Archive | February, 2014

End of summer

28 Feb

Today is the last week of summer vacation as the kids start Peruvian school on Monday. It’s been a busy week. I did some training for a team in Lima and spent a day there with Pete and Deb visiting from the States. Back in Arequipa, we’re doing last-minute back-to-school shopping (including their uniforms for Monday, which came in about 7pm tonight). I also filed a business form with Registros Publicos that will allow us to proceed with applications for family visas, hopefully in the next week.

In the middle of it all, we got an offer on our house in the States one night before our current listing was to expire. The offer was in line with the market and was about $10,000 more than most realtors told us six months ago that we could possibly get for the house. However, it was still well under the recently reduced listing price (as well as what we paid for the house nine years ago, not including the many improvements). Upon consulting with various professionals in the area, we understand that Pinewood Studios is now open and is bringing 1,800 jobs in the next three months. The market is moving again and the rental market is much stronger than it was six months ago so we are encouraged by the prospects at this point. We would appreciate your prayers for wisdom in this regard.

We’ve got visitors!

26 Feb

Just a quick note to let you know that our first visitors from the States have arrived safe and sound in Lima with lots of goodies for us. I’m going through the chocolate now before the kids get to it tomorrow…. 😉

We’ve got mail!

23 Feb

We got quite the pleasant surprise today as we received all of our Christmas and birthday cards that had been sent for the last couple months! We share a post office box with friends and unbeknownst to any of us, the post office changed their box renewal policy. When it’s time to renew your box, they conveniently stop delivering to the box with no notice, not even a renewal slip in the box. I tell you, the government paper shortage in Peru is rather annoying. You have to make all your own copies in government offices and there is no toilet paper in public bathrooms. Thankfully, it’s not as serious here as in Venezuela, where toilet paper has become extremely scarce everywhere thanks to the communist dictator Maduro who banned the importation of paper products in order to prevent the newspapers from publishing. Also thankfully, the Arequipa post office called our friends to let them know that their annual renewal was due and that they were holding the mail but would soon return it to sender. Upon paying the annual dues, we all received quite a lot of mail 🙂

So thanks very much for all your cards and letters over the last couple months! If you wondered why you hadn’t heard from us, it’s because we just now got them.

In family news, Daniel survived and perhaps even enjoyed camp last week. He was the only English speaker, but managed to get quite a bit out of it. Timothy is going to VBS this week while Vicki attends language school. I’m headed off to Lima in the morning to teach a couple classes and to meet our first visitors arriving from the States. We appreciate your prayers for safe travel and smooth arrival for all.

An almost boring day

19 Feb

Hah! Got ya’. You want to know the not boring part, don’t you? Well, that would be the “exploding” solar water tank. First, let me say that I love our solar water heater. Almost every house in Arequipa has one because there is so much sun. Even after a couple cloudy days, the water will be at 50 degrees Celsius, which is plenty warm for a hot shower. And free energy is pretty neat. We spend less than $45 / mo. on gas & electric because the climate is so mild and we have no HVAC.

But back to the solar tank, it hadn’t been refilling properly for the last couple days and every now and then would vent quite forcefully and spew hot water on the roof and kitchen window. Our landlord came by with the service guy this morning and replaced the water level sensor. Everything seemed to be fine until this afternoon when I heard it erupt. Only this time it didn’t quit and water was gushing out. Thankfully, the landlord was home and came running up the stairs. A connection in the supply pipe had given way. He temporarily rejoined the connection and later came up with teflon pipe tape to seal it, so we should be good at least until tomorrow afternoon….

In other news, I’ve received no applications for the summer internship I posted on my company G+ page. This has been a bit surprising. However, the two students and one other helper who came to the intensive summer course we had offered earlier are very interested in working with me. I told them I only had budget for one student, and they all offered to work for free just for the training opportunity. So it looks like I have three motivated students to help out with my backlog. This is really good news since all the projects are unfunded at this point…..

Things are starting to come together. Stay tuned!

 

Lunes loco

17 Feb

What a crazy Monday! it started early with the realization that Daniel did not have enough contact solution to get him through the week at camp. Vicki hiked off to the pharmacy at 6:40am, but of course, none were open, so she and Daniel hailed a taxi at 7:15 to go to the meeting point for the camp transportation. Somehow the taxi driver misunderstood her and took them to the bus station, which, although not far off, was not the meeting point. He was upset about the change and wanted double the fare they had agreed on, which was ridiculous since it was only a little out of the way. Vicki held her ground and gave only a few soles more.

