Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Weeks 18, 19

Time flies when we're working - or traveling, which seems to be almost all of the time these past 2 weeks.  Occasionally we receive lovely reminders from home, as when our daughter-in-law McCall sent 2 boxes of Cheerios.  You wouldn't think that these ordinary items would mean so much to us, but when we don't get to see many familiar items, they really do remind us of home.  And they are delicious!  Thank you, McCall.

 Other things remind us that we are in Peru, like Inka Cola - "the drink of Peru".  It's actually an acquired taste, but once I got used to it, it actually tastes pretty good.  Their version of Pina (pineapple) is also tasty.  Hermanas Wight and Holland show what's left of a 2 liter bottle during a cita at a member's home way on top of the hill.  There wasn't much left in the bottle when we finished.  We had a delightful evening with these Hermanas, and were amazed at how well they handled the steep hills - the youngsters make it look so easy to trundle up and down them all day.  A little more challenging for us seniors, but after all, I am carrying my bag that weighs 11 kilos (24 lbs)

 One of the realities of the mission is "changes".  They happen in many forms, and it seems as if there's something new that we experience every week, if not every day.  One thing we can count on is new missionaries coming and those that have fulfilled their term of service going home.  When we realized that 2 of our favorite elders (out of 200+ favorites) were going home soon, we took them to dinner at "Abrasador", one of the restaurants that we frequent, and it has the best salad bar in Cusco.  It's in the style of Rodizio grill, where the carne (meat) is all you can eat for 40 Soles ($13.50).  I don't think Elder Taipei ever saw so much delicious, roasted carne of so many varieties in his entire life, and he downed his share of it.

 We had a planning meeting later that evening, so after a nice visit with the Elders, we paid the bill, and left Elders Taipei and Brown at the table.  As far as I know, they were there for another hour or so.
 One of our delights is seeing the joy that our members have when they enable temple work to be done for their beloved antepasados (ancestors).  2 photos up, Hna. Cintia points to names that she submitted to the Temple system less than 2 weeks before, and the ordinances are already being completed - these in the Manila Philippines temple - which shows the worldwide organization of the Church, and how resources are allocated efficiently and quickly.  Above, Hna. Rosario "pushes the button" while Hna. Wight looks on.  With this push, the names of her deceased parents and sister are entered into the Temple system for ordinances.

 We made a quick 4-day trip to Sicuani, about 2.5 hours away from Cusco by bus.  Everyone was glad to see us, and we were busy!  Note 2 computers going, and our new friends writing down information.  Also note the warm clothes and caps - it was cold, even in the Church (the buildings are note heated).  What you can't see is Hna. Johnson's little portable heater plugged into the wall behind her.  She takes it everywhere that it's likely to be needed.  That warmed up the room enough for us to work for the day.

 Our new friend Wilson "pushes the button" after the names of his 4 grandparents were entered into the Temple system.   The missionaries (Hna. Cooper and Elders Truman, Sanchez, and Sosa) look on.  Wilson brought his Mi Familia foletto all filled out, and it was an easy job for us to help him!  I'm going to get an Alpaca cap like his for the cold months that we're moving into!

 Family history is a family affair, and usually the whole family arrives for citas.  With the help of the missionaries, we're able to keep the kids occupied and entertained, with the help of our iPads loaded with a few game programs.  The kids really like them, especially my app "Buttons", which plays funky noises, jingles, and phrases.  Keeps the missionaries entertained too.  Hna. Fernandez was especially helpful this evening, "refereeing" access to the iPads.

 Two of our new friends wanted us to pose with them for a picture after we finished.  These wonderful members had so much info in their folettos, that we were both intense on the keyboards for over an hour - taking care to make sure we got everything right.  Hna. J's smile is not only for the work that was accomplished, but her little heater is right behind her, and she's warm enough to take off her coat and extra sweater. 
 Joy is expressed in many ways, but Hna. Frida's smile and thumb express it pretty well. 

 On Sunday morning, we accompanied Elder and Hermana Hasler to a District Conference in Ayaviri, about 2 hours south of Sicuani.  The trip starts early in the morning, just after a cold rain, as we make our way to a "combi" or 12-15 passenger vans - which are sometimes crowded with 15 - 19 people.  This is the usual method of travel for "short" distances between towns.  The way it works is:  you get to the designated departure spot, and get in the combi.  When all the seats are filled (takes from 10 - 30 minutes), the door closes and you take off.  We have had some pretty interesting seatmates on our travels!

 Hna. J makes new friends everywhere.  These lovely hermanas were happy to greet her before the conference started.  It was a bright sunshine day in Ayaviri - one of the days here where it's warm in the sunshine, and cold in the shade - a phenomenon rather unique to high altitudes.  Ayaviri is just on the other side of La Raya pass (14,600ft) that we went over from Sicuani.

