Not home yet

2 Feb

The post is from Vicki the day before we left Peru. Sorry for the delay in posting!

I had one of those mom moments when I wanted to do what only God can do.  Revelation 7:17 says, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

I wanted to comfort my son and wipe his tears away.

What happened?

The teacher of the 18 fourth graders gave a very special Christmas/end of the school year gift to each of his students. Wait you say “Isn’t  the end of the school year normally in May?” Yes, in the northern hemisphere; but these fourth graders live in the southern hemisphere and they are only two days away from their summer vacations. Back to the gift… Did they deserve it? No, they had been a wild class. Especially the active boys who form the majority of the students. They would pester you, talk near you during formation which causes you to be in trouble with the school director so you are publicly humiliated in front of the entire student body, borrow pencils from you and forget to give them back and plead for you to give them your homework answers. But the very strict–he had to be to survive!–professor had wrapped 18 chocolate bars in special paper and presented one to each very excited and hungry student at the end of the day.  Well, it was almost the end of the day. The students in the recorder band had another hour to wait before they could open their precious gifts since they needed to practice for the end of the year program. Timothy placed his gift atop the art project with his backpack on the floor, grabbed his recorder and left for practice. When he returned, the gift was gone and the straw broke the camel’s back… or maybe the straw just infuriated the camel so that he ran to our apartment where he poured out his frustration about the thief, the school, the city and the country to his pillow.

Haven’t we all been there? Maybe for different reasons, but I know I have poured tears on my pillow with a very high deal of frustration while asking,”Why does it have to be like this?!”

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” The student who found and took the gift that was not his or hers was born a sinner–just like me and just like Timothy.

It hurts a lot to see your child suffering because of something someone else did.

Hmmmm… what did our Heavenly Father do for us? He chose to send His Son to the best resort for Christmas… no. Amazing love! How can it be?! He sent His Son Jesus to be born to a world full of people who would treat him much worse than any missionary’s kid has been treated in a foreign school… He sent His only son to live, suffer and die for us.

I need to show compassion to my son — hug him and let him know that his pain is painful to me; but I need to not pretend that I can take away his pain now, that I can make it so that he won’t be sinned against again or that he hasn’t been the one sinning against someone else at another time.  I need to let him feel the angst of the awfulness of sin and let God turn him to the amazing love of the One who endured being treated terribly and bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.

Isaiah 53: 3-4a He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;

I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

I need to let my son know that this pain is one of the consequences of sin, and that Jesus came to bear the sins of thieves who would trust in Him, mean brats who would trust in Him, liars who would trust in Him, cheaters who would trust in him, selfish children and adults who would trust in Him… all of us born sinners who would trust in Him.

As a mom, dad, friend, boss, worker, student, child or whatever role you are in; remember not to try to be the savior. You can’t do it. It has already been done! He is the One who will wipe away the tears when those who have trusted in Christ’s perfect sacrifice go home.

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Rev. 7:17

Our family heads “home” from Peru tomorrow, but I want my children to long for the ultimate home where there will be no more sin.

“I know there’ll be a moment, I know there’ll be a place
Where we will see our Saviour and fall in His embrace
So let us not grow weary or too content to stay
‘Cause we are not home yet…”

(Steven Curtis Chapman–Not Home Yet)

Love because He first loved me,

Vicki

On our way

20 Dec

First hurdle cleared. Checked into AQP with 12 bags(!) plus our backpacks and no extra bagagge fees thanks to Peruvian Airlines’ rule when continuing international. Pray for success in Lima, too!

T minus 2

18 Dec

It’s hard to believe we’re only 2 days from leaving Peru. We plan to return exactly as we came, with suitcases only. We’ve sold all the big stuff and have had several informal sales in our kitchen when Peruvian friends asked, “oh, do you have stuff for sale?” That has led to some awkward moments negotiating with people we’ve never met for things like silverware. Everybody loves a good sale, but Vicki is one tough negotiator. We got 40-50% back even on things like kitchen utensils. On the big stuff (beds, fridge, etc.) we thankfully did even better, as missionaries who work with the orphanages will be renting our apartment after us. They are moving from a furnished apartment so they needed lots of stuff. We’re really thankful for the Lord’s provision in this way. We had a wonderful lunch with them today, which was very helpful since Vicki closed the kitchen yesterday 🙂

At the kids’ suggestion, we sat down and ate at Papa John’s tonight for the last time in probably many years. “What,” you say, “no more Papa?” No, it’s not that! It’s that you can’t sit down and eat at PJ’s in the States, but here you can. The place was absolutely hopping tonight and both pizzas (it was two for one night, of course) came out together and were delicious.

