Friday, August 28, 2015

Dance, Dance - - Bailar (Dance), and work of course, and get ready to travel

We were invited to attend the Dance Festival of the Cusco Stake.  We didn't know quite what to expect, but it was spectacular, and very fun.  A tradition here is that once a year, the adults in each barrio (ward) select a team of dancers, unique costumes of local or historical tradition, and choreograph a custom dance routine for display to all the members and guests of the Stake.

We were first greeted by Hno. Rigoberto, who looked like a colorful bird.  This was our first indication that it was going to be a special and exciting evening, even though it was a bit chilly - which doesn't bother the Peruvians a bit.

There they go, between 8 and 20 dancers in each team, and they are natural dancers, especially in the folk dance traditions.

Did I say colorful costumes?  I wish that we understood the local traditions and customs a little better, we have seen variations of all the costume types in different festivals in Cusco.

Well, you might guess that Hno. Marco and Bishop Santos are farmers, and you would be right.  Those aren't weapons they're holding, they are representations of the traditional farming tool that was used anciently by the Chechua for digging and planting, sort of like an all-purpose shovel.

More dancing and twirling.  I went to the 2nd floor of the Stake Center to get a better view for some photos.

 The adult dance festival is held once a year - we hear the one for Inti Raymi Stake is coming up soon and we're looking forward to that.  The youth have their own dance festivals at another time.

Everyone has fun and is willing to pose for pictures.  A lot of work goes into making these costumes.

This group had unique costumes, the women looked like cowgirls, and the men like Shriners - they had to use both hands to hold their hats on during the entire dance.

Well, here are all the farmers.  They brought bundles of straw and threw it up in the air.  And look at their bare feet.  I asked Hno Enrique if their feet got cold the answer was "SÍ"

The dancers from barrio Santiago.  Do their hats look like lampshades?  Knowing there would be lots of pictures taken, they wanted to make sure everyone knew which barrio they were from.

A closer view of Hno Romulo "hombre mas guapo (handsome) en Cusco" with his lovely esposa Hna Emma and the lovely Hna J.

If you let the Elders grab your camera, there are usually a lot of selfies on it that I have to delete, but they did manage to snap one of us as well.

Well, after the festival is over, it's back to work.  After a previous session with Hna Luzmilla, we get to help her esposo Walter.  He's on the phone with his father - who has about 3 generations of detailed family information in his head - and Hna is writing it down as fast as she can.  I've told Hno. Walter that we'd like to meet his father, and we really would.  He lives in Cusco, and hopefully we'll get to see him soon, there are so many amazing people here.

Another great family.  Note the "Mi Familias" and photo books all over the table.  Also note that everyone is bundled up in their coats.  Not much central heating here (meaning none), so everyone just dresses according to the temperature, and life goes on without a hitch.  Hermanas Hollingshead and Corsetti are especially helpful, and a delight to work with.

 Still at work late in the evening.  It took a couple of meetings to get Hno. Washington's and Hna. Isabel's family information entered - along with a couple of phone calls to track down missing information.  Their two boys are Michael and Zeniff, and they are two active handfuls, like boys everywhere.

Hna J. gets a big hug as a reward for all her help and love.  Well deserved and much appreciated!

Another day, and we're off to Mercado (market) San Pedro.  This is like Alice's Restaurant, where you can get anything you want, from clothes to fish.  Here we're at our favorite sellers of nuts and dried fruits - of all kinds.  This time we loaded up on cashews, almonds, golden raisins, and aguamentes, which are very tart.  You'll see the reason for our stop here in a bit.

Just across the walkway from the nut sellers are shelves of colorful and delicious fruits of all kinds:  pineapples, grapes, about a half-dozen varieties of oranges and tangerines.  It would be considered "fall" here, but really the end of the dry season, and many fruits and other crops are being harvested now, but some grow year round so there is always plenty of tasty choices.

Hna J tries her hand at high-altitude baking.  She brought a "Pie in the Sky" cookbook for high-altitude cooking - but it only gives recipes and variations for 10,000 ft, and we're at over 11,000 ft here!  I will say that she got this one right on the first try, and they were a treat.  Unfortunately, we're leaving town in a couple of days, so she gave most of this batch to the Elders who live in our building - lucky them, and they know it.

So what are all the nuts and dried fruits for - well, the tastiest trail mix in the world!  We always like to have some of this when we travel, for snacks as well as some meals that we miss because we're working odd hours, or just don't feel like going out.  And what are the really colorful fruits - M&M's of course.  This really is the best snack ever.

