Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When an onion is not an onion or a Vidalia...

Cooking breakfast this morning, and it is not unusual to stir fry various kinds of things in the pan before the scrambled eggs are dropped on top, I sampled once again the incredibly sweet onions we buy here at the local markets.  Several times RA and I have discussed how sweet these onions are.  We have always been consumers of Vidalias and Walla Walla onions whenever possible and would buy them at any opportunity. Sometimes this would be around the Christmas season. The Shriners have sold bags of Vidalias nationwide in the past, something like 10 pounds for $10.00. It seems to me we have bought these at Christmas time but that should not be so.  The growing season in Georgia begins with a planting of these in November and then the harvest begins in April and goes through June. It is relatively short.  For some enterprising capitalists in the US that growing season was extended.

Vidalia Sweets
Not quite a decade ago a tractor trailer was being unloaded at a Georgia processor and amongst the cargo was $3.9 million worth of cocaine and heroin snuggled in among the bags of onions.  Seems the DEA traced this sweet cargo back to the point of origin and it was Peru. Of course a number of folks were asking what were Peruvian onions doing in Vidalia Georgia? That was the larger question not the smuggled drugs.

Certain counties in Georgia have been designated and given the right to market under the Vidalia onion name. The reason for the sweetness of these onions is due to the low sulfur in the soil.  Sulfuric acid is the active irritant when cutting the not so sweet onions as the vapors mix with the fluid around the eye producing the acid.  The dry deserts of Peru turns out are also sulfur free so they make fertile beds for the world's sweetest onion, maybe the Vidalia or maybe the Peruvian Gold. Seeds were brought here some time ago and planted with astonishing success. So difficult is it to tell the difference that executives of Del Monte were given a whopping $3 million dollar fine for bagging Peruvian Golds into Vidalia Sweets bags and selling them. Ultimately the fine was reduced to $100,000.00 and a temporary suspension of business in Georgia packaging these counterfeit onions.

In the mean time we will continue to enjoy these Peruvian Golds until their season ends. I wonder... will the Peruvian sweet onion be extended by importing Vidalias? What will we do?

Peruvian Golds
One recipe we have not tried is to cut the center of the onion out and stuff it with a mixture of butter, ground beef and garlic, wrap it in tin foil and then bake it in the oven or put it on the grill. Until then we will continue to enjoy these sweet onions in our huevos con cebollas and I will enjoy eating them raw, somewhat to RA's annoyance.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Miraflores, bird guano, and the Pacific War of 1879-1884

We are spending the weekend here in Miraflores on the coast of Lima.  It is one of several upscale neighborhoods in the city.  We have a list of restaurants from Paco and Lucy and several are located within easy walking distance of our hotel. The 2nd best seafood restaurant, according to the Lonely Planet Guide, in all of South America is within sight and not far away. Maybe lunch there tomorrow. The grilled sea bass is not to be ignored.

Larcomar Shopping Mall just below our hotel and built into the cliff

The Andersons and RuthAnn along the walking path 
We had dinner with our new friends the Andersons in their Miraflores apartment.  They also are temple workers and normally are Canadians living in Ottawa but we understand their reasons for spending their winter in Miraflores.  After dinner we walked back to our hotel and enjoyed the view above the Pacific. I always wondered why the Spanish named the ocean the Pacific as our experience in Northern CA generally suggests it is anything but peaceful or 'pacific'.  Here at least in Lima the waves are small enough to make surfing largely uninteresting by comparison to CA, though there are boards and folks out doing that.  The winds are very fresh, the air clean, and flying by our hotel window each afternoon are the paragliders who launch from the cliff below us.
Parasails glider looking south to Chorillos
In the distance to the south of the bay from our hotel is an area known as Chorillos.  Years ago it was a fishing village, but all of that has changed. It was thoroughly destroyed by the Chileans in the Pacific War, also known as the Saltpeter War.  There is a mountain seen in the distance upon which a Peruvian general abandoned his post and fled from the invading army. His name is still "Mudd" with two "d's" in Peru even today.  The Chileans occupied Lima for some years until pressured by the United States to withdraw.  Seems the Brits put them up to this foreign adventure because of vast amounts of bird guano between Chile and Peru.  This was before the synthetic manufacture of saltpeter or sodium nitrate, the essential ingredient for producing gunpowder, and was needed by the Brits for their empire.  The disputed area occupied by Chile was actually part of Bolivia.  They lost that area as a result of the Pacific War and Peru eventually was awarded the city of Tacna which is their southernmost major city. Bolivians came out the worst as their country became landlocked and egress to the Pacific has been problematic over the decades.  Once WWI got underway and the synthesis of this important mineral no longer was needed, the guano of Peru and Chile was of no interest to the world powers and a decades long economic depression settled in the region.  This area of the Atacama Desert, long ago abandoned for its bird guano, is now of interest to the Chinese as the other areas of mineral and copper rich Peru are.

