Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Peru News:

I haven't written much on current events in Peru. I'd like to do that a bit more as it is very interesting. It is hard for me to really understand what is going on when I read the paper because I am still reading at the level of a kindergartner. BUT, I kind of know what is going on by talking to people.

Currently there is what most people would call a political crisis. The president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo has a 7% approval rating. That's right...7% He has been in power since 2001 and is very unpopular for a number of reasons. The global recession hit Peru as well and the economic situation has been pretty bad the last few years. Last year, GDP grew a respectable 4.9% (don't quote me on that number, but I think it is right) but everybody still says economic times are tough. Naturally the sitting president gets his fair share of the blame for this. Also, there has been a ton of alleged corruption in Toledo's government. It is even rumored that the current ambassador to Spain has a tape recording or some other evidence of corruption by Toledo and is the puppetmaster behind the scenes running things because he is blackmailing Toledo. Toledo has sacked his cabinet twice in the last two months. The latest time allegedly only rich people with a lot of integrity were appointed to the cabinet because so many previous ministers were corrupt and lining their pockets. Rumor has it that the only reason the military hasn't done a coup is that they know the US will put in place sanctions and the economy here would tank even more. That is only a rumor though. Toledo's term runs through the end of 2005 but many people think that he will resign by then.

What is very interesting to me is that EVERYBODY here in Peru knows about politics. Everybody talks about it and the papers are completely full of political news. The most well respected paper in Peru has about 15 pages of news on Peru, almost all of it about politics and corruption. Students in high school here take 4 full years of what we would call civics where they learn about economics, politics, and other related material. When I told a friend here that we only had one semester of civics and one semester on current events she couldn't believe it.

Well that is all that I have today. Thanks for reading and feel free to make comments in the link below.

I saw my first Peruvian in an Iron Maiden (80's heavy metal band) T-Shirt. It made me feel at home. Actually it made me feel like I was in 6th grade when one third of the school wore Iron Maiden T-Shirts.

Sunday, February 22, 2004
New pictures and info on the website. Check it out. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Well, I kind of guarantee it anyway.

Saturday, February 21, 2004
OK, the pictures aren't up yet. I need to do it...I know. I'll try tomorrow. We went to the beach south of Lima today which was a lot of fun. I felt like the giant white whale in Moby Dick on the beach, but that is OK. On the way down I saw my first dirt golf course. All dirt. No grass. All dirt. The greens were black artificial turf and the fairways were all dirt. You don't get much roll on that course.

Taking the bus to the beach was a bit high stress. There are a bunch of guys that try to get you to ride certain buses. Next time we're going to pretend we don't speak Spanish or something.

Here is a good article from the best magazine in the world, the Economist, on recent political movements of indigenous Andean people in South America. Read it within the next week as it will likely be for subscribers only after that.

Gotta get to work on my spanish homework now. Feel free to post comments or questions via the comment link below each post. I'll try to get back to each one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
New pictures should be up on the website within the next couple days. We have a bunch of pictures from Pucallpa. So check back soon!

I need to blog about Pucallpa, but there is a lot to say so I will just start chipping away at it.

The computer center at the Refuge of Hope is pretty dilapidated. In fact, the whole school is. The climate is hard on buildings and they don't have money to keep things up well. There are 6 working computers in the lab. Two are Pentiums and are decent enough to run Windows 98. The rest are 486´s and are running Windows95. It gives me a headache just looking at them. I'm hoping to get computers donated and brought down with a team that is coming toPucallpaa in June. Anybody out there have a Pentium II 600Mhz or better computer they want to donate to a school for physically handicapped kids?

I also found out that the school is semi-public as the teachers are paid by the government.

The other computer teacher at the Refuge seems really nice and seems to be doing a good job with what he has. I look forward to working with him.

I'll blog more on Pucallpa later.

Interesting experience on the way home from class today in the bus. I am too tall to stand up fully in the bus so I was leaning back a bit against one of the windows. The bus swerved and the enormous mass of my backside shattered the window. I could just hear what everyone on the bus was thinking..."Who is this giant fat gringo who thinks he can stick his behind through bus windows??"

Oh, well. Nobody seemed to care too much. They didn't charge me anything anyway.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004
I witnessed the worst dinner I´ve ever seen at a food court a couple days ago. A lady ordered french fries with fried pieces of hot dogs on top withmayonnaisee liberally applied as dressing. She washed that down with Pepsi that she had microwaved.


Sunday, February 15, 2004
I´m down 5 pounds this week. I probably sweated it off in Pucallpa. I´ll write more tomorrow on my trip there. It was very interesting. Great people.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Kirkland vs. Bellevue

In the most bizarre news to date here in Peru, there was a massive brawl between two districts in Lima. I still can't believe it happened. I'll call the two districts Ballard and Greenlake to give you a better feel as to what the equivalent situation would be in Seattle.

