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