Saturday, November 21, 2015

Week #44 New finds!

Well, Elders Salazar and Yorgasen aren't new, but they do have enough experience to persuade Hna J to cook breakfast for them and the 3 other Elders living above us, 1 day per week.  They lost their "pension", or the person who cooks for them, So Hna J felt all mothery for them, and agreed to cook breakfast on Mondays.  For this she gets paid the regular rate of 3 Soles per Elder, or a total of 15 Soles for the entire meal (less than $5), so I don't think she's making money off this deal, but she is very happy to get them some tasty nourishment, and boy are they happy to get it.  Pancakes, eggs,  juice, fruit, hot cocoa - about everything except bacon, which is banned.  It's safe to say that Monday morning is their favorite time of the week. 

 While walking through the city, we come across this oddity:  Poles in the street propping up a crumbling adobe wall.  Seems that the local antiquities laws prevent "historical" buildings in the central district from being torn down and rebuilt.  Adobe isn't really historic, its the lowest grade of building:  Inca fine-cut stone is the best, and is usually the foundation, if it wasn't torn up or destroyed by the conquering Spaniards.  Then is not-so-fine stonework, followed by stones and mortar, then bricks, and finally adobe.  The owner is prevented from rebuilding the adobe wall that is pooching out, so he has to prop up the wall with poles, and hope that nobody hits them (maybe he is hoping they do).  Anyway, the poles remain unscathed for at least 10 months.  If/when somebody hits them, the whole building is coming down.

 On one of my trips to the Saturday baratillo (local market), some of the varieties of products available for sale are seen:  First a wheelbarrow full of fresas (strawberries).  These are 5 Soles per kilo, or about $1.50 per lb.  Unfortunately for us, strawberries are specifically banned from our diet, because there is really no way to clean them properly, and no way to get rid of the pesky little microbes that hide under the seeds.  Anyway, they are a pretty picture - I am sad to pass them up.

There is the auto parts section, where you can get everything from engine blocks to tires.

Snakes and snake parts - evidently ground up boa will cure most everything.

Roasted plantanos (plantains) and roasted papas (potatoes), sandia (watermelon) and choclo (giant corn) these are really good, and cheap.

Green parrots.  These are not eaten, except in the jungle areas of the Amazon basin.

Cuis (guinea pigs).  When I get home, I'm going to get one for a pet, and then when I get hungry - I'll eat a bowl of cornflakes.   They are too cute, but a local delicacy here.  There are even restaurants that serve nothing but Cui.  On Mother's Day, they ran out of 500 by about 2pm.

Helados (ice cream).  A little dry ice keeps it cold all day.  Several flavors to choose from.  These vendors and their pushcarts are everywhere.  Cusquenos love helados, they will buy it during a rainstorm.  2 small scoops for 2 Soles (65 cents).  We like it as well, but not when it's cold. 

Got your tool store around the corner.  Most of these are made from rebar, leaf springs from junked cars, or sheet metal.  The handles are usually eucalyuptus, which has been introduced as a fast-growing tree, as the old growth has been cut down long ago  Never underestimate the ingenuity and cleverness of the Peruvians to make useful items from what we would throw away.

 I don't know what kind of fruit this is, except that it's over a foot long, grows like a pod on trees, is fuzzy on the outside, has a membrane kind of like a pomegranate, and the sections are semi- sweet and tasty, texture like pineapple.  Got to taste a free sample, but didn't really want to buy the whole thing.

 Since first going to the baratillo with Elder Rhoades, I have, at his encouragement, been on the lookout for Spanish dubloons.  These are the "pieces of eight" that were minted from the 1600's for a couple hundred years, and became the world's standard currency during that period because they were plentiful and widely circulated.  Most of the sliver came from what is now Bolivia, the entire region was controlled by the Spanish.  Some of the silver did come from what is now Peru and Chile.  The coins were minted in hand-struck, hand made dies so they vary a little bit from what we're used to as standard coinage.  When a die was made it had the year engraved in it, and it was used til it wore out or broke, then a new one was made with the current date.  To make "change" a coin was cut with a chisel along the perpendicular lines.  Thus a half-coin was known as "4 bits", and a quarter-coin was known as "2 bits", terms that have carried over to our day.  This day, Elders Rhoades and Hasler were elsewhere on other assignments, so I went by my myself and:
I found a vendor whom I hadn't seen before, and she had some coins for sale, mostly original soles intis from the previous issues just a few years ago, which are only worth their weight in copper, or there are some that are actually silver.  BUT she had a few old coins on a cloth, and there they were:  3 dubloons and a couple triangular coins.  I pretended to be interested in the other coins, but after a few minutes inquired about the old ones.  She named a reasonable price, so I bought the best 2 dubloons, and passed on the others.  

