Friday, December 26, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, or 4th of July or whatever

Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena, is the big deal here in Peru, and Christmas Day less so, as everyone recovers from the night before.  The missionaries from here in the Mantaro Valley gathered on the main square and sang Christmas carols for about an hour, and had pretty good-sized groups of listeners.  The square was crowded with families, folks selling stuff, teenagers hanging out, etc.
As we walked back to the car safely parked at the Mission office, we came across tons of people selling major fireworks on the street.
I mean anything you wanted, any size, any number.
At midnight, we were awakened by what sounded like a major battle outside.  We went up on the third floor terrace where we were afforded a good view of the city.
Oh My Word!!  Wow!  It was incredible!  In all directions, including directly overhead, there were amazing aerial fireworks going off.  I mean big, major stuff!!
This went on for at least 20 minutes, with jaw-dropping displays in all directions.
Last year, we spent Christmas Eve in our small apartment, and though I remember sleepily hearing some explosions, we didn't notice much.  We're setting our alarms for next Christmas Eve!
We hope that your Christmas Eve was perhaps more, er, reverent, but I have to admit, this was fun!
Dave & Paula

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Christmas Zone Conferences

There are twelve "Zones" in the Mission, each with about 18-20 missionaries.  To celebrate Christmas, we held three conferences, with three to five of the Zones at each.
After inspirational messages, the missionaries played games,
and presented some pretty imaginative skits.
I was, of course, the subject of several, but chose to believe it's because they feel comfortable with me... anyway...
All the Zone Leaders had arranged a great lunch.
As a gift this year, each of the missionaries received a mate, or carved gourd, which is very typical of the region.  Each had the name of the Mission,
and those of the Elders had, you guessed it, a pair of missionaries with name tags, though I have to admit that the hair was a little long, and those shirts aren't white.
 Meanwhile, the Sisters' mates had representations of Sisters, smiling as they usually do.
In all, the conferences were enlightening and fun, and we hope the missionaries felt appreciated, which they are.
Dave & Paula

It's beginning to look a lot like Navidad

I freely admit that we may be living in the nicest place, and perhaps the nicest house, in Huancayo, and maybe the entire Mission.  The good folks in the neighborhood decided to have a Christmas party, including a clown for the kids, 
and lots of hot chocolate and panetón, the lighter-than-US fruitcake that is popular here.  They wisely sprung for a tent, because as usual this time of year, it rained.
 There was also a competition for house decorating, and almost everyone really got into it.
 These guys aren't a bit behind the most, er, exuberant displays to be found up north.
I am ashamed to say that our house, despite having by far the nicest bit of grass in Peru, and two tasteful Christmas trees visible through the windows, just didn't come close.  Not in the same county.
I'm sure they were all shaking their heads and saying, "The gringos just don't get it, do they?"
Meanwhile, the little kids were having a great time staying up late, wearing pretty clothes and overloading on candy.
We hope that you win the competition for coolest decorations in your neighborhood.
We just have to get more lights next year.  And the third-floor terrace is just begging for a flashing Santa Claus and some reindeer...
Dave & Paula

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Driving in Peru, chapter #23-B

My sister and her husband stopped by on the way home from, where else? Machu Picchu and other historical sites.
They accompanied us to the jungle part of the Mission, which journey is in itself close to historical.
At one point on the way, the road divides in to a narrow bridge (below) which can't handle the heavy trucks carrying lumber and foodstuffs up, and the other goods coming down.
A flash flood from the higher mountains had wiped out the lower passage where the heavier vehicles cross, trapping a bus, and almost washing some heavy equipment over the falls to the left.
This brought out the crowd, including lots of drivers from the lengthening line of heavy trucks.
On the way back to Huancayo, we stopped to check on the progress of the repairs.  The flow of water, now decreased, had been split in to a number of smaller, less powerful channels, and some boulders and metal mats had been thrown in.  Traffic was once again crossing.  Carefully.
We continued on our way, grateful that the small bridge was OK.
We hope that your roads are less, uh, picturesque.
Dave & Paula

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Driving in Peru...again

This is a BIG Mission, about 16 hours driving time from one end to the other.  There are no divided highways, and none with more than two lanes, one in each direction.  The state of repair of these roadways is at times...unremarkable.
Which may explain the plethora of vulcanizadoras, or tire repair places.
You get the picture. 
Anyway, there are lloonnngggg stretches, hours at times, without even these excellent establishments to help out.  For that reason, I presciently brought a good strong air pump and a tire repair kit.  So, when the left rear tire started screaming while going around corners and acting weird going down the long drop from mountains to jungle,
the diagnosis was quickly made,
and we piled out and got to work.  
In not too much time, we had the hole patched and the tire refilled.  Of course, this left time for other important pursuits.
So far, the repair has held up through another couple thousand kilometers on marginal roads.
May your tires never flatten and your spears fly straight.
Dave & Paula

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

We have a Winner!!

