Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hola Familia y Amigos

Each week when I start to think about what we should include in the blog I check the memory card in our camera to see what we have done. Today when I checked the camera I found the card was almost as blank as my mind and I realized that we did not take many pictures but I know that we did a lot this week. We made three trips to Lima, experienced our first earthquake (okay it was a tremor) in Quilmana, had a multi-zone conference in Chincha, gave leaderships training in Mala and Imperial, interviews with the President, had a service project, and a lot of family visits. But not many pictures.

We have had some milestone experiences lately which we are trying not to be too proud of as we know that we do nothing here without the help of our Heavenly Father. One such experience is that Debbie gave her first discorso, talk, in Espanol at a baptism. She was very grateful that they gave her the courtesy of a days notice so she could prepare. Often they don’t announce your participation until you are sitting in the meeting. (planning in advance is not a common practice) She was stressed but amazing.

We also made Friends with one of our vecinos (neighbours). A family that lives around the corner from us speaks a little English and we have been wanting to stop and visit with them other than the usual hola, como esta? So Debbie was on her way to meet Cesar, our part time chauffer, and bumped into them and Debbie invited us over for a visit on Saturday evening. Saturday she baked chocolate chip cookie squares with supplies that Hermana Cleverly, from the Lima Central Mission Office, gave us and we went and visited. We had an awesome time and they have invited us to come every Saturday evening and said that we can alternate languages each week. Funny what happens when we open our mouths and speak, what ever language we speak.

Sister Cleverly is hooked up with all sorts of north American goods that are impossible to obtain here in Peru let a lone in Canete. Three weeks ago she gave us a block of cheddar cheese, real cheddar cheese, which we have been rationing out to ourselves. We are ever so grateful for her thoughtfulness and charity in sharing with us. The Cheverly’s and other missionaries in Lima invited us to a Thanksgiving dinner last Monday evening at the Area Offices. We had many reservations about making the trip, or at least I did, for Debbie not so much. We had a remarkable dinner and met awesome people.

Wednesday night we were in Quilmana in a branch “misional,” which is a gathering like a large family home evening for members and friends. We were having a brief message from the branch president when all of sudden things started to shudder and there was a sound like a train rolling by, there are no trains here. People jumped up and started make their way to the exit as they all remember the earthquake two years ago when so many people died. Then it stopped shaking, people started breathing, and we kept meeting. This was a milestone we hope not to pass to close to again.

Yesterday, Saturday, we had a few spare minutes because an appointment fell through, imagine that, so I decided I would get my hair cut. It is my second hair cut since arriving in Peru, the first one was a scary but satisfactory experience, so I had a certain amount of bravado. Shame on those of you that are thinking, Doug what is the big concern you don’t have that much hair to worry about. Hair cuts are like a good/excellent pizza, once you find a place you trust and like you don’t like risking trying some thing else.

Not speaking the language well has certain limitations and especially in a situation as important as a haircut. The stylist, if that is not too insulting for someone that really is one, realized that we were not communicating very well handed me a magazine and suggested that I find a picture and point to it. Not that it would matter in the end because to have a result like the picture would require a modicum of talent and skill.

The only apparent requirement here to become a hairstylist is that you must have a hair clippers, dull scissors, a tank top, and a Dunlop (a bare belly that dunlops over your low rider jeans). Because this person clearly has none of the other things that one would consider prerequisite to hanging out a business shingle.

I was going to take a picture of myself and insert it here but someone here says I don’t have enough hair for it to show up in the picture. True love.

Here is a glimpse of what pictures we do have this week.

The bonita group of Hermanitas are the Joveneses (Young Women) from the Canete Branch at the Lima Peru Temple. We were on a youth temple trip a last week. We had to rent two vans, since no one owns a car, with drivers for the trip. A couple of the youth had never been to a city before.

These are the young men from the branch. All things considered these are about the best behaved youth I have ever had the privelledge of having a temple trip with. The day was fraught with disaster and was crowned with one of the vans decided not to come back for us and his company just said too bad. We loaded all but two of the youth and one leader in the van that did come and the seven of us that were left over had to find our own way home. We managed to make it a fun experience for those of us that were stranded by taking them to a shopping mall. They had never imagined anything so modern or spectacular, and for some they had their first restaurant pizza.

This was at the multi-zone conference in Chincha. We always have fun at the conferences as our missionaries lie to the other missionaries about how cool we are and the funny part is that they believe it.

Although this looks like an accident it is not. The moto's lift on to two wheels with one hand for servicing or cleaning. In this case we are cleaning Hermano Pedro's and Hermano Cesar's motos as a service project. After we finished Hermana Carmen fed us and sent us back to work.

Perspective: The bamboo leantoo with the blue tarp roof is home for a family of 4 and yellow structure behind is for another family of 4. We love the people that live here.

