Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Week #5

 Week 5 - went by in a flash, and I am a little late on this update.  The photos we take of the families and the area remind us of what our work here means, even though it's plenty challenging at times as we continue (slowly) to learn the language.  Mery Laura, her brothers and father were delighted to see us.  Her brother Jhonathan (on the right) is now an internationally acclaimed artist:  Hermana Johnson commented on how much she liked the painting he made for a school project (on the wall behind), and he pulled it down and gave it to her!  This will come back with us as one of the great memories we have of Cusco and the wonderful people and famililies here.

Bishop Moreya (below, with his esposa (wife) and Martin,(one of their sons) is a great example of leadership and service.  He had collected a LOT of family information during an 18-day trip their family made, as far away as Lima, and we spent about 2 hours one evening helping them enter some of it in  He leads by example in Historia Familia, and he blesses the lives of the members in his ward (barrio) as they follow him.   

 Hermana J is now in a "selfie" taken by Hna Essig.  Her companera, Hna Ruiz is finishing her mission and headed home, so this is a moment to remember.  We made a visit to another delightful family and all the girls (except for a darling 2-month old) got together for photos in the courtyard. 

We had a houseful for this visit, waaaay on the west side of town.  Hna Nelson (front left) is also finishing her mission, which we didn't know til the tears started to flow, as this was her last visit to this family.

 Lots of talent here, these lovely members (and soon to be) own and operate a dressmaking shop.  Fancy dresses for all occasions, and their work is superb.  We're finding out that there is an abundance of hand-craft skills here that we just don't see very often at home.

 We paused on the street to take a photo with Elder Tandazo.  He practices his English on me, and I do the same with my Spanish on him whenever we get to work with him and his companion Elder Webb.
 Speaking of hand-craft skills, Hermano Wilson could be my next new best friend.  Look carefully at the exquisite silver necklace and other pieces Hna J is holding.  He handcrafts them, and the cases in his showroom display his talents.  He also carves beautiful animals from dark wood.  And in the other side of his home/workshop he and his family make jackets, packs, and do custom embroidering.
His daughter Milissa (left) is quite the family historian, and her Mi Familia booklet is full! We just have to assist her with recovering her password, and it will all go into  We also discovered that the Hermana in this family makes the best hot chocolate in Cusco!  Talent just overflows in some families.

 We've been in Cusco for nearly one "transfer cycle", which happens every 6 weeks.  At this time, the missionaries finishing their service will go home, and the other missionaries may get reassigned to another area, usually after serving 4 - 6 months in one location.  Elder Tandazo is finishing, and going home to Ecuador, and Elder Webb has been in Cusco for nearly 7 months, so changes may happen soon.  We like to take the missionaries out for a nice meal, which they don't get very often on their limited budgets - though they do get plenty of nourishment at their "pensions" which prepare 2 meals per day (lunch, dinner) for them.  When we offered, the choice was - your guessed it - hamburgers.  When they finished, their plates were empty.  Hna J and I split a philly cheesesteak, and still took half of it home.

 Worksheet time!  For our first visit, we get some essential information that will enable the family to open accounts.  We're finding that many of the members have opened accounts in the past, and occasionally (well, frequently) have misplaced or forgotten their login information.  Luckily there is a procedure to recover that and when we help them open or re-open their accounts and either see the family history they already have entered, or put new information in, they are delighted.
When we found out that Jose and Cledy didn't have a family picture, we were delighted to provide them with one!  It was Sunday afternoon, and they had all dressed down to relax, but for the picture, they all got their Sunday best on again.  Little Luz (6 yrs) discovered the games on Hna J's iPad, and when our visit was finished, she wanted to come home with us!  We uploaded this photo to their FS accounts, along with a photo of them when they were dating - which their kids thought was hilarious.  OK, everyone changes over the years.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Around Cusco

This week, our Espanol tutor Sthefania moved to Lima with her family, so we took her to lunch on Friday after our last lesson.  We were told of a place near Plaza de Armas that serves good hamburgers, and we decided to try it.  The meal was excellent and we very much enjoyed Sthefania's sendoff.  It was just a little too cool to dine on the balconies overlooking the street.  We are sad that now we have to find another tutor.

 A pic of Hermana Johnson and Sthefania at Plaza de Armas.  The square is quite big, about 7 acres I would guess, and highlighted by elegant and historic Spanish churches on 2 sides.

Lest you think that we just look at the beautiful and historic sites all the time, here's a photo of a wonderful family we met last week, and returned for another visit to help them open their accounts.  Their son Henry is 11, just like our grandson Henry.  They live at the top of a high hill.  The first time we climbed up 272 steps in the dark with the elders, just to make it to their neighborhood.  The next time, we took a taxi - with 4 of us plus the driver, he had to slip the clutch in 1st gear just to make it up the last pitch.  Arturo and his family think nothing of the climb every day, and think they live in the best neighborhood in town!

