Wednesday, December 20, 2006
The dinner was pachamanca, a meal traditionally prepared in the ground over heated stones, with the food wrapped in banana leaves to protect it from the dirt and retain the juices. It usually consists of three kinds of marinated meat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and fava beans.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
They quickly put together an estimate of about $100 in materials that would be needed to bury a pipe from Fredi´s house to the control point where SEDAPAL will install the connection, about 100 meters away. Each family agreed to contribute their share for materials and to help dig the trenches on Sunday morning at 6:00 am. I arrived around 7:30 to take some pictures. By 11:00 they had finished everything except the installation of the faucet and a brick enclosure to protect it. They decided to hire an albañil (professional craftsman) to do that work. We expect that sometime this week SEDAPAL will turn on the water, and we´ll inaugurate the pilón by breaking a bottle of champagne over it.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Friday, October 20, 2006
The municipal elections are coming up in just a couple of weeks, and the walls of most of the houses on the hills of San Genaro have been transformed into campaign billboards. Almost all of them display the name of the incumbent mayor, Miyashiro, who is probably spending city funds and using city workers to paint the ads.
Because Quechua is spoken only in countries where Spanish has become the predominant language, almost all of the resources for learning the language are written in Spanish. So to learn Quechua well you must first learn Spanish. I´ve been sitting in on an introductory Quechua course at San Marcos University, and it´s a fascinating language. It has an alphabet of only 16 consonants and 3 vowels -- depending on how you count them, and who´s version of written Quechua you use. There´s no b, c, d, e, f, g, o, v, x or z. The various Spanish linguists who developed written forms of the language use slightly different notations, but all add the Spanish letters ch and ñ. Five of the consonants, ch, k, p, q and t, have three variations each. One variation has an extra puff of air when it is voiced, and another has a brief stoppage of air following the consonant. One of the big challenges is tuning your ear to hear the differences between these variations.
Verbs take different endings to distinguish person and plurality, as in Spanish, but there are fewer tenses and all verbs are regular -- no exceptions to remember! Nouns have conjugations as in Latin. The biggest difference between Quechua and other languages (at least the ones I´ve been exposed to) is the extensive use of word endings to add information content that is independent of the meaning being conveyed. For example, there are endings that mean ¨I know this to be true¨, ¨I´m referring to something that you just said¨, ¨and also¨, etc. In all there are eleven different endings, with as many as five strung together at the end of a word. But the stress (with very few exceptions) is always on the second-last syllable. So the most difficult part for me in listening to Quechua has been separating the base word from the endings. If you´re interested in knowing what the language looks like or sounds like, here´s a site that has a lot of information: www.andes.org.
A friend of mine, Martín, who recently graduated from San Marcos University, is serving as a teaching assistant for an anthropology class that decided to do a project investigating a women´s club in Pamplona, a community in southern Lima that sits high above the rest of the city. Martín knew of my interest in building energy-saving devices and asked if I could help them come up with ways to conserve fuel. They currently spend almost $20 per week on gas for cooking, which represents a large percentage of their variable costs. If they could achieve substantial savings on gas, they could afford to cook more nutritious meals, containing more meat and green vegetables. Or they could afford to buy the materials to build an oven, which would allow them to expand their offerings to generate more income.
A few days ago I spent a morning with six women at their comedor watching everything they do to prepare the meal, to get some ideas about what interventions help them to reduce gas consumption. They started out with these ingredients:
33 pounds of potatoes
44 pounds of olluco (similar to potatoes)
33 pounds of rice
7 pounds of pumpkin
7 pounds of onions
7 pounds of sémola (wheat-based thickener)
3 pounds of carrots
2 pounds of tomatoes
2 pounds of garlic
9 pounds of chicken feet
1 whole chicken (7 pounds)
They spent most of the four hours peeling and chopping the olluco and potatoes, and one woman spent more than an hour picking through the rice to remove impurities. They cooked in three huge pots. In one they made a soup of the chicken feet, pumpkin, carrots, and spinach. In another they cooked the rice after sauteing some garlic. In the last they cooked the chicken with onions and spices, and then added the olluco and potatoes. It was delicious, but not very nutritious, consisting almost entirely of carbohydrates and fat. Imagine serving more than 100 people with a main dish made from one chicken!