 After the District Conference the blanket comes out and the roasted potatoes appear!  It's quite a social event, as the members of the District come from quite a distance, and don't get to see each other very often.  In addition to the roasted papas (potatoes), there was their own version of "funeral potatoes" (if you're from Utah you know what these are), and they were especially tasty.  A few other snacks and drinks (chicha morada, made from purple corn), and it fortified us for the trip back to Sicuani, where we caught a larger inter-city bus for Cusco.

 More favorite Elders and families:  Elders Black and Murillo both got transferred this change, and we made one last visit to Americo and Nyda and their lovely (and very smart) kids before they had to say goodbye.

After a few days in Cusco, we made a 5-day trip to Abancay.  It's only about 80km directly west, but the road is so windy and up/down that it takes 5 hours by bus.  Go look on Google Maps to see the road between Cusco - Abancay, and you'll see why.  Not having made the trip before, we were a little reluctant to be captive on a bus with no scheduled stops, so we made the trip down by taxi.  Hna J is enjoying the warm weather as we decrease significantly in elevation, and was a real trooper about the trip.  As many of you know, travel on twisty roads isn't her favorite thing, but she handled it quite well.  Our taxi driver Walter thought he was a rally car driver, and I had to get him to slow down a couple of times.

 We made a couple of stops along the way, one at Saywite, an Inca archaeological site from the 16th century.  Not a lot is known about it, but it's built like a fort, and it does occupy a strategic place on a hill.  There are lots of rooms and paths through it.  The upper structure and roof were of wood, and are long since gone, but the stonework is still there, and in very good condition.

 Here's a section of the wall that's about 500 years old.  Its still almost perfectly straight, and like all the Inca walls, instead of vertical, it slopes about 5 degrees inward.  The mortar between the stones is in perfect condition.  These people were amazing builders.

 This is the "Saywite Stone" which is a carved representation of:  a city, their culture, symbols - like most things of antiquity, no one is sure, but everyone has their opinion. The clever thing is that if water is poured in at places along the top, it will flow down through the maze and exit through carved holes, and there will be no standing water left in it.  I think it was a "training" stone for their carvers, and they got to learn and practice their skills before they went on to the really big and complex projects.
 Is this cuteness, or what?  Most of our "cute" pictures are of kids, but this one certainly fits that category.  She is still alive, 92 years old.  She's the mother of one of the members in Abancay.  Elder Sandberg got the members all pumped up about uploading their photos to Family Search, and they responded.  Over 4 days, I took over 300 pictures, transferred them to my computer, resized them, and then uploaded them to the individual member's accounts.

 Here's another fun picture that's representative of many of the precious family photos we uploaded.  The little boy being held by his abuelita (little grandmother) is now the 2nd counselor in the Tamburco Branch, so the picture is at least 50 years old.  The little girl in the hat is his tia (aunt).  His abuelo is a dead ringer for Pancho Villa.  The adobe and rock wall of their home is still standing.

 Here's the missionaries of the Abancay Zone, who were in town for a Zone meeting.  They sure kept us busy for 4 days!   We love them all!  Hna. Cooper just got transferred in from Sicuani, and like us, she really enjoys the warm of Abancay - it was shirtsleeve weather all the time, even into the evenings.

 We did get a break for lunch, and the Sandbergs knew of a nice little restaurant only a half-mile up the hill from the Church.  The city of Abancay is literally built on the side of a hill and the only directions are either up or down.  We took a taxi up this time.  Lunch is "lomo pollo" which is chicken strips braised in a tasty sauce, together with a pyramid of rice and a log cabin of french fries.  We had a delightful time with the Sandbergs, who are finishing their mission in a month, and will be headed back home to California.  The Sandbergs have done much to help and love the people of Abancay for the past 17 months, and they will be greatly missed.   Elder Sandberg also served as the "antenna" for my WiFi phone a couple of times, carrying and holding it in the street when we were in a location where the signal wouldn't make it through the thick concrete walls of the homes. 

 Hermanas Cooper and Campoverde arranged a cita with the family of Presidente Sanchez of the Tamburco branch.  We got to their home, waaaaay up on the hill just at twilight, and got a great picture of their family outside.  This family provides great leadership to the branch, and sets a good example in Historia Familiar as well.

 Don't ever bet the Elders that they can't eat everything that can be scooped into a big bowl, or you will lose every time.  The Zone Leaders, Elders Jensen and Felix led us across a field, down past a row of homes, across a fast-rushing creek, and up the other side to visit a member family, in pitch dark (luckily Hna J and I have good tactical flashlights).  The family had arroz, papas y pollo (rice, potatoes, and chicken) ready for the Elders, and in a few minutes it was all gone.  While the Elders ate, we got acquainted with the family, and took pictures, played a couple of videos, and gave them Mi Familia folettos to get completed before our next visit to Abancay in a few months.