 Technology and Hermana Johnson at work.  My MacBook gets its WiFi internet signal from a cell phone in my pocket.  Many of our members don't have computers or internet in their homes, so we are able to pack this little bundle of technology around with us wherever we go.  Hermana Mercedes looks as some new family names that we just entered.

Here's a sweet family, Gladys & her son Hector diligently writing in their Mi Familia booklets.  With the information they put down, we're able to get pictures, stories, important dates, and history of their family members on, where it will be preserved forever.

I snapped this pic of Hermana J just when we got out of a taxi, and were waiting for the apartment door to open.  It's not really cold (yet), but her high-tech rainjacket and umbrella are her constant companions, along with me.  In this season, it can switch between rain and shine 3 - 4 times every day.  We've been lucky, and while we haven't been caught in any real heavy downpour, it's common to be out while its raining.  I should take pictures of some of the runoff when its really heavy - its amazing how much comes down from the hills, and flows down through town and into the valleys below.

Hermana J. gets her roots touched up.  Luckily, I was told by the elders about a lovely member who has her own salon.  I got the best $2 haircut in the world last week, and talked Hna. J into going to her for the coloring.  Otherwise I would have gotten drafted for the job, and that could have been disastrous. 

The result was worth a couple of smiles.

There's color everywhere in Peru, including the fruits and vegetables.  Here's some mini-potatoes for sale in the market.

Breakfast staples:  Peanut butter, jam, and tasty mini-bananas, of which there are many types and colors.  These are our favorite, and are about 3 bites each.

We were invited by the Hasler's to go to a local market on Saturday.  Elder H has an eye for authentic Peruvian artifacts, and was looking for some little funerary figures that are placed at graves.  He found some, and I found some rubber hose gaskets to fix a plumbing leak, along with 2 little nifty leather coin purses to hold coins for the taxis that otherwise are at the bottom of my pocket under a cell phone.  There are markets all over town, and this is where the locals shop.  You don't see many tourists in these places, though I suppose a few do wander trough.  We'll probably end up with a few of the colorful alpaca blankets before we return.

This little lady had many dozens of hand-made woolen finger puppets for sale.  Hna. J bought a couple (dozen).  Total bill:  10 sol, or about $3.50.

Yep, everything you can imagine is for sale, including alpaca and goat skins.

After the market, we walked a ways through town, across an overpass.  The train tracks that take tourists toward Macchu Picchu, but not all the way, are visible, along with some (rather light) street traffic.

We stopped for lunch with the Hasler's at a 2nd story restaurant just outside Plaza de Armas.  We haven't been in the historic churches yet, that's still on the "to do" list.

While we were eating lunch, there was a protest march.  We're not sure what they were protesting, but they did have a lot of people marching.  They were quite orderly, but did have some slogans they were constantly shouting, as well as banners.  The usual complement of motorcycle cops was around, to politely block off vehicle traffic.   There are a few riot cops visible in the center, standing shoulder to shoulder.  They didn't do anything but watch.  The march went clear through the square once, then down the street visible to the left, and around a corner.  As soon as they were gone, groups of colorful dancers appeared in the square, so evidently protest marches are run on a timely schedule.  Pretty entertaining for lunch.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Week #4 - work, work, work

We're settling into a schedule that is work, study, eat, meetings, and sleep.  We do have time for shopping, but not much for sightseeing, though we see plenty of Cusco every day.  Here, Hermana J and Elders Guevara and Black are waiting to knock on the door for our appointment with a family.  One thing for sure, no two doors in the city are alike.  From the street, we either enter directly into the home, or sometimes two or three families will live in apartments inside one main street door.  How do they know when someone's knocking?  Easy, the dogs start barking.

Another view from the picture above.  The hill is steeper than it looks, and it's a workout if we decide to walk the entire way up.  Most times, we'll take a taxi from the main street up into the neighborhoods - it's usually a short distance, and the fare is about 3 soles, or $1.  We get plenty of exercise anyway, and it's worth it to get a ride up the hills.

Here's a typical access to homes or apartments from the street, which is directly behind me.  There will be doors to the left and right.  Most of Cusco is old, how old is hard to say, but you can see several layers of construction to the left and right.  The oldest dates to Inca times, and it's been layered on ever since.  Sometimes there will be stones, adobe and a couple types of brick on the same wall.

Our week was filled with delightful visits to families!  Since our work is Historia Familiar (Family History) we love to talk about families, and they love to share their families with us.  We hear great stories of faith, love, and dedication, and there is a big slice of challenges as well, like in all our families.  This delightful family hosted a meeting for 3 other families who wanted to get started in recording their own family history, stories, pictures, and memories.  We'll be back to see them again.  The Peruvians are so easy to love, and they love you right back.

There are plenty of squares and parks in Cusco, most have historical markers or statues, some open space and plantings, and a combination basketball court and scaled-down soccer (excuse me: futbol) field of concrete.  The kids are all pretty skilled, and they avoid falls on the hard surface.  There are always families enjoying the parks, and kids doing what kids do everywhere.

