Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Googling the Earth With Lucy´s Kids

On Father´s Day weekend I went to Lurín with Lucy and Walter (and Marcos and Lourdes, two other volunteers) to help them with their educational program for kids. They always have a planned lesson for each of the workshops that they teach to the kids and their parents, on themes such as leadership, assertiveness, surviving adolescence, etc. But there´s a two-hour slot with each group of kids called ¨Game Club¨, during which they usually play games that have been donated by volunteers and visitors. (Twister was a very popular one while it lasted, but the floor mat quickly disintegrated because of the rough dirt floor).

So when I visit the group, I usually take charge of Game Club time to teach the kids something new and interesting that they would not otherwise have an opportunity to learn. In the past I´ve taught them Sudoku, some magic tricks, how to make balloon animals, etc. This time I brought my laptop with me and showed them Google Earth. First we talked about satellites and the different purposes they serve. Then we turned on the computer and began our descent into South America