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"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The "Real' Peru and Extracto de Rana

Last Monday a friend invited us to his world where he works and operates two stores in a shopping district called 'Gamarra.' It is the largest textile market in Peru and I confess I have never seen anything like it anywhere.  It is a labyrinth of shops in one very large block with stores selling everything imaginable related to clothing and textiles. Previously I had bought a number casual shirts very inexpensively in Gamarra. He supplies textiles to shirt makers and has a huge inventory of fabric so he does not deal with the public directly. He works Saturdays in the Temple, some days as long as 14 hours keeping the Bautisterio running and functioning smoothly. He does this each week. 

It is relatively safe in Gamarra, but none of us Norte Americanos ever venture there in the afternoons and we are always are out of there early in the day.  Security police and cameras are everywhere, but you do observe some rules. We had a fine lunch at one of our friend's favorites and then he wanted to show us the 'real' Peru. We had no idea what he was talking about or where we were going. He assured us it was very close.
Monday mornings are not very crowded and it is a good time
and day to visit though some stores were not open. 
It is called La Parada and is contiguous to Gamarra. Our friend explained we would need to remove our watches and make certain our wallets were secure. We have since discovered it was not a good idea to take a camera there either, but I did.  He was continually looking behind and around us to observe if anyone was following us at anytime. That is one of the indicators that you are about to be mugged or robbed in Peru. As we entered, our friend turned his back pack around and wore it frontwards, a not uncommon practice. Street gangs and other criminals also make La Parada home. Stolen goods are fenced there including cell phones, we were told, that still have all the previous owners contacts and numbers.
One of many narrow aisles selling fruits and vegetables at
extremely low prices.
We have observed we live in a bubble here in our La Molina neighborhood next to the Temple. People are relatively prosperous and life by comparison to many other parts of Peru is easy. Among the nearly 30 million of Peru's population, government agencies suggest less than 40% of the population is in the 'poor' or 'very poor' category. Both the US State Department and the CIA put that number at 54%. Being poor can mean many things. In Peru it means basic inability to afford human needs such as clean water, sanitation, electricity, security, health care, education, adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter.  "Houses" made of sheets of woven together bamboo strips that neither keep the cold out or the heat in, surround far too many families along Peru's coastal areas.  They exist without windows and doors and roofs that will keep out the mist or very scare rainfall. More upscale structures have plastic sheeting over the roofs but they are not common. The several recent elected governments have tried to solve social problems with programs, but mostly we have been told, they are ineffective and have been largely aimed at gaining voter support with little long term impact in improving the status quo.

 RA did buy a 1/4 kilo or dried oregano, about two quarts worth.
That is a lot of spice. It was the smallest quantity they would sell.

Bees were working and building their hive in one of the stalls. We were
given samples  of the honey comb and bee pollen. I did read that pollen
contains a a number of kinds of bacteria and mold so we later disposed
of the the bottle we purchased. 
There is a great disparity and gulf between the 'have's and 'have nots.' The 'have nots' are pushing hard for social and political change with the federal elections coming this June 5th. The poor have been poor and remain to the present, though the last few democratically elected presidents take credit for reducing the numbers of those below the poverty level.
Bags of coca leaves for sale.  It is used in making a tea
and was recommended to us when we visited Cusco and
Machu Picchu.

We were hoping to travel over the election weekend but with the potential for civil unrest or upset we will stay home.  The Temple will be closed a half day on Saturday the 4th for the election on June 5th. It is mandatory that all adults vote in every election lest they pay a fine.  In order to accommodate the travel required to return home it was decided to close the Temple early. We were also told by friends to store extra groceries because of the possibility for strikes, unrest, and road blockages.
Aluminum cookware is also to be found in La Parada
Our travels have been limited in Peru thus far, but the contrast between where we live and what we have seen outside of these wealthier areas of Lima is troubling. Near our apartment is a very nice version of a Target type grocery, appliance, electronics, and clothing store called Tottus, a far different shopping experience than we found in La Parada or Gamarra.
An open top bag of bee pollen being reclaimed by a few bees.
The elections next month will be important for the present and future of Peru. The huge support for the leading and left wing vote getter in the primary elections from the poorer areas of this country should send a powerful message to those in power. Ignore the poor and very poor and solutions may not always be as peaceful as the electoral process of the ballot box. No one wants to see the chaos, unrest, terror and murders Peru suffered for decades at the hands of the Sendero Luminoso or 'Shining Path' as they were called. 
We intended to purchase some citrus in La Parada. We love
the mandarin oranges and tangerines in Peru. They too were
about one third of our neighborhood grocery store.
We appreciate our friend for having confidence in us and showing us a part of Lima we had never seen. Likely, we will not return to La Parada. It was fascinating place and we are glad we ventured to the 'real' Peru. In many ways it reminded us of the bazaars we had visited in Istanbul Turkiye many years ago. 
Live frogs and toads are kept in several booths we passed.
The purpose is to consume these in a 'health' drink called
extracto de rana.