We’ve closed out all accounts except one, my cell phone with Claro. Yesterday a friend tried to do it over the phone and was told I could only cancel in person, so today I went to the office and discovered to my horror that the distributor who signed me up for the plan put me on an 18-month contract without my knowledge for which I supposedly received a Motorola phone! Now there is a $150+ early termination fee. It would be very easy just to walk (fly) away, but our friend Daniel who signed our letter of guarantee for Immigration would probably not be too happy with me. After discussing the situation with Claro for the better part of an hour, I went to the distributor, who told me that they had fired the representative who sold me the plan for problems like these but that his boss would be in tomorrow and she would resolve the problem. I truly don’t have time for this with less than 48 hours to departure, but will have to make time. If the distributor doesn’t fix it, I will have to file a fraud affidavit with Claro, which in their own words is a giant pain and takes at least 15 days. But we do have enough info to start that process tomorrow if necessary, and I could go to the notary–one last time–to get a power of attorney for a friend to finish the process. “When does it stop?”, I wonder, and I have this sinking feeling that the morass of Peruvian bureaucracy is somehow going to follow me all the way to the USA. Actually, I already know it will because I’m still the majority shareholder in the Peruvian company I started to do mission projects. But I do think it will be easier to deal with said bureaucracy at arm’s (or ocean’s) length.

Pray for us. We’re not home yet (queue Steven Curtis Chapman).

An epic day

11 Dec

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) version: Four separate visits to Immigration, two visits to Registros Públicos, two trips home to do paperwork, one visit to the notary, one trip to the national bank, and one family walk to McDonald’s for McFlurries after dinner. It was a TWELVE taxi day, a new personal record. But in the end, we’ve all canceled our residency and are cleared to leave on Dec 21st. We are very thankful to have this out of way. It puts our minds at ease now and ensures I won’t have problems visiting later as a tourist.

Tedious version: It was very much the usual rollercoaster. We started off at the bank office in Sachaca first thing this morning, which was well worth the taxi fare and the 15 minutes we waited there. At all the other branches we passed today, the line stretched out the door for two city blocks (~80 people). The woman at Immigration was really quite efficient. After initially asking if we had copies of our itinerary (not a requirement, I pointed out successfully), she offered to let us leave our passports and paperwork there and retrieve them later today. “Fantastic!” I thought. So I moved on to Registros Públicos only to find out they still didn’t have our paperwork. “Come back this afternoon.” Then Immigration called my cell and said I was missing a notarized letter for each child guaranteeing payment of all their debts and taxes in Peru. Seriously? Fortunately, I could be the guarantor so I didn’t have to call our Peruvian friend who is the guarantor for Vicki and I (and the kids, too, by way of me, for we had to make three more copies of his letter of guarantee to go along with ours). Remember the transitive property from algebra? There is a logic to it. It would just be helpful to know these things in advance, for I had prepared exactly what the Web site AND a previous visit to Immigration told me to prepare. (Actually, there’s not a lot of logic in guaranteeing debts and taxes for minors before they can leave the country).

So back to Immigration to retrieve my ID card, which I would need at the notary, then home to print the letters and visit the notary, then off to Immigration for the third time. This time I offered to come back later and went home for lunch. After getting in a little work at home, I returned to Immigration a fourth time but got sent out again to make copies in duplicate of everything: passports, ID cards, forms, letters, copies of the guarantor’s ID, etc. This took about an hour on foot, after which I returned to the office a final time, surrendered all our residence cards and received all of our passports with our exit date stamped and signed in each. Then off to Registros Públicos 5 minutes before closing, which at last had our paperwork. My heart sank when the clerk asked, “Your ID card, please.” Of course, I had just surrendered it to Immigration. Thankfully, she accepted my American passport as proof of identity. But alas, it was too late to file a new form with the documents they had finally just handed me. Fortunately, our Peruvian manager can now do this by himself. Registros Públicos is really one of the worst offices in Peru. They delight in inane technicalities (one friend’s document was rejected because his handwriting was too square–he has been trying to get a real estate transaction registered since May) and every time you submit a document, you have to wait at least a week, usually two, for the privilege of interacting with their genius.

