Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Desert Village Named ‘The Cherry’??

Actually, the name is El Cerezo, which translates to cherry and it is located about 15 miles directly east of the city of Mochumi. The population is approximately 130 in the immediate area. The economy is agriculture, with the rice being the major crop. In the distant past there was a large plantation that raised cherries, giving the village its name, but the plantation and its cherries vanished to be replaced by other crops. There is no organized artisan community, though several of the women make trinkets to sell in Mochumi and elsewhere.

Anhela Diaz on the left in the photo has been teaching at the pronoei Huellitas de Christo for three years. Patricia, who is the District Coordinator for pronoeis in the Mochumi District is the other woman. The school was built as a joint project 10 years ago by the community, who donated the lot, and the Mochumi District who erected the building and a separate restroom and sink.

The two girls in sandals in the photo are sisters. Their mother apologized to Magali for the sandals, adding that they do have shoes at home that are in good condition but are kept in a box for special occasions.  

The building is in good condition inside and out and is reasonably well equipped except for the plastic chairs that were donated 5 years ago by the city and are starting to break. The whiteboard behind Anhela is cracked right down the middle and held together with tape. Anhela has 17 students who seem to be happy and have a good relationship with her.

Also present to greet Magali was Manuel, who is president of the parent’s association. His aunt, Guillermina Solano Aquino is 87, unmarried, and lives with her brother who is Manuel’s father. Guillermina is proud of her nephew and his commitment toward the pronoei where he has two kids attending.

The villagers have asked for a replacement for the whiteboard, teaching aids, two storage shelves, three tables and 15 chairs. Those items, together with transport cost and Magali’s time would total $621.06.

3 tables - $83.18
15 chairs – 231.05
1 whiteboard with markers and erasers – 60.07
2 storage shelves – 52.37
17 books and puzzles – 68.08
Transport – 64.70
Magali’s time – 61.61
Total – $621.06

We think this is a good project. The teacher and parent’s association show the kind of spirit we like to see. We have $286 toward this project. We need $335 to finish it.

Please consider helping us to help this school and community. You can do that by visiting the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you from us and the village of El Cerezo.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The village of Tepo project is cancelled

During a visit to several villages in the Mochumi District last Wednesday, Magali stopped at Tepo, the subject of our last post on September 3 to determine what items would be suitable to donate to the primary school. During that visit the director of the primary school informed Magali that she would be resigning at the end of the school term in December. Magali then had a discussion with members of the parent’s association and was told that parents would no longer be boycotting the primary school and would be enrolling their kids from the pronoei in that school for the next term.

We had said in our post about Tepo that we felt that the pronoei was not needy but decided to donate to it and the primary school as an inducement to increase enrollment at the primary school if donations were received. With the director’s decision to resign there is no need for an inducement, and given that the pronoei is reasonably furnished we are canceling the project.

One interesting aside…as Magali was preparing to leave Tepo a woman asked if she could ride with her to a clinic in Mochumi. During the ride the woman, Rosa Santisteban Cajusol told Magali she had seen many changes in Tepo during her lifetime. We don’t doubt that. Last week on August 30 she celebrated her 104th birthday. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The villagers of Tepo need to forget

In the past in the village of Tepo the primary school I.E.P.N 11238 was a normal school with twenty-some students between the ages of six to eleven, two teachers and the director. The death of a nine-year old girl six years ago at the school altered that situation to the present day. Neither the director nor the parents would talk about the details of the circumstances, though Magali did learn that an investigation resulted in clearing the staff of any negligence. Blameless or not, the community held the school and staff accountable for the incident. Parents stopped sending their kids to the school. When enrolment dropped to only a handful, Mochumi authorities removed the two teachers, but retained (probably a mistake) the director as the only teacher. Though the death occurred six years ago the stigma remains. At present the primary has nine students, though there are many more students in Tepo eligible to attend. The school looks and feels to be in a state of limbo; it’s continued existence to on a day-to-day basis.

The parent’s association is not supporting the primary school and the appearance of the classroom shows it. The government is providing only minimal support, citing declining enrolment as the reason. Promised repairs for the recent flood damaged walls are probably in the distant future if at all.

The pronoei Mi Mundo Magico (My Magic World) is inside the primary school, using a classroom no longer needed. Curiously parents seem to have no reservations about having their kids attend class at the site of that girl’s death six years ago, which seems to indicate it is the director/teacher they are avoiding.

In contrast to the primary classroom, the pronoei is well maintained. Malena Seclen has been there since 2013 and appears to have a good repour with the parent’s association. She has an enrolment of twenty kids ages three to five. She would like to replace the plastic tables, some of which are broken, with five wood tables. She has chairs from the primary school. She has also asked for a whiteboard and storage shelf.

