Saturday, July 4, 2015

Week 25 - and the Feria

How the weeks speed by.  We have spent several weeks preparing for and running an exhibit in the Cusco Huancaro Feria (think state fair).  It was a lot of work and stress, and some changes on-the fly to overcome some obstacles that were thrown in the way, but we survived the 10-day event, with some outstanding results.

I had to start out with this picture of a bag with 2 legs, at least that's what it appears to be walking down the street.  Actually this is a Chechua woman bearing a big burden, which seems to be their life.  I feel that Peru was built upon the backs of the people, especially the women.  Most of the abuelitas (little grandmothers) are permanently stooped over from carrying heavy burdens all their lives.  Even when they aren't carrying a load, they are still bent over, and many limp and shuffle.  When we get to meet some really old ones - we find out they're younger than us, just worn out and spent from a lifetime of heavy labor. 

Here's some take-out food from the Chinese restaurant around the corner.  Arroz y pollo (rice and chicken) on the right.  And what's that on the left?  It's lemonade in a handy container.  You just poke a straw in it and suck away!  The Peruvians are nothing if not clever and adaptable to their circumstances, and they find a way to get most everything done, even if its not the most efficient.

In the stages of Feria preparation.  We're doing an on-site inspection of our exhibit space, which was supposed to be 4 x 3 meters, except at the last minute, we got switched to a 3 x 3 meter space.  All of our banners were made for 4 x 3 meters.  Aggravating, but we will adapt.

Here's the "before" picture:  3 brick walls and a gravel floor.  Doesn't look like much, but we'll see if we can make a silk purse out of it.

After some major recalculations, several trips to the hardware store, a tall ladder, and the help of 4 missionaries, we have the booth all set up - 2 days before the Feria opens.  I can't stand to wait until the last minute and then get jammed up on an unexpected detail.  Of all the hundreds of exhibits in the Feria, we were the first one up.  The director of the Archivo, our co-sponsor and his assistant are on the left.  Next are Elder Yorgasen, the Hasler's, and Elder Olsen.  This was one of those setup projects where I had it all calculated in my head, didn't have enough time to explain it all, and hoped it would come together as planned, and it did.  I calculated it would take about 2 hours, but it took nearly 4 (hey, that's good for Peru).

After the setup, the Hasler's invited the Elders to dinner, and we got to come along.  Elder Olsen is being reassigned as a trainer for a (lucky) new missionary, he has managed the visas, transportation, and office management of the Mission for a number of months, and has done an outstanding job.  Whenever we need some assistance, he is our go-to guy.  He has trained Elder Yorgasen well, so we're still going to be in good hands.  The Hasler's are delightful and so faithful:  You have to be to extend your 18 month mission call to 36 months!  They spend most of their day in a dark, cold basement taking photos of old records.  This sounds like a mundane job, but they do it very well, and their work is so essential to what we do in Historia Familiar.  Their photos go to the Granite Mountain Records Vault up the canyon from SLC, where they are permanently stored, and then made available for indexing, when they become searchable records.  The Archivo gets an identical duplicate copy.  When we log onto the FamilySearch account of a member or friend, we can see what records are available that are linked to their family and ancestors.  And we find invaluable records like birth, marriage, and death records.  There is a gigantic worldwide backlog of records that need to be indexed, so learn how to do it, and get involved.  Who knows, you may index a record that we will be searching.  In her spare time, Hna J. is indexing Peruvian records.  While she's not fluent in Spanish (yet), her familiarity with it helps her to interpret the words and dates.

Some essentials that we're running out of.  I sent this photo to Blake, and he rounded up these items, along with some others, plus items that I had ordered from eBay.  The Hasler's are taking a well-deserved break home to the US, and they will be our couriers to get all these items, plus a few more, back to us.  Actually we continue to think of items we need, and hope they have room to include them.  We love to get items from home, but be aware:  the cost of postage is more than the cost of the items - no joke.
Well, back to the Feria.  This was the morning of the 1st day of the Feria, or as it's known in Peru:  setup day.  Which it was for everyone but us.  We had to endure traffic of all kinds down the main street where we were, including a huge bus - it must have gotten lost, I don't know why a bus would drive down here, but everything else did:  trucks, cars, motorcycles, llamas, bicycles, and lots of people packing loads on their backs.  Choing dust, noise, confusion, and in the afternoon, a few visitors actually started to trickle in.

We had missionaries from the 4 Cusco zones helping to staff our exhibit.  Well, they actually were the staff, as our Expanol isn't good enough to carry on extended conversations.  I was really glad the missionaries were there when a local reporter came through.  Elder Day gave her a good account and explanation of our exhibit:  the importance and love we have for families, and how it ties to the records that are kept in the Archivo. 

