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.


  1. In answer to your question. You really should rinse your dishes with a mild bleach solution because you put utensils in your mouth. The dilution is about 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. Wash with warm soapy water then rinse in the soultion and air dry. Air drying helps a lot because most bateria need moisture to survive. About bathing. Our skin is actually an amazing barrier to bacteria unless you have a cut or break in your skin. Of course if you get water in your mouth or nose it could be a problem. Remember that bacteria need a few things to survive. The right temperature, moisture, food (any organic material) the proper ph and oxygen. Some are of course anerobic and need the lack of oxygen for example Botulinum. That is why it grows well in canned foods. It is the toxin it produces that kills you and it can be destroyed if you boil it for a few minutes. Pickles don't have a problem with bacteria because of the acidic ph. More than you wanted to know right.

  2. Seriously... a rat chasing a mouse?

    I love the anniversary picture.

  3. Happy anniversary (37 years?!!) and happy birthday to you, Doug.
    Hey, good week for eating eh? A fancy restaurant meal, pancakes, birthday cake AND cinnamon buns - Woohoo!
    Love the pictures of the little pig and the baby chicks. Hmmm, wondering how you're going to adapt to city living again when (if)you return to Canada. You look quite at home there in rural Peru.
    Hey Debbie, don't feel bad about the lack of Christmas decorations - we're doing the minimalist thing this year too. We have a Christmas tumbleweed instead of a tree this year.
    Keep up the good work on the blog. We love to see how you're living and what you're up to...