 Here they are.  Look at the date:  1706.  This means that they were made with this die, but could also have been struck a few years later.  Anyway, they are certainly more than 300 years old, and in remarkable condition for their age.  They are shown larger than real size, they are larger than a quarter, smaller than a dollar, about the size of a Kennedy 50 cent piece or Susan B. Anthony dollar, but not as thick. 

 These are the others:  I passed on the dubloon on the bottom that was worn quite a bit more, the two triangular coins, and the one with the hole punched.   After I got home for a few days, I thought about it and dang, it, I wished I had bought them all, as the triangular ones are quite rare.  I went back to the baratillo the following Saturday, and the seller was nowhere to be found. 

 To console myself after missing this opportunity which likely won't be seen again, Dawn and I walked to Plaza de Armas for lunch.  There are frequent art and cultural displays going on.  This day, the weavers from Chinchero - just a few km out of town toward Urubamba were set up in the street displaying their goods for sale, and crafting new ones on the spot.  They drive a nail in the street, then hook their hand loom on that, the other end around their back, string it with the colors of hand-made, hand dyed wool or cotton, then start to work.  I am fascinated by weaving - that has to be about the oldest technology in the history of the world, since people started wearing clothes that weren't made of skins.  It can be done entirely by hand, or with a simple loom, but the craft and art can also be remarkable and very beautiful.

We made a new friend with Paolina, whom we watched work for a while on a beautiful piece.  To keep the design consistent, the weavers have to keep a mental count in their head, that changes with every new thread line.  How they can do this while talking, and never get out of sequence is pretty amazing, and how they actually work the loom is very clever and skillful.  After watching for a while:

We bought the in-process work and loom.  I had been looking for some time for just the "right" piece, and this was it.  Even though her loom was quite well used, she was happy to part with it for the right price, which I'm sure she thought was quite a bit, but for us it was reasonable for the art value of a work-in-process which is quite beautiful and will always remind us of our year in Peru.  Paulina wouldn't budge from the price she named, and even pointed me to tht ATM in the building behind us, which I had to go to for enough Soles to buy it.  She was happy, we were happy, everybody won!

Here it is handing temporarily in our apartment in Cusco.  It will occupy a place of honor and prominence in our St. George home when we return - Hna J. has decided exactly where it will go.

If you've been following our experience in Cusco for the last months, you'll know that our motto is
"a new adventure every day", and it has always been true.  The spiritual experiences that we have, coupled with the cultural and historical things we have seen are making this truly a major experience in our lives.  And there's still more to come - stay tuned!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Week #43 Oh oh, something's going on and its not good . . . a trip to Lima?

For a week or so, there's been a dull ache located around my upper right jaw.  This is not good news, not only for the possibility of what it may turn into, but because of the dismal lack of competent dental care in Cusco.  If anything does require dental work, it will likely require a trip to Lima, with the resulting inconvenience and expense.  Quite worrisome, as it seemed to get worse daily, first as a general sensation around my right upper jaw, then it localized to a specific tooth. 

In the meantime, work goes on:   Elders Black and Belliston have no mercy on us ancianos.  They schedule a cita way up on the top of Cusco, where there are no driveable streets, and the taxis don't even go.  The only way up is a series of steps, starting at Plaza San Blas.  There are about a half-dozen sets like this that we need to climb to get to our appointment.

 Well, we made it to the top without cardiac arrest, and the view from here over the city of Cusco is quite breathtaking.

Especially when I move to a position where the rocks, adobe walls, and sheet metal aren't in view.  The cathedral at Plaza de Armas is at the left.  This is a view of the west sector of the city, there's much, much more that is not in view to the right and left.

We got to meet Hno Willian and Hna Marisol and their two hijos Marcielo and Facundo.  They lost their daughter in a tragic accident a couple of years ago.  They are excellent examples of faithfulness and testimony in the face of tragedy.  We had a very delightful visit with them, and they rewarded us with chocolate milkshakes - just like we'd get at home.

 After our cita, Hna Marisol needs to head to the capilla, where she has a cleaning assignment before the meetings start on Sunday.  Hna Willian must head to his job as a chef.  With Facundo bundled in a back blanket, we're ready to start down the hill.

 Hna M is watching a couple of neighbor girls til their madre gets home from work, so they came with us.  Going down is much easier than going up.  I guess if you live up there, you pretty much get used to it, doesn't seem to bother Marisol and Willian at all, even though they have to carry all their groceries up from the stores below. 

