Tuesday, April 19, 2016

So, we get the T-shirt!

As you alert readers know, the Mission includes the city of Cerro de Pasco, a city of 70,000 surrounding a huge open pit mine, situated at 14,400 feet.  There are five units of the Church in the city, making up a "stake" organization.  We have sixteen of our missionaries there at any given time, and two in an outlying small unit on the high plains.
Conditions in Cerro can be miserable.  It is constantly cold because of the altitude, and rain, sleet, hail and even snow are common.  There is no heat in any building anywhere.  I try to only send the best and toughest missionaries to work there.  To give a bit of recognition, only those who serve in Cerro receive this T-shirt:
You'll notice that the t-shirt is grey.  That is because Cerro de Pasco, is, for the most part, grey.
The greenest part of the city is the artificial turf in the soccer stadium.  It is said that due to the extreme altitude, the home team always wins.  The other guys are laying on the sidelines sucking oxygen, and I'm not kidding.
Our first nights spent in the city were not so good.  The online information about the hotel said, "Yep.  Heat, hot water and a cochera, (enclosed safe place to park the car)."  Zero for three.  We froze, it got worse in the cold shower, and we worried all night about the car parked on the street.  So, scratch Las Torres off your list of future places to stay in Cerro de Pasco.  And they should scratch even the two stars.
After that, we found a better hotel.  Yes, it had hot water (most of the time), yes, a guy watched the car during the night, and yes, there were heaters you could rent for the room, kinda, as long as you were in the first 35% of those staying the night and you paid extra.  
Little by little, we figured it out.  We learned to bring our own little heater, which worked OK because the rooms are teeny.  We learned to bring sleeping bags, because the heavy, scratchy wool blankets, if piled high enough to be warm will cause cessation of respiration, and the flannel sheets hold the sleeper like Velcro®.  In the end, by our 16th and 17th nights spent in Cerro, it actually got almost tolerable.  Almost.
It was with a weird, almost nostalgic feeling (I said almost) that we drove away from our last stay in Cerro de Pasco this week.  
But hey, we get the T-shirt!  That makes it all worth it!
We hope that your hotel nights are equally as unique.
Dave & Paula

Monday, April 11, 2016

Stretching the legs

As some of you might know, we are planning to hike the Inca Trail with friends and family after our replacement arrives at the end of June.  This backpacking hike ends the morning of the fourth day at Machu Picchu and looks pretty strenuous,
with some significant gains and losses of altitude.
Close behind where we live is a round hill, known as "la corona del fraile" which means "the head of the friar," because it has a bald top with a fringe of trees.  The missionaries have referred to it also as "la cabeza del Presidente," or "the head of you-know-who."  Those who do so often find themselves in the cold, windy places of the Mission on the next transfer.
We have begun substituting our normal forms of 30 minutes of daily exercise
for hiking up things, like that hill.  
We've increased the length and altitude-gained aspects of such hikes.  A couple of day ago, we invited the office staff and started up the mountains.
Though it started off rainy, it ended up just a little cloudy and cool, perfect for grinding up the hill.
Paula was fashionably cute, as always.  One must always look good, even if one doesn't feel good.
One must also, of course, gloatingly text her friends in the US as to her progress up the mountain.
We finally reached 13,400 feet, up from 10,700 at the start, and 10 kilometers distance, and did what any other extreme expedition does on attaining their goal.  We had sandwiches and cookies.  And juice.  duh.
OK, the dog.  After patting ourselves liberally on the back for our fine and grueling achievement, we looked around, and there was a middle-aged mamita calmly knitting and tending her flock of sheep.  
She had most likely hiked up that morning to bring them to pasture.  So much for feeling heroic. 
We hope that your strolls have as breathtaking views of the Andes.  Na na na na na na!
Dave & Paula 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

That was lucky....I guess.

As you may recall, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of incarcerated former president Alberto Fujimori was being investigated for *gasp* campaign irregularities.  However, she has now been cleared, and leads the polls by a significant margin in the presidential elections to be held in seven days .
As you may also recall, travel to and from Lima has lately been complicado, as they are fond of saying here, because of the landslides that cut off the road down to the coast.  
At the time that we needed to purchase bus or plane tickets for the departing missionaries, that road was still iffy, so we opted for the air route with its own imponderables (weather, limited seats, cancellations, blah, blah, blah).
Because the planes that are sent from Lima are small, 
baggage that can be carried is limited, so we made sure that the four missionaries leaving yesterday afternoon were in line very early, in case someone else showed up similarly overloaded with books, cool souvenirs and stuff accumulated over two years here in the hills.  
As the plane was beginning to load, an entourage arrived at the little airport escorted by police motorcycles with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  It was none other than Keiko and her folks!
LCPeru quickly unloaded everyone off the plane that was being readied, including an elderly lady in a wheelchair, except for our missionaries. By the time Miss Fujimori and her staff and some of the reporters had loaded and departed, 
it was too dark for the second plane, in which she had arrived earlier, to take off, and all the remaining passengers were stranded, angry, and ready to talk to the newspeople on hand.  Including the elderly lady in the wheelchair, and a patient trying to get to Lima for dialysis.  Ouch!  Luckily, our missionaries were not mentioned.  
We're not sure why our guys weren't kicked off, except perhaps because of the mucho $$$ paid for their overweight bags, but they were able to get to Lima for their connections, uncomplicating this complicated week of missionaries' travel a little bit.  
We hope that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, or whoever, doesn't complicate your travel plans.  Or uncomplicate them.  Or whatever.
Dave & Paula
PS  If you like reading Spanish and getting a headache, here's a link to the newspaper report:  http://www.americatv.com.pe/noticias/actualidad/keiko-fujimori-pasajeros-acusan-aerolinea-bajarlos-avion-favorecerla-n225245