All politicians like any photo op and any opportunity for glad-handing.  The gentleman in the red cape and yellow hat is the Governor of the department (think state) of Cusco.  He and his entourage (all dressed in local costume) made a walk through he Feria about mid-afternoon of the first day.  He stopped at our exhibit and made a short speech about it

Our exhibit got a gold medal from the department Governor, and Sr. Farfan, the director of the Archivo, got to wear it.  We are very grateful to him and the Archivo for inviting us to the Feria.  Through the thousands (literally) of people we talked to, we were able to give them a good understanding of the work of the Archivo, and its responsibility for preserving the records of Cusco and Peru:  They have records going back to the 1540's.  I have seen the original signature of Francisco Pizarro!  The Hasler's are working to photograph and preserve these priceless and irreplaceable records, but there are many that they will not be able to get to in the next year.  So if anyone has a year or so that you'd like to spend in an exotic and culturally important place in the world, we can help arrange that, just give us a call.
What would a fair be without livestock.  And what is cuter than guinea pigs, or Cui, or Cuy as they are known here.  They are cute, cuddly, and - delicious.  They are considered a delicacy by the Peruvians, and are served at celebrations and special occasions.  In all forms:  you can get filet of Cui, Cui plancho (flattened), nuggets of Cui, whole roasted Cui and deep fried Cui.  When I get home, I'm going to get a Cui for a pet, and when I get hungry - I'll have a bowl of cornflakes!

A fair is no fair without food, and in addition to the numerous vendors throughout the Feria, there was a large food court with a tent (a great idea to block out the blazing sun), where everybody gathered.  I must say that we were warned that things might get a little rowdy, especially during the big holiday Inti Raymi (part of the sun), and weekends.  However, all (and I do mean all) of the people were courteous, well behaved and respectful, even into the evening when the food court was jammed, the beer garden was busy, and the bands were jumping (they did have some good ones, along with ones that needed more practice).  Again, our respect for these wonderful people was increased by this experience.

Despite all the confusion and distraction of the first day, we received 38 referrals.  After the first day, the visitors really started coming, and our exhibit was very popular.  The missionaries were busy explaining the Archivo, our relationship with it, the historical artifacts and information it contains - and our connection to families.  The Peruvians are rightfully proud of their heritage, and were pleased to know of our efforts to help preserve it.  They also love their families, so it was a natural fit, and we were very well received.

One of our banners showing photos of families (recent and old), along with some of the historical documents in the Archivo.

Our Mi Familia folletos were quite popular.  We had allocated 1,000 to disribute during the 10 days of the Feria, but when things got going, we saw that we would run out of those, and I had to scramble and rush-order another 500!  We gave away 1430 during the Feria.  The English version is "My Family", and is a helpful booklet to record names, dates, places, photos, and stories about and descriptions of family members and ancestors. 

A Feria is not a Feria without many displays of agricultural products, and papas (potatoes) are no exception.  Here's a few of the more than 400 varieties grown in Peru.

And there are about as many varieties of maiz or choclo (corn) as well.

The days were very hot, and the missionaries were real troopers.  I kept them slathered in sunblock, even the Latins, and kept them supplied with bottled water.  The sun bears down really hot, even though this is the "cold" season.  The actual temperature was probably around 75F, but when the sun was bearing down directly, it feels like you are in an oven.  This is due to a combination of the altitude (11,000 ft), and the latitude (13 deg S).  It's one of those things that you have to experience to really understand it.  We've never experienced anything like it til we came here.  At the end of each shift (2 per day), all the missionaries got a 5 Sole allowance for helados (ice creams), which really helped to cool them down.  Here are some delightful Hermanas (David, Hill, and Dominguez) enjoying their end-of-shift refreshment. 

The crowd on Inti Raymi day, about 32,000 people visited that day alone.  Can't say that I've ever been in such a massive and constant crush of people as this, and everyone was polite and courteous.  It was like this at least 3 of the 10 days.  This is like a "Waldo" picture:  can you spot the missionary?

Two of the (very) few non-Peruvian visitors were Brent and Maria, from Florida.  Brent had been a missionary in Trujillo about 25 years ago, and had come back for the Temple dedication there a week prior, and they were making a trip through most of Peru, including Cusco.  They now have a son on a mission, and are part of a big FaceBook group of missionary parents, which also includes Elder Andromidas' mom.  So they good to meet him here at the Feria, along with Elder Asay.  Maria is from Puerto Rico, and is a native Spanish speaker.  She was so enthusiastic, and kept scooting people from the street into the booth to see it.  We wished she could have stayed for the entire Feria.

Elders Asay and Andromidas at work.  They loved talking to the Feria visitors.  In addition to a Mi Familia and other literature, we offered a follow-up visit, and many people enthusiastically agreed and provided their contact information.  They love our message about families, and are anxious to learn more.

I think every schoolkid in Cusco got to come to the Feria at least one day.  We had literally thousands stream by over the 10 days.  They are all in uniform.  How do you keep them all together and not lost and wandering all over?  Easy, just bring a long rope, and they all hold on to it.  I keep saying that the Peruvians are clever, and this is just one of the many ways.