Just a day or two and we're off to Quillabamba - at one of the far ends of the mission.  We've heard some wonderful things about it, but it's about a 6 hour drive to get there, which Hna J is not looking forward to.  She doesn't travel well on the twisty mountain roads, but she'll endure it to get our work done there.  Quillabamba is one of the "jungle" areas, sort of like Puerto Maldonado, except it's 7,000 ft elevation - how can there be a jungle as high as Park City?  Only in Peru!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Adventures in Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes, and Santa Teresa

After receiving an invitation from Elder and Hermana Rhoades to accompany them on a short trip to Santa Teresa during "cambios" or changes/transfers, the day arrived, and we got ready to go.  The first step is buying train tickets.  I won't say that it is the most efficient process we have ever gone through here, it could be the opposite.  The frustrating thing is that after waiting in line for at least one hour each of 3 separate times - the tickets only cost 10 Soles:  $3.25.  In Cusco, there were several unused computer kiosks obviously installed for ticket purchases, but they were dark, and it was the old "take a number" process. 

It was an easy walk from the Rhoades apartment to the train station, and as usual, there is always something new and unusual.  Where do you park your llama?  Well, right next to where you park your car.

 In the ticket queue at the Hidroelectrica train station.  Yes, an hour to buy a $3.25 ticket

They finally make it to the window.  All tickets are hand-written.  Why not just peel them off a roll?

 A nice late lunch before we board the train.  I will say that the trains do run exactly on schedule, and we had allowed plenty of time to enjoy this meal before we boarded.  Our "carnets" or resident cards allow us to buy in-country transportation (air and rail) at substantial discounts over what the tourists pay.  The luxury train all the way from Cusco to Aguas Calientes can cost the tourists up to $300!!

Why is Elder Rhoades holding Hna J's purse?  Well, because she forgot it at the restaurant and didn't realize it until we had boarded the train - 20 minutes before departure time.  Before I could head back to get it, E. Rhoades took off at a sprint, up the hill, and got back with it before we left.  The total distance up and back was about 1.25 miles as close as we could guess.  He was puffing, but made the run without triggering the big one.  Guess all those years of fireman training pay off.

Peruvians rank at the top for cleverness!  Can't say they are the most advanced or efficient, but when it comes to getting the job done, give me a crew of Peruanos any day!  So if you have a pile of big rocks, but you need gravel to build your house, what do you do?  Easy, just bring in a portable rock crusher!  Obviously this is tiny compared to the ones I have seen in the US, but it gets the job done, and pretty soon there is a pile of sized gravel, just right for the job.

Aguas Calientes (Hot Water) is at the foot of Macchu Picchu.  It has been built up into quite a bustling tourist town to serve all the visitors to MP, and there are a LOT, from all over the world.  In the morning, the street to the left will be lined with buses past the bridge, just to get the first load of tourists up the hill to MP.  Think of a bus ride from Farmington to the radar towers, and it's about the same, maybe a little shorter, but more switchbacks, and mostly through the jungle growth.

Elder and Hna Rhoades get a good look at the countryside from the train.  They don't do a real good job of trimming the growth, and some of the tunnels are quite narrow, so E. Rhoades was pretty watchful.

As always, another combi ride.  The train ends at Hidroelectrica, and we get jammed into a combi for the last leg to Santa Teresa.  Its uncomfortable and crammed, but its such a unique experience that we always enjoy it - you never know who (or what) your traveling companions may be.  I've had everything from freshly skinned llama hides to live cui under my seat.  As always, the Hnas enjoy each other and the whole experience.

Some time ago, there was a fairly major construction and hydroelectric plant installed here to provide the electrical power for Cusco.  This is the outlet for the water that has already spun the turbines.

The Rhoades made reservations in a jungle lodge just outside of Santa Teresa.  No 5-start accomodations here, they promote the natural experience, and it was quite enjoyable.

Yes, that is mosquito netting, and it's not just for decor.  Protects us at night from mosquitos, and other flying or creeping critters.

What do you get in the jungle?  Why fresh fruit of course.  They just hack off a hand (yes that's what they call it" of bananas and hang them on a rope, and the guests can take the ones they like.  Several varieties of oranges and avacados were also ripe and available at this time, and we really enjoyed them.

