Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas in Cañete 2009

All I want for Christmas is a slightly larger pot. Oh we have a pot that works fine within the restrictions of its limited size but when I dream of how much more effective and efficient I could be with a larger pot it makes my head spin.

If I had a pot that was twice as big we would be able to cook spaghetti for all of the missionaries at once. I could purify twice the amount of water at one time. I could heat twice the amount of water to wash the clothes that need hot water. I could pop enough popcorn for both of us. Think of the time I could save If Only I Had a Larger Pot!

If only I had….

As I consider my larger pot I guess that I could say, “Well, at least I have a pot and water and food to put in it.” One can not help but be reminded of the man that complained about his lack of shoes until he met the man without feet. We work daily with people who have not much of either food or water.

At least I have the privilege of choosing whether I will have hot water in my electric washing machine or not. Unlike the women I see most everyday washing clothes in rivers and drainage ditches where clean is more of a reference point than an actual realization. God bless them for there desires to be clean.

When I think of the time I could save and how efficient and how much more effective I could be I must reflect on what the purpose of life is and what is that makes all men equal before their maker. It is time and what we do to improve ourselves and our environment in which we use our time. In the end our final judgment will not be made on the basis of how big our pile of money is, how many toys we have, or how great and spacious our building is, the only thing that will matter is how we improved our time. Where much is given much is required.

Time is the precious commodity that life is made of. To some is given a little, almost none, and others a lot, almost too much, which ever it is it matters only if they did all that they could do to improve it. The balance is made up by Him that came into the world, who gave all His time even His whole life, whose birth we commemorate at this time of the year. When we consider what it is that we have to put on the alter of sacrifice before Him that put it all on the alter let us not forget the commodity that there is precious little of and never any left over.

There are always at least two ways to look at a situation and I am glad for this time of year that helps us to look inwardly and make outward expressions of Love and Kindness.

Keep Christ in your Christmas, your heart, and actions always.

As Christmas draws nearer we try and not talk about the things that we miss the most. When we made the decision that we would serve a mission we told each other that there would be emotionally hard times, that we would miss important events, that it would be okay because we have Internet and Skye(seeing would be almost as good as being there) and magicjack(for talking). In a way it is pretty much true, we do have emotionally hard times(some we had not planned on like transfers of missionaries that you grow to love), we are missing some events, and we do get to communicate. However it is not events that you miss, it is being with the people that you love and having close associations with them for which there is no substitute.

We are fortunate that we have friends here that we can share some time with, they are not substitutes, they are new friends and we are blessed to be able to know them and care about them. Some you have met in the blog before and some you will meet for the first time in this posting.

Tuesday of last week we went with the Elders to meet a new family that they felt might respond well to us and our little message. When we arrived there was a dump truck hauling away a load of rubble from the front of the home and we had to climb through an excavated area to get to the front door. The family had forgotten about the appointment, not a first, but they were anxious to meet with us nonetheless. They have a teenage daughter that is eight plus months pregnant. Not long into the visit the daughter said to Debbie, “what is your name?” “You have beautiful eyes I want to name my baby after you.” She asked her mother and her mother said, “Sure, it’s a different name but it would be okay.”

Tuesday when we got home in the evening the vigilada was posting a notice that the power was to shut off for a day and that day would be the next the day. Oh Joy!

We put our extra water bottles in the freezer so that they would freeze before the power went off and would help keep the freezer box cool and the food cold. That part of the plan worked. In the morning we found out that the power was out for the whole region not just our little enclave.

In the morning we went to meet the Hermanas in San Vicente to make a trip to Cero Azul to meet with some of their contacts. When we arrived we discovered why we had such a difficult time getting a ride to town, a general strike had been called in area to protest against the President of Peru, Alan Garcia. Garcia had reneged on a commitment to build a university in Cañete and the people were mad especially since they had been promised one.

The combie buses were not operating and parked strategically to disrupt traffic, tiendas and the Mercado were closed. Most of the local organized transportation was parked but a few bandit buses and independent moto we’re capitalizing on the opportunities. We found a bus that was operating to Cero Azul so we got on and sat down. I could tell that the Cobrador and driver were very agitated and were anxious to get going and I just felt that this was not a good idea. I turned to the Hermanas and said get off this is not the right place to be right now.

We later found out that in Cero Azul the demonstrators were attacking the buses and in some instance beat the Cobradors for not honoring the strike lines. In other instances they smashed the windows of the buses and slashed the tires. They shut down the Pan Americana Highway for most of the day and traffic was backed up 15 miles in both directions.