Every good week ends with somebody getting baptized and Elder Zea and Elder Walker are here with Hermana Vaneesa and her daughter. Luis, also in white is a member of the branch and was preforming the baptism.

Thanks for tuning in to our ongoing adventure and the support that we receive from so many. We really appreciate your comments and notes about the blog, we are finding that it is helping us reconnect with lots of old friends.

Haste luego from,

Los Gringos en Canete

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hola Familia y los Amigos

It has been a couple of weeks since our last entry. Time really seems to fly by when you are having fun or it is hard to get much more than the most important things done when you are under the weather. We have had an extra measure of both occurrences for both of us in the last couple of weeks. I have been on antibiotics and dope for parasites for so long that I am now susceptible to almost everything, I am sure. But enough of that talk we do not want to turn you off before we get started.

I have mentioned previously about our part-time chauffeur Cesar, he drives a moto taxi, I would say for a living, but that would be a misnomer on at least two levels. First of it is a hard living to make working 16 hours a day with heavy competition and high overhead.

It is hard for most of us to understand some of the realities that they deal with here. If he could own his own moto he could possibly make a living. However he rents his moto from someone that has managed to get ahead and has 15 motos that he rents to others like Cesar.

Cesar pays S/28. per day ($10. USD) every day of the year (if you don’t work you still pay) plus fuel, and maintenance expense or damages. In all, it takes half of his work day to cover the costs of employment. Without having to pay interest he could buy a new moto every year. Here is the kicker and this is the reason that all the big banks from Canada and the US are here (Scotiabank, CIBC, TD, HSBC, Interbank, Citibank, BAC. Mortgage interest rates start at 12% with minimum down payments of 20%. Consumer loans are 19+% with a minimum of 20% down. Hardly anyone can qualify for a credit card that actually has credit, they are prepaid debit cards.

I am sure that one day Cesar will have his own moto, because that is the kind of ambition he has, but it will be extremely hard work to do so. We, with our North American perspective, look at it and think, “what’s the problem that is bus change.” But to put together the down payment of S/2,000 ($630 USD) for most is insurmountable.

At least 95% of the people don’t have money to keep in bank but have to use the bank because salary earners must be paid through the bank, because that is how they how to tax you, and all bills for phone, utilities, must be paid at the bank. All at a nominal charge, of course.

We keep a “positive” balance in our bank account in Lima and they have an understanding of our banking relationship at home. Now this part is especially for our two relationship managers at our bank in Calgary, when we come into the branch each relationship manager in the branch stops what they are doing and greets us and our relationship officer gets up and gives us both a KISS, on the cheek, when we arrive and when we leave. Que piensa?

Marriage is also an interesting conundrum here as well. The cost of getting married is very expensive here and the cost of getting a divorce is even more expensive. So if you can put together the money to get married and you don’t make it work and you cannot afford to get a divorce, no problem you just leave, and this happens a lot.

Here is where it gets twisted, because people can’t and won’t get a divorce it is hard to know who is legally married, who can legally get married since you can only be married to one person at a time. So to get married you must prove that you are not currently legally married to someone else. It is a lengthy paper trail of documents that are required and if you have migrated from the sierra or jungle it is almost cost prohibitive to go and get the documentation. Yes, there is no central registry.

Once you have your papers in order then you must advertise in the newspapers in the localities in which you have lived for one week notifying of your claim of legal status for marriage. If you clear you can get hitched. Many just don’t and this is the stem of so much of the social problems in the county.

Because the expense of marriage is so high, on certain occasions during the year, the Alcalde in a municipality will have a cut rate sale on marriage ceremonies but the catch is that you have to have at least 20 couples with their paper work together for “Masivo Matrimonio.” All twenty must be there to begin and you get to sit until all twenty ceremonies are complete.

Meet our dear friends Cesar, Janet and family as we experience our first “Masivo Matrimonio” at Town Hall in Imperial. (I say first because the Hermanas informed us today that we are helping them organize for another Masivo as we have 11 couples in our area that need to be legally married in order to join the church and there are another 5 in Imperial)

Cesar and Janet are two of the happiest people on the planet and we were so privileged to be a part of this day. They asked to to be the "testigos" or wittiness's. As they call us their padrones we could not refuse.

This is part of the extended family including Grandma and Grandpa. The precious little ones are Cesar's and Janet's. Town hall is the back drop.

This is a view of the inside of the hall where all twenty couples and special guests were assembled. The halls outside were filled with other well wishers. The youngest couple were about 17 years old and the oldest couple were easily in their seventies.

We performed our official duties including three sets of finger prints. Everything here has your official finger print, or it is not official.