On the way home, I got another call from Immigration. “We’re missing one copy of Daniel’s passport.” I was nearly speechless. Thankfully, the official said I could scan it and send via email. As I said, she has been very efficient and thoughtful. We are very thankful for that. The Arequipa office has been very good to us overall, and if I’m going to wait in line, I much prefer the pleasant, dry climate of AQP to the hot and sticky (or cold and damp) office in Lima. Furthermore, it is much more pleasant to interact over a desk than bending over to speak through a 4-inch hole in a glass window. I actually think the Immigration experience in Arequipa is superior to what most foreigners encounter in the US. It is much faster and much cheaper, as you don’t have to pay a lawyer to do it all. And taxis are cheaper than lawyers, at least in Peru.

The waiting game

10 Dec

Please pray for us tomorrow as Vicki and I go to Immigration to cancel our residency in order to avoid future problems when we come back as tourists or future residents. We have had a number of setbacks. We began the process of installing a new manager for the Peruvian company on October 29. The first act was rejected on a technicality. The second was also rejected because we did not explicitly reject the first after it was already rejected by Registros Públicos. Each submission involves about a two week wait. Last week, we formally rejected both filings and they told us it would take eight more days to clear so that we could pick up our original papers and turn right around and submit the exact same papers with another payment and another two week wait. Yesterday, the online system showed that it was ready to pick up (early!) so we went to Registros Públicos only to find out that the papers were coming from another office so it would therefore be another day. At this point, it appears there is no possibility that the new manager will be installed before we leave. We hope this does not interfere with our ability to cancel our residency, as the preferred method is to present a letter of guarantee from the company, not an individual.

This afternoon at 3:30, I went to the national bank to make payments associated with canceling our residency so that we could go first thing tomorrow to Immigration. I thought it was strange that there was no line at the bank and then discovered the reason: the national bank was closed. There were four well-armed policemen standing in front. No explanation was given, only that all locations were closed and it would be open tomorrow. We hope the bank is indeed open tomorrow and that this is not a worker strike. If so, it may well make it impossible to cancel our residency before leaving in 10 days. Immigration closes early for the holidays, so tomorrow and Friday may be our last shot to get this done. We couldn’t do it any earlier because you only get 10 days to leave once you’ve cancelled. Failing that, we should still be to come home for Christmas because our residence cards are paid up, but canceling them all later would be a royal pain as it can’t be done from the US.

As I said, we covet your prayers. On the bright side, we enjoyed a nice Mexican dinner tonight as a family at one of the very few Mexican restaurants in Arequipa. Believe it or not, Mexican food is a lot better and more abundant in the US (and I’m not just talking Tex-Mex), but this place in Umacollo is a pleasant find. Also on the bright side, we have sold almost everything in our house and won’t even have to move much of it as the new tenants are buying it. This is a great relief! Vicki says she’s closing the kitchen next Wed so we can sell every last pot, pan, and piece of silverware. We might look a little hungry when we get back to the States 🙂

A right pleasant day

12 Nov
Dino tracks

Dino tracks

On Monday the whole (Peruvian) family skipped school and went with the Peats and Dr. Andy McIntosh to visit some famous dinosaur tracks in Querulpa, about three hours away. The weather was sunny and dry, as it usually is in southern Peru. On the way back, we enjoyed lunch at a restaurant overlooking the traps in the river from whence our chupe de camarones (shrimp soup) presumably came. We had a delightful time together. It was a special treat to spend some time with Andy in the van discussing Fibonacci numbers and the golden mean in nature, arguments for design, etc. Mon and Tue night I got to hear him present on his own work in biomimetics, great stuff. I shared with him my Web program which models the head of a sunflower using the golden angle and I plan to tweak it a bit further for his use in presentations.