There are more dogs here than you can shake a stick at, and believe me we have done so.  The streets are full of them, almost all without owners, surviving on scrounging through the trash.
One of the Sister missionaries, speaking with a Peruvian member of the Church, told her that in the U.S., there aren't dogs roaming around like this, to which the nice lady said sincerely "No dogs?! How sad!"
This would all be fun and games, but many/most of the dogs are not friendly.  With some regularity, we have to take care of missionaries bitten by them.
When Sister Henderson goes out with the Sisters, she has learned to carry rocks in her pockets, and she is getting pretty good at throwing them.
(Note:  This is not actually a picture of Sister Henderson.  Her hair is longer.)
There is a particularly unusual breed of dog here, apparently bred and prized by the ancient Incas, though for what purpose other than hilarity I am not sure.  It is called the Peruvian Inca Orchid, and no, I am not making this up.  
These lovely creatures are distinguished by their lack of hair except for a mohawk and a scroungy tuft at the end of the tail.
It used to be said of our Langley High School football team, "They may be small, but they're slow." In similar fashion, it can be said of the Peruvian Inca Orchid (again, actual name), "They may be ugly, but they're mean." This particular specimen tried to bite my ankle, apparently ticked off because I wouldn't give him the 2 soles that are commonly requested for the privilege of taking a picture of something interesting down here.
We hope that your dog takes the prize for something other than Pure Ugliness.  Or Meanness.
Dave & Paula

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Living in Peru, #26 - Water #2

Admittedly, we live in one of the nicest, if not the nicest, houses in Huancayo.  It was bought as a shell to be the future mission home, and about eight months after arriving, we moved in.
Most dwellings here have a water storage tank on the roof, to give water pressure during the very frequent outages of the city supply.
For aesthetics, our big (5,000 liter) supply tank was placed under the driveway, with pumps to maintain pressure to house.  Nice idea, but simplicity seems to be key in this part of the world.
When the water shut off, I went to the pump house to reset the switches one more time, but found the pumps to be operating.  However, there was no pressure on the gauges.
So, I opened the cover on the tank.  The enormous thing had disappeared, replaced by mud and water. When the local Operations and Maintenance men came to inspect, they realized it had sunk about 18 inches, rupturing all connections with the pumps.
So... with no one in this region qualified to work on such stuff (!), they called the guy up from Lima (!).  As per normal, he took the bus, but was delayed for 12 hours by a multiple-truck crash in the snow on the 15,745-foot Ticlio Pass.
When he finally arrived, he did what he could, but has to return tomorrow to continue the effort.
Meanwhile, we are hooked directly to the intermittent city supply, and we keep our fingers crossed when showers or toilet flushings are needed.
All of this just in time for my sister Mary Anne and her husband Charles to arrive in a couple of days. We wonder if guests are just bad luck for the water, or what.
May the wind be at your back and your water supply function, too.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, November 6, 2014

No, I can't sell you that.

When you go on a trip, there must always be an offering to the Gods of Forgetfulness.  One only hopes that the required offering is small.  Like a sock, not your suitcase.
Sister Henderson bakes her now-famous brownies for various meetings with the missionaries, to their delight.  
She baked over two hundred big ones for the present series of Zone Conferences, but we forgot and left the brownies for the next conference in the second hotel of the week-long trip.  The Gods of Forgetfulness are vengeful.
One of the Secretaries called the missionaries there to pick up the big container (known as a "Tupper" in Peruvian Spanish) from the hotel.  He called later to make sure it had happened.  The Elder confirmed that they had retrieved it, and that, "there were LOTS of brownies!" with the emphasis on "were."
OK, one problem solved - we'll get the (now empty) "Tupper" back.
However, we were left with finding something to replace the brownies for the Zone Conference.  I did what any good mission president would do.  I turned it over to the Assistants.
There are a fair number of baked good stores in Peru, with yummy-looking offerings.
In the first one they came to, the Assistants made a quick count and told the proprietor that they would like to buy all of her cakes.
"No.  I can't sell you all of the cakes," she said.
"Why not?" replied the Assistant.
"Because then I wouldn't have any cakes to sell," stated the proprietor.
"But, but, that's OK, because you are trying to sell your cakes, and we would like to buy them, and we will pay you for them."
"No.  I won't sell you my cakes."
Thinking this must just be a cake-merchandising anomaly, they proceeded to another cake store.
"We would like to buy all of your cakes.  Full price."
"No, I can't sell you all of my cakes.  Then I wouldn't have any cakes to sell."
"But, don't you see?  If we buy your cakes and give you the money, then that's great for you!"
"No, then I wouldn't have any cakes for other people to buy."
It was no anomaly.  Believe it or not, a third cake story gave the same story.
So they tried an ice cream store, offering to buy 60+ units of frozen confection.
"No, I can't sell you that much ice cream."
"Do you mean that you don't have that much ice cream?"
"No, I just can't sell you that much."
"Why not?!"
"Because I am busy."
"But, but, there's no one else in the store!"
"You can call the manager."
"Why don't YOU call the manager?"
"Because I'm busy."
The frustrated Assistants finally found a cake store that understood the basics of capitalism and bought enough cakes for the Zone Conference.  (This is just a third of those in attendance, but they look happy, no?)
We hope that you have better luck either a) finding a cake store that will work with you, or b) explaining economic principles in Spanish.
Dave & Paula

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The shoes say a lot

On my last day at work, we burned my hospital shoes. They had seen a lot of wear over twenty-seven years with deliveries, operations, and hikes to the emergency room.  They went up nicely, having been soaked in lighter fluid for a couple of days.  
I haven't been back since.
A Sister missionary here finished up a couple of weeks ago, after serving faithfully for her 18 months.  I noticed the shoes, she smiled and said quietly, "Yes, they have seen some miles, and a ton of dust, rain, mud, and hills.  And a lot of experiences that I will not soon forget."
She hesitated, and placed them gently in the wastebasket.
Dave & Paula