Anyway, when we got off the bus we decided that we would walk together to take care of some business and make some local visits. We walked about two blocks and got started halfway down a street when the marchers, hundreds maybe thousands, rounded the corner and started right towards us. This we new was not a good place to be so we did a quick about face and hot footed it away from the trouble. Once out of sight of the demonstrators we agreed with the Hermanas that everyone need to get to a safe place and stay until we knew more about the situation. They went to the Familia Macha, which is also their pensionista, and we took an independent moto that was still working and headed for home.

We were not aware of any violence at that point however in these types of situations it is best not to get in harms way. We also have to be concerned because we are so noticeable in the public presence, because we stick out like sore thumb, that we do not appear to the officials that we support one side or the other as this could create political problems in the future.

When we got home we advised our mission President of the situation and he asked that we make sure that all our missionaries were safe, in their apartments or with members, and had food and water for the day. We had confirmed that the Hermanas arrived at their destination but had no idea where the Elders were at. (which is always one of concerns, not where they are at but that they do not allow them to carry cell phones.) We had no way to contact them so we decided that we would have to go back out and since transportation was sketchy we had to walk. We thought that maybe we should not dress in our missionary ropa so that we were not identifiable as such but dressing as missionaries with our plaques is the best protection that we can carry so we stuck with the missionary clothing and started searching for the Elders.

We found that the Marchers had left Imperial where the Elders work early in the morning and everything there was as they say here “es normal” and in Imperial you would not even know what was going on in San Vicinte. After walking for a couple of hours we went home to check on the Hermanas. That was the beginning of another story which will go untold at this point.

The next day things escalated in San Vicente, the Commandos moved in overnight shut down the Mercados, Combies blocked the traffic, rocks and bottles were being thrown. Tires were burned on the bridges to shut down the highway. I had received a phone call from Hermano Pedro telling about everything as he had been out in moto and had returned home because it was to dangerous to stay out. He said that he would make sure the Hermanas were safe and had food. I went out to our front security gate and found that the vigilada had the gates shut and there were hundreds of people walking toward the protest area carrying flags and signs. I could see black smoke from tires burning at the coliseum about half a mile away. Pedro was right this was going to a great day to stay home, but! We were all supposed to travel to Lima for our Christmas social with the Lima missionaries and everyone wanted to go.

I had been in communication with the President and he said stay safe, don’t travel unless it is safe, and to keep him posted. We could only communicated by text messaging or I could email his blackberry. I told all the missionaries that they need to stay indoors until notified, by direction of the President but to be ready to travel at a moments notice if necessary as if we had the opportunity to get to Lima we had to travel together or not at all.

Around noon Perdro called and said that the highway was open and the demonstrators were standing down until the commission that had been sent to Lima to meet with the government had a chance to get a decision. He said that it would be “tranquilo” until night time and if the commission did not get assurances that the university would go ahead that the talk on the street was that it could get real hot. I called the missionaries and told them that we were all getting out and to time their arrival so that we would all arrive about the same time at the bus station.

Only one bus line was operating to Lima, the other was shut down as they had suffered damage the day before and were not going to pass through the strike area. Pedro said that he would help us at the bus and that he would pick us up and take us to the bus.

Pedro arrived as scheduled and we were just about to put away our computers when I checked my email. I had just received and email form Elder Nash of the Seventy telling us to stay put until further notice. Well that ship had sailed, all the missionaries were in transit to the bus station so we jumped into the moto and left. Sent a quick text message to the president and told him we are getting out and unless I heard back we would be gone in 30 minutes.

When we arrived at the bus station it was crowed and everyone was intent on getting on the next bus. Pedro knows everyone in the service industry in town and had a quick side conversation with the terminal agent and magically we were on the next bus to Lima.

Apparently the Area Office has a liaison that monitors political situations and his advice was that the decision could go either way on the university and it could be a potentially volatile situation. They had just finished dealing with a situation in the mountains where the missionaries had to be extracted because of civil unrest.

Anyway we were safe, had a great Christmas program, Cañete is going to get the university and we got to stay with Elder and Hermana Cleaverly. The Cleaverly’s are missionaries in the East Mission they are from Hurricane Utah and although she denies it I am convinced that Hermana is hooked into the black market because her kitchen is stocked with things that can not be bought in Peru. Two things about Hermanas kitchen, first she shares her hard to find goods and second, she really knows how to cook.

Never a dull moment, You are in Peru Now!

Every zone that the conference had to do a 30 minute sketch and a musical number ours was the best.

This is one of those "you had to be there" to get the idea but this really funny.

For those that know Hermana really well will understand her fascination with nativities and figurenes. This was a little bit of nativity heaven that she found in the Mercado.