Hermana J is serious about her Espanol pronunciation - she frequently corrects me when I don't pay attention to how to say each word.  If you're going to speak Spanish, there's no excuse for doing it sloppily.  The pencil in the mouth technique is good practice for trilling the "rr's", as it gets your tongue off the bottom of your mount so you can make the right sound.  It looks awkward, but it really does train your mouth to make the proper sound.  Every day we study and practice, but it's hard for new information to imprint itself on our old brains.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Week #3 in Cusco - and we've been missionaries for 1 month!

Every day is a new adventure in the Cusco Mision!  Today, 5 February (febrero) marks our 3rd week in Cusco, and 1 month as missionaries.  Last Sunday (Domingo), the Picchu barrio (ward) sponsored a Historia Familia event, and we were invited to participate.  Above, Hermano (brother) Meneses instructs the group of 37.  He is the HF leader for the mission, and is very dedicated and a great resource for us.  With his help, I got a WiFi-enabled cell phone and now have an internet signal everywhere we go for access to

Hermana Johnson consults with the elders during the HF meeting, which ran close to 2 hours.  The elders are now making follow-up appointments for us to meet with member families in their homes.  With all the technology we're packing around, we can access family from anywhere, and with the member's name and number, either access their account, or create one - and enter family information for temple ordinances on the spot - which is one of our primary objectives.  AND we can upload family photos or ones we took right onto the member's pages.  It's a real joy for them to see names ready for the temple, and to look at their own family photos that will be preserved on forever.

 This young man (Gabriel) represents the future of the Church in Peru:  well dressed, intelligent, computer savvy, and searching for his family members.  He's learning English in school and practices it with us whenever we see him.  He'll be a great leader some day.

Hermana Johnson at work with Elders Black and Guevara.  We spend one afternoon a week in their sector (assigned work area), and have met several wonderful families.  Here, Hermana Nayda and her ninos get to look at our family photo flipchart.  Her hardworking esposo Americo got home a short time later, and we got family info and photos uploaded to

Here's a delightful couple we met the week before, Nico and Georgina.  They are both retired, and have been working diligently on their Mi Familia booklets.  Their home surrounds a courtyard with a papaya tree growing in the center. 

With my technology, and Elder Brown's computer savvy, he opened familysearch accounts in just a few minutes.  We have a worksheet that captures their essential information, and it makes opening the accounts very easy - especially with WiFi access wherever we go now.  Elder Munoz and Hna. Johnson look on.  We were able to photograph some of their priceless family photos and upload them to their page, as well as get family names ready for temple ordinances.

Well, it's not all work here in Cusco, and we're able to get together with the other two mission couples (Haslers, Rhoades) here about every week.  We've just finished lunch at a fine local restaurant featuring fish (pescado) in several varieties.  I had a mix breaded and fried with two tasty sauces, and Hna Johnson had a broiled fillet.  She's a new fan of Tiger's Milk, which is what is left over when the fish is removed from the lemon juice.  The only downer was the live band, who only knew how to play LOUD.  I wish I had offered them 30 sols to take a break while we were eating.  Note my stylish and functional all-weather hat.  Whenever we're out and there's the potential for sun or rain (which is 100% of the time), I've got it on to protect against those elements.  It's becoming my signature look in the mission.

A mother and daughter in traditional Chechua dress.  Ok, they were at the Plaza de Armas, the main square in Cusco, trolling for tourists and they did charge me 1 sol ($0.30) each to take their picture, but they were so colorful I couldn't resist.  Note the baby goat under her arm, a cute accessory.

 After lunch, we went with the Haslers to the largest market in Cusco, where everything you can think of is for sale, including some delicious fruit in exotic varieties that we've never seen before.  We bought some passion fruit - with a hard shell but tasty insides, as well as other varieties, to see which ones we like the best.  We also went to the chocolate museum and sampled some of the excellent products made from cocoa beans that are grown in the mountain areas of Peru.

Just as we were heading home, we heard a band and dancers coming up the street.  One of the Catholic churches was having a celebration for one of their Saints or historical, venerated people, and we got to watch the colorful costumes and dancing.  At the end of the parade is the men carrying the statue representing the Saint they are venerating.   

All the technology pays off!  Here we've been searching, and just found a death certificate proving new information about Vanessa's grandfather.  The historical records in Peru are sketchy, but there is a large effort that the Hasler's and other records preservation missionaries are involved in that's providing new family information every day.  When pages of old records are photographed, they are then "indexed", with the essential information digitized and searchable.  This was one of them that was found by entering her grandfather's name, location, and approximate dates.

Here we are with one of the wonderful member families we've come to know.  Everyone dressed up for photos today, and we took quite a few, and left them with some wonderful prints as well as uploaded images to their familysearch account.  I seem to have grown about 6 inches since I've been here, at least compared to the local population.  The Chechua people are traditionally short and solidly built to thrive in the high altitudes of the Andes.  This is probably the safest house in Cusco!  This family owns a security business, and we are inside of their gated and wired home and office.  Also note the watchful eye of Rambo, their Rottweiler.