Archive | November, 2013

Off to Juliaca

26 Nov

Tonight I am in Juliaca (Puno, actually) preparing to speak at the Google Business Group tomorrow. Some developers from the group came to pick me up in Arequipa and I rode with them the 3-4 hours. The drive was surprisingly pretty, if quite desolate, and it was fun to see Misti and Chachani from the other side. We stopped at two “rest areas,” the latter guarded by a rondero (somewhat like a sheriff) with a shotgun. The ronderos once served to combat terrorism but are now primarily concerned with livestock theft in this area. The road, much of which is above 14,000 ft (!), is the finest I have seen in Peru! Amazing. Wide shoulders, not crowded, and nary a pothole. We were above 13,000 ft before I even realized it. Thankfully, I have had no ill effects from the altitude. Losing weight and living at 7,500 ft has me in much better shape than the last time I spent a night above 12,000 ft (also not having had to get there on my own two legs with 35 lbs of sleeping gear).

We (myself and other conference speakers) are staying tonight in Puno even though the conference is in Juliaca because there were protests in Puno today and they are going to Juliaca tomorrow. The protesters threw a lot of big rocks on the highway connecting the two cities, so we had some slow spots on the way over, but I’m really thankful for the concern of my hosts. Evidently, the protests may cause water or electricity shortages tomorrow and it wouldn’t have been nice to wake up to that. Also this gives us time to visit the largest lake in South America (Titicaca) in the morning. We should be able to do a couple laps around it before the conference….

We had dinner at a great pizza place (one of many) in Puno. The wood-fired oven warms the whole restaurant, which is perhaps why pizza seems to be so popular at this frigid elevation (12,500 ft). Also it’s a tourist town and we know what tourists eat. The pizza was superb.

I’m off to bed after I find a place to plug in my laptop….


It must be Monday

25 Nov

Queue Fur Elise. Actually, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra drowning out Fur Elise 🙂

Today was a much anticipated and prayed over day on account of our meeting with immigration. What better way to start it, then, than with water dripping from the ceiling between the closet and our bed? We have been wondering whether our concrete roof would hold water when the rains come. I looked out the window–was it raining already? Nothing but sunshine. So I threw on a shirt and ran up to the roof to discover a pipe leaking below the sink where we’ve connected the washing machine. I went down to get the landlord and he shut off the water and called the plumber. As of tonight, the water is still off and there is no evidence of repair. Thankfully, the water shutoff only affects the floor where I have my office, not the floor where we cook, clean, and shower most of the time.

As for immigration, the good news first. Steve and I met with the chief and he gave us the nod to proceed with my work visa without having to hire a bunch of Peruvians first. That was about 9:10. He walked us into the office where they process the papers, but there was someone there already so we had to wait in the queue outside which contained 5-10 people as the morning dragged on and many gave up and left. We were first in queue the whole time, but waited an hour and a half for the office door to finally open. As I headed for the office, a woman with a baby in arms politely excused herself and went in front of us. Peruvian law requires preferential treatment for the elderly, disabled, and young mothers. Groan. Another 20 minutes. As the woman was almost finished, a man in a wheelchair came in and I think Steve and I were both plotting how we might roll him back out before our turn…. Thankfully, he was waiting for a different area. The law is a nice idea but doesn’t work when there is only one queue.

We finally got in to see the officer. The subject of our payroll plan with Peruvian workers came up but we were thankfully able to report that the chief had already approved. I noticed her reading a section of law with which I became familiar when I submitted my work contract that exempts new companies from the requirement to hire Peruvian workers first. I was glad to see that because it means that Immigration is in fact in sync with the Ministry of Work, which had already approved my contract. Unfortunately, like so many officers, it seems they would feel bad just letting you deposit your papers without some additional requirement, so she pointed out that my address did not contain an apartment number and thus we had to redo one of the typed forms.