Round rocks

Round rocks

The hills around the Majes Valley contain abundant evidence of cataclysm. This picture shows thousands of smooth round rocks which are evidence of turbulent water. The road cut (not shown) reveals that the mountain is chock full of these round rocks and other sedimentary deposits at a present elevation of 3,900 feet. Geologists believe that the great canyons of Peru were carved by massive flood(s). Also visible in this region are great unconformities. There are sections where sedimentary rock has been uplifted at more than 50 degree angles immediately adjacent to horizontal strata, and there is a place across from the shrimp restaurant in Coridi where sedimentary strata make a quarter-circle arc about 100m high. In order for such curved rock to form without breaking, the uplifting must occur while the sediment is still soft. This is further evidence that the mountains themselves in this region were deposited suddenly in a lot of water. The Andes were likely being uplifted at the same time or shortly thereafter, as evidenced by the volcanic debris which covers the lower sedimentary layers all over southern Peru. The discerning reader will note that all of this evidence is consistent with the biblical account, especially Psalm 104:5-9.

We arrived home to discover that the water was still on so we could take showers after the hot afternoon hike, but it’s been off most of the day today because of the planned city-wide outage for cleaning. Fortunately, one of our solar water tanks acts as a reserve and if you’re careful and let the water run for only 30 seconds at a time, you can still have a hot-but-not-too-hot shower. If you let it run longer, it gets too hot because there’s no cold water. But it’s certainly better than nothing! We save water in empty 2L bottles for flushing toilets and replenishing the drinking water filter. Thankfully, these outages have been rare, but they remind us not to take things for granted in the US.

In other news, Rebekah’s replacement debit card finally made it to us in Peru a few weeks after she returned to the States. The month-long postal strike in Arequipa is now over and so we received a sudden flood of bank statements and other interesting items. Fortunately, a friend is returning to the States for a visit shortly and will mail her debit card from there.

Just like old times

29 Oct
A thrice-notarized copy is all you need!

A thrice-notarized copy is all you need!

I know you’ve been missing my updates on administrivia, but I just had to share this one because it tickles me. It’s actually been a good while since I’ve had to visit Registros Públicos, but I am hiring a part-time Peruvian manager for the company in order to handle ongoing administrivia (this is a good thing, and we’re really thankful). Because the gerente has legal authority to represent the company, he can only be replaced by the decision of the shareholders. So yesterday I had a shareholders meeting with myself, consulted the law of corporations online, put on my lawyer hat, modified the previous document which installed me as manager, and off we went to the notary.

Now I’ve done this once before and remembered the procedure so I was pretty pumped. Daniel (the new manager) and I took a taxi to save time and we made it to the notary well before 2pm, when they close for the afternoon notary siesta. The line in the notary’s office was unusually short. We were in and out in 15 minutes, and they even loaned us scissors and glue to paste the newly notarized corporate act into the official corporate book (which is the step I had missed last time). We next took a taxi downtown to Registros Públicos, which closes at 4:45 pm. Still plenty of time. Got the form, filled it out, and presented the form with our corporate book at the window. And that’s where the fun ended. “We can’t take the whole book,” she said. “You need a notarized copy of the act in the book.” “But the act is already notarized and glued into the book, every page of which is already notarized.” “Doesn’t matter. You have to make a copy of the already-notarized act pasted into the already-notarized corporate book and get the copy notarized.” But of course! How could I have forgotten?

At this point they had us but I thought there was still a chance we could get it done in one day. We made a copy up the street, but it was now 3pm and all the notaries were closed for siesta. We took a taxi home and got stuck waiting for a procession downtown. Still, our total time away from the office was only 2 hours and that’s really good for having visited both the notary and Registros Públicos. We walked back up to my favorite notary at 4pm after stopping next door for an Oreo McFlurry to reward us for our partial accomplishments. We presented the book and the copy only to find out that, while the office is open, the notary himself doesn’t come in until 5pm. So I dropped off the copies and went back at 6pm to pick them up, but it was of course too late to go back to Registros Públicos at that point. Vicki and I had a quick dinner at home and headed off to Arequipa English.