Chorillos to the South of us

Nothing ever happens in a vacuum and one observer of the Pacific War was then US Naval Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan who was here to "protect" US interests.  His observations of the use of navy vessels and ships by Chile to defeat both the combined armies of Peru and Bolivia contributed to his monumental tour de force, "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History."  That book and his work is required reading by every naval cadet anywhere in the world and especially at the US Naval Academy.  It is upon the basis of that work that the US and other nations expanded and embraced technological improvement of their navies. This was for the combined purposes of projecting national interests, establishing colonies, and or to secure foreign markets for these world powers. Mahan is also the author of the term "Middle East" in describing that area around the eastern Mediterranean where so much of our navy is and has been occupied after WWII. 

Captain Mahan's Civil War era ship sent to Peru to protect our interests
Thanks to the Brother and Sister Anderson for their great food, hospitality, and for his introduction to us about the war between Chile and Peru.  Hostilities these days are largely confined to soccer stadiums, fortunately, though there is still some detectable disdain among the former protagonists.

View over the Pacific at sunset from our hotel

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas will come for some, others maybe not...

We met Peruvian friends for dinner here last night. It is across a very busy and noise street from the temple but one of our favorite places. It is called Pardos Chicken. There was a Quechua grandmother selling candy bars along with her 8 year old grandson named Juan Carlos. I asked him how many soles for one of his bars and he said "cinquenta." He meant cinquenta centimos but I had no coins and the smallest bill in my wallet was a cinquenta soles or a 'fifty' which I gave him and said, "No vuelte, no cambio, Feliz Navidad."  He allowed me to take his picture then ran back across the street where there were two older boys observing the transaction. It did not help that he waved the bill in the air in plain sight. You can guess what happened while we were inside dining.  When we finished dinner the boy was with his grandmother, his sister, and mother waiting there for us. The grandmother was quite upset and I did not understand a single word other than some "por favor senior..." as they explained what had happened to the boy's money.  I gave Juan Carlos another 50 soles bill and asked for an abrazo which he was happy to give. A smile with some uncertainty returned to his face. I thought about the six grandsons and one granddaughter at home and Jack, who is just a little older than Juan. The boy had his backpack on with who knows in it, maybe more of those cheap candy bars? Maybe a toy, a favorite hero figure, or a ball, I don't know. It is the summer break from school right now and I hope he goes somewhere when it is in session. 
Jimena and Christian with RuthAnn and I at Pardos
Juan Carlos and his grandmother in traditional dress. 
Presidential elections are soon coming to Peru and the federal government has been accused of manufacturing statistics suggesting the poverty level has been reduced from 50 to 35 per cent in the last five years.  Independent observers suggest otherwise.  Those in the middle and upper economic classed by some external standards are doing well.  Locals tell of more shopping malls going up and more new car dealerships are in evidence. Still 20% of the population lives on less than one dollar a day according World Bank statistics.  I hope Christmas came for one little boy in Lima this year. 
Juan Carlos - the candy bar seller
The perpetrators, one is a juggler and the other a windshield cleaner

Christmas Lights at the Lima Temple 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sundays in Lima

Our normal Sunday is to sleep in relatively late, (8:00-8:30 AM), compared to the 5:00 AM all week long on the early schedule for the temple.  We either get picked up in the temple van by the president and travel to the ward building here in Lima, or if the president is speaking at a stake conference somewhere we catch a bus on Javier Prado Avenue.  The bus costs us one Sole or about 35 cents for both of us. Busses are not the easiest way to travel given the starts and stops and usually we stand.  They are also well known for those plying their trade as pickpockets.  Lots of bumping and folks squeezing by getting on and off.

Following the block we return to our apartment and catch up on the news and email. We have an hour before RuthAnn's piano (keyboard) students start arriving and I begin Sunday dinner.  Often we have something in the large pot on top of the stove, usually a chicken, but sometimes a beef roast.  Peru is a country of noted excellence in many ways. The food is unsurpassed anywhere in South America. Anyone who likes Yukon Gold potatoes would love even more the pappas amarillo or the Peruvian yellow potatoes. We also enjoy sweet potatoes that I boil, then whip, and melt more butter on than RA knows. I add a little brown sugar too. Her comment was I take a very good healthy yellow vegetable dish and then make it less so with the butter and brown sugar.  Usually there isn't much remaining for  lunch the following week.

