Archive | March, 2014

She’s in!

30 Mar
This picture is a lie. I erased the radio tower.

This picture is a lie. I erased the radio tower.

Just a quick note to pass along the good news–Vicki’s residency has been approved as well as the kids’. Thank you all for your prayers and please continue to remember us as we must ALL now go to Lima to pick up our official IDs (well, I already have mine, but I’m not keen on sending Vicki and the kids by themselves).

I had a great week teaching Android development to four UNSA students in the afternoons. If nothing else, it’s great motivation for me to stay in the code and to get started on some projects.

The cloudy / wet season appears to be over and sunny skies are back so I’ve posted a few photos. Enjoy!

Hey, everybody, she’s back!

21 Mar

‘Nuff said. I’m going to have to think real hard about her being gone for three weeks in May…

The letter of the law

21 Mar

Queue Chopin’s Waltz for Piano No. 1 in E flat major (go ahead, I’ll wait). I choose this particular song because a) it’s in a major key, and b) it looked sort of lonely tonight among my iTunes albums. Also it has a variety of tempos and moods, which is sort of how life is just now. And the song may have you rolling on the floor if you’ve ever seen Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You, which is probably my favorite movie of all time and a reminder that I could use daily.

Praise the Lord that Vicki arrived safely at the guest house in Lima around midnight yesterday, and despite a number of urgent phone calls to me for assistance of various types today, was able to complete the INTERPOL visit this morning all by herself. Her certificate will be ready on Tuesday, which, depending on your reading of the letter from Immigration, may be just in time for us to get it submitted. Unfortunately, Vicki will not be there on Tuesday. We have authorized a friend in Lima to pick it up and are hoping that another person who works frequently with Immigration may be able to drop it off for us. As an aside, the Peruvian government evidently has some kind of nationwide contest about ways to improve efficiency. Here’s a freebie: send a daily courier from INTERPOL to Immigration to deliver the certificates instead of requiring 20 people per day to make the trip, wait in line at Immigration, etc. I’m sure there is a delicious political reason why the agencies are unable to coordinate such a thing.

On the home front, I managed to get the kids up in time to have three (almost simultaneous) birthday calls before rushing them off to school. This afternoon, I took cupcakes to Timothy’s class to celebrate his birthday. His classmates were very friendly and quite excited about the cupcakes. Tonight we celebrated at Papa John’s. Upon seeing me, the manager remembered my last visit (they served our pizza to someone else so we had to wait another 15 minutes after already waiting half an hour for carry out) and whispered something to the cashier. Our pizzas arrived correctly in good time along with a small dessert pizza. Thank you, sir! On our previous visit, I was impressed by the way he handled the mistake and his concern for the customer. Their store will make it.

While waiting for pizza, I tried to purchase an item for Timothy’s birthday at Plaza Vea. It rang up about $7 more than the price marked directly under the item on the shelf so I went back with a clerk (not the cashier) and she explained to me that if I had read the fine print on the price tag directly under the item, I would see it was for a different model located elsewhere on the shelf. I asked WHERE on any of the shelves nearby I could find the price that rang up at the register. She held out her hand with a stack of price labels–“I was just about to put them on.” I explained to her quite angrily that one of the reasons there were always long lines in the store is because every fifth person requires a price check due to their carelessness with the placement of the price tags and the nearly unreadable item codes printed thereon. She is, of course, technically correct about the price tag, but cannot see the forest for the trees. This sort of letteristic behavior has given me a greater appreciation for what it means to live under the law vs. grace. It is horrible. The education system sadly reinforces this mentality, and I think there is a spiritual dimension, as well, owing to the influence of a religion which tends to emphasize external morality vs. unconditional grace. I later spoke calmly with the manager and apologized for my behavior with the señorita. He said he would “apply more pressure” to the staff to be careful with the price tags. Unfortunately, I think this is a “work smarter, not harder” sort of issue.