I’m not sure why we ever rush to go anywhere here. Upon arriving late at the meeting point, Vicki still had enough time to walk four blocks to a pharmacy, buy the contact solution, walk back, and still wait more than half an hour for the camp buses to get loaded. I was tracking all this on my phone while in grammar class. Then Anna, who was home alone with Timothy, sent a message that there was someone at the door wanting to fix something inside and should she let him in. After a few messages, I finally realized that our landlord was there with the plumber, and so yes, they should let him in as I had talked to the landlord about the problem with the sink. There are some uses of the verb “quedar” which I missed out on while all this was going on, so there will probably a permanent hole in my Spanish vocabulary….

This afternoon, Vicki and I went to our friends’ house to help their kids with reading English. This is a great opportunity for Vicki just now and she excels at it. I was to discuss upcoming software and training work with David J as well as meet the intern who will be helping on software projects, but sooner after arriving I remembered that I was supposed to be downtown to make travel arrangements for our friends coming from the States in a week as well as discuss an upcoming opportunity to do a university seminar. So I grabbed a taxi, met with the travel agent for an hour, and made it home just a few minutes before Vicki. Just a few minutes later, friends from language school picked us up for dinner.

What a delightful change of pace was dinner after a crazy day. Our friends graciously took us to a beautiful and amazingly quiet spot in Arequipa, where we enjoyed good food and relaxed conversation. They live in Alaska part of the year and in Peru the rest of the time. They are headed to the jungle as missionaries with an emphasis on construction and have some interesting stories about life on the Amazon. Like us, they have children (and unlike us, 10 grandchildren!) in the States. I cannot tell you what a blessing it is for us to hang out with people who, like us, have seen the unseen with the eyes of faith and give of their time and energy to make a difference in the lives of others, both temporally and spiritually. Another couple we have met just moved from Georgia in order to be able to adopt two kids from a local orphanage. They were told the only way they could so was to move to Peru, so they pulled up roots and did exactly that. They are in school with us doing the hard work of learning the language as adults so they can communicate with their newly adopted kids! How’s that for love? Critics would no doubt say the model of one-on-one investment in lives doesn’t scale. Critics would also not have predicted that 11 Jewish tradesmen and one Pharisee would turn the world upside down. For the humble folk like those we have been privileged to meet here (as well as many in the States who are continually investing their lives in others), “Love God and love people” is not just a slogan, but a way of life. It is incredibly inspiring to know them.

The Chile report

14 Feb
The bus to Tacna

SuperCiva!

It’s been a busy week so I’m a little slow getting to the Chile report.

Daniel and I boarded the bus in Arequipa about 10:30pm last Friday night along with our friend Wilder, who also had some business in Chile and very graciously volunteered to accompany us. We used the Civa bus company for the overnight journey. It was much better than expected. The seats were huge and reclined to about 45 degrees. After a little snack, they showed a movie (which, unfortunately was played quietly over the speakers rather than headphones, but wasn’t too hard to ignore since it was in Spanish). I don’t sleep well in seats of any kind and Daniel apparently doesn’t, either, so we both arrived in Tacna, Peru at 4:30am with only 2-3 hours of sleep. But it was a smooth ride with only a few stops and cost only $11/head.

On the bus

Quite the mood

From the domestic bus terminal in Tacna, we walked across the street to the international bus terminal where we hired a registered car with 2 other guys to take us across the border to Arica. The rental clerk entered all the info from our passports into the computer and gave us pre-filled border entry forms. It was about 30 minutes to the border, as I recall. Daylight was breaking and we found ourselves in the bleakest landscape I have ever seen, basically nothing but sand and no evidence of life, not even cactus or brush. Indeed, the Atacama desert in northern Chile is the driest region in the world. Its other-worldly appearance has been used to film Mars scenes, and the same instruments used in the Viking 1 and Viking 2 missions to Mars found no signs of life in the soil!