Micky and Mica came over yesterday along with Renzo and Melissa.  In addition to our stove top chicken, potatoes, carrots, and rice we were treated to arroz con pato and a wonderful cheesecake desert. The pato is duck by the way and was from a local restaurant.  Following dinner the dishes are either washed and soaked in a bleach solution, (RA's choice), or washed and dipped in boiling water, my choice.  I prefer the non chemical sterilization as my hands don't smell like bleach all day.
Mica is getting used to us pretty well and enjoys watching the kid movies on the laptop.  "Gopher Broke" is her favorite, same as LG and CP.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Two months but who is counting?

We started our shift yesterday at 3:00 PM and it went to after 11:00 due to a 9:00 session which RA were both on.  We had some time before in the morning to do a little Christmas shopping so we were off to Miraflores for the artisan markets and for lunch. We caught a taxi near our local Tottus market and it was one of those beat up Tico taxis.  I think Miky told me it was built in Korea by Daewoo but Daewoo is now owned by Chevrolet.  It has a three cylinder engine and gets great mileage, almost like a Prius.  This taxi like so many other Ticos was really hammered, literally. There were dents and repairs made to numerous places on the body.  My door did not fit quite right and I could see daylight around the top of it. I am not sure what held it closed but I did not lean on it hard. Someone may have stolen the radio out of the car as wires were just hanging into the cavity where it once was.  In order to make the ride more enjoyable the driver pulled out his cell phone, set it on the radio play mode and inserted it in his ash tray. We heard music on our trip to Miraflores.  Behind our back seat was a LNG pressurized tank.  Peru has abundant resources of natural gas and it is not uncommon for taxis to have switched over from gasoline, which is very expensive here. There was not much holding the tank in place and if we had been rear ended we would have been crisped as well as folded and mutilated.  Generally speaking we avoid Tico taxis but we did not for this trip.  The cost of the trip is normally around 15 Soles in a newer Hyundai or Toyota but this guy only wanted 12. How could we refuse?
Carolers in traditional Peruvian dress.

The driver was not sure exactly where the Inca markets and mall were so we had to stop several times along the way to inquire. When we arrived I paid the man and we learned a new Spanish phrase, "Muchisimo gracias!"  He was very pleased with the 20 Soles I paid him as I said, "No cambio," (no change). We asked for a photo of him and his taxi and he was happy to oblige. Muchisiomo is an adverb and according to an online dictionary means:
    • very much
    • very much indeed
    • awfully
    • lot
    • a great deal
    • heaps
    • heaps of
    • oodles
    • very badly

      We cannot write much about what we do inside the temple and the experiences therein on this blog. We love it here and serving the members in Peru. It is difficult at times especially when on IChat with our grandson in Bloomington IN we try to explain to him when he tells us, "Grandpa, I want to come to your house."  Three years of age is too early to understand what being in Peru means. See also our earlier post about CP and "Are we in Peru in yet?" 

      We enjoy the responsibilities and duties we have in the temple and we like the taxi driver can say,"Muchisimo gracias," for the joy and happiness we find together here in serving, even if it has been just two months. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Artisans here in Peru

Since we arrived here we have noticed each and every time we hand over a Peruvian bill it is scanned carefully from the cashier at the local grocery store to the young men selling us movie tickets for Harry Potter 7.  I asked Miky about this and he said it used to be a problem but isn't any longer.  Seems it is a real problem.  Even bills as small as 10 Soles are inspected carefully.  That is the equivalent of about $3.00. Turns out that Columbia used to be the number one exporter of fake money, and all this time I thought it was Provo Utah. I know the FBI opened a special office in Utah County because of the twenties and hundreds that were coming off the presses down there. Now Peru is the number one counterfeit capitol in the world.  They are printed right here in Lima apparently.  In addition to the screening and examination of every bill by bank tellers, cashiers, and merchants anyone leaving the country with their luggage is searched carefully for these bogus exports headed usually to US markets.