First thing this morning I went to Registros Públicos to present the thrice-notarized copy. The line was short and there were no more issues. My favorite coffee shop is nearby (it’s almost like I planned it that way) so I enjoyed a fine cappuccino and got in my morning walk home in sunny and dry Arequipa. Now we wait seven days to see if the lawyers at Registros Públicos approve of my writing style. I could have hired a lawyer first to do that, but time is on our side and the filing fee ($15) is less than the cost of a lawyer. If there’s a problem, the lawyers at Registros Públicos will tell me exactly what it is and we can file the correction. Someone once told me I should have been a lawyer, anyway. I’m still not sure how to take that.

I hate to say it, but there is a logic to the procedures here. Given that systems are still paper-based and given the degree of corruption, things make sense. As silly as it first appears, each notary stamp on the pictured doc does in fact add value to the process. The law is straightforward and even the requirements for most procedures can be discerned from various Web sites. You just have to budget time and money for the process (including possible rework) and try to enjoy the ride. Meanwhile, I am thankful that the notary is close to McDonald’s, Registros Públicos is close to Cusco Coffee, and pretty much every day is sunny and 70 degrees for my morning walk.

And for anyone else needing to register a change of management in your Peruvian company, all you need is a notarized copy of the notarized act pasted into your notarized book of corporate records. If I were clever, I could work that into a rap or something, but I will leave that to my reader audience. The post is now open for comments 🙂

A typical Saturday

26 Oct

This post may not be very exciting but that might be a good thing as it will give you some idea of ¨normal.¨

Vicki was up bright and early to help the Peats make and serve lunch for a Christian youth retreat at their center. I woke up about 7 am to the sound of hammers on the concrete ceiling directly over the bed as the landlord is installing tile on the roof to make it more waterproof. Let’s just say sound travels through concrete pretty well. During breakfast, vendors started circling the neighborhood with their truck-mounted loudspeakers. Thankfully, there weren’t many today and we’re pretty used to them. For breakfast, I had some of Vicki’s yummy homemade bread with orange marmalade that friends gave us.

Mid-morning I took a taxi up to Cafe Berea to lead the Saturday morning session of Arequipa English with David J. I stopped by Cusco Coffee on the way to pick up some coffee for David and I, as we’re both now pretty bad addicts. Trip time: about 25 minutes. Trip cost (not including coffee): $2.50 + $0.25 tip because the driver waited for me longer than expected at the coffee shop. The cheap taxis here are great if you don’t mind riding in a rattletrap. Even the newer taxis like a late model Toyota Yaris are typically $3. We were filling in for Amy, who sadly had to travel back to the States suddenly due to the death of her mother-in-law. We had 8 students today, which is typical of the Saturday class. A couple students could barely speak English and that’s been a bit of a problem lately. We had to repeat that it’s an English conversation practice class and does not replace basic language instruction. We disallow Spanish except for comparison / teaching purposes and one student is finding it difficult to function without it. We did something different today and read the story about the record-breaking parachute jump from the edge of space made yesterday by a 57-yr-old senior VP at Google. I think everyone enjoyed the story. David J and I certainly did!

One of the newer students stayed long after and was asking me all kinds of questions about my degree, my work, my religion, etc. At first I thought he was going somewhere with all the questions but after more than an hour, he abruptly changed the topic and asked what states I had visited in the US. At that point I realized he was just looking to pass the afternoon with 1:1 English conversation practice and decided it was time to head home to feed the kids since it was already 1:30 pm and Vicki wasn’t back yet. I walked the 3.2 km home in about 45 minutes. I try to get in a 30 minute brisk walk most days and it’s usually very pleasant. The kids and I went to a Mexican restaurant (1 of 3 in Arequipa) that we had heard about and liked it. It’s not the Tex Mex we’re used to, but it’s decent. It’s run by Americans, but no free chips and salsa, bummer. Being Americans, they should know better 🙂 And no free refills, either. Peruvian restaurants charge you for every drop of beverage, including water because it’s all bottled. But they’re still generally cheaper than the US equivalents. Last Saturday Vicki and went to a Chinese restaurant that charged us $0.35 each for the takeout boxes!