Based on what I observed, I think that placing a ¨pot skirt¨ of galvanized steel around the pots while they cook would help to conserve heat and reduce gas use, and using a ¨retained heat cooker¨ (essentially a box lined with styrofoam) after bringing the rice to a boil would allow the rice to finish cooking without consuming gas. I´ll start to build these next week after the students finish their initial interviews with the women.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Peruvian food varies greatly from one region to another. This isn´t surprising since Peru has more biodiversity than any other country in the world. Of the 104 different types of ¨life zones¨ that exist on Earth, 84 are found in Peru. Generally, on the coast you encounter more food containing fish, in the mountains more potatoes, lamb and pork, and in the jungle more fruit and vegetables. Very little of the food is spicy, but a hot pepper sauce is often offered ¨on the side¨.
One of the striking things about Peruvian food is the extensive use of organ meats. They don´t let anything go to waste here! So far I´ve tasted the following body parts in one or more forms: beef heart, lung and stomach, lamb testicle, chicken gizzard and fish head. I´ve also seen sheep heads and chicken feet for sale in the market, but haven´t yet had the pleasure of tasting any preparations that use them.
I really like the heart, which is served shish kebab style and called anticucho. I´d have to say the lung was my least favorite. It´s really hard to chew, so you pretty much have to swallow it as it is. (Fortunately they cut it in tiny pieces). The testicle wasn´t bad -- until they told me what it was!
So what is that stuff in the picture above that vaguely resembles meat? It´s a dish that you can find being prepared over a grill on just about any street corner on a weekend night, called combinado - a combination of chicken gizzards and cow stomachs, with lots of seasoning, served over boiled potatoes. The stomach is really quite tasty and tender!
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
When the Canadian teachers left after their reconstruction project here, some of them were interested in donating money to help with the other problems, besides housing, that face the people here. They were particularly moved by the fact that most of the people in San Genaro II had to pay more the double the usual cost of water because the only way to obtain it was to pay a downhill neighbor, who had a connection to the water supply, to let them fill their containers using a hose. The typical charge is more than $3 per hour of use (just about enough time to fill all of the containers in their house), and a family usually needs to fill their containers a couple of times each week. A private connection to the city water supply costs more than $300.
I told the Canadians that I had been interested in doing a ¨microcredit¨ project where a group of families would finance the installation of a shared water access point using the savings that they would realize on the cost of the water. They agreed to donate the money for the installation. A group of friends from Lilly who participated in a Spanish class that I taught are providing the funding for the paperwork and other miscellaneous expenses. So lately I´ve been spending a lot of time visiting with Freddy (one of the residents in San Genaro II who´s going to represent the group of neighbors), SEDAPAL (the water utility) and SUNARP (the public documents registry) trying to understand and compile all of the documents that we need to present just to perform the first step: a feasibility study that will determine the cost of the installation. Tomorrow we should have everything we need except for a cover letter from the directiva of San Genaro II authorizing the project.
The plan is to get each of the 24 neighbors on Freddy´s block to agree to buy their water from an access point that we will install, and to pay 1/12 of the water bill each month. In this way we will collect twice the amount of the water bill each month, and put the excess into a fund that will pay off the cost of the installation and generate money for another installation on another block. When the second installation has been financed, the neighbors can stop subsidizing the installations and just split the water bill each month. But even during the period of subsidization, we estimate that they will see at least a 30% reduction in their expenditures for water. Over time we should be able to provide cheaper water to everyone in San Genaro II. There are still a few details to work out, like buying and replacing hoses, and what to do in the case of nonpayment, but we´re optimistic that we can work through those.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
I´ve really missed being able to bake my own bread since I got here. The LPG gas stove that I borrowed from friends doesn´t have an oven, and anyway a gas oven would be very expensive to operate. So I´ve been working on building a wood-burning oven using some recycled barrels. The design is from Aprovecho Research Institute, a group that also designed the wood-burning stoves that I used to build in Central America.