 We catch a taxi at Plaza San Blas.  I had to act quick because Hna Marisol was about to wave the driver off because she thought he was charging 50 centimos (18 cents) too much.  I was paying the fare anyway, and I'd rather get a nice Toyota Yaris than a Tico.  5 of us jump in the back seat, Hna M with Facundo in the front.  I think the kids don't get to ride in taxis very often, they were pretty excited.   The total fare was about $3.

The tooth problem isn't getting any better.  Since I have been traveling around the world for a number of years, and to some pretty backwater places for several weeks at a time, I have always had a full course of antibiotics and a bottle of heavy-duty pain meds.  Have never had to use them, they have been refreshed several times to keep them relatively current.  As the pain localized and started to increase, I started an antibiotics course, with the pain meds as needed (the pain never got above 6/10).  Got a priesthood blessing from Elders Hasler and Rhoades, and the pain leveled off, but was still persistent.  Had time to evaluate the options, which are not good at all in Cusco.  E. Hasler strongly recommended Dra. Wendy Johnson (no relation) in Lima.  I did go to a local dentist here for a consult, and she tapped the affected tooth, took a blurry X-ray, and was ready to do a root canal right then and there, just because she could charge me in US dollars.  I am severely underwhelmed with Cusco dentists.  In the meantime, we continue working.  We got to meet Hna Jhamely and her lovely and lively hija Amira.

 Couldn't find my hat when we were ready to go, must be a hat thief somewhere, and pretty soon here she comes.

 We have a follow-up cita at the home of Hno Pedro and Hna Koki.  They were the very first family we met when we arrived in January, and it's taken a while for us to be able to get back to see them again.  Hna Miriam (with her hija Maria, below) is Pedro's hermana, so their family trees are identical.  With information from both, we were able to extend their tree back into 4 generations, with approved temple ordinances.

 I called my dentist at home, described my symptoms, he pretty much thought it was an abscess.  I decided the best thing to do was get to Lima for treatment, where there is also a reputable  endodontist.  Big hassle and expense to get airline tickets, hotel, transportation, but I didn’t see any alternative.   BTW:  The Church insurance will pay for the actual medical/dental treatment, but will not pay for related expenses (transportation, meals, lodging).  After all the appointments were made and the tickets were bought, the pain started to diminish, actually quite rapidly.  With something as potentially serious as this, we decided the best thing was to go to Lima anyway, it would be taking odds to divert from the plan already made on the chance that it is going to get better without treatment.

Presidente Vera (counselor in the Cusco stake presidency) and his family have a temple trip planned, so he called us to set a cita for a review of their temple-ready family names.  Hna. Guillermina is up first, and we found new opportunities, as well as some names she has had reserved and forgotten about.  Getting Hna G. all tuned up took longer than we thought, as there were several convolutions to resolve, and "cases" to open.  Our faithful Hna Pily (back to camera) was there to help us.

Next, we booked a new cita with Presidente Roger (ro-herr) Vera.  We met at the nice hotel he owns, just a couple blocks from the Tullumayo capilla.  We also did some cleanup (eliminating duplicates, updating names, places, and dates) and found new opportunities.  One of the handiest words in the Spanish language is "aproximadamente", which is a word that is acceptable to when exact dates can't be found.  With this tool, we are able to move family names from the "necesito mas informacion" category to "esta disponible", meaning that they are now approved for temple work.

Hna J makes new friends everywhere, especially with a warm hug and my keyboard protector (underneath the paper) to quiz Jhowasa on his letters and numbers while while waiting for his madre's temple names to print.  I thought our grandkids are smart (they are, of course), but this pre-schooler is pretty sharp as well, knows his letters and numbers, and even knows that the backspace key means erase, or  "borrar".  He doesn't believe that there are little men writing very fast inside the printer though.

Sometimes the Elders have to do their own laundry on an old-fashioned scrub board, and the results are shown on their knuckles.  They just take it in stride, like they do everything else here.

 The day before we left, it the pain in my tooth was actually gone, but I decided to go anyway, just to get it looked at by someone competent, and to avoid a recurrence.  After Dra Wendy’s consult and very clear digital X-rays, she said there was no evidence of an abscess, it was likely a sinus infection, or I had bruised the socket by a hard bite (don’t recall that), or something else.  Anyway, no root canal was required, to my great relief.  I credit the priesthood blessing.  I did get a thorough cleaning, which was really needed, stopped the antibiotics and we were done.  An afternoon’s rest, brief shopping (the Rhoades needed some more missionary ties), a nice evening meal, good hotel, and we flew back to Cusco the next morning.  We got to make a brief stop at the Lima temple, but only to resupply in the bookstore in the temple annex.