Vicki arrived home about 4pm and Anna and I set out for this week’s second scavenger hunt. Her art teacher is constantly telling the students they have to go buy this or that item for the next class. Tuesday it was a roll of masking tape with a floral print. We never did find it. Sometimes our local tiendas have the item (we have to walk to each one and ask them using whatever Spanish word Anna wrote down in class–half the time they say they’ve never heard of it) but today we had to go downtown to the central market and walk about 10 blocks in circles asking every cookware store in sight whether they had cookie cutters. Most did, but not in the exact shape that we needed (fleur-de-lis, more or less). As usually happens, one vendor told us to go several blocks up to the supermarket that had ¨all kinds of cookie molds,¨ but they had no more than he did. After trying several more stores, we finally found what we think is the right shape for the whopping total of $1.40. We spent $3.50 on taxis to buy a $1.40 item, which is a bit frustrating, but it was getting dark, I was tired of walking, and our time is worth more than $3.50 / hr! ¨Why,¨ I asked Anna, ¨doesn’t your teacher just buy 20 of these things and you can all pay her in class?¨ ¨She did that once,¨ Anna said, ¨but the students don’t pay so she’s out the money.¨ You might wonder why the school doesn’t just include art supplies in their fees. Recall that at the beginning of the year we had to bring a certain number of rolls of paper towels, toilet paper, pencils, etc. to help the school stock up. For whatever reason, it is the Peruvian way to make all 20 parents go across town on the scavenger hunt to find the $1.40 item every other week. Immigration does exactly the same thing and for exactly the same reason: not in their budget, not their problem. It’s wasteful of time, money, and gas, and a good example of how ¨local optimization¨ (the school’s penny-pinching, in this case) ends up costing everyone much more. The US airlines are doing the same thing with checked baggage (so now everyone brings massive carry-ons and it takes longer to load the plane).

Vicki made a wonderful lasagna dinner for us with special fresh mozzarella cheese delivered by an Italian / Peruvian couple at our church. They are very particular about their cheese and have found a good supplier in Lima of fresh, soft mozzarella, unlike the hard round lumps you find in the markets here. Mind you, we had never noticed the difference, but in order for their supplier to make a delivery, they have to order in bulk. We don’t want our Italian friend to be without fresh, soft mozzarella and we certainly don’t mind having good cheese at a reasonable price, so we are happy to help out.

Daniel went to a youth group in the neighborhood that meets in the home of one of the classmates he met last December. Timothy and I walked halfway up the street to a new $3 haircut place that opened up. They do a good job and it’s very convenient for us, but evidently word has gotten out as it was packed! We waited about half an hour before we finally decided just to leave. The first 15 minutes were pleasant as they were playing the movie ¨Up!¨ on TV in Spanish. Then it switched to a Peruvian horror movie with bloody, vicious, zombie attacks and it didn’t occur to anyone in the shop that it might be inappropriate for a 10-yr-old (or his dad). Sadly, Peruvians are completely desensitized from a young age to trash TV of all genres.

Speaking of trash, on the short walk to the haircut place I observed a man non-chalantly drop his bag of trash right on the sidewalk in front of the best-kept house on our street. We see people toss stuff in parks and downtown sidewalks all the time, but this was really blatant. Without thinking, I put my hand up in the air and said, ¨Really?¨ He looked at me and told a bald-faced lie: ¨It’s my door,¨ then walked on. It is a mercy that I don’t have more facility in the language. When we left the haircut place, his trash was still sitting there on the sidewalk. I will be honest. There are things I love about Peru and things I have come to despise. The utter thoughtlessness of many people is one of the things that really gets to me, and it’s enough to make one sympathize with the green people in the US. Whatever their faults, I’m pretty sure the people pushing for neighborhood recycling don’t litter their neighbors’ property. The northern CA streets and parks are 10x, maybe 100x cleaner than what we see around here. Before we moved to Peru, common grace was just a theological concept. Now we know a lot more about what it is. I find it highly ironic that the indigenous people worship Mother Earth (the Pachamama) but throw trash all over ¨her.¨

