Thursday, December 24, 2015

Helping out the neighborhood

Every year, a bit before Christmas, the condominium complex where we live sponsors a fun night for the residents.  The kids dress up in their pretty dresses,
and a clown is hired.  (The clown is on the left.)
This year, as it does in the rainy season, it rained.  Hard.  We had just arrived back from Huánuco, a seven-hour drive, after participating in the Christmas Zone Conference there, when a knock came on the front door.  It was the president of the condo association, asking if they could use our driveway/parking places for the clown show, as we have a covered area there.
We had planned to turn off the lights and hide out and go to bed early, but we said, "Sure, bring it on."  And bring it on they did, including the small shelter they had set up, and a bunch of chairs.
The kids had a great time with the two clowns and their helper.  They had fun for about an hour,
then everyone had 'panettone' and hot chocolate and chatted.
Panettone is a kind of fruitcake popular here for the holidays.  Consistent with Peruvians' distaste for really sweet things, it is not.  Also, they go kind of light on the fruit.  The stacks of boxes and bags of panettone go up in the stores long before Christmas.
All the neighbors clapped when they were asked to show their appreciation for our allowing them to use the venue.  We thought we could finally crawl in bed.  Not so fast, gringos!  We were appointed the judges of the annual competition for decorating the houses.  They go nuts down here with the lights and other stuff, and the winning entry was complete with a live manger scene with their kids (getting wet), and enough lights that I'm sure they were using about 10% of the city's electricity.
When all was said and done, we were glad that we had answered the knock on the front door, and could help out the neighbors.
We hope that you aren't called upon to judge your neighbors, and that you have a Merry Christmas!
Dave & Paula

Friday, December 11, 2015

Reason #172-G why things sometimes don't work well here.

In the entire district of Huancayo, only 40% of everyone ever receives a water bill, and of those, only 60% ever pay a centavo.  The water supply is failing, and the estimate to fix it is roughly 500 million soles, or about $150 million US.
That sum was requested of the Ministry of Housing Construction and Sanitation, and Huancayo received $385,000.  Oooh, nice start.
Sixty percent of the buildings in Huancayo, the capital of the Junín Region, are "informal," meaning that they have been built without any permit, registration with the city or professional advice.  They just find the local water, sewer and electrical feeds and tap in to them, then call the neighbors and put up a house.  Yipee!  Certainly a lot easier than messing with all those silly forms.
The Huancayo newspaper reports that one of the four large areas of our fair city only collects taxes from about 20% of its 100,000 citizens.
When the citizens were surveyed as to why they don't pay their taxes, their answer was, "Because the city hardly provides any services."
The municipal leaders were asked why services aren't better, and they of course answered, "Because hardly anyone pays their taxes.  Duh."
This certainly begs the question of who is going to do so something first.  Meanwhile, visions of arguments going around in circles is giving me a headache.
We hope that things are going more smoothly in your neck of the woods.  And that you pay your taxes.  And the water bill.  And tell someone that you built a house.  And that your head stays put.
Dave & Paula

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Bucket List gets shorter every day!

The Battle of Junín was a military engagement of the Peruvian War of Independence, fought in the highlands of the Junín Region on August 6, 1824. The preceding February the royalists had regained control of Lima, and having regrouped in TrujilloSimón Bolívar in June led his rebel forces south to confront the Spanish under Field Marshal José de Canterac. The two armies met on the plains of Junín, a desolate place on the altiplano.
Note:  Unfortunately, Bolívar himself couldn't attend, being laid up with tuberculosis nearby. (He may well have died from the disease at a later time.)
The battle is commemorated by a 30+ meter high (about 100 ft.) obelisk on the lonely, windy plains at over 14,000 feet altitude.  We have passed it on the Central Highway, oh, about 50 times, usually going at about 60+ mph, and have commented numerous time, "Oh, when we get time, we need to visit."  It is way out there, further than this looks, and we have never had the time.
Until last week, that is.  We finally pulled up to the gate, paid our 20 soles (about $6), picked up Carlos the guide, and arrived.
To our surprise, there was a small museum in the base of the obelisk.
Carlos gave us a detailed explanation of the murals, and how the battle went.
Interestingly, in the end, it was really more of a skirmish than a big battle, with less than 2,500 involved, with about 400 casualties.  However, the Spanish took off, and their decline in the region began.
BUT, meanwhile...
So there you have it!  One more checkmark on the ol' bucket list!
We hope that you are having luck getting all those important things done in your life also.
Dave & Paula

Friday, November 20, 2015

One man's noxious weed... another's fragrant exotic planting.
For much of my life, either by own decision or by order of my parents and others, I have sought to destroy the evil vine, honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum).  Without exaggeration, I know that I have untangled and yanked more than a ton of this stuff in my 61 years.
Not only does it invade everything, and grow like a weed (!), it can even strangle other plants in its enthusiasm.
Imagine my surprise to learn that here in altitudinous, cold Huancayo, where it rarely freezes but threatens all the time, this herbivorous bane of my existence is not only encouraged, but is sold in nurseries!!  It has wisely disguised itself with an intoxicating aroma, and by adopting the soothing and disingenuous name, "madre de la selva," or "mother of the jungle."  It has done this in order to be taken in and nurtured, before leaping upon and strangling the region.
We hope that in your part of the world, weeds are understood for what they are.
Dave & Paula

Friday, November 13, 2015

Ooof! Have we really descended that far?!