I know that this looks like a scene from a B rate movie but here I am with my back back in my lap sitting in "la parque" in San Vicente. My objective is to see how many people I can say "Buenas Dias" to and get a response. I do it for fun and almost everyone responds.

We had been invited to Rene and Jenny's for Hoche de Nogar (FHE) so we brought 30 people with us. These events are always a lot of fun. (it is also onlt way that we can get the branch president to visit some people)

Hermana Lebeau and Hermana Whitney about to do battle with a giant sandia (watermellon).
This is the whole crew on preparation day. We played court soccor and now it is time for refreshents.

Hermano Macha celebrated his birthday this month, turned 48, and we all got together to wish him well. We had fun and many of Pedros friends came to wish him well. Here are two of his daughters, wife and grandaughters.

We always like to introduce our new friends so that you know who we are talking about when we mention their names in the future. Today we introduce Juan Carlos, Adriana, children; Adrian(on the left) and Octavio(on the left). They are our neighbors in Los Reyes we visit them every Saturday evening and try and alternate languages, one week espanol the next ingles. We find that it is usually ingles because it can just take too long for us to spit out what we are trying to say in espanol. They also are the tallest Peruanos that we have met.

Debbie is 5 foot 2 so you know that our tree standing on a box is not very tall but it is a tree and we are celebrating Christmas. It is amazing how even a little tree can help bring a little additional joy into the season.

This is on the road in front of our community and is common scene.

This is a manger scene in a little store called Pibe Market. If you look in the center of the picture you will see what looks like a dog. It is and he sleeps here all day long.

Well that brings us to the end of another episode of Whitneysinperu. We are well and living large in Cañete and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hola nuestra familia y nuestros Amigos

I thought that I would lead off with this awesome picture of us celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary at El Piloto restaurant in San Luis. We don't eat at restaurants very often but people come from all over Peru to eat this one, including us.

After we finished our dinner we sat and reminisced and asked ourselves,"could you have imagined this moment when we were married 37 years ago today?" We both agree that our lives have been anything but boring and it has been one adventure after another. We then concluded that life is what you make it.

Welcome to the latest installment of “Whitneysinperu.” It hardly seems like Christmas time is here as summer is just arriving in the southern hemisphere. It seems all wrong to us, the days are getting longer, the weather is warming up, and people are getting ready for summer holidays. Having two summers in one year is confusing to our internal calendars but when I hear about how winter has struck back home I am sure we will be able to get used to this. (today is a sunny 80 F)

We see signs of people getting ready for Christmas with a few light displays and decorations and stores advertising feliz navidad. Our little enclave of “Los Reyes” has lit up the entrance to the community with strings of singing lights and likewise in the park. They have built a manger in the park and we understand that the community puts on a nativity and they will hold Mass on Christmas Eve in the park.

The traditions are a little different from those at home, however the theme is similar. One common thread that we heard from some new friends, our vecinos, that Christmas has become too commercialized. One tradition that we hear to be common is that people stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve to open their presents and then have their main holiday feast, in what ever form that takes. Fortunately in this country minority groups and special interest have not censored out the true meaning and purpose of Christmas and “Feliz Navidad” is politically correct.

For the majority of people here Christmas is very simple but special to them.

We have heard that there will be two more mission couples arriving in the new year and one couple will be most likely be going to Mala and focusing on the branch there. That will reduce our travel and increase our focus with the other 3 branches. Friday we will go to Mala to scout out living accommodations for them. We are excited for them as they will really enjoy the people there and because they already speak the language will be able to hit the ground running.

Bleach! Have you heard what a marvelous, miraculous, life saving solution common household bleach can be. We have had reason to be very concerned about water quality here and have been investigating various means of purifying water for consumption and preparation of foods. (Here is question for someone out there that I can not find an answer to on the Internet, “why is water that is not safe to drink is okay to bath and wash dishes in?”) We have found that we can, and do, use bleach and bleach solutions to disinfect vegetables, fruit, clean surfaces where meat has been prepared, and if necessary purify tap water so that it is clean (enough) to drink. I had never noticed this before but the bottle it comes in has instructions for all of these uses.

Many people here use bleach commonly for these purposes as well as general household cleaning. In some instance I would even say that I am glad they do especially when we are in places like one last week. We went to visit a family with Hermano Macha and the Hemanas way out in the hills on the north side of San Vicente. Home had dirt floors and very little furniture, a few plastic garden chairs, a table and few other sticks, but that was it. Unfortunately we were a little late arriving and the family and few of the children’s friends were waiting for us sitting on the chairs around the table, a single dim electric light lit the one room home. We stood to share our message and while the Hermanas were talking Debbie and I watch a rat, si rat, chase a mouse through the kitchen area to the bedroom area. We have seen a lot of things but this was a first and the funny part was that a couple of minutes later the mouse came back without the rat.