Registros Publicos assures me that the new manager of my company has been registered and the revised papers will be available tomorrow afternoon, which was a pleasant surprise as it’s usually a 3-day wait. We’ll see. My business cards are ready also. I haven’t really used them for years, but here they add an air of officiality. Business cards and a rubber stamp can get you places 😉

I’m very thankful that I was able to pick up my glasses from the taxi company. I called yesterday not 5 minutes after the driver had left and the dispatcher informed me that he was not responding to the radio call. About an hour later I called and repeated the taxi number G15, which I had mentally noted as I try to do in case there are problems, about 5x to the dispatcher. She could not understand me and hung up 😦 Later I asked a native speaker to call and they told her that not only were they not responsible for my glasses because I had hailed the taxi on the street vs. a phone call, but also they didn’t have a mobile number G15! In a last ditch effort, I took a taxi to the office over lunch today. A nice man asked the secretary to look up the cell # for G15. She immediately pulled up his picture and I confirmed that he was the driver. They called him and he said he had the glasses and would bring them to the office in 45 minutes. I said I had a class to teach and could he please bring them by my house instead? The man in the office said no, better to wait here. So I waited. The administrator called several times to find out status and emphasized that I was waiting in person in the office, which seems to help move things along. Almost on time, G15 showed up with the glasses and then gave me a ride to the house. As soon as I get in the car, he says, “you know you could have just called the dispatcher and I could have brought them to your house.” I don’t whether to laugh or cry. Yeah, buddy, the dispatcher says you don’t even exist! But, $8 and 1.5 hours later, I can see again 🙂

I had a productive and enjoyable afternoon with a group of promising students who patiently watched me code a new feature in my open source database library for Android so we can use it in our forthcoming app. I really enjoy these students and the time with them is what makes the bureaucracy all worthwhile. I have high hopes that, having cleared the initial bureaucratic hurdles, we may begin to have an economic and spiritual impact in the lives of many people.

Off to Lima

19 Mar

Well, I’ve done exactly what I hoped not to do and put Vicki on a plane to Lima by herself to get her INTERPOL certification. Transportation to the guest house where she will stay has been arranged, and after that she is armed with the Easy Taxi app on her phone, which is secure and convenient because it requires no talking in Spanish. With any luck, I will also be able to track her with G+ Locations. She remembered her phone charger at the last minute.

Please pray for Vicki’s safety and success in her journey, and for us as we celebrate Timothy’s birthday without mom. The big bash is on Saturday, anyway, so it’s not such a disappointment, but the timing is very sad. Following our visit to Immigration this morning (thankfully, we were the first ones there so did not have to wait), the rest of the day was a blur of activity going to two different banks to pay the required fees, to the notary for a power of attorney authorizing someone else to pick up her INTERPOL certificate when it’s ready, to downtown for passport photos, and…

The highlight of my day was when requesting a certified check at BCP made out to United States Treasury. The clerk insisted that I needed a DNI (Peruvian ID #) or RUC (Peruvian corporation #) for “United States Treasury.” After several attempts at mistakenly repeating “es el gobierno de los Estados Unidos,” I finally said “gobernimiento” (government, not governor) and she was able to understand that the United States of America does not have a Peruvian identification number. Still, she had to get approval from her supervisor to issue the check in just the name. What I now realize, after thinking about this some more, is that I think I mistakenly got a regular certified check instead of one that can be cashed out of country, and neither the clerk nor her manager had any clue what United States Treasury is. Ugh. That will set Vicki back a few hours tomorrow.

As I’ve mentioned, we appreciate your prayers 🙂

Need wisdom

19 Mar

The bad news: Registros Publicos still hasn’t processed the “change of manager” form so I’m still not the official manager of my Peruvian company. Not a really big deal, though, and thankfully I discovered it before paying $15 to order yet another copy of the old certification!

The good news: Vicki’s visa is ready for the next step, which is the mandatory visit to INTERPOL in Lima to certify that she is not a criminal.

The bad news: She must deliver the INTERPOL certification to the immigration office in Lima within 5 calendar days starting yesterday, and neither INTERPOL nor Immigration is open Sat or Sun, of course. Otherwise, the letter says we have to start the process all over.

The really bad news: it normally takes 5 days just for INTERPOL to process the certificate! And there is almost zero chance of getting it done in one day, which is what it would take even if she flew tonight. And tomorrow is Timothy’s birthday, which she would miss 😦 I must say, I’ve just about had it with the ridiculous demands of Immigration in this country. It is completely unreasonable to expect people to fly to Lima on 12 hours notice to do what there is no possibility of doing, anyway. With God, all things are possible, but I’m not at all sure where He’s going with this.

Encouraging week

17 Mar

Last week I began teaching 3-4 students in the afternoons. Teaching motivates me to code and it was a lot of fun digging into it afresh. We made some final tweaks to launch a Web site for a client and are now working on an Android app that will be a quick reference for folks learning Spanish like us. Also I lined up a speaking engagement in May on Web & mobile strategies at a university for students in the tourism industry.