There's a park between Ballard and Greenlake whom both districts have claimed as their own for some time. In Lima, a park is a status symbol because Lima is in a dessert and there isn't much greenery. All the upperclass districts have many parks and the poorer districts have few or no parks. One day last week the mayor of Greenlake decided to claim the park once and for all and got it officially declared by a judge that the park was property of Greenlake. The next day, the mayor of Ballard was outraged and hired 600 young men (as I'll call them...everyone here called them thugs) and marched to the park and put up a monument officially declaring that the park was the property of Ballard. Word of this got back to the mayor of Greenlake who, not being a brave man, got his vice-mayor to go down to the park with 600 other young men (aka "thugs") he hired to reclaim the park. An all-out brawl ensued between two neighboring districts in the same city including elected officials on both sides. Over 100 people were injured in the fight. Miraculously no one was killed. People brought molotov cocktails, bats, guns and anything else they could find. By the end of the day Ballard had surrounded Greenlake and Greenlake fighters were fleeing by truck.

Mind you this is two mayors who both hired thugs to go fight eachother. This isn't a random gang fight. It is an officially sanctioned riot between two adjacent districts in Lima. I wish I had a link to post of the fight. If I find one I'll post it.

Carnival Update:

The other day Trish and I were riding in a bus and Trish commented how tranquil the bus ride was to that point. It was a Sunday so their wasn't a whole lot of traffic and the bus wasn't even full. About a minute later someone threw a water balloon at the bus and it hit the window where I was sitting. Unfortunately it was thrown with sufficient velocity to break the window and shattered glass rained down on my head rudely interrupting our tranquil busride. Remarkably, I wasn't even cut at all. I found the situation kind of humorous, but the older ladies on the bus were furious at whoever threw the balloon. They were cursing at Peru and stupid carnival. (See my post below for a short explanation on carnival)

Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Random Things:

1.) Superman Dude
I wore my superman shirt to class one day last week and there is an older man on the street we walk and he said "Hey, Superman!!" I see him every day now and he says "Superman!" to me. I´m not sure what he does, because I see him every day morning and night and he´s just sitting there with a coke.

2.) Carnival
So here in Lima February is the hottest month of the year. Turns out they have a "carnival" here for the whole month which basically means you throw water balloons at complete strangers any time of the day or night. Actually, women are the prime targets of the water balloons because they are seen as less likely to retaliate. We were walking home from language study today and a water balloon exploded about 5 feet from us from the third floor window of a nearby apartment. This is very funny to me, but all the women here hate it. They say they just stay inside for the whole month. We don´t have that option so I´m counting on getting wet this month. It´s not too bad since it is hot out. However I´m contemplating carrying retaliatory balloons.

3.) Flexible Transportation Costs
In Lima you get around everywhere in these crazy vans or buses called "combies". I haven´t figured out the pricing though. It seems completely random to me. I´ve gotten charged completely different prices every time I get on. I guess that means I´m a sucker. It´s weird though because I´ll get on and I´ll give the guy one sole (about 30 cents) and one day he´ll take it and the next driver will ask for 10 cents more. And to top it off the prices are listed on the windows and they are more then I ever get charged. Oh well.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Well we are here and have been for a couple weeks, but I'm finally settled in enough to start up on the blog. It is probably going to be kind of random so don't expect a complete narrative of our time here. If you are wondering why were here, check out our website which has a ton of info on it. It also has pictures.

I'll begin the blog here with a typical story. One of the funniest thing that has happened so far has to do with me trying to learn Spanish. I'm a complete idiot down here because I can't really say much but I'm constantly trying to say things to learn Spanish. Anyway, I have a notebook that I'm filling up with Spanish words to study and one day I'm out in the park with the twins playing soccer and for some reason I com to think that the word bombedar means "the score". Come to find out it is a completely made up word that is a family joke that is used for pretty much anything...kind of like smurfy. It can be a greeting, it can be a way of saying goodbye, it can be anything. BUT IT ISN'T A REAL WORD. So here I am in the park asking one of the twins how to spell bombedar and writing it down in my notebook all serious-like because I think it means "the score" and everyone there is laughing at me because they all know it is a complete fabrication. Ahhh, the joys of learning a second language.

Other things of note:

Public transportation is great. It is just all these little private companies that drive around in beat up vans and buses on routes that cris-cross the city. There's a driver and then another person who collects money and screams out the route of the van as it is driving down the road. You can pick up the van anywhere you want to along the route. There aren't really stops. It is a lot of fun and a little scary, but not too bad. There is less traffic then I was expecting. Only the wealthy have cars and everyone else rides the bus. Another interesting thing about transportation is the taxis. Anybody can slap a little sticker on their car and be a taxi. They are everywhere and are not metered. You just barter for the price when you get in.

Shopping carts are a marked improvement over models in the US. All 4 wheels turn. This means you can be going forward and then on a dime move to the right or left. It is great for getting around in tight places. In the us the back 2 wheels don't turn and you kind of have to angle the cart to move to the right or left. Somebody at Safeway please read this blog!

Well I'm going to sign off for now. I've been sick most of the day unfortunately but I'm feeling better. I should be watching the super bowl game at Garrett's house. This is the first day I've been a bit homesick. hasta luego


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