsewhere, and yes, for thermometers. However, more environmentally sound methods are used now, plunging the town in to poverty, as one of the poorest in Peru, which is saying something.
Oh, and by the way, at 12,000 feet, it's colder than 'home' in Huancayo.
From Huancavelica, a three-hour drive on paved roads, to the furthest branch in Lircay, it's three hours of pure, nonstop, suitcase-hopping, bumpy, kidney jarring dirt roads, topping out at about 14,000 feet.
That line you see in the distance is the road, winding around through the mountains, and that's about a 500-foot sheer drop you can see from this vantage point a couple of miles away.
Cheerful reminders of the relative safety of the route festooned it's shoulders.
The views from the "two-lane" thoroughfare were spectacular.  At least that's what the passengers told me.  I was too "uneasy" to take my eyes off the curves, waiting for the next massive truck or teetering two-deck bus to come careening along.
Alpacas are very cool-looking
unless you're trying to swerve around them also.
It's time for the Festival of Santiago (St. James), which apparently was originally a harvest celebration much older than Christianity, upon which the Catholic priests planted the more modern name.  No matter, everyone gets together, cooks things in big pots, plays saxophones and tubas and dances, and has a great time anyway.
The meeting with the Lircay Branch was great.  They were happy to see us and I don't think I said anything in my talk that violated any broad Gospel principles, though my Spanish isn't THAT good.
That's us, the two amazingly pale people in the back.
The young women lovingly presented Paula with a bouquet of flowers and asked for a picture with her
As part of my duties as Mission President, I interview each missionary individually at least every three months.  While I was speaking with the two assigned to Lircay, Paula was taking advantage of the sunshine and talking with the members.  As with all of the cities in the mission, the width of the streets was felt adequate for the vehicles at the time they were established, not for trucks and buses of our day.
When the inter-city bus tried to squeeze through, it became apparent it wasn't going to work.
Soooo, what do you do?  Well, DUH!!  You get some Peruvians, pick up the car and move it!
There, now was that so hard?
We made it back home safely on Sunday night, driving a total of nine hours that day, six of them on the dirt road.
We hope you have some sturdy Peruvians around next time you get in a jam with a bus.
Dave & Paula

The New Place

As most of you know, with the large recent increase in young missionaries volunteering for service, the Church has established 58 new Missions this year, including ours, the Peru Huancayo Mission.  This brings the total throughout the world to some 405, with over 70,000 missionaries presently serving.
With the announcement of so many new Missions made only in February, residencies for the new Presidents and their families, called the 'Mission Home,' have had to be acquired along with Mission offices.  
In the case of our Mission, the decision was made to build a new home in a small gated community on the east side of Huancayo.  That's it, in the background, the concrete structure without windows.  Or workmen.  Luckily, it's safe, watched over by Pinky, the Peruvian guard dog.  Yes, that's correct, even the dogs need to wear coats around here.
In defense of the local folks in charge of overseeing the project, permits for the various phases are glacial in their provision.  Here Paula is standing in the laundry room.
And with President Prieto, President of the Huancayo Stake, a kind and patient man who has been extremely helpful to two lost and quickly aging gringos (us).  They are positioned on the (future) beautiful terrace.
Anyway, we're fine where we are at present, and we will be patient.  Not much choice otherwise, actually.  I've tagged March of 2014 for completion, while Paula, ever the foolish optimist, says we'll be in by Christmas.  I think she's losing her 15 soles ($5.38 US) on this one.
We hope your guard dog is also staying warm.  And fierce.
Dave & Paula

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"This won't do!" said Sister Henderson

We are getting near the first round of interviews with each of the 107 missionaries spread around our Mission.  While I'm talking with them individually, Paula has been making the rounds inspecting their apartments.  That means she piles in the car with the Zone Leaders of Cerro de Pasco, or Huánuco, or today, La Merced, and she drives around whatever city, trying to avoid the mototaxis.
If I am ever arrested in Peru, it will be for purposely running over one of these things while laughing demonically, in revenge for them cutting me off, honking, making four lanes out of two, and buzzing around obnoxiously.  I have come to hate them.
Today, while checking missionaries' living space, Paula, er, Sister Henderson, discovered that the bathroom in the Sisters' place was lacking a toilet seat. "This won't do!" she scowled, and off they went to the local ferreteria.  Though I lied several years ago to some US college students in Guatemala, this is actually not where to buy a ferret, rather it's a hardware store.
With purchase proudly in hand, they headed back and with only moderate difficulty and about 20 minutes, got it installed.  Indeed, how many missionaries does it take to install a Peruvian toilet seat?
In the end, the good deed was accomplished by the kind Zone Leaders, to the delight of the Sisters, all for 15 Soles ($5.38) and some good laughs.
We hope that your water closet repairs go so well.
Dave & Paula

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Honey, I don't think they have WiFi."