The kids are really busy with homework now but hanging in there. Timothy wasn’t feeling well this morning, but we didn’t know it until he tossed the cookies while standing in formation during morning exercises at school. Fortunately we live close by and Daniel and his teacher brought him home. He was bouncing off the walls by dinner 🙂

We got to meet a neighbor from Timothy’s class yesterday afternoon. They rang the bell wanting to copy the questions from one of the homework assignments (from us?!) so we invited in Leo and his mom and got to chat a while. We’re really tickled that they felt free to do that and scheduled a time for the boys to get together to play.

Immigration is quiet for now. With any luck, I’m the official manager of the company for real this time and can go request the papers tomorrow. Also I’m getting business cards printed. People still use them there. Of course, I’m putting a QR code on the back so Android users can load my contact info without any typing.

Last week I thought to myself that it had been a while since we’d felt a tremor so I was both prepared and relieved when the earth started shaking yesterday around 4:30pm. It was a 6.8 off the coast of Chile near the border with Peru. Around midnight there was an aftershock which I heard more than felt. The earth makes a weird grinding noise, sort of like a bowling alley but more uniform. A few dogs barked, then it quit. The strange thing to me is that the quakes last a while. I would expect the energy to be released in an impulse event when plates collide, but the ones we’ve experienced go on for 15-30 seconds then quit as suddenly as they began.

That’s all for now. We appreciate your prayers.

Let’s do this!

10 Mar

So last week was pretty difficult. We spent a lot of time feeding the bureaucracy. This is what I posted on FB:

Inbox 34. Trying to make it under 21 tonight. 13 seems far away. I ask myself how I can possibly be this busy when I am producing virtually no income. Then I remember: Immigration, whole day blown. Received an offer on our house, updated seller disclosure, countered, put the house up for rent (more paperwork). Tried to become manager of my Peruvian company, back and forth with Registros Publicos. Tried to submit missing document to unblock the company bank account and failed because I’m not the legal manager (thanks to Registros Publicos). Taught 2 Android classes to 2 students. Two visits to the accountant, two to the office where I’m sometimes able to meet with the lawyer who’s been helping us. I forgot all the trips to the notary, getting copies made, etc.

In the US, it was a blessing to use the Internet to eliminate phone calls. Here, it would be a blessing to understand Spanish on the phone so I could eliminate trips across town. Business is incredibly inefficient and paper-driven, and I’m about to give up on understanding Spanish on the phone. If I can’t get it soon, I’m going to go crazy.

Thankfully, the kids actually had a pretty good first week at school. I think they are handling the challenges much better than Vicki and I are!

The hardest part for both Vicki and I has been language. I can hear and speak a lot now, but still lack confidence on the phone and that means I get to walk a lot. I enjoy walking and use the opportunity to learn the city and meet people in local businesses, but it’s not very efficient, which has led me to wonder at times whether we will ever have time for useful work.

It turns out that we have come to Peru in perhaps the most difficult way possible. The easiest way is as a tourist, and many of our friends in language school do exactly this, coming for only six months at a time. But my objectives to help train Peruvians require a more permanent presence. If we had come with an organization (such as a missions organization, NGO, or employer), the organization would have been able to help us with process and contacts. But we were unable to find an organization that was a really good fit for what I’m trying to do with my gifts in technology and communication.

[Queue Fur Elise] Thus, we took the route of starting a business in Peru and working for that business. There is a business visa (we now know) which I could have obtained in the States which would have facilitated the process. However, it requires the help of an international law firm, which is quite expensive. By learning as we went and doing things locally, we have saved many thousands of dollars, even with all the mistakes. It just hasn’t been easy, and in fact, probably would not have been possible without the help of our friend Steve, whom we had not even met when we arrived (one of the many reasons I believe in Providence). Furthermore, the path we have taken requires that the Peruvian company actually earn enough money to support our family, which poses a challenge for the coming year. Living expenses are significantly lower (about half of the US), but wages are lower still. Thus, I may have less time to devote to pro bono projects, not more. Fortunately, technical training still has strong income potential here as long as you stay away from the universities!

With all this in mind, Friday night was probably the lowest point of our time here. We’ve now been here six months. I have officially completed language school and Vicki is close to finishing, yet we still can’t understand most phone conversations, so our day-to-day efficiency is low. We’re still feeding the bureaucracy on the work and visa fronts. We haven’t yet found long-term renters for our house in GA (largely due to our indecisiveness) and are thus lacking much of the income we’d anticipated while getting started in Peru. I’m starting to earn a little income through my US company, but none through the Peruvian company yet, which, as I mentioned, is important to maintain our status here. I’ve found only three developers who are prospective trainee / workers, but they are indeed promising and you have to start somewhere.