The Osterizer is going and mixing up the extract of frog. To it are added
additional items such as maca powder, honey and malt. It is said to have
near magical restorative and health benefits. Several You Tube videos
and some research suggests the frog or toad is not cooked but it is
skinned, gutted and then tossed into the blender. 
Main Street in La Parada. The red onions on the right are
for sale for 1 Sole or about 37 cents per kilogram. That
is about 16 cents per pound.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Our friends Lucho, Negra, and our Democratic Pigeons

On our walks to various places including the Temple we have been making a few friends. Early in the mornings the local pigeons will see us coming from a block away and fly from their roof top perch and land at our feet. If we do not bring enough crackers for them they will walk behind us for a ways begging for more.  The first counselor and his wife, our neighbors upstairs, also walk the same route. He is a Republican and one of his goals has been to "kick" one of our friendly pigeons. We are trying to train them to buzz the president and leave something fresh on his suit jacket. We'll let you know if we succeed. We have warned him they are Obama pigeons and he should be more respectful.
We only see our pigeons early in the mornings, though sometimes on
our afternoon shift one of them will still be in the neighborhood.
Also on our walks to the one of several shopping plazas, Golds Gym, and the barbershop we pass a neighborhood 'watch-ee-man'. That is the term the Peruvians use for their ever present local security guards. We have become friends with him along with his dog Negra. Often Negra would be sleeping in her house until we became friends a few weeks ago. Now at the sound of our voices she will come running.  She knows we have treats for her. These include burgers from Peru's finest, a place called Bembo's. Lucho, the security man, carries no weapons, no Mace, no radio, not even a whistle like the guy in front of our apartment. He looks after a preschool on his street. Maybe the kids like Negra too. The guy in front of our apartment, at least has an official looking vest and uniform along with his whistle. Just about every neighborhood in La Molina has a 'watch-ee-man.' They are common throughout Lima in the middle and upper scale neighborhoods. We pay a monthly fee to the security company for our around the clock 24/7 security of 70 soles or about $27.00 per month. All of the other tenants and owners on our street pay similar fees.
When Bembos was closed one morning, too early, we stopped by
this local family operation and had the cook make a couple deluxe
burgers for our friends. She was pleased to have her picture taken.
RA has cooked some soup bones we bought from the local Tottus store for Negra as an alternative to the double burgers and chicken sandwiches we have given her in the past. We try to walk a few miles almost daily and choose a route that will take us by Lucho and Negra every several days. Tomorrow it is time once again to visit them as we likely will walk to Jockey Plaza and back and that is about six miles.  Negra has to be restrained or she would follow us home. Of course if she is wolfing down a double burger with the works she lets us walk away.
Lucho and Negra "on duty"
Lucho has become quite emotional on our last several visits. I suppose he thinks it odd that a couple of Americanos would care about him or his dog. He has had tears in his eyes as we have brought him treats.  He told us he "thanks God that we would care about him and his dog." We will find other ways to help him as we get to know him better. These security men make very little money so I know he does not have much. It is common for apartment owners to give a little something to their local 'watch-ee-man' but Lucho and his dog are more than a half mile away from us. We give our local guys treats from the local coffee shop, muffins, and chicha which they appreciate.
Negra did not want to hold still as those deluxe burgers
were in the bag and she knew it. 
We use our limited language skills to talk to Lucho and also Spanish commands for Negra. We will learn more about them as we become better friends. There are a lot of very poor areas on the outskirts of Lima and he likely must travel some distance to get to his neighborhood where he looks after things. There are many things we like about life here in Lima Peru. Making friends with Lucho and his dog Negra has been one of them.
She loves a little attention