The oven consists of one barrel within another, with holes in the bottom and top of the outer barrel for the smoke to enter and exit, and some baffles made of fiberglass insulation covered with aluminum foil that form a pathway for the smoke so that it makes contact with most of the surface of the barrel. That little white gadget on the door of the oven is a fancy digital thermometer that I brought with me from the U.S. I´m still looking for a cheap, simple dial-type thermometer to reduce the cost.
The oven still isn´t quite finished (it needs a layer of fiberglass insulation on the outside, covered by another barrel that is split on the side), but it´s far enough along for a test. Last weekend I baked a couple loaves of banana bread and served it to the neighbors.
This is the man from whom I rent my apartment, Miguel, who always lends me a hand with my experiments. Here he´s chopping wood to feed the fire.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
There´s officially a work limit of 40 hours per week with extra compensation for overtime, but in practice you work for as many hours as your employer tells you to. And forget about overtime. You´re lucky if you get paid for all the hours that you work. My friend Freddy has quit his job twice because his employer kept delaying payment of what he was owed. But each time he has eventually gone back, without receiving all the pay he was entitled to, because it´s the only job he can find that he knows will provide some income every week.
If you´re over 30 years old and don´t hold a ¨permanent¨ job in the profession that you studied for, forget about ever finding one. There are plenty of younger unemployed people who don´t yet have families, willing to work for lower wages. I´ve had lots of interesting conversations with taxi drivers who used to work in industry or taught in the universities, but can´t find anyone who wants to hire them because of their age.
In Peru (like most other Latin American countries), capital rules. If you don´t have an excess of money, it´s almost impossible to join the small club of people who do. The rich families continue to get richer, and the poor continue to increase in numbers. According to the measures that capitalists like to use, Peru has one of the ¨healthiest¨ economies in the world, with a growth rate exceeding 5% for five years in a row. But during those five years the poverty rate has barely changed, and still hovers at around 50%.
The other day I heard a woman say that she would like to have a small business selling tamales, but didn´t have the capital to do it. She wasn´t talking about the money necessary to rent a space or to buy equipment. She meant that she couldn´t gather together the $20 or so that she would need to buy a large pot and enough ingredients to make a big batch of tamales in her home, so that she could go and sell them on the street.
My girlfriend Sonia belongs to a group of lay people associated with an order of nuns based in Canada that has three convents in Lima, one of which is just a couple of blocks from where I live. The asociados get together every couple of weeks to organize small projects to help people in need. Last weekend some of us went to a tómbola that was organized by a group at another convent in Esquivel, north of Lima, to raise money for maintenance of the school that they operate there. A tómbola is sort of a random sale of donated items. People donate things ranging from sacks of sugar or rice to clothing to toys. Each item is assigned a number. Then they hire a band, cook a bunch of good food, organize games for the kids (like ¨fishing¨ for prizes, above), and entice people to come and buy the things that have been donated. For 30 cents you can draw a number and receive the prize associated with that number.
They were serving pachamanca, a dish that is baked underground in banana leaves and usually consists of pork, chicken, lamb, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fava beans and corn. Unfortunately this particular pachamanca included only pork and sweet potatoes, but is was pretty tasty.
This is Sister Gladys, the coordinator of our group of asociados, stirring a big pot of carapulcra, a dish that is made from dried potatoes, fresh potatoes, onions, pork, and a bunch of other good stuff. I think the sisters are going to be eating the leftovers for several weeks!
Saturday, September 09, 2006
The northern coast of Peru is dotted with beach resorts but dominated by plantations of rice and bananas. Although it´s all desert and rains very little, the ground water in some places is just a few feet from the surface, so it´s economical to scrape off some sand and plant rice.
Most things are more expensive in Ecuador (about 50% more, from what I could tell in the short time I was there) but wages are also much higher, drawing many Peruvians to try to find work there, legally or not. Any citizen of an Andean nation can enter any other Andean nation with just a passport, but getting a work permit is difficult.