The following article is from a site we follow that keeps us informed about the goings on here.  We are also thinking seriously of an Amazon jungle adventure next August when it cools off a bit. Several recommendations of lodges with wood floors, thatched roofs and mosquito nets to sleep under await us along with boat trips and wildlife viewing. We have battery powered UV sterilizers to immerse in any glass of water to take with us. Good we also got our Yellow Fever shots at the MTC before we left. I would have thought the food we were served by BYU Food Services in the MTC would have built up our immune systems and armored us against a number of tropical maladies as well. 

Peru is the world’s counterfeit capital


Peru is the world’s counterfeit capital
Peruvian police fraud unit has seized US$33 million since 2009.  (Photo: Reuters/Pilar Olivares )

In the past two years, Peru has become the No. 1 distributor of counterfeit currency internationally, according to Kenneth Jenkins, a U.S. special agent in charge of the Secret Service's Criminal Investigative Division. 

"Approximately $33 million has been seized in Peru since 2009, which is a substantial number," Jenkins told TIME Lima’s correspondent, Lucien Chauvin, in a telephone interview from Washington. 

Officers in the Peruvian police's fraud unit estimate that a much larger sum of phony money is being printed in the country. 

They say that what has been seized in the past two years represents only a fraction of different bills, including Peruvian currency, being pumped out by clandestine printing presses. 

"Counterfeit operations have been multiplying for several years now. For every person we arrest, there are probably nine others printing bills," says an officer who by law cannot make his identity known.

Chauvin reports that the largest single haul so far took place in early September, when police officers raided a printing press in Lima's San Juan de Lurigancho district, in the eastern part of the city. 

While the house had been under surveillance for some time, officers were stunned to discover the extent of the operation. The final tally of the six different currencies produced was just above $27 million. 

Fake U.S. $100 bills accounted for nearly one-third of the total, while euros accounted for $4 million. The rest of the bills were Bolivian, Chilean, Peruvian and Venezuelan currencies.

A month earlier, agents had run a sting operation that netted $1 million. The drop-off point was the food court at an upscale Lima shopping center built into cliffs overlooking the ocean. 

The counterfeiters agreed to sell each $100 bill for $5 to an undercover agent. The three people arrested had initially agreed to sell $3 million in fake bills. 

About 20 illegal printing presses have been dismantled in Lima, each capable of turning out mass amounts of bills.
Operations in Peru continue to use traditional printing techniques, with offset printers — the principal tool of the trade — churning out large numbers of scrip. Nearly all of the major busts have occurred in San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima's largest district (with more than 1 million people), where it is easy to set up shop behind a garage door and go unnoticed. 

"Overseas operations tend to be more organized than in the United States. They are using printing presses that allow them to print higher volumes," says Jenkins.

In the past few months, Peruvian police have stopped people and parcels with fake U.S. bills heading to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela and, of course, the U.S. Along the way, they have come across a vast array of methods, some quite creative, to get fake bills out of Peru. 

They have stopped passengers boarding flights to the U.S. with dollars stuffed into their shoes and have routinely found packages filled with freshly made dollars being sent through the local postal service or via international couriers. 

One raid discovered counterfeit bills sewn into stuffed animals destined for Ecuador, which uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency; another found bills hidden in false bottoms of baby cribs. Those bills were going to Central America. 

"We have been successful in breaking up several important counterfeit operations, but they are always coming up with new ways to smuggle bills," says a member of the Peruvian police's fraud unit. 

What kind of punishment do counterfeiters face? The law is relatively benign when it comes to the crime. First-time offenders may be sentenced to three years in prison, but it is unlikely for them to end up behind bars. Repeat offenders may get sentences as long as six years, but they can be out in two years thanks to a law that benefits nonviolent offenders. 

A team of Peruvian lawyers at the Lima Bar Association has been looking at the issue, working on draft legislation that will be submitted to Congress to change the way counterfeiting is dealt with in the criminal code.

"There needs to be more control, and sentences need to be dissuasive. This is not about having lax laws or applying an iron fist but having a penalty that is just and fits the crime," says José Antonio Ñique, president of the Bar Association. 

"There are great artists in this country, but some of them are using their talents for counterfeiting. Unfortunately for us, they are quite good at what they do."

The U.S. has a task force operating in Peru even though the Secret Service does not have a permanent office in the country. The closest is in Colombia, which was the counterfeit capital of the world until a joint U.S.-Colombian group helped stanch production. 

Jenkins credits the task force and the Peruvian units involved with eliminating a huge chunk of fake cash destined for the U.S. 

Says Jenkins: "Our ultimate goal is to get the counterfeit plants and seize counterfeit currency before it can leave the country, which is what we have been successfully doing in Peru."