One night we were exhausted (well, that was every night), we decided to go the food court in the mall for a bite.  The mall was pretty well deserted, which was curious, but we could hear some big noise at the food court end.  They had set up a really big-screen TV, and that end of the mall was packed - the Copa Americana (America Cup) futbol (soccer) quarter-final game was on:  Peru v. Chile.  It seems that all national pride is one the line with these games.  If I was an owner of one of the shops in the mall, I would have been upset, because no one was buying anything, everyone was watching the game for 2 hours.  But the owners were probably there too.  The crowd was pretty animated and chanting:  "PeruPeruPeru" constantly, and when Peru scored, it was pandelerium!  What's the longest word in the Spanish language?  It's goal - pronounced "Gooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllll"

Hna J got on tippytoes to watch, even she was pretty excited when Peru scored.  Unfortunately, Peru lost 1-2, and were out of the Copa. 

We found a little time to squeeze in a couple of family visits.  We delight in seeing their old family photos, and love to help them preserve them with our digital camera.  The little guy in the center with the dark shirt is my age, and he's now the father of one of the really great families we have gotten to know.  His papa and mama are on the left.
We'll set up anywhere to get Historia Familiar work done, even in the back of the chapel after Sacrament Meeting.  Out comes our computer and printer, we connect to our WiFi phone, and we're in business!  The Elders are always eager to help, and we still rely on them to translate.  Elders Ludlow and Flores are always ready to mug for a photo.  We can actually carry on gospel and HF related conversations, but we sometimes still get stumped on a single word or phrase that we don't know.  The love of the people and their patience with us overcomes our inadequacies.

Another quick visit - what did we find this time?  The birth certificate of Hermano Roberto - the little guy in a previous photo!  The work of photographing and indexing original records really pays off.  It was so delightful for him to see his name, and the names of his padres on a forever-preserved document.

Well, back to the Feria.  Remember I keep saying the Peruvians are clever?  Have you ever seen a gasoline engine powered cotton candy machine?  Well, now you have.

Hna. J negotiating the crush of the crowd.  She takes it all in stride, and loves being out with the people, even on a crazy event like this.

Elders Olsen, Salazar, and Yorgasen at the end of their shift in the booth.  Note their clipboards are filled with referrals.  They had a wonderful day, met many great people, made many new friends, and were quite productive.

A photo of some of the yummy lookin and smelling food at the Feria: rib chops, 1/4 pollos, papas, and veggies.  It was pretty tempting, but we remembered that it's still classified as "street food", and passed on this opportunity.

I have always said the Peruvians are clever, but sometimes I can't say they are efficient.  As an example, this sign: Ingreso Exposistores, or "exhibitor's entrance".  This went up on the afternoon of the 10th (last) day of the Feria.  The entrance for exhibitors had been moved twice from the start of the Feria, was never marked with signage, and nobody knew where it would be on any given day.  Much confusion and shouting.  Anyway, our plaques (missionary badges) soon became well known, along with my signature hat, and whenever we would get to the right entrance and be seen, the gatekeepers would just wave us in, along with all the other missionaries.

The midway and carnival are always a big hit with kids everywhere, including Peru. 

Snapped a pic of some large prize-winning llamas as I walked by.  These are the largest of the camelids here, which also include alpacas, guanacos, and a couple others.

We got some help one afternoon from Hna Roxana, one of the local members who is responsible for records indexing in Cusco.  She came by to help out, and just started passing out literature which really wasn't helpful.  We gave her a little training and encouragement, along with her own clipboard, and she really went to work.  In just a short time, she had a full page of referrals!  We love her enthusiasm and smile.

Well, all good things must come to an end, and this one finally did, after 10 days of nonstop action, challenges, heat, fun, and blessings.  We (the missionaries) talked to literally thousands of visitors to the Feria, and we received over 1150 referrals.  Referrals meaning the persons themselves wrote down their contact information.  The next phase is timely follow-up with the referrals who want to know more.  It will be a big job, and the Presidente has committed some significant resources to that task.  After the Feria was over (6pm last Monday evening), we went to work taking the booth down, and it came down a lot faster than it went up.  Our tall ladder was not available, but luckily we had a tall Elder Falslev who was able to clip the top ties with ease.  He and his companion Elder Domador staffed the last shift, and they finished it up very well.

The booth is down, the banners rolled up, TV is ready to carry out, backpacks are full, the Elders are tired, and we are exhausted.  It was a wonderful blessing to be able to participate in this event, just don't ask us to do another one real soon.  Our love to all, Elder y Hermana Johnson

1 comment:

  1. You two are amazing! You were the perfect couple to set up and man the Feria. What a great missionary tool for Family History and missionary work. Eating those guinea pigs...yikes! We always love your updates. I am very impressed with the dedication of the Hasler's doing that work for 36 months.