The pronoei in Tepo would normally not meet our criteria for donation, however here we feel is a condition that needs to be addressed and possibly Promesa Peru could help. We’d like to donate the items asked for to the pronoei, and provide teaching aids to the primary school. It is our hope that by demonstrating our interest in the primary school, the parents may soften their view and send their kids to I.E.P.N 11238 when they finish at the pronoei.

It’s not a good situation to have classrooms empty when they can be cleaned up for little cost, nor to have an experienced director/teacher being limited to a token number of students. There would be so many advantages to the kids and community to have I.E.P.N 11238 up and running again but for that to happen the villagers need to forget what happened…or what they think happened six years ago.

The cost for pronoei items would be:
Five tables - $139
One whiteboard – 53
Whiteboard erasers and markers – 8
Storage shelf – 27
Transportation – 47
Total - $274.00

We are not sure what would be appropriate to donate to I.E.P.N 11238 at this moment but would limit the cost to $100. We need $374 to accomplish this project. If you agree with our objective and would like to contribute please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Southern Version of 'Up North'

In my last post I mentioned that we were enjoying the trees on our land, but afterwards it occurred to me that I hadn’t really taken the time to look at them. It was sort of like a reverse of that old chestnut, ‘couldn’t see the forest for the trees.’ I did a mini survey and discovered that we have seven varieties I think I’ve identified and several others that I have yet to put a name to.

At the very top of the photo, to the right of the coffee cup is a chestnut seed. There are lots of seeds still on the tree and on the ground. When I have the time I’d like to learn how to roast them to make them eatable. Moving clockwise from the chestnut is a leaf and seed pod from a catalpa tree. There were lots of them in my Milwaukee neighborhood when I was a kid. We called them Indian cigar trees, though I don’t know how that name came about.

At the bottom of the photo is a tree I had never seen or heard of. My neighbors tell me it is a water oak. If it didn’t have acorns I wouldn’t believe it was an oak at all, though Wikipedia seems to confirm what they told me. To the left of the oak is, I believe, a species of Cyprus. It is the only one on the property. Above the Cyprus is a species of spruce. The tree is surrounded by vines and undergrowth – a situation I want to deal with soon because a vine known as English ivy can kill a tree. Between the spruce and coffee cup is a pecan. As with the chestnut, I’d like to learn how to make the nut eatable.

The oak to the left and pine in the background are especially impressive. Some rough measurements and calculations put both trees at somewhere between 65 to 70 feet tall. Using a tape measure at a height of 48" on both trees, the pine measured 75’’ in circumference with a diameter of 23.9”. The oak has an incredible 183” circumference and 53.28” diameter.

In my early teens acorns and pine cones brought back from family summer vacations were like religious objects to me...emissaries from 'up north'. I'd line them up on my dresser and think about where I got them from, and wish time would go quickly so we could go back soon. Oh sure...there were oaks and pines in some of Milwaukee's parks but that was not the same. They were in controlled city environments, like animals on display in a zoo. The real up north was Wisconsin forests that were wild and un-managed. Our backyard in Rossville, Georgia isn't up north, but the smell of the earth; the sound of the acorns and pine cones falling to the ground plus the raucous calls of blue jays and crows are pretty darn close.The chestnuts and pecans are a bonus. I'll take it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Life is Good

A recent teacher’s strike in Peru has disrupted the early portion of the school term for the second consecutive year. The protests involve President Kuczynski’s election promise to increase teacher’s salaries. As I understand it there was a small increase granted some months ago, and a promise for a larger increase later this year but many teachers don’t regard these actions as keeping his promise. To my knowledge pronoei teachers have not taken part in the demonstrations but during unsettled times parents tend to keep their kids at home and we’re told that at the moment school attendance is down. If I can offer a brief opinion here, in my view Kuczynski offers Peru the best opportunity they’ve had in many years to see solid progress away from their third-world status…if the population and opposing politicians would cooperate with him.

Despite the turmoil Promesa Peru has completed five projects in the Mochumi District this year. The villages are identified on the map. Magali has had two more villages request that she visit; El Tepo and Salitral (also on the map), both much closer to the city of Mochumi than the other villages we’ve donated to. Magali has no information for us at this time about the villages but hopes to visit both of them next week. Should a project result for one or both of them transportation costs should be reduced.

