Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Desert Huts

 The scene outside the bus window intrigued us one day as we headed to Chimbote to see a stretch of desert sprouting little straw mat huts. As the days went by, they spread to both sides of the highway for about ten miles. They were very orderly with white lines marking out lots. In conversation with local members we heard someone with a government land grant was subdividing the property. It was a "really good deal." For between 20-40 soles you could start the paperwork to own your own piece of desert. Before you knew it, there were 5,000 people living there. Last week as we went by again, imagine our surprise to see the big bad wolf had blown them all down, and some were burned.  Sadly for the new home owners, the real property owner uncovered the con . . . and then they were gone.

The homes were gone leaving nothing but rubble and a few charred spots.

Local fruit stand: mangoes are out, pomegranates are in, also some strange yellowish cactusy fruit.

Virú's answer to breakfast at Denny's: outdoor breakfast tables are all over with chicken soup, drinkable oatmeal, fried eggs on rolls or Peruvian egg mcmuffins.

We have a new favorite cevicheria run by Captain Bly.

We made ceviche, inspired in part by the Mayberrys, in part by Captain Bly and in part by good-looking, fresh fish that morning in the market.  I didn't notice the Raid until after we took the photo, but we always keep it handy.

Exploring a field of papayas and ponderizing how amazing this melon-like fruit can grow in clusters like grapes without breaking the tree.

Our little friend Leon has a dinosaur costume made by his aunt Sonia. She recycled milk cartons and herbal tea packets to make it.  Leon's the envy of many! I think Lorenzo needs one of these.

The trucks here seem to have hairdos.

Is that a designer hairstyle or what?
Look, a bow in the front of her hair.

The sign outside the Virú cemetery prohibits flowers with standing water to prevent mosquitoes that spread dengue fever.

We attended a local member's funeral and learned some interesting customs. Yes those are crosses. The memorial service was at the deceased's son's house the evening after he died. The front room displayed the coffin, and everyone gathered in the front yard. It was dark and noisy from cars and buses on the street, but the congregation was faithful. Elder Whitney gave a talk about the plan of salvation, and there were some other talks and eulogies. One of our young missionaries, Elder Hart, accompanied while everyone sang hymns. He sat hunched over a plastic keyboard outside in the dark buggy air competing with the road noise, but still he played on for at least an hour. When it was over we stood up to leave, but noticed no one else did. They all stayed the night, maybe to make sure he was really dead in the coffin. The next day we joined the funeral procession carrying the deceased and walked to the cemetery, about a mile or two. After graveside talks and ceremony, they pushed the coffin into the crypt and quickly bricked and cemented it shut. He was starting to stink.

Familia Blas

Daughter Rosa eulogizes her dad.

The next day we boarded a private bus to Trujillo for a branch temple trip.

Our neighbor just had a baby. When I asked her sister how big it was, she gave me an odd look, like people often do when they hear a dumb gringo question. Then she held her arms up with her hands apart like showing the size of a fish, and said, "About this big."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Funeral, two missionaries & several baptisms

I first met Sister Ortiz in church at the Las Flores Branch in Virú. A quiet humble sister, she radiated strength as told told me about her returned missionary son and her current missionary daughter serving in the Dominican Republic. I later found out that her husband was waiting for their daughter to return so he could be baptized. A week before the end of that mission, Sister Ortiz passed away suddenly from heart failure. The daughter said she'd been prepared for this by a dream. Shortly after Sister Ortiz the daughter came home last month, Brother Ortiz was indeed baptized. Then last Saturday the town of Virú ran a special price on marriages to celebrate mother's day, so one of the Ortiz brothers married his wife of several years. That evening he and his family were baptized. And to think it all started with Mama Ortiz and her quiet strength.

Meanwhile I chatted with the relief society president about how her husband got his name. Wilson, that just seemed curious for a Peruvian name. Apparently when he was born, his mom sent his dad to officially register the name of the new born. In all the excitement of having a new son,  getting to the town hall, waiting in line, talking to people about his new son, he somehow forgot the name. He had to register something, so he looked around, spotted a soccer ball on the floor, and copied down the name from the ball, Wilson.