[Queue very loud fireworks at the neighbor’s–a regular occurrence here] In the midst of the disappointment, I decided to take Friday night “off.” Vicki and the kids took a taxi to chess club while I stayed home to watch messages from LIBERATE 2014. There is nothing like the consideration of God’s free and sovereign grace to cheer the heart. My biggest problems have been taken care of, and this earthly stuff is in the noise. The Sovereign of the universe calls me friend and brother. I needed to let that sink in for a while.

On Saturday, we met with our new-found friends from Alaska. As I talked through our plan and struggles with Mike, I began to hear myself saying things I’ve said before: “I can’t plan my way out of a paper bag. I’m never going to sell anything to anybody. Nobody needs a developer / trainer like me. There’s no way for me to make a living in any country on earth and still have time to give to Kingdom projects or personal ministry…” Then I remembered the last time I had said such things: it was after I left Intuit and had spent six months building RememberOneAnother.com with no prospect of income in sight… and about two weeks before I got the best job of my entire career (as a direct but totally unanticipated consequence of the work I had been doing). Hmmmmm. For me, that was not an isolated incidence, but rather the most recent instance of a pattern I have seem many, many times in my career.

If I understand the pattern correctly, it works like this:

  1. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” Step out in faith to act consistently with the Lord’s calling (as evidenced by current gifts and opportunities). This looks different for everyone. For me at this moment, it looks like working on technology projects in Peru that directly or indirectly benefit the Kingdom of God.
  2. Work the plan and trust the Lord for results.
  3. “…and all these things will be added unto you.” Get blown away as He meets every need in a “more than you can think or imagine” way.

So… by God’s grace, I’m on it. Language school is wrapped up, the company is almost operational, I have a few developers to train, and I have a long-standing unfinished task to bring RememberOneAnother to completion, including a mobile app. I’m going to work the plan and trust the Lord for results. In the mean time, I also plan to offer some courses through my Peruvian company in hopes of satisfying the income requirements here. This is also a step of faith but one which I believe to be consistent with my calling.

Vicki and I have been asked to lead the Tuesday night section of Arequipa English, which is part language study, part Bible study, and a great opportunity for personal ministry. With newfound clarity regarding priorities, there is no longer any hesitation to accept this. We both enjoy it, too.

As for today, I went to the immigration office this morning before it opened at 8am. There were already 7 people waiting outside, but I caught Sr. Fernando as he got out of the taxi and started to hand him the papers. Thankfully, he was in a good mood this Monday morning and motioned for me to follow him into the office. I had to put my body in the door to prevent another worker from closing it on me since the office wasn’t open yet, but Fernando intervened, looked over the papers for all of 30 seconds, and said I was all set! I am very, very thankful that it went so quickly. Now we can pray there will be no problems in Lima.

Then I went to town, had coffee at a nice little cafe whose staff I’ve been getting to know. The barista speaks some English and told me he’s planning to come to the English class I told him about Thursday night. On to met Steve, who made a special trip into town, at the bank, where the company papers where accepted. With any luck, I’ll be able to withdraw funds on Thursday.

Finally, I met the attorney who has graciously been helping us at a notary downtown. He was accompanied by an official from the Arequipa Bar Association, representing Arequipa’s 6,000 attorneys (!). I watched amusedly and tried not to giggle as the big dogs used the tools of their trade here in Peru, scissors and glue, to carefully cut the already notarized document and paste it into my company’s already notarized book of corporate records, in order to obtain yet another notarized document confirming that it had been duly cut and pasted. With said confirmation in hand, Lord-willing, we will proceed to Registros Publicos in the morning to pay $7 more and wait 7 days more in the hopes of becoming the official company manager for real this time.

Even though not everything is complete, I accomplished three unrelated things today, which makes it a rare “triple play” day here in Peru. And I had time to eat lunch and a delicious Thai meal made by Vicki for dinner, have two Google Hangouts with companies in Lima, drop in on David J’s software class at Cafe Berea for an hour, look at some potential classroom facilities for upcoming courses, and help Daniel with his homework in propositional logic, which is thankfully quite similar to the Boolean logic I know so well from computers. AND I had time to write this blog post.

We are grateful and anxious to see what the Lord will do.