Adventures in the Altiplano

1 Dec
Screenshot from my GPS as we drove to Juliaca

Screenshot from my GPS as we drove to Juliaca

Thursday while you were all eating turkey with family in the States, I was giving a technical talk in Spanish at a university in Juliaca. Friday I returned home safely and am just now getting around to posting the full report. We celebrated our family Thanksgiving yesterday (Saturday) and got to chat with our kids and my parents in Kentucky via Google Hangout, which was really nice.

Tuesday afternoon the organizers of the Google Business Group (a community-organized event) picked me up in Arequipa and I rode with them the four hours to Juliaca. It’s a very short but quite expensive flight, hence the need for ground transportation. I could have taken the bus, but it was very kind of the group to offer this level of personal service instead. I enjoyed the drive through the Altiplano (high plateau, much of it above 14,000 feet) and conversation as well as the increased safety.

Wednesday saw a bit of a rough start. The conference planned for Juliaca had to be moved to nearby Puno due to political protests taking place in Juliaca. The University of Altiplano in Puno was relatively small and I ended up speaking in the morning rather than the afternoon as I had anticipated. My presentation went so-so. I couldn’t do many of the demos due to various limitations, but it was excellent practice for the larger group on Thursday.

Los Uros in Lake Titicaca

Los Uros in Lake Titicaca

Wednesday afternoon I enjoyed a great lunch of lake trout over a lake view along with the other speakers and university faculty. After lunch, my host took me and another speaker on a boat tour to Los Uros, the floating islands in Lake Titicaca. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm at 12,500 feet with a deep blue sky. That refreshed my spirit a great deal after my earlier talk.

What a fantastic day I had Thursday in Juliaca! Despite a slow start due to technical problems, mostly reading my presentation (which I have never done before) with a few pronunciation problems, and therefore much less eye contact than usual, the reception to my talk was phenomenal. They laughed at all my jokes, including some that I stumbled on accidentally, and they enjoyed it when I slowed way down and (over)pronounced each syllable in difficult, long words. That also helped connect me with the audience. The highlight for me was when I was showing them all my tabs in Chrome and mentioned that since moving to Peru, I’ve added Google Translate. I showed them the tab and didn’t even realize what was showing. The last thing I had translated was: “Thanks for laughing at all my jokes.” It was hilarious!

Large auditorium for the presentations. Click for more.
Large auditorium for the presentations. Click for more.

At the end of the day, when they acknowledged all the speakers, I got a great round of applause. It was clear that the audience really appreciated my effort to speak Spanish. I was overwhelmed. I must have posed for 30 photos afterward. The other speakers likewise enjoyed my presentation, learned a few things themselves, and noted how popular I seemed to be. I still don’t know what to make of this. It only happens to me in Peru! It’s almost as if I were made for this place….

Friday my host(s) were kind enough to drive me back to Arequipa. They prayed before our journey and it turns out they are 7th Day Adventists, which are numerous in Peru. We had delightful conversation (such as i was able–it was excellent Spanish practice). They both teach at a university and suggested that I teach an Android course for the professors, which would be a great business opportunity. Their being Adventists also explains why none of our after-meeting events featured alcohol–a first in all my developer meetings and a pleasant surprise. Besides these very good contacts, one of the other speakers was a young businessman from Lima who speaks perfect English. He was very helpful and generously offered his assistance in anything related to building a software business in Peru. Again, a very valuable contact.

I am very, very thankful on this Thanksgiving week. It was a lot of work preparing the talk over the last couple weeks, and I was scared to death when the moderator started asking me questions about myself in Spanish by way of introduction before my talk. I only understood part of what he was saying, but I managed to get out the answers. The whole time I was thinking, “I can NOT believe I am doing this!!!” It was a brain-on-fire moment. I have been pushed well beyond my comfort zone, but it is very apparent that the people are grateful for the effort I am making, and it helps a lot to roll with the punches. I’ve learned that I don’t need to worry. It’s OK to say “I don’t understand” sometimes. No one expects me to understand (or speak) perfectly yet.

I am very thankful for safety and the valuable contacts I made during this week. It was a blessed Thanksgiving for me even while away.

One Response to “Adventures in the Altiplano”

  1. Mike December 2, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Praising God with you brother. Wonderful report.

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