 As always, Hna J takes time to stop and smell the flowers, including multi-color hibiscus that beautify the temple grounds.

Hna J makes a selection of missionary ties from the store across the street from the temple.  They have the ties made locally with BYU, U of U, Angel Moroni, Llama, and Temple logos.

After the exam and cleaning, I snap a pic of Hna J (who got to read some current magazines while waiting), and the excellent Doctora Wendy Johnson, an expatriate American from Wisconsin, who now lives in Lima with her family, and has a thriving and modern dental practice, mostly from diplomats and expat executives.  She certainly lived up to the reputation that Elder Hasler gave us, everything about her skills, techniques, and equipment is equal to the state-of-the-art in the USA.  And she is pretty funny too.  Right now she's calling the endodontist to cancel my appointment for a root canal, because I don't need one!!!

And here's proof:  A digital X-ray of the suspect tooth (middle) that shows no anomalies in the root system.  A digital copy was emailed to my dentist at home, and he agreed that there is no abscess.  The pain went away as described, and has not come back.  I'm very grateful for this, and that no drilling was required.  A week later, and everything is still normal, so whatever caused the problem has gone away.  We've watched our health (medical and dental) very closely here, and with only a short time left, we hope to make it back to the USA with all the parts we left with.  After a reunion and reacquainting with our family, we have a full round of medical and dental check-ups scheduled to get us ready to enjoy the golden years.

Up next:  A treasure at the baratillo!

Week #42 Our Portable Family History Center plus things new, exciting, and interesting

To give Elder and Hermana Poulsen a heads-up on what we pack around every day, I decided to photograph and itemize what's in our bags.  I won't itemize everything here, but there are 35 individual items.  All in my bag, they weigh 11kg, or 24lbs.  So I get a pretty good workout lugging this up and down the hills and stairs in Cusco.  And this is just the basic starter kit:

 To complete it, Hna J carries her own bag of 26 items that weigh 5kg or 11lbs.  And in addition there are another 8 - 10 items that we have in our pockets or wallet.  With all this gear, we really have a portable Family History Center that contains everything (and perhaps more) that the FH centers in the chapels have.  The WiFi phone is a key component, that puts us in direct link with the servers so we are real-time into that system.  It took us a while to get all these items identified and organized, but each one of them is essential and enables us to do our work whereever we are in the mission - and we have been to some really remote places and have amazed members (and ourselves), when we are connected to their family tree and related data.

Speaking of where we go with our little portable FH Center, here's Hnas J and Gregoria on the way to a home in Cusco.  Hna Gregoria is the YW (Young Women) Presidenta in barrio Vista Allegre, and she has organized a temple trip to Lima.  We're headed to the home of one of the YW to get her family tree up to date, and to get family names ready to take to the temple next week.  We love Hna G and her family, they are so faithful, and real examples of dedication, service, and testimony.

An example of how post-Inca construction holds up over time.  The Inca foundations that remain (that were not torn up by the Spaniards) are rock-solid (literally).  Unfortunately, the structures built on top of them are not, especially ones made of adobe.  In descending order of quality they go:  Inca, post-Inca stonework, cement, bricks, and finally adobe.  There is no structural wood used here, with the exception of a very few old and well-preserved timbers.  The antiquity laws here make it nearly impossible to rebuild anything that's in the "protected" category, even recently built adobe walls that are collapsing and ready to fall onto the street.  The owners can't tear down and rebuild these collapsing walls, so they just have to prop them up and hope that a passing vehicle doesn't hit them and collapse the building (or maybe they are hoping just that).  So far, these poles have been in place at least 10 months without a mishap.

Little girls play with dolls the world over.  This little cutie has hers in a blanket on her back, just like her madre and abuelita did.  Elder Yorgasen is encouraging her running in circles through the house.

Elder Salazar gets excited for a photo with us on the street after a cita.  He was one of the outstanding missionaries of our Huancaro Feria event, has recently served as the Mission Secretary for supplies and materials.  He has done an outstanding job and will be getting a new assignment soon, as his replacement is in training.  In the meantime, he and his companion are always ready and helpful to us in our HF meetings.