Santa Teresa is known for its thermal springs, and that was the objective of our trip.  OK, it's no Lava Hot Springs, but the pools were well built and clean, and we really enjoyed the soak.  We met people from all over South America enjoying the springs.  As usual, E. Rhoades easily engages everyone in conversation, and we met a delightful couple from Argentina.  I managed to sputter a few words, but I really could understand a lot of it.

Time to head back.  Here comes the train engine to hook up to the cars.  It's a single track up and down, so they switch the engine at the end of the line to pull rather than push.  There are also a few sidings where trains can pass each other.

 Here we go around the curves.  There is a walking path (sometimes just the train tracks) where backpacking tourists can make the walk, and we saw a lot of them - mostly young people.  I'd rather pay $3.50 and enjoy the ride.

I've never been called a raging environmentalist, but it was good to see these poly bags filled with discarded plastic that has been collected, and will be tossed into an empty freight car to head back to civilization and get recycled.

 Hna Rhoades negotiates for some gifts for her grandchildren at a local market in Aguas Calientes.

Hna. J makes a new friend, like she does everywhere.

During the "wet" season, the small river can rage up to the high water mark.  Aguas Calientes is at the bottom of some near-vertical mountains, and over the eons, many large rocks have falllen off the side and end up in the riverbed.  They are mostly some variety of limestone, and you can see how the currents and debris have shaped and worn some of them.

A view up the river back towards Aguas Calientes.

What grows in the jungle, well bananas of course, and here's a big "hand" of them that are still ripening.  

Aguas Calientes is built on the side of the mountain, like a lot of places here, and sometimes the only way to get goods up and down is by hand, as shown here.  This guy's got a heavy load, and its at least half a mile from the bottom of town to the top.

Money for sale!  These are Peruvan "Incas", which were the currency before soles, which was the currency before Nuevo (new) Soles, which are now used.  These are only good for souvenirs, and I bought 500 and 1000 Inca bills in excellent condition, 3 Nuevo Soles for both.

The interior of the Catholic church in Aguas Calientes has very ornate altars and frontspieces.  It's open for tourists to visit.  The "saints" on the right are carried out and paraded through town at several times during the year for celebrations.  Those processions are always quite colorful and interesting to watch.

Where do you set up a market?  Anyplace that there's people, which in Peru is most places.  This one sets up at the rail terminus at Hidroelectrica.  Always easy to grab a snack before the train leaves.

Back in Ollantaytambo, we buy a big ear of "choclo", which is giant-sized corn.  Its freshly boiled, and delicious with salt.  One of these was a good snack for 2 of us, and it only cost 3 Soles, less than $1

Better be prepared for sudden rainstorms, as we always are (note Hna J's raincoat in the pictures).  A quick cloudburst here, but it only lasted about 20 min.

The original smiley face!  I don't think the Incas carved this in their wall, my guess is that some jokester did it not too long ago.  This was a very quick and enjoyable 3-day trip, and we got to see some very interesting places, and some things that we had heard of, but had never seen before.  We scheduled this trip over the "cambio" or change/transfer day that the mission has every 6 weeks.  Our schedule is a little disrupted over this time, as missionaries may be transferred in or out.   Knowing when these happen, we can schedule little adventures like this one when we would otherwise have downtime.  And being able to spend a few days with the Rhoades was a delight all in itself!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hermana Johnson in action!

Lest anyone think that Hermana Johnson is not loved and highly valued and greatly respected throughout the mission:  I would say these photos speak for themselves!

Being greeted by Hermana Harbertson at the Cusco airport upon our arrival.

In the (very humble) home of Hermana Mercedes within a few days of our arrival.

Con la Presidenta Sociodad de Socorro (President of the Relief Society) en barrio Inti Raymi, Hna Hazell

On an appointment with Elders Guevara and Black

Photos with the Hermanas on a lovely afternoon in Cusco

 Since she can't cuddle her own grandkids, there are lots of others who love it just as much

At District Conference in Juli, with new friends (can't realy call Hna Hasler old)

 At the computer working away in a cold chapel in Sicuani. Her electric heater is under the table.   Good friends make it warmer.

 Always a smile and a helping hand

Enjoying banana pancakes and new friends Hna Crump and Luz Marina.

Three cuties:  Brunella, Neyssy, and Hna J.

 Yes, she really did get Hno Erick's family information ready to send to the Temple

 Who else could look so perky on a train at 3am in the morning?  With Hna. Jesperson.

New friends in Puerto Maldonado

Liliana always warms us up, even when it's cold

 3 personas mas guapo (handsome) in Cusco.  Ask Hno Romulo if you don't believe it.