My heart sank. Groan! Another trip to the notary and another day wasted at Immigration. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as I first thought. She gave us the model form to use and said it did not need to be notarized. Fortunately, a friend lives 2 blocks away. He was home and we were able to use his printer to type out the new form. We were able to jump the queue this time and deposit the form, but by this time there was a new officer on duty, so he had to review everything again. He asked if I had a copy of everything and I said that I did. Then where is it? Oh! The copy is for him and not for me (talk about budget cuts! A real shoestring budget affords no copies and no toilet paper). Well the copy was at home so I ran out of the office to get the 24 pages copied anew. Of course, the store across the street was closed for lunch, so I had to run about 3 blocks down to another one, keeping in mind that when I entered the store, I must not look hurried and must not forget pleasantries. I jogged back to the office, where, thankfully, Steve was still waiting. Steve asked if I’d remember the copy of the page in my passport with the entry stamp. No, I hadn’t. I tried another shop up the street, but they don’t make copies. Fortunately, I noticed that the shopkeeper right across the street had returned by that time, so I got my copy, paid my six cents, and went back into the office, where Steve was still waiting. The officer put my visa application in the computer system, I signed a bunch of stuff with my fingerprint, and we left. The time was now 1:30.

There were several interesting consequences of getting the application in the system today. One, my tourist visa is now suspended while the work visa is in progress. This means I don’t have to worry about the Dec 9 deadline for the tourist visa. It also means I can’t leave the country without special permission. Note to relatives: if you’re going to have an emergency, try to give at least 2 days notice so I have time to go to Lima and sit in Immigration. Another consequence is that I cannot take Daniel on the bus to Chile to renew his visa, which also expires Dec 9. We decided that rather than send Vicki and Daniel on the bus to Chile by themselves, we will just pay the fine ($1 / day) when the time comes to apply for his real visa.

In another news, the Peats’ friends from the UK who were helping with construction spent all day in the Lima airport (by design) waiting for their overnight flight back to England. This means they got to experience the magnitude 5.5 quake which shook Lima today. I had joked about a quake or volcanic eruption yesterday, so they will no doubt believe me to be a prophet now. They have friends who have had tea with Her Majesty. We’re getting better connections all the time, I say.

This afternoon I got a call from Immigration. One of our papers was not the right one, it turns out. I ordered the right one from the public registry, but it won’t be available until Wednesday, which is the day I’m scheduled to be speaking in Juliaca. Thankfully, Steve has offered to pick it up and take it to Immigration, which, if everything happens on time, will be just within the 2 days we have by law to remedy the missing document, and I should get notified in 20 days that I can come back to the office and pick up the forms I need to go to INTERPOL in Lima to certify that I am not an international criminal, after which I can pick up my residence card and for the first time, open a bank account and a postpaid cell plan. Twenty days, it turns out, is just a bit longer than my planned trip to Lima to speak at another conference, so I am praying that things move a bit faster. If for some reason, the missing document can’t be submitted on Wednesday, I will have to come back from Juliaca early to resubmit my visa application within the 15 day window of approval of my work contract. I will breathe a huge sigh of relief when this is all over.

If reading this post has made you tired, I am sorry. I thank you for your interest, your patience, and your prayers for one worn-out, frustrated, trying-to-be-an-immigrant. I have newfound sympathy for all the legal immigrants to the United States. One friend in the US waited seven years for his residence card! I am fortunate by comparison, or at least, I hope I will be 🙂

Fun at school

22 Nov

The kids visited the school near us the last couple days and have actually enjoyed themselves somewhat (especially the boys). Their classmates have been amazingly friendly. Daniel met two English-speaking friends who invited him to play soccer with them tomorrow morning. One is a Christian and invited him to his youth group also. Timothy has charmed all the boys and girls his age, and Anna also has an English-speaking classmate. Besides playing a lot of soccer at recess and after school, they do a lot of fun stuff: cooking, dance, playing the recorder (flute), swimming, etc. The principal and teachers have gone out of their way to involve our kids, and after only 2 days, their progress in Spanish was noted by the principal. He has invited them to attend for the remaining 3 weeks of this school year, which would greatly help get them ready for next year. This is a gigantic answer to prayer, for which we are extremely thankful!

Please pray for my work visa. The local immigration office believes that my company must hire 5 Peruvian workers. We already discussed this with the Ministry of Work and were exempt from that requirement since it is a new business, but Immigration doesn’t seem to have as clear a procedure for exemption. Steve and I are going Monday to speak with the chief, whom, in God’s Providence, Steve has known for a long time. Other than this unexpected requirement, everything else seems to be in order.