One of the few things that is much cheaper in Ecuador is gasoline, and people often try to bring it across the border, which is illegal (other than the gasoline in your gas tank). As we approached a customs check point on the way back, we saw agents board the bus in front of us and unload dozens of containers through the windows. When we pulled up for our inspection, we saw that they contained gasoline. I had to take these pictures from the window of our bus, because government workers are very camera-shy, especially with all the recent hidden camera videos that have been published showing officials in prisons and other institutions accepting bribes.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
The most popular activity seems to be the one that takes place at the ¨wishing well¨ at the church of Santa Rosa near the center of town. It used to be a regular water well, but is now a dry hole where people come to write their petitions on a card and drop them into the well, hoping that Santa Rosa will answer their prayers.
It´s a very busy (and I suppose profitable) day for people selling the cards, pens, and all sorts of food to the hungry crowds. People had to stand in line for several hours to get to the well. (I didn´t, which is why I only have pictures of the crowds, and not the well.)
Thursday, August 17, 2006
The Canadian teachers went home yesterday after spending three days with us helping to renovate a couple of houses. We divided them into two teams, and Sonia interpreted for one team and I for the other. It was Sonia´s first experience serving as an interpreter, and she did very well.
The teams worked very hard, and accomplished more than I expected, so that we were able to begin roofing a third house, which my friend Freddy and I finished the next day.
On the last day, we all went back to my neighborhood to eat lunch at a benefit for the family who lost their house to the fire.
And the team decided to donate a gas stove to one of the families that has eight children and was cooking its meals over a wooden fire.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Se puede hacer facilmente y baratamente un aparato que caliente agua por medio de la radiación solar, con suficiente capacidad para ducharse. Funciona bien aún en regiones constantamente nubladas como donde vive yo (Lima, Perú). El modelo ilustrado aquí me costó aproximadamente $30. Con materiales usados sale mucho más barato. Los materiales que usé son los siguientes, pero se puede adaptar el diseño a los materiales que se tiene a mano. Lo importante es que la superficie del termo sea grando en relación a la cantidad del agua, y que la capa sea de vidrio y no de plastico. (El vidrio refleja los rayos infrarojos generado en la caja, mientras que la mayoría de los plasticos no tienen esta propiedad.)
- Una tabla delgada de madera, de un metro cuadrado
- 2 listones de 2 cm x 4 cm x 2 m
- 1 liston de 2 cm x 3,5 cm x 1 m
- 28 metros manguera de plastico de 3/4 pulgada
- 2 mangueras de largo suficiente para conectar el termo al chorro y a un recipiente
- 2 codos con el diametro de la manguera
- 4 abrazadores
- uno o más pedazos de vidrio con área total de 96 cm
- 1 lata de pintura negra mate (spray)
Haz la base con la tabla y los dos listones de 2 x 4.
Forma un espiral de la manguera y asegurarlo con cinta y adjunta los codos a sus fines con abrazadores.
Mete la manguera en la caja de madera de tal manera que el fin del tubo más lejos del centro esté centrado en un lado de la caja. Corta un agujero de tamaño suficiente que el codo pase por el fondo de la caja. Corta el listón de 2 x 3,5 cm en pedazos y ubícalos en los lados de la caja para apoyar el vidrio.
Usa los pernos para asegurar la borde del espiral.
Pinta todo el interior de la caja con la pintura negra mate.
Conecta un chorro de agua al codo en el interior del espiral y asegúralo con abrazador. Conecta el otro codo a una manguera para sacar el agua caliente. (Puede ir a una cabeza de ducha, un balde o cualquiera. Pon el vidrio encima de la caja y asegúralo con pedados de madera. Instálalo en un techo o otro lugar expueso al sol, con la salida del agua más arriba de la entrada.
Una vez conectado, abre la llave hasta que el agua fría salga del aparato. Cierra la llave y esperar hasta que el agua caliente. Luego abre la llave otra vez para sacar el agua caliente.
Con manguera de 3/4 pulgada, cada metro tiene capacidad de aproximadamente 0,25 litro, así que este modelo tiene capacidad de 7 litros. En un día de bastante sol, este modelo levanta la temperatura del agua de 20 grados a 40 grados en una hora. En un día muy nublado con una temperatura ambiental de 19 grados (lo más común acá en Lima), la temperatura del agua en el termo alcanza 31 grados -- no muy caliente pero adecuada para ducharse cómodamente.
Cualquier mejoramiento que descubras, por favor comunícate conmigo a firstname.lastname@example.org.