Day or night, the work goes on.  My reliable tactical flashlight is helpful for map reading and making phone calls when we're out working with Hnas Wight and Salas at night.  Being as close to the equator as we are (13 deg S), the daylight hours don't vary that much, and its usually dark by about 6pm or 6:30.  We are sometimes out on citas til 9pm.  Tonight we decide to make a phone call and see if our appointment is still on, before we start a hike up some very long flights of stairs and roads to get there.  Lucky for us we called, the Hermano is out of town, and forgot to call us.

We're out with the Hermanas to meet with Hna Mercedes and her family.  She has been anticipating our visit, and has been collecting and organizing her family information for some time.  Hna J gets to enter it into Hna M's new account.  Names, dates, and places into her 4th generation bisabuelos (great grandparents), and they are now temple-ready.  Hna M re-proves to us what have we already learned, which is that anyone can get involved in Family History, and there are great rewards for those who do.

The 2 sets of office elders who live above us lost their breakfast "pension", the person who provides desayuno for them each morning, for which they are paid 3 Soles per elder per day, not a real lucrative opportunity.  Somehow they talked Hna J into making them breakfast 1 morning per week (Monday), and she really gives them their money's worth, and then some.  It's better than anything they have ever had, without question.  Elders Salazar and Yorgasen come down from the 6th floor to collect this morning's tasty meal.  Eggs, pancakes, juice, hot chocolate and a few other tasty items. 

What a collection of colorful blankets!  Hna J decides that the natural somewhat-unfinished ends need a tuck, roll, and stitching, so she's tirelessly working over each one.

Just when I think my Espanol is somewhat comprehensible, I get some unexpected results.  I thought I ordered a "limonada jarra" or pitcher of lemonade.  First a glass of lemonade arrives at our table, followed by an empty glass, then a full pitcher.  So I don't know what I really said.  Anyway, we had plenty to drink this evening along with 1/4 pollo abraso y papas fritas (roasted chicken and french fries).

My word, Hna J, that is a big spoon!  We make a Saturday trip to the baratillo (Saturday street market) with the Haslers.  There's everything you can imagine for sale here, and a lot of things that you couldn't even in your wildest imagination.  I think you could pretty much outfit an entire city here.  Food, clothing, auto parts, books, hardware, collectibles, etc, etc.

The streets where traffic is usually very heavy every other day are taken over by the baratillo on Saturday.  It covers about 3 blocks in both directions.  What will we find today?

First there's your blankets, purses and llama skins.

Next is your chickens.  I don't know how many are sold in Cusco each day, but it's a lot.  They're big and tasty, and you have seen the feet in soup, so each buyer gets a twofer:  meat and feet.

Next, got your fresh pork, any cut you like.  Sorry, it does look tasty, but cerdo is not on our list of approved food items.  It is actually on the "do not eat" list.

Fresh veggies of all kinds.  There really is a lot of good, fresh produce available here, and it seems like every week we see something new that we haven't seen before.  Some of the produce is seasonal.

Hmmm?  Any guesses?  If you thought fish eggs, you would be right.

And of course there's your name brand premium clothing (North Face, Nike, Columbia, etc), all genuine/authentic/fully licensed - and all made in the same shop just up the street from Plaza de Armas.  Evidently logos aren't hard to scan into your embroidery machine.

Any reason small or big for the senior couples to get together is all we need, and Hna Rhoades' birthday is at the top of the list.  She selected El Abrasador for its fine selection of local and traditional dishes.  It also has a Rodizio Grill-type all you can eat buffet, but in deference to the rather refined tastes of the Hermanas, us Elders decided to forego that feast of gluttony for another time.  We brought slices of cake in 3 varieties to celebrate and enjoy after the meal, each with a candle, so the actual number of candles is under-representative of Hna R's actual age, but will not go into further details except to say that she's looking younger than ever, and we enjoyed each other's company, and all had delightful, traditional meals.

For example, Elder Hasler goes with Achuras Mixta, the translation of which is "mixed guts".  Which you can distinctly see pieces of in the variety presented on this plate.  Elder H has rather exotic tastes for food and is an afficionado of the unusual.  He is our connoisseur of Cui, and will travel a long way to sample and verify claims of "the Best" in Peru.

While I will sample the achuras, I don't care for them as a main course.  I prefer alpaca on a bed of quinoa, with a side of sauce de manzana.  Doesn't get much better than this.

Hna's J and Rhoades went with the Tacu Tacu, which is a mixture of rice and white beans, with a topping of bifsteak and grilled vetetables

Time for a photo after we're finished.  Everybody had a take-away bag with enough for the next meal.  It was a wonderful lunch, and great company with great people.

Next up:  A unique find of treasure at the baratillo.  Hint - they're very old.