Skipping back to another big event in our week we traveled to Lima with our Hawaiian (son)/ Elder Tanavasa as we said hasta luego. Elder T. helped us in so many ways and has left a huge void in our lives that we will now have to fill with our other missionaries. Aloha, we love you.

We also said hasta luego to our dear friend Elder Fuentes as he was transferred to his new assignment. Elder Fuentes is a Peruvian missionary and is serving an outstanding mission.

Elder Boulton, on the left, was shipped off to Lima for his new adventures. We miss him as well as we have had the opportunity to share some very special experiences with him.

On Saturday we had two very special baptisms. The first was this beautiful spirit her name is Kiara Lipon. She is the first in her family to be baptised and after the next masivo her parents will follow her.

Guess who, Cesar was able to baptized on Saturday as well. Believe it or not but this is actually the happiest day of their lives, so far. Checkout the precious little girls.

What does this picture have to do with anything? If someone reading our blog knows David Comb in Calgary you have to get him to look at this. This is the typical, actually it is an upscale, tire shop in Lima. It is totally out doors, requires two people to operate, and the business desk is just out of sight. It is a white plastic table with two white plastic chairs. Beautifully simple and simply beautiful.

This is a new family home evening group that we have started. The familia Valbin are in the center of this picture, family of six. We have loved them back into activity in the church and have very high expectations for them and their family

We went on a little excursion on Monday to a zoo in Quilmana. Most of the exhibits were, as you can see, not living. It saves on maintenance and would make PETA very proud of them.

El Torro!

We also went of a hike in the hills near the zoo. As you can see nothing grows in these hills, nada, nunca.

This also gives a perspective of the massive size of the hills, and the are just the foothills of the Andes.

What trip to the zoo would not be complete without a picture of the kids riding on a not so real elephant. The zoo did have some live animals but the pictures would not make PETA as happy with the Peruvian Zoo keepers.

Well, this brings us to the end of another chapter of "YOU ARE IN PERU NOW." Thank you so much for taking the time to share in our experiences and we value and cherish your feed back.


Los Gringos en Canete

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hola Familia and Friends

There are two phrases that we hear every day, “poco a poco” and “claro.” Poco a poco (it means - gradually) is what I hear when someone is telling me that someday I will speak Spanish, but today is not the day. Claro (means – is it clear, do you get it) is what they say to me when I have that glazed look in my eyes and I have no idea what they have said to me.

Learning the language is more difficult than I thought it would be and poco a poco is how it is done. There are moments when I think that it would easier to teach 33 million Peruanos how to speak English than me Spanish. A couple of our friends here are trying learn English to see if they can learn it before we can learn Spanish.

Cesar our part time chauffeur tries to learn a new English phrase for every time he picks us up. I respond in English just to show him how it feels to not know what people are saying back to you. He will likely learn English before I learn Spanish.

Remember the picture of the 250 volt shower head water heater and gigantic throw switch from a couple of weeks back? Last week it stopped functioning properly so I decided to fix it, by myself. I took it apart and sure enough it did not look right inside so I tried a certain amount of southern engineering and it worked for another day.

The next day we went to Asia (Awh-see-ah) where there is store called Sodimac, sort of like a Home Depot Peruano style, and I bought a new element for the shower. I fixed it again, myself, I threw the switch and thought for a brief second, hey look this one comes with a built in light, a moment later it was all smoke and ashes. I quickly turned off the switch.

I thought, only a minor set back, I can find another one so I went on the quest for a new element, armed with the old part and my Spanish English dictionario, out I went and to my utter amazement I came home with another element. I was not an exact replacement but with a few minor adjustments from my pocket knife was made to fit in the socket. I threw the switch and it did not light up which by this time I had determined must be a good thing, however the water, although warmish, would not qualify as a hot shower. Since my modifications rendered the piece un-returnable and my confidence in finding a better replacement was shaken I salvaged parts from each and put together my own version and it works.

On the topic of the electric shower, because of the forward thinking in the building industry, homes come wired with about a 10 amp service. There are only 3 circuit breakers for the house which on one hand makes it easy find the one that has blown, conversely there is always one blowing. When the shower is on turning on almost anything else will blow the main circuit which is in a locked box out on the street. When I say almost anything else will cause it to blow I really mean it because when I am in the shower Debbie tries something new and sure enough it blows. To turn it on again you have to go to the Vigilada guard house at the entry to the community and have the Vigilada come with a key, unlock the box, throw the switch, lock the box and laugh at the gringos. Today it was the toaster. She said she was sorry but I still had to dress and go get the Vigilada to laugh at he gringos. Today I also bought a key to the box.

What you would rather have – a problem or a solution!

Tuesday night we had another one of those experiences that we had mentioned before, we don’t know why they just happen. We finished an appointment with a menos activos familia at around 8:00, it had been a awesome spiritual meeting, and we told the Hermanas that we were going to skip the last appointment that night. We suggested to them that they could go with the familia Macha and we head for home.