 Sunday afternoon we made it to the other capilla (chapel) in Abancay to meet a family (unfortunately, they didn't show up), but the Branch President and his family were still there, and we took that opportunity to help them with their Historia Familiar.  Hna. J made another new friend with Jeffrey, their son - her iPad has several games that are just right for kids.  Jeffrey is a chatterbox, and very smart - reminds us of our grandsons.  He shared his crackers with us.

 The streets in Abancay are either up or down, this one is at a rather gentle pitch compared to some.  Here's Hna. J and Elder Jensen headed down on a delightfully warm Sunday afternoon.  Note that Hna J isn't bundled up in her usual extra sweaters and down coat.  We're planning more travel to the "warm" places of the mission during the cold season (June, July) as a respite from some of the chilly places we have recently been.  We are fortunate that our assignment allows us this flexibility.  Puerto Maldonado, here we come again!

 There's as much up as down here.  Elder Felix and I got enough distance behind to allow me to take a couple of photos.  Note that Elder Jensen is thoughtfully carrying Hna J's bag for her, in both photos.

 Every few months, the Sandbergs make it to Cusco where the rest of us are based, and we always try to get together with all the senior couples for lunch and a nice visit.  Clockwise from Hna J are the Haslers (Albuquerque, NM), the Rhoades (Pleasant View UT), and the Sandbergs (Newport Beach, CA).  We love all of these couples, and consider them all to be our mentors and great friends.

The Hasler's have spent nearly 20 years in Peru - a career in the mining industry as well as missionary service, and they know all the ins and outs and how to get things done here.  Their primary job is records preservation, and they spend many hours most days photographing vital records from the Cusco archives, for preservation.  He also serves as the Counselor in the Mission Presidency, and is a great help to Presidente Harbertson.

The Rhoades are the multipurpose missionaries, doing everything from autosufficiencia (self-help and employment), to English lessons, to missionary training, Perpetual Education Fund, and assisting in school enrollment, job training, and after-mission transition to missionaries.

The Sandbergs have served faithfully in Abancay for their entire term, Elder Sandberg was a Branch President there, having just been released in time to train a new President.  They served a prior mission in Guatemala in rather basic circumstances, and just love the modern, up-to-date conveniences of Peru.

We admire and love them all for their examples and service.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Yes, we were able to make the visit to one of the 7 Wonders of the World.  We decided to make this trip on Monday, 4 May, with a group of 33 young missionaries.  The Mission allows each missionary (well, the younger ones anyway, we can go when we like), to make a Macchu Picchu trip once during their term of service.  There are trips organized once every 6 weeks, during the "change", when new missionaries arrive and ones finishing their service go home.  During the 2 years (or 18 months for Hermanas), they are usually in the Cusco area, and they choose that time to go.  If they aren't, then before they leave, it's a bus trip to Cusco the night before, and an overnight in the missonary apartments in Cusco.  The departure time was 2:30am!  The Elders in the apartment above us were happy to see their friends from the mission, and they stayed up all night (noisily), and we didn't get much sleep, despite a phone call to shut it down.  So everyone started out the trip pretty groggy.  First their was a bus ride to Ollantaytambo (in the dark), then we transferred to a train (also in the dark).  These Hermanas wisely got some sleep on the train, in preparation for the exciting day ahead.  They're not dressed for glamour, but quite appropriately for the occasion.

The Elders of course are always quite perky and eager to pose for a photo

Hermana J and her seatmate Hna. Jesperson had a lively conversation going on too for the whole train ride down the canyon.  The young Hermanas are always glad to be able to visit with Hna. J, and like girls everywhere, they always have lots to talk about. 

The train ride took us down alongside the Urubamba  river that was quite rough and fast.  We dropped in elevation from 11,000ft at Cusco to about 6,400ft at Aguas Calientes, where the train stopped.  Train and walking by footpath are the only ways to get into to the Macchu Picchu region, but there are buses that take us from here up to the actual site, at about 7,900ft elevation.  The mountains are so steep around Aguas Calientes that my GPS couldn't even see enough satellites to get a fix!
 There was a heavy mist over the whole mountain when we made it up to the top that covered the whole area, so we couldn't see much.  This was a little disorienting at first.  Macchu Picchu is a national Park in Peru, and after our bus ride to the top (think of a ride up Farmington Canyon on a bus), we made it through the park entrance, after a last "rest stop", and started up the trail. Our guide stopped us at a rock wall (this is half our group, a 2nd guide led the others) and gave us some interesting facts about the site and its history.  I won't go into much detail on it, as I'm not an expert.  For good details you can go to: for some pretty good details. 