Prepare for some serious whining.
We're on a nine-day road trip, by far not our longest.  It began with a Stake Conference at the other end of the Mission.  This consists of three two-hour long meetings over a weekend, combining five to twelve congregations of the Church.  As usual, I spoke in all three, Paula in two.
The next morning, we held a Zone Conference for the missionaries in that same city, then hot-footed it across the Mission for another Zone Conference on Wednesday.
Then I got sick.  Too many hands shaken over too many days.  (See "viral particles" below).
I tried to get work done at the hotel, I really did.  Tomorrow we have another Stake Conference for which I need to prepare.  There are reports and letters to answer.
So what did we do?  What else do you do when you hit the bottom of the curve?
That's correct.  You watch cat videos on YouTube.  While the missionaries have rules against using the internet for anything other than letters and Church information, we, sadly, can watch cat videos.
After feebly chuckling for about half an hour, we looked at each other and cried, "What are we doing?!" and went to bed.
We hope that your lives have found greater meaning than ours at the moment.  On the other hand, you've just got see, "Why Cats Are Afraid of Cucumbers."  It's a classic.
Dave & Paula 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Useful signs, Peru

When we were in Bogotá, it took a little while to recognize the street signs.  Here in Peru, we've had to learn some new ones.  Some are obvious:
Others, though also pretty clear, haven't been obeyed since cars could even GO 55 kilometers/hour.
Some are unique to the region.  Honestly, if I saw any signs warning me of alpacas crossing the road back in North Carolina, I wasn't paying attention.
Not sure on this one.  I remember a James Bond movie where his car shot stuff at the bad guys.  Maybe they mean, like Jaime Bondo or something down here.
There must be a lot of wild teenagers in Peru.  This ones instructs them not to burn rubber on the road.
They are not kidding with this one.  When it rains here, the mountains have a habit of shedding their attachments.  It would be prudent to make like the little figure and skeedaddle.
We're always learning something down here.
We hope you follow the instructions on the signs wherever YOU live.
Dave & Paula

Friday, October 23, 2015

When life hands you tomatoes...

Some recipes require sun-dried tomatoes.  Period.  Anything else won't do.  However, they are either very expensive, as in Bogotá at about $15.00 for a little baggie, or are altogether unavailable, as in Huancayo.
The ingredients are all here - tomatoes and sun, much of the time, and both are cheap.  On the other hand, this place is just plain dusty.  A lot of the streets aren't paved, and a lot of ground is untended and bare.
What all that dust turns in to during the rainy season is another story.  For this one, suffice it to say that leaving the slices of roma tomatoes out to sun-dry would leave them kind of gritty.  So...
You have to innovate.  Paula loves getting in the car after church, because it's usually warm from the sun...and hey!  Great idea!  No dust!  Car-dried tomatoes!!
So next time you're in the third world and you just HAVE to have this tasty ingredient, remember the cargo space on your Nissan, and presto!
We hope that you can find what you need a bit easier.
Dave & Paula

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Henderson Family tradition comes to Peru

Paula's a good cook, no question.  She has become well-known among the missionaries for her culinary skills, and any invitation to the mission home for a meal is reason enough to cancel anything else. At their departure, she cooks a special meal for the missionaries, in which - gasp - there are no rice, potatoes or chicken!
She has learned to adapt to the locally-available foodstuffs.
Such as mangoes, in season.
No council or conference with the missionaries would be complete without her brownies.
During sessions with the pensionistas that feed the missionaries, Paula has introduced them to various exotica, such as pancakes.
One of her supreme achievements is a strawberry pie, the recipe for which has been handed down in her family from a 1964 Better Homes and Gardens, which displayed it on the cover.
This particular confection has become legendary.
No question, some of Paula's desserts through the years have knocked it clean out of the park.  It became a family rule that if it was that good, licking your plate was within the limits of proper etiquette.  
This has now become the rule in the Mission.  Some of these plates were licked so clean, I believe that they could have been put straight back in the cupboard, though we didn't.
We hope that your cooking turns out to be as appreciated.
Dave & Paula

Saturday, October 3, 2015

SUV Tetris!

Many of you are old enough, admit it, to remember a fairly clunky video game called Tetris, in which falling blocks of various shapes came faster and faster and faster until you screamed and shut the thing off, and then your little brother beat your score by about seven times.
Here in our part of Peru, about 95% of the vehicles on the road are for hire, be they taxis, mototaxis, trucks, etc.  Therefore, most hotels and restaurants don't need much parking - you just wave down a moto and jump out at your destination, the vehicle having at least slowed down, you hope.  
We are in Huánuco, a city of about 200,000 people at about 6,000 feet, which is a 6-7-hour drive from Huancayo.  Being the most reasonable and safe hotel in town, we usually stay at the Gran Hotel Huánuco, which was built about two months after I was.
Especially in that bygone era (OK, it's not THAT long ago!), there were even fewer private vehicles, so the cochera, or place to stash your car, didn't have to be very big.  
However, times change, and in addition to there being more and bigger cars, the owners of the hotel got ambitious and recently doubled the rooms and went after groups.  
Unfortunately, car number and size has collided with hotelier ambitions.  The cochera is now woefully inadequate, and it's anyone's bet whether you can get out if you got in.  Add the mining company groups with their trucks, and it's SUV TETRIS!!  
The rules of the game are that you leave your keys at the front desk, and if someone panics and needs to get out, the hotel guys play SUV Tetris with your vehicles.  That's "The Beast" in the foreground, as the Nissan Pathfinder (Path-squasher?) has been named by the missionaries.
We hope that your cocheras are adequate, or that your hotel guys are good at SUV Tetris.
Dave & Paula