After finishing the first round of missionary interviews in Huánuco, Peru, located at the very north end of the Mission, we headed for the hotel for the night.  The local member who helped us find its first-floor door came back and told us "No parking."  This was no surprise on the busy street, with everyone honking for me to get out of the way.
On the next block we located a parking lot, where we stuffed the vehicle in front of several others, carried our stuff back, stumbled up the stairs to the 'desk' on the second-floor landing, received two teeny bars of soap, a miniature roll of toilet paper, and the key. When we went out later to find food and returned, we were given the wrong key, but conveniently, it opened our door, too.  None of that picky one-room-one-key stuff like other places.
Anyway, it had a bathroom.
The lack of the hot water advertised on the street-level sign sure saved us time in the shower the next morning.  
We were reassured when we turned out the light and saw that the glow-in-the-dark sign on the wall indicated that this was an earthquake-safe place.
We fell asleep wondering if they had saved money by just buying the sign instead of actually reinforcing the structure.
Anyway, we hope that your Office Secretaries have more success in reserving a room for your next interview trip.
Dave & Paula

Monday, July 8, 2013

Just When You Thought...

that the Mission car couldn't get any dirtier, you spend 10 hours or so driving, about half the time on dirt/mud roads.
We finished the initial round of meeting all the missionaries entrusted to our care, and it went well.
This included, in 24 hours, climbing from the jungle, at about 2,000 feet
to the snow, at about 14,400 feet, a difference of a mere 12,200 or so.
The driving itself was kind of boring, thanks to the straight, level and well-maintained roads of Peru. 
We hope that all of your travel is as uneventful.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The First Mission Trip

It's a wise idea to make a trip around the Mission very early to meet all the missionaries, to calm their concerns about us...we hope.  
Some of the routes are nothing short of spectacular, with steep clouded mountains and deep chasms with rushing rivers.
The missionaries have been most warm and gracious in their welcome to the new President and his gorgeous wife.
We ask the missionaries to not carry cameras on normal days, and to never act like tourists.  However, stopped for a half-hour for repairs on a dirt road, it was appropriate for the Assistants to snap a quick picture.
 It's a gorgeous country, and so far the experience has been rich in many ways. 
Next daunting task - finding a car wash.
We hope that your roads are less muddy, if not less interesting.
Dave & Paula

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

OK, So We're Here! (Gulp)

It's been three days, and the peasants (and missionaries) haven't risen up yet in revolt, probably because they haven't had time to get to know us.  
We rolled in to the hotel in Lima last Thursday night at, oh, about 3:00 AM from Salt Lake City, thanks to the flight delay compounded by two hour lines to make immigration and customs.  However, we figured the plane wouldn't actually crash, with about thirteen Mission Presidents on board.
On Friday we had a day of orientation by the Presidency of the South America Northwest Area, then scattered to the wind.  We left the next morning in the good care of Stake President Prieto of Huancayo.  
That was a good move.  1) We got to ooh and ahh at the spectacular scenery, and 2) I wouldn't have passed some of the stuff he did.
Like I said, our jaws dropped a lot, and not just from the altitude.
The road went up and up, paralleling the railway, which went in first in the late 1800's.
We finally crested at about 15,740 feet at the Ticlio Pass.  Note that Paula is not only conscious, but smiling.
The road down the other side passed many mining operations and their associated towns.
When we arrived at our (temporary) apartment, it was in nothing short of marvelous condition, thanks to the kind work of the Church folks in Huancayo.
The view from the apartment at least shows the mountains.
That afternoon, we attended a celebration with about a thousand folks in the indoor stadium, happy for the establishment of the Huancayo Mission, even if it means having the bald guy on the banner.
We felt most honored, but recognize that they were really honoring the establishment of the work more fully in this area, and not us specifically.
We hope the roads you travel are as spectacular.  Maybe not so high.
Dave & Paula