We were not in the nicest part of town and normally we would not walk here after dark. Notwithstanding we started out and should have caught the first transportation available, but we didn't.

We walked across town, about 2 kms, we don't know why because it cost the same to take the combie(mini van bus costs about .25 US) from where we were to home as would where we eventually stopped to catch the bus. We got to a certain but not specific point on the side of road and just stood there. Deb said, "what's your plan?" "I dun know" She said, "that sounds like a good plan." A minute later we noticed a man crossing the road right toward us, he walked right up to us and began to talking a mile a minute. We explained that we are still learning the language and suggested that if he slowed down it would help us to understand, so he did.

We were able to learn that the fellow is member of the church, served a mission, has a wife and three children, and lives in another town. His aged infirm parents who also are members, who had been temple missionaries, live in a nearby pueblo called Clarita. His mother who is 89 years old has been ill and had not been able to attend church in long time and it seems that no one from the church has been out to visit her. Would we please visit. We had him write the directions for us and we said we would visit. We no sooner said that we would visit and he said good bye and was gone. We don’t know why we were there, we just were.

Debbie commented, "it is funny but when we got to this spot and stopped I felt completely at peace like I had nowhere else to be than right here."

Thursday we gathered the Hermanas with us and we found a combie that would take us to Clarita. We gave the directions to the driver and he knew them by name and said that they have lived there forever, when we stopped he pointed in the direction of the home, told us the color of the house and said we could not miss it. He was right.

We have come to understand that when we have these experiences something very special is about to happen and we have never been disappointed.

The home was not the typical adobe hovel that we are accustomed to seeing but was more of a hacienda style, it was older but the grounds were kept and clean. There is glass window wall that is about 30 feet long that looks up the road toward the highway and as we were walking down the 300 meters from the highway we could make out a tiny figure of a person making their way across the window to the door. With tears in her eyes she cried and said “I looked out my window and saw angels coming down our road. God has brought four angels to my home today.”

We sang her favorite hymns, we visited, we prayed together. It really was a rich blessing to be there, it really made our day to make some else’s day brighter (I think there is a deep moral in that statement).

Not withstanding all the joy I could not help but feel that this was not the only reason that we had been brought there that day, it felt like there should be something more. I have mental inventory that I go through with people so see if their spiritual needs are being met within there circumstances, that did not seem to be it. Then asked, “is there anyone here that we need to teach?” I will use the picture below to finish this part of the story.

Meet the Familia Taya/ Portuguez, Hermana Dionicia and Hermano Gerardo and their granddaughter Pamela and us you know. When I asked if there was anyone that we could teach they could not think of anyone. We asked the granddaughter if she was baptised, guess what, No! When we asked if she would like to receive the lessons she said she had been waiting and already had her own scriptures. We start on Wednesday and we now know why we were standing at the side of the road.

This is a common sight. This is on the Panamericana Highway and one would expect that the guard tower would be protecting government facility or a prison. The towers are strategically placed to give sharpshooters a clear shot to any spot in the vineyard, yup, grapes. Serious business.

Oh, were having fun, it was a full moon and we are howling. This was at a family home evening this week and as our punishment for losing a game we had to stand in the middle of the street and yell, en espanol, NEIGHBORS MY PIG IS DEAD!

We had 32 people out to this home evening, in this tiny little bamboo hut. This girl is performing her penance for losing another game. I don't quite understand this punishment but I can tell you they really get a kick out of it when I have to preform it.

Every time we see a John Deere tractor Debbie says "you have to take a picture of that for Winston Bohne," Nadyne's father. Hermano Winston this Deere is for you!

This week we moved a lot of bricks and concrete from this building trying to get it into shape for use. You would not believe how we started moving the debris. I did not get a picture, silly me, it was three wheeled cart that you pedal. It was a two mile round trip. Fortunately we were able to enlist this truck and its owners help.

All though it looks like the Elders are resting they were really just getting ready to push. Grateful as we were for the truck it does not have a functioning starter and had to be push started all the time.

Preparation day was in our community this week. We played soccer ate pizza and had a going home cake for Elder Tanavasa and birthday cake for Elder Boulton.

This art work was done on the roads in Los Reyes, where we live, to celebrate the coming/or leaving of "El Senor de la Milagros." A procession of floats, bands, and priests toured our streets.

Uno mas!

This is another example of innovation in security. Notice the jagged edge along the top of the walls. It is broken glass that is cemented into the wall as a practical deterrent to stop would be thieves from clambering over the walls.

As I have been finishing this instalment tonight and listening to gunfire and explosions outside maybe it is good things we can't understand the news reports.

Until next time, We Are In Peru Now!

Los Gringos.