Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Week #12 - views, Conference, parties, transfers, Incas, - AND - we've got our carnets!

We rotate our daily schedule throughout Cusco, and it turns out that about every 2 weeks, we are in barrio (ward) Cusco (1 of 14 wards).  It's on the side of the mountain, and the first thing that Elders Pavon and Jeffery do is walk us up to the top of it.  They are in good shape, and it's nothing for them, but for us oldsters, it's a little more challenging.  So far we haven't pooped out on any walk/climb, though we do take a stop or two to catch our breath or have a swig of agua.

One of the homes toward the top is on the 3rd floor, and it has a million-dollar view of Cusco.  Curiously, the higher-value properties are low on the valley floor, and the higher up, the less status they have (generally).  This is the view from the kitchen, looking toward the south.  The airport is visible, it's right in the middle of town.

To the left, more of the city.  See how high the homes go up on the hill?  And they go even further up to the left and behind us.  The street is steeper than it looks, believe me.  We live across the valley, just right of center. 

While we finished one cita (family meeting) and were waiting for another pair of elders, I snapped this photo of Elders Pavon, Jeffery, and Hna. J.  Just inside the building is a little C-store, and I treated the elders to helados (ice cream bars) while we waited.

Another pleasant surprise:  Hermano (brother) Marco is on the left, with his father and younger brother (hermano menor).  Note the photo his father is holding:  Two weeks ago, I took a digital photo from the large photo on the wall, taken when he was 20 (he is now 78).  There was only 1 photo, and Marco has 4 brothers, so I made copies for every one.  When his father arrived ( a surprise for us), I made another for him.  We had a wonderful cita with Marco's family, I spent close to 1.5hrs entering family names on  All the time, there was a terrible storm and lightning going on - that stopped just as we finished.  Luck of missionaries - or is it?  Anyway, we made it to the next cita without getting soaked - or even wet.  Hna J always has her compact umbrella with her, and I have my Gore-Tex hat - even if its sunny when we leave the apartment.  The weather is definitely changing to the colder season.  The days are nice and pleasant, but it really cools off in the late afternoon, and during the night.

Another delightful family:  Koky and Magnolia.  We took this colorful family photo in their front garden.  Hno. Koky has been a little reluctant to take the missionary lessons - all his family are members, but his heart has been changed, and he meets regularly with the missionaries to be taught the Gospel.  He is really a good dad and husband, and make sure the family gets to church every week, and to other activities during the week.

Conference Weekend is a big deal in Cusco!  All the sessions are broadcast live to the 2 Stake Centers.  All the sessions are translated into Espanol, but there is a room where it's in English.  I braved the Espanol sessions, and learned a lot - I will have to admit my comprehension is getting a little better, though I can't understand everything.  About 30% of the language, but 100% of the spirit.  Here, Presidente y Hermana Harbertson are watching the Sunday Afternoon session at the apartment of the Hasler's, where we were invited to watch - and to celebrate Hna. Hasler's birthday.

Here's the birthday girl.  The caske is no small achievement at 11,000 feet.  Elder Hasler put the whole dinner and party together as a surprise, and he managed to pull it off.  We enjoyed a delightful dinner - Mexican, prepared entirely by Elder Hasler (they're from New Mexico), a Conference session, and then a birthday party. 

Every 6 weeks is "change day".  The missionaries who have finished their service return home, new ones arrive to take their places, and others are transferred to other areas.  Elder Bentzen is on his way home, and Elder Solano will get a new companion.  They are the assistants to the president, and serve as his right-hand-men throughout the mission.  We have had some delightful citas with these faithful and hard-working elders.

Change days disrupt our schedules for about 3 days, since the elders in sectors where we have appointments may be transferred - as happened in several sectors during this change.  We took advantage of this by scheduling a quick trip to Lima (see below), and Wednesday we hired a driver to take us to 4 of the Inca sites that are very close to Cusco.  I won't type all of the site names, they are are of Chechua origin and are as hard to pronounce as they are to spell, but you can see them on a photo below.  I am fascinated by the logistics and craftsmanship of their work, about 650 years ago.  Note how the stones are fitted - 3 dimensionally, and with no mortar.  I'm still trying to figure out the strategic and religious reasons for the vast number of structures the Incas built.  There are lots of stories, and every guide has his own version, but there are a few authoritative sources that I'm getting hold of to find out more about their amazing buildings and construction - including roads and aqueducts.  If I had a fleet of dump trucks, D-9 Cats, big track hoes, cranes, air drills/hammers, cases of dynamite, and skilled operators, I still couldn’t do what these people did.

Our guide at this site shows Hna. J how they fitted stones around inside corners!  Outside radiuses as well.  Some of the stones have 11 different exposed angles around their perimeter.  The foundation stones extend about 6ft underground.

At every site there are sellers of colorful goods.  Some are hand-made, other claim to be.  Some will try to pass off synthetics as "baby Alpaca", so you have to be careful.  I bought a couple very colorful throws hand-made of cotton.  Right now they are in a plastic bag being treated with spray that will kill all the tiny crawlies that can get everywhere.  Pictures later.

Here's the remains of another fortification we toured on this trip.  They are all above Cusco, at about 12,300ft elevation. Some are obviously strategic, as this one.  Others are supposed to be religious or functional.

When they say they joints are fitted so closely (without mortar - just stone on stone) that you can't stick a knife blade between them, they are not kidding.  How did they do that with primitive copper tools?  Anyway, here's proof.

These are the sites we saw today.  There are about 16 different sites near Cusco.  The price list is in Soles (3 soles per $1).  Note that we now pay the "nacional" rate, since we have our carnets.  We opted for the "parcial" fare for today.  Sometime later we will go out again with the "general" pass, which allows us to visit 16 sites over a 10-day period.

Some sites are strategic, others religious, and this one is quite functional.  Note the clever water spouts that are routed through an aqueduct from above.  This site was built over 600 years ago, and is still functional today.  Note the channel that flows the excess water away.  One thing that is an advantage here, is that there is no hard freeze-thaw cycles like we have at home, the temperature rarely (if ever) gets below freezing so there is little of the effect that we see in our home climate.  Most of the rock are of some tough variant of limestone or basalt, and some in other locations were cut from granite!

Hermana J makes new friends everywhere!  We were waiting at the Cusco airport to catch our flight to Lima, and met this lovely lady:  from California via Germany (55 years ago).  Turns out she was a Church member, and caught sight of our badges.  She was traveling with a group of friends and we got to chat with all of them before we got on the plane.

Well, not very good focus, but these are our "carnets" or resident cards.  Think green cards.  These allow us to stay in the country for 1 year from date of issue (can be renewed), and they replace our tourist visas, which would have expired in 3 more months.  The biggest advantage of these cards is now that we get the same rates for transportation, hotels, other amenities that the locals do.  The tourists have to pay 50 - 80% more. 

It has been another exciting and adventure-filled week for is here in Peru.  We love our work, and the time is flying by.  Hopefully in another 3 months we will be at least tolerably fluent in Espanol.  We start our mission travel schedule later this month, with a 1-week trip to Puno (Lake Titicaca) for a Historia Familiar Conference, and several days of citas with leaders and members - stay tuned!


  1. Those Incan sites look cool!

  2. I imagine with your altitude that walking those hills is twice as hard. You are going to be in great shape. We always hated transfer day and losing the missionaries we had grown to love. I am impressed with your progress in Spanish...way to go!