At the Peruvian border control station, I was able to exit the country using only my residence card. They never even asked for the tax-related form I had been worried about. Daniel also exited without any problem using his passport. At first, the official protested that he was only paid up to the 4th of February, but Wilder pointed out that was the date the fine was paid, and the exit date right above it was the 8th of February. I think she was a little sleepy. She informed us that upon reentry, I had the right to receive the maximum length of stay for Daniel since I am a resident.

We got back in the car and drove the half mile to the Chilean border control station. Daniel observed that the fences did not extend very far in either direction from the border control stations. It looks like anyone with a dune buggy could cross just about anywhere they like. Unlike Peruvian citizens, i could not use my residence card to enter Chile but my US passport was accepted and I thankfully did not have to pay the $160 fee charged at the airports.

Amazing prices

Check out the prices!

We continued on in the car to the bus terminal in Arica, Chile and arrived about 6:15am Peru time or 8:30am Chile time. Arica is a quiet beach town complete with beach bums, drunks, and a really laid back pace. Hardly any stores were open and we had to eat breakfast at McDonald’s, at a cost of 3,580 pesos (about $6). Chile has had some serious currency issues in the past and you have to be a math wiz to live there now. A bottle of water costs 500 pesos. If you want to be a millionaire, you can always move to Chile.

Tourist walk

Tourist walk

We didn’t do much in Arica, really. We walked in the small tourist area where stores were just opening up and then asked some drunks for directions to the hotel where Wilder had an appointment (he runs a travel agency). The 2 men were very kind, but very confused as they pointed in opposite directions. Mind you, Arica is a very small town. The beachfront extends less than 2 miles and we were at that point about half a mile from the hotel, one of only 2 or 3 along the beach in Arica, and neither man had ever heard of it. Wilder asked why they were drinking and they were quite surprised, in turn asking why he would ask such a thing. Wilder replied that we were Christians and didn’t want to see people hurting their bodies. At this, the men grew very friendly (go figure) and volunteered the services of their friend who had just pulled up in his van. Daniel and I were quite nervous about this, but he did not appear to be drunk and there were 3 of us… He was extremely laid back (like, Caribbean) and took us straight to the hotel. It had very nice pools, but no beach access, and was way overpriced at $240 / night. Wilder did not feel he could recommend it to his clients. Oh, and the manager with whom he had an appointment evidently forgot that she doesn’t work on Saturdays. She never did show up.

Morre de Arica

Morre de Arica

We got a good look at the big rock, Morre de Arica, which Peru used to own but lost in the War of the Pacific in the mid-1800s. We didn’t have time to hike up it, but I wish we had because I’ll bet the ocean view is pretty nice up there.

After walking quite a while because we refused to pay 2,000 soles for a taxi, we finally found a driver who took us back to the bus station for only 1,500. From there, we boarded a bus back across the border to Tacna. The bus cost 12 soles per person, or about $4, and is half the price of the car service, but as we discovered, it is a LOT slower because at the border stations, you have to wait for everyone on the bus to get through before the bus can proceed. I was beginning to worry about missing our flight (we had found relatively cheap one-way tickets so we didn’t have to spend two nights in a row on the bus and arrive in Arequipa in the wee hours of the morning, which is dangerous). I worried even more when the bus, which was going slowly already, stopped in the middle of the desert and the driver jumped out with what looked like a 10 gallon container. After a few minutes, we resumed, but at probably 30 mph tops and it took forever to go the last 15 miles to Tacna. Thankfully, Wilder had left plenty of time and we made the airport in time.

Wilder and Daniel

Old steam locomotive

At the airport, we had lunch with one of Wilder’s friends, a university professor in Tacna. He is very interested in having me do a seminar about online marketing for the travel and tourism students, so it may turn out to be a good business opportunity.

In immigration news, we have sent our documents off to be translated and expect them back next week. In addition, the accountant has set up payroll and has given me the 3 pay stubs that I will need to submit along with our marriage and birth certificates in a few weeks. Please continue to pray that this goes smoothly. Or that the whole family will have a nice time on the bus to climb Morre de Arica, which we’ll probably be doing if it doesn’t go smoothly 🙂

(Weekend) mission accomplished

8 Feb

Just a quick note to let you know that Daniel and I have made it safely back from Chile and were successful in our mission of renewing his visa for six months. The trip went very smoothly, but neither of us slept much on the bus last night, so I’ll have to save the rest of this post for tomorrow. Thanks for all your prayers on our behalf!