As for Maribel and I, we’re both feeling more comfortable with our new home and community. We pretty much have the interior of the house the way we want it, though we’re still looking for unusual pieces to fill some empty spots. With that thought in mind, we’ve taken to visiting antique and second-hand stores…something I’ve never done before and am really enjoying. Negotiating prices is the norm in these shops but I think these people have never been exposed to a Peruvian negotiator like Maribel. After a particularly lengthy session of offer and counter offer, one man commented to me that if it had lasted much longer he would have ended up paying Maribel to take the item.

We have a large back yard with trees and are enjoying working on it to shape it/them to our likes, and also built a brick grill where we cook, eat and relax…a pleasure I have missed during the years in Peru. Life is good here but I do have to admit that both of us have started talking about when it would be a good time to visit Chiclayo. We are very happy to have our house in Chiclayo available to us to visit whenever we want to.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Better Late Than Never…

On July 8 we wrote about the village of Paredones San Juan; their pronoei and the prospect of furnishing the classroom. We had estimated a cost of $910 to cover the project. For several weeks we had no response to our request for donations and it was beginning to look like we would not be able to contribute anything to the village. Fortunately the Alice Cool Foundation, our long-time friend and supporter contacted us, offering to underwrite the entire project.

Magali was swarmed upon arrival yesterday morning. Several mothers had told her that they were not sure she would come, or at least not with the promised items. Villagers have often been disappointed when promises made by local governmental authorities are not realized because of lack of funds. Promesa Peru is proud to say that we have never reneged once a promise has been made.

The Alice Cool Foundation’s generosity allowed us to deliver 6 tables, 24 chairs, 4 storage shelves, 1 whiteboard with erasers and markers plus puzzles and story books for each of the 24 students. Magali said there is a completely different environment and attitude among the kids and their mothers. We’ve seen this before…the new furnishings creating a seriousness and formality to the learning process. Teachers have told us that attendance almost always increases after we’ve furnished the classrooms.

The project cost was $943…$23 over estimate, again due to transportation of the furniture from the carpenter to the far distant village.

An interesting side note is that two of Magali’s former classmates who are in the business of manufacturing classroom furniture contacted Magali seeking our business. Both of them quoted prices that were in excess of 20% more than our carpenter in Tucume has been charging us. That’s good information.

Again, our thanks to the Alice Cool Foundation for contributing to the education  of these kids.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adapting to Change

A few years ago two Canadian couples visited Chiclayo, Peru and asked Maribel and I to guide them to non-touristy places. On the first day we took them to Collud, one of the more primitive villages in the Lambayeque Region. Stepping out of the car their faces took on a stunned expression. One of the women muttered, “My God…it’s like walking into a National Geographic article.” As is so often the case, being told in advance what to expect doesn’t do it…you need to see and feel it yourself.

Now, I am not saying that the town of Rossville, Georgia where we now live is anything like those Peruvian villages I grew to love, but in the past six weeks we have often had the feeling that we’ve stepped into the 1940s. Take this morning for instance.

We’ve got nearly all of the furniture we want but haven’t found a TV stand we like. We live in rural Rossville. It’s more like country than city. About a quarter mile from our house on a side road is a collection of old buildings…a few houses, a gas station and a used furniture store. We were on our way to downtown Chattanooga; about a 20-minute drive when we decided to check out the store. If you’re familiar with Norman Rockwell paintings you’ll have some idea of what the ‘town’ looks like as well as the store front and interior. The building served some other purpose years ago. Now it is crammed full of used furniture, mostly wooden items. Prices range from $50 to $150. There weren’t any TV stands but there were a few tables that could serve as a stand. In a corner was a table and matching chair with some of the most beautifully grained wood I have ever seen, with a $150 tag on it. I looked long and hard at that item but decided we didn’t need it.

While we were inside looking around the proprietor was out back unloading some chairs from an old pickup truck. He looked to be about 80, wearing faded jeans and plaid long-sleeve shirt, a baseball cap and worn leather boots. When he had finished his work and came into the store his southern drawl was so deep and so slow that neither Maribel or I could understand him (the southern drawl has been a problem for us more than once. When I commented to a woman that I couldn’t understand her accent, she said, “I’m from Tennessee and this is the way we talk! You’re the one with the accent!).

When we left the store I shook hands with the man and thanked him for letting us look around. That led to another five minutes of near unintelligible conversation. The whole experience…the town, the store, the man was indeed reminiscent of the 1940s. And that’s not an isolated case. There are what I call pockets of the past all over this area, including downtown Chattanooga. In time we’ll get used to these pockets of the past but at the moment there’s a feeling of being off balance when we find ourselves in these situations.

I had my army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in the early 1960s. When I returned home after six months my mother asked, “Why are you talking like that?” It was then I realized I had picked up a southern twang. A few days ago, after only six weeks here, Maribel asked why I was talking like that. I think I’m adapting to change.