Baptism of Monica and Manuel Ortiz 

We cooked lots of rice plus yuca and grisly beef for the wedding dinner. 

Afterward we piled into a combi to visit the cemetery and remember Sister Ortiz.

Instead of grave stones, they build little "houses" over the graves. Then on Day of the Dead, they bring food to put inside in case the dead come back to visit. 

Also in our week, as two of our grandchildren back home reminded us that we're missing their baptisms, we have a Peruvian granddaughter who was just baptized. Camilla Rios, daughter of our mission president, turned eight May 5th and was baptized May 6th, The celebration was most festive.

Me and my Peruvian granddaughter Camilla: notice the beautiful table skirt. 

Familia Rios with Elders Alcazar, Millet, Stephens, Sanchez, Maldonado, Ramos

and us

Four homeless elders: due to an accident at the Lima airport, their flight home was canceled. They finally flew out a day later, the longest 24 hours of their missions. Elders Cook, Webber, Ashcroft, and Price

Skilled Elders Christensen and Miller 
Look, it's a truckload of our favorite soda! 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Pastoruri Glacier

Still working on the selfies

Pastoruri Glacier defies logic by existing in the tropic equatorial region of Peru. You may wonder how a glacier can survive here. At over 17,000 feet above sea level, the temperature stays pretty cold at this peak in the Andes. Our hotel hostess served us a special breakfast for our trip to Pastoruri: plain rolls with no butter because it's bad for you at such high altitudes and mate to drink. Despite all the warnings, we were amazed at the effects of so little oxygen. We gasped for deep breaths, but felt like we were taking in empty air. As we staggered out of the vehicle, it didn't take much convincing to choose riding horses up the final 2 kilometers. The experience was exhilarating.  The views were breathtaking, in more ways than one.

Trotting up to the glacier...does it look like I'm riding a llama?

Beware of the sharp spiny points and big bellies.

Yucca century plants or puyas Ramondi


Just taking in the ambiance and a bit of air

Up the trail to the glacier

Lake at the foot of the glacier

I think we're getting better at selfies.

Cañon del Pato

Our suitcase went up on top of the Yungay Express.

We decided to take the scenic route through Cañon del Pato, Duck Canyon, down the mountain from Huaraz. We traveled between the Cordillera Blanca and Negra to catch the Yungay Express from Caraz. People cautioned us against going such a dangerous way, but we were eager for adventure. The scenery amazed us at every turn...yes there were many turns as we switch backed through cliffs, rivers, waterfalls with the stark beauty of the Andes peaks staring down at us. Some of the hairpin turns were so sharp the bus had to back up to get around them. At times I looked down out the window to see nothing but the bottom of a sheer drop off. Soon I quit looking, unable to watch how close to the edge of the road we drove. It was thrilling like a roller coaster ride, but unlike a roller coaster ride, this one didn't end quickly, but went on for hours and hours. And there were tunnels through the rock, 35 of them, built by the mining companies and electric companies. Since the tunnels were only one lane wide, the bus honked every time we entered one. The thrill became nerve wracking as we bumped along the dusty road, swinging around narrow corners and honking through the one lane tunnels. When we finally stopped to wait for road crews to clear a rock slide, the relief felt good, but it was brief. Maybe next time we'll take the boring road.

Waiting for the bus in Caraz,we strolled through the Plaza and happened upon the Class of '65 Reunion. 

Ken finally found someone to sing his favorite Quechua song with him. 

"Hay Amor de mis amores/ Ilusion de alma mia..." This guy actually knew the words in Quechua. Why didn't I video this performance?
The Plaza in Caraz, "Prohibido Entrar" means "Do not enter." That must be how they keep it so beautiful.
So many waterfalls
Rivers and bridges


Cowboy in Huallanca

The town of Huallanca nestles in a valley beside the river. A dozen switch backs later, we reached it.
 It's called the Light of Peru because they make hydro electric power.
Lunch stop
Mmmm...a hot bowl of yunca
Uh oh...somebody stole our seat...he's at our window.
Honk before entering tunnel. 

We saw lots of signs like this one,  "tunnel ahead."  We kept waiting for one that said "tunnel behind."