 After our orientation - shrouded in mist with little visibility, the mist and fog started to lift, and the site became gradually visible.  This is typical for this season, but it was a very thrilling sight to see, as over the next 2 hours, all of the site gradually cleared and became visible.

 The site on top of a mountain (Macchu Picchu means "Old Mountain") was a self-contained city, with its own water source, terraces for farming and grazing, and paths leading in and out.  It's divided into distinct areas for religious, schools, permanent high-status residents, workers, and apartments for pilgrims or guests who came to visit.  The original roofs were thatch on wood poles, and are long since gone.  There has been some restoration, and some of the site has been left as it was discovered in 1911, after the growth and debris of 500 years had been cleared away.

This is the main doorway into the city.  On the other side there are bolsters in the stone for securing a gate to close it.  This was a religious, teaching, and spiritual center, not strategic, so there aren't many defenses as such.  The understanding is that as the Spaniards were looting Cusco a couple hundred KM away, that Macchu Picchu was abandoned, the trails and bridges leading to it were destroyed, and the people sworn to silence.  Anyway, the Spaniards never found it. 
 There are a couple main trails leading to MP, and you may have heard of the Inca Trail.  If you're really enthusiastic, you can actually walk it from Cusco in about 10 - 12 days.  There is also a 4-day segment, a 2-day route, or you can walk up from Aguas Calientes - or take a bus like we did.

 These are terraces for farming.  When Hiram Bingham discovered MP in 1911, there were a few families still farming and grazing their animals on the site.

 The fog is clearing, and we're able to see more of the site.

 Hermana Essig didn't really kiss the llama, but she got pretty close.  There were a few llamas wandering around the site, I think they keep them there just to entertain the tourists.

 More of the buildings and terraces.

The Inca craftsmanship is here in abundance, in varying degrees.  Pretty artistic, and it's lasted more than 500 years.

This is a sundial.  It's not so much for telling the time of day as it is for marking the seasons, solstices, and equinoxes.  There are gates and doorways that line up perfectly with the rising sun on the Spring Equinox.   We spent 5 - 6 hours on our tour of the site, and we also had some free time later to look at the things that were of special interest.

Back in Aguas Calientes, we wandered through town for a while - it really is a tourist town, as MP is THE tourist attraction of Peru.  We crossed a bridge over another tributary of the Urubamba River.  During the rainy season and during floods, this is a torrent right up to the sidewalks.  Lucky for us, this was a "perfect day" for touring MP.
 We had a nice lunch, and got to visit with the missionaries, trade stories and pictures and relax for a couple of hours before the arduous trip back.  After lunch, the square came alive with processions and dances.  Probably for the benefit of the tourists, but it had the desired effect.  Everything was pretty lively, loud, and colorful.

 OK, these pictures are out of order because the blogsite drops them in however it wants to, and sometimes I can shift them, other times not.  The tall peak is Wirra Picchu.  That's where the pilgrims climbed up to consult with the guru.  That may be how that legend started.  Think of Angels Landing in Zion National Park, the height and difficulty are similar.  Nowadays, it takes a special permit that you have to buy at least a month ahead of time to make the climb.  I'll want to do that the next time we visit, but I think Hna. J. will pass on that experience.  Below are some of the terraces, fields, and buildings of this vast site.
 As I said, the dancers were colorful.  Note this group, the guy on the right still has his mask on.  Doubt that the Incas wore tennis shoes, but other than that, they could be from the 16th century.

What's that, Hermana Essig?  Yes, it really is.
 Here's another group of dancers, with dead baby llamas tied on their backs.  Some of them were obviously fakes, but there were at least 2 that had the real thing, including the guy on the right holding a bag of flour.  Part of the fun is that the guy holding the flour bag throws it, usually at some dancer who isn't paying attention, and he's covered in flour dust, but sometimes the tourists got hit, and they took it all as fun.  Curiously, the llamas and alpacas have a high percentage of spontaneous abortions, where the fetuses are birthed prematurely as stillborn.  Evidently this is one of the known risks of raising llamas.  We have seen some in the markets, some with the skin on, and others not, don't ask my why, it's just part of the tradition and culture here.  So if you see a guy with one strapped to his back, watch out for the flour bag!
 A couple more views of this magnificent historical site.  It truly is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and we were so thrilled to be able to see it, and to spend another day with our favorite people: the missionaries who serve so faithfully in this remote country.

Well, back on the train, then the bus, and finally home at 7:00pm.  This made for a long 17-hour day, and as you may know, Hna. J isn't real comfortable with long trips on swaying buses and trains, but like everything here, she takes it in stride.  She did get a good rest that night, and took a well-deserved sleep in the next morning before getting back to work.  We have lots more pictures and stories of this magnificent place, which we'll be glad to share when we return.