Just one other event from the day. While downtown in the crowded market area, we saw traffic starting to back up on one of the one-way streets. A delivery truck had broad-sided a taxi on the passenger side in the intersection. I’m actually amazed this doesn’t happen more often as there are very few stoplights nor stop signs, and the latter don’t mean much, anyway. The taxi driver remained in his car while the truck drivers got out. A crowd of about 15 men had gathered surrounding the scene. The scene was quiet but could easily become volatile. As we passed by, we heard a lady on her cellphone talking to someone nearby, ¨Come down here, come down here to see the wreck!¨ She was very enthusiastic. Cars behind the truck started honking. Taxis on the cross street started squeezing in between the wrecked taxi and the sidewalk, honking as they sped by. We didn’t see the accident happen so have no idea whose fault it was, but I would guess the taxi dashed out in front of the truck thinking he would stop but the truck couldn’t. When two old junk taxis collide, they usually settle it right there. They argue and haggle, then one pulls out cash to pay the other and off they go. But this taxi was newer and the damage more extensive. Most vehicles and drivers are not properly insured as the minimums are ridiculously low so an accident like this one could cost the taxi driver his livelihood. It’s just sort of sad.

Otherwise, it was a clear, sunny, and uneventful day.

Oh, Peru

20 Oct

A couple software developers have been using our “office” apartment for the last couple months and want to pay me a little something for it ($35/mo.). Their non-profit organization requires an official receipt, as do all transactions over $2 in Peru. Since my Peruvian company doesn’t pay for the apartment, I must issue the receipt personally. But do this, I need to have a personal tax ID as well as a business tax ID. So in August, I made the trip to the SUNAT office to set this up. Then I went online to sign up for the ability to issue receipts electronically. After a few days, I was able to issue the receipt. I emailed the PDF to the organization, and they deposited $70 into my bank account in Lima. The bank deducted $2.67 because that transaction occurred in Lima, whereas my account is based in Arequipa (US banks are clearly missing some revenue opportunities from out-of-state transactions). This is a lot of administrative overhead to receive $67.33.

It’s now two months later and time to receive another $70. I go to the online system to issue the receipt only to find out that I am no longer permitted to do so because the tax authority (SUNAT) cannot find my physical address. Perhaps I could use my business account, then. Oh no, they can’t find that address, either. This is very frustrating since both of these addresses were previously verified. Now I must make another trip to SUNAT and wait for them to come out and find the place again.

The reason all these procedures are in place is to fight corruption. It’s not working because it turns out you can just as easily bribe officials to circumvent anti-corruption measures as you can to be corrupt in the first place. Thus, corruption (and the resulting countermeasures) raises the cost of doing business for everyone and suppresses wages due to lower productivity.

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Prov. 14:34

Machu Picchu!

11 Oct
Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas. Click for more photos of Cusco.

The kids were off school this week so we were able to go with Rebekah to visit Machu Picchu! We figured a year in Peru was long enough to wait 🙂 Our residency status got us great discounts all around.

Last Saturday we flew to Cusco and spent the afternoon exploring the central square and shops. Cusco is a lot greener than Arequipa because, well, it rains there! We didn’t bring any rain gear because we were packing very light and we didn’t expect rain (also, we probably don’t have any because you don’t need it in Arequipa). The rainy season seems to have started early this year in Cusco so we got pretty soggy in the afternoon. We had just gotten on an open tour bus when it started to sprinkle, but the bus hadn’t left yet, so we ran downstairs and off the bus to the great protest of the vendor who had “made us a special deal” to get on the bus. “It’s only raining down here,” she said, “but it doesn’t rain up the hill where we’re going.” “No creo,” I smirked (I don’t believe it) and off we ran. “Amigo, amigo….” It poured shortly thereafter and I was glad we were not on the bus! We bought some emergency ponchos but saved them in our packs for Machu Picchu, which turned out to be a good call as we got a bit of rain there, too.

Overlooking Urubamba

Urubamba is a gem in the Sacred Valley.