We discovered after we arrived that we were to be holding a family home evening for this group and that we were staying, they forgot to tell us that before we left, so we now found that we were staying for a while. The mother of the house produced another chair out of kitchen for me to sit on, it was clean, and at the moment seemed like a good idea. We did have fun and played a couple of games with the family, people here love to play games at meetings, and why not it is fun. We finished and we left them in better spirits that when we arrived.

When we got home and I took my trousers off to hang up, you probably guessed already, the clean chair had just been wiped off with bleach. Now because of a kitchen mishap and thus my only two pair of trousers look like something tie-dyed out of the sixties. Oh well, YOU ARE IN PERU NOW!

Disney Peru? No, this is the Castle Unanue that was built in the early 1800's by a wealthy Spanish Family. It now belongs to the federal government and is supposedly restoring it. It has history of intrigue, murder, and all things that your imagination can conjure up. Parts of it were dismantled for the castle that it was modeled after in Germany and shipped to Canete Peru.

This photo is taken from the stable and marshall yard for the troops that were employed to defend the hacienda from slave uprising which were a constant threat.

Three senoritas standing on the battlements help give perspective to the construction of the castle.

This was a secret passage that lead to the dungeon and to an underground tunnel that runs six miles, 10 kilometers which was used as an escape route for the owners in times of attack. The escape tunnel goes to two other haciendas, one in San Vicente, and the other in Cerro Azul. This afforded many options in time of need to lend assistance or route of retreat. Last used to reclaim the properties in 1924 from rebels.

Debbie is at the door to the dungeon and although it looks like she is going in not until the little wiseguy next to her does. Never go into a room first not even with a pequeno, especially a dark one. Although it looks light the only light was my pen light and the flash of the camera.

This was something that seemed so out of place at the castle. These are whale bones and were in the stable yard.

Inquiring minds want to know, what is the castle made of? Bamboo, adobe clay, and cement. This broken section shows how the upper part of the castle was made. The main floor and outer walls are cement. We had worked with people near the castle, in fact the family that owns the farms around the castle and had been waiting for a good day to go back with all the missionaries to see it.

Elder Grossman received a special package from home so when he and Elder Novoa came for our espanol lesson he made us pancakes. Elder Grossman's family own the best restaurant in Lewiston Idaho and his father sells his famous Pancake mix in the store. They really are exceptional pancakes. We even had real Aunt Jamima syrup from Lima.

Yes we have Christmas decorations in our home and with a close up shot it looks festive. I think I get the message though, we don't have enough.

Yes, we have been working in the sticks again and baby chancho are just so irresistible when it comes to taking pictures. On this day we were looking for a family that live in hut in the middle of a field, we found them. I am convinced that the Hermanas can find anyone.

This was not the family we were looking for but they were picture worthy.

Note the size of the thorns in front of the palm of my hand. These can cause serious wounds, They are part of my ongoing expose on security measures in Peru. These thorns are on a dead bush that has been cut.

This beautiful hedge is the thorn bush before it is cut. Look close and you will see the thorns. These hedges surround almost anything of value like crops, gardens, and rural houses.

Hi Winston, Debbie is sending another Deere your way.

People went out of their way, literally, to have a slice of birthday cake with me this week. My birthday was on Sunday so Monday for preparation day everyone came to the house for cake and Kiwi. Kiwi is game that play, it is a lot of exercise. Sunday evening we had everyone over to watch the First Presidency Devotional, we used both computers so that we could have one espanol for those that are Spanish only and one English for those that are English only (Debbie and I).

Don't I look surprised! What was a surprise this store bought cake really did taste good.

Elder McAllister has been bragging about his cinnamonbuns for a long time so finally we told him to put up or shut up. So he put and they are worth bragging about.

In fact I ate three more tonight.

I would like to introduce Jenny,Chantal, and Rene. They are some of the first people that we met here in San Vicente. We had my birthday lunch at their home on Sunday, it was delicious. Jenny used to be the pensionista for the missionaries and is great cook. We have a goal with them to go to the Temple together in February.

We introduced the Familia Taya to you a few weeks back when we told about the chance meeting we had with the Son of Hermano and Hermana Taya on the side of the road in Canete. As a result of that "chance" meeting Pamela (behind hermana Whitney) was baptized on Saturday by her grandfather. I spoke at the baptism and afterwards Hermana Whitney challenged her brother (behind me) to hear the discussions. He starts this next week as soon as school is finished.

At the end of some days we stop and ask each other, "what have we done to be so blessed?" We don't know, we just are.

Los Gringos en Canete.