The last supper.  At least it was with Hna. Sandberg before they went home to California. I thought I was tough before I met Elder Sandberg.  I thought he as tough until I met Hna. Sandberg.  They  are totally delightful and became our good friends.  We hope to see them again next year at home.

 Weary after a long day at the Huancaro Feria, but always ready with a hug.

 A big Valentine heart for all.

Hmmm.  Lots of lovely jewelry to select from in Hno Wilsons shop - and cute daughters too.

Enjoying hot cocoa on a cold night with the Elders

 Hermanas of the mission

With Elders Salazar and Olsen after teaching a new family.

Getting ready for games in Puerto Maldonado

 Making sure Elder Schumacher gets the work entered correctly for Hna Miluzca.

A photo before pan (bread) and chocolate caliente before a Family History lesson with Hna Norma and her familia.

Surrounded by great local leaders, Hna Denisse and Hno Meneses

Helping two lovely sisters:  Emma and Rosa, with just a little help from Hno. Cirio

 She's got an official resident card, good for great discounts on in-country travel.

 Another day, another Historia Familiar lesson, or 3, or 4 with lovely Hermanas Esplin, Maria, and Sanchez.

 Another visit to Hnas Flor de Maria and Mercedes.  Yes, they are sisters.

Hno Luis and his sister are always good for a laugh and lively conversation about their family
 Helping Hna Charlene, with a little help from the Elders.

 A quick photo at the end of a long day. 

A day at the Temple in Lima is a welcome excursion (but we're glad we're serving in Cusco).

 A new friend from Germany, via California, at the Cusco airport.

A familiar reminder from home is always welcome.

 First time I've ever seen anyone with more warm coats on than Hna. J.  Brrrr, cold in Sicuani.  Hna J always brings her own electric heater, but sometimes even that's not enough to make it warm.

The only tourists we saw at the Huancaro Feria were members from Florida.

Everybody's pretty happy with the information from Mi Familia folletos now in

 A beautiful afternoon in Huayabamba.

The Abancay Zone, with a couple of guests.

A lunch break with the Sandbergs, in Abancay.

If Hna J can't find a grandson, she'll borrow one.

 Time for an ice cream break with Hna. Rhoades.

This picture in Ollantaytambo only cost 5 Soles ($1.75)

 Hna J instructs Alexa on iPad games - or is it the other way around?

The fearless adventuress high above the jungle floor on a narrow cable bridge.

Relaxing before more adventures begin.  Some days are just too much fun.

The chow line at Zone Conference, and it was real tacos!

 More ruins to explore.

More ziplines to ride.

 More Historia Familiar to help with.

 District meeting with Presidente and Hermana Harbertson.

Hno Cunyaki looks like a bear (teddy).  Lots of jewelry and dolls in his shop.

 The Huancario Feria went on for 10 days!  Lots of help from the missionaries.

The mission couples pose with Presidente Harbertson and Elder Juan Uceda.

Jungle girls.

Ever seen Elders that weren't glad for a meal that isn't rice and potatoes?

Yes, she'll even eat cui (guinea pig).

As well as an elegant meal at UCHU with the other mission couples.

 Papacho's isn't quite as upscale as UCHU, but a get-together with the other mission couples is always a great event.

Rain or shine, she's always ready to go.

Sometime's its faster to let the Elders drive.

Power goes out?  No problem, she always has her tactical flashlight handy.

Getting ready for a taxi ride, with the lowest price negotiated by the Elders.

No keys to the Church?  No problem, just hold the lesson outside on a sunny day.

Elder Black gives a little translation assistance with a Relief Society lesson

Hna Liliana always has a big smile for her friend.

Not an illusion.  Either Hna J is really tall, or Hna Marina is not.

Yes folks, she really has been to Macchu Picchu.

And she really has eaten chicken foot soup.

Hand in hand with a new little friend.

When it's cold in the hotel room in Sicuani, just bundle up with coat and mittens and read in bed.

 With Hna Rhoades in the Plaza de Armas to help celebrate Corpus Christi.

Even better when you have your own bodyguards.

 What picture could better sum it up?  A big hug for Hna Isabel holding a page of temple-ready names that Hna J sorted out, fixed dates and duplications, and printed all by herself.  A new definition of Wonder Woman!

The wonderful things that have been accomplished and the lives that have been touched for good could not have without the commitment, sacrifice, and contribution of Hermana Johnson.