Sunday we had a delightful time meeting a missionary family from Montana who lives in Cusco. For lunch, we had the best hamburgers we’ve had in Peru, a real treat. We later learned there are some American cattle farmers in nearby Urubamba and it’s therefore possible to buy beef that’s been properly finished (vs. the ground horsemeat we’ve unknowingly been getting in the supermarket). In the afternoon, we took a minivan to Ollantaytambo, where we boarded the train to Aguas Calientes, the tourist town at the base of Machu Picchu. The train is the only way to get there. It’s a beautiful journey through the Sacred Valley as you pass snow-capped peaks to enter the cloud forest, where the mountains are finally clothed with proper trees and vegetation instead of the poor naked rocks we see around Arequipa. Aguas Calientes was a bit of a disappointment, however. Given the unbelievable scenery, it has incredible potential as a tourist destination in its own right, but unfortunately the restaurants and hotels know they have a captive audience and can charge a lot for very little service (or food). We are told that Peruvians avoid the town and do the Machu Picchu day trip instead. I understand why.

Yeah, we did that.

Yeah, we did that. Click for more photos.

Monday morning the guys (myself, Daniel, and Timothy) headed off early to ascend Machu Picchu Mountain, which rises 2,200 ft. behind the ancient ruins. It’s the highest peak around (far above Wayna Picchu, which is the peak you always see pictured behind the ruins). We made it up in 1.5 hours and spent half an hour at the top before descending to meet Vicki, Rebekah, and Anna at the entrance. We hired a guide and visited the ruins together as a family.

We all had fun learning about the ruins and enjoyed a forbidden lunch on a rock shelf (snacks are officially forbidden, but nobody really minds as long as you don’t leave trash). The mountain setting is just breathtaking, sitting 1,500 ft. above the Urubamba River and Aguas Calientes. Whatever else the Incas did, they had great taste in real estate.

We were there

Captain America and family visit Machu Picchu. Click for more photos.

We spent Monday night in Aguas Calientes and headed back to Cusco on Tuesday. We visited some architectural ruins at a convent and learned some new things about Mary in the religious art gallery. There was a painting of her ascension to heaven, in which she is borne up by cherubim (portrayed as babies with wings) and a blasphemous painting of her coronation, in which the three members of the Holy Trinity are placing a crown on her head. We stumbled on two religious parades while in Cusco, combining Indian folk dance with religious symbols. The region is known throughout Peru for its strong syncretism of Catholic and pagan religion.

We visited the Cusco plaza again and were finally able to board a double-decker tour bus in good weather, much to Anna’s delight. The Cusco central plaza is beautiful, but by the time we left, we had serious “vendor fatigue.” From the moment you enter the square to the time you leave, you are bombarded by vendors on foot offering paintings, massages, tours, jewelry, and clothing. We counted and measured a peak rate of 5 VPM (vendors per minute) when first entering the square. The crazy thing is, all the products are the same, including the paintings, and one wonders how anyone can make money when there are so many people selling identical merchandise.

After a 2 hr delay, our return flight was cancelled.

After a 2 hr delay, our return flight was cancelled until the next day.

Wednesday morning we headed to the airport for a non-stop flight back to Arequipa, but the Lord had other plans. The airplane was unavailable (mechanical problems, they said) and at length, the flight was cancelled. This initiated a bit of a circus with everyone clamoring for alternate flights. There was some discussion of routing us through Lima, but in the end, the airline had no capacity. At moments like these, it is really frustrating not to have a better command of Spanish because the gate attendants were no longer using the PA nor English. Thankfully, we saw a friend who runs an orphanage on the flight and he helped us find the right line to make alternate arrangements. As it turned out, the airline provided sandwiches for lunch and put us up at a nice hotel with dinner. Back in Cusco, we had a chance meeting on the street with yet another brother from Arequipa who had been delayed arriving from AQP in the morning. We learned that his tour group of 48 students had been stranded in AQP and he had pleaded with the airline to get everyone to Cusco in time to use their non-changeable tickets to Machu Picchu. We surmised that he therefore got the airline’s one and only spare plane. It is rare that we get a glimpse into Providence, but it certainly seems as though our loss was his group’s gain, and we’re very happy that it worked out for him, as there was over $12,000 on the line for the school group. It would have been really sad for all those students to lose the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu and possibly their money, too!

All in all, we had a delightful time and are thankful for the opportunity to travel together as a family and meet new friends and old along the way. To see more photos on G+, simply click on the photos above.