21 Nov

This morning we were awakened about 2am to the sound of car alarms, dogs barking, and what sounded like a train or large truck passing. The earthquake was a small one (4.3) centered near Mollendo on the coast, but it was the strongest we have ever experienced. The bed was shaking. Things quieted down quickly, but I’m not sure I really slept after that. The temblor (tremor) was very unsettling. Vicki woke up first and Daniel was up, too. We had invited the Peats and their friends over for dinner yesterday night and talked about home security, among other things, so being awakened in the middle of the night was perhaps more disturbing than it would have been otherwise. Also I had coffee after dinner, which I know I should avoid, but alas, I am a social drinker (of coffee).

At language school this morning, we had an earthquake drill. The tremor definitely got our attention.

The kids are visiting our nearby school today. In God’s provision, Daniel and Anna have English speakers in their classes, and Timothy’s teacher speaks English, so they will be able to communicate and ask questions. This is a HUGE event in all of our lives, even if only a visit, and we appreciate your prayers.

Another hurdle completed

21 Nov

Good news! The Ministry of Work has approved my contract to work for my own company. This allows me to proceed with my application for a work visa. There are still a couple time-consuming steps to complete and timing is now a factor. My current tourist visa expires Dec 8, so I must apply for an extension. My approved work contract must be presented within 15 days, and the clock started four days ago. But I’m traveling all next week to speak at a conference (and the presentation writing is going more slowly than ever as I’m having to learn technical vocabulary all over again). Finally, I must get fingerprinted at INTERPOL in Lima in order to apply for the visa, but my trip isn’t scheduled until Dec 14. I’m not sure how all this works out, but thanking the Lord for progress. Please pray for favor with the authorities and for much help preparing my talk for next week to a technical audience in Juliaca.

Going to school

19 Nov

Sunset from the roof

One of our major concerns has been schooling for the kids and it’s now time to think about enrollment for March. There are many options in Arequipa: at least four Christian schools of different flavors (charismatic, international, and a couple mission-oriented schools in poorer areas), three large and expensive private schools (American, German, and British), and a host of smaller private schools.

When we first looked at our apartment, we noted that there was a private school at the end of our street and wondered if it was any good. In particular, we noted that the school logo features an open Bible and a dove, but no cross or virgin or typically Catholic symbols. Today we met with the principal, who speaks good English. He described himself as a Catholic but not a “deep Catholic” and doesn’t believe in the Virgin and the saints. They start each day with 10 minutes of Bible reading and prayer and there are other evangelical families. Their health program for the older students emphasizes waiting for marriage. The science classes teach both Creation and evolution (as required by Peruvian law) but students are not required to hold a particular viewpoint. The principal strongly believes in good manners and it showed during our visit. The classrooms seemed well-ordered and the few students we met were indeed respectful. He encouraged us to bring the kids for a visit, so we went this afternoon. As it turns out, there are students in both Daniel’s and Anna’s classes who lived in Boston for a year and speak English. Like most students in the school, they live in our immediate neighborhood, which would make it much easier to develop friendships at school, even over the summer. The school offers a lot of interesting hands-on programs like home ec and electronics. Our kids would be the only non-Peruvians, but the principal said the other kids would probably all want to get to know them as they generally like Americans and want to practice English, etc. Sure enough, when one of the kids spotted Timothy, he leaned out the door and started jumping and waving to get his attention. Timothy wants to start tomorrow. Daniel wants to spend as much time as possible practicing Spanish so he can say something intelligent when he starts in March. Anna is fearful of going to school but I believe the Lord will give the needed grace.

Our street at night

Our street at night

We are intrigued and pleasantly surprised to find a school so near which, although not explicitly evangelical, shares many of our values and appears to be genuinely tolerant of evangelical views, which is more than we could say for most schools in the States. Please pray for great wisdom as we evaluate schools. It is a challenge to find a school which is convenient, affordable, well-ordered, and at the right level for our kids. We also see the students and parents as a significant mission field and want to maximize our opportunities for ministry.

Language school

17 Nov

Language school is going well. I thought I’d post a quick video tour of what’s it like to walk to school each morning. It’s a bit more complicated than usual just now because of the construction on Calle Romaña, the narrow one-way street which goes almost directly from our neighborhood to the language school neighborhood. If you listen carefully, you can hear Timothy talking about the “quicksand” on the street.

Thanks to my son Michael for providing video editing assistance and to Google Hangouts for providing the capability to share my screen with him rather than spending 11 hours uploading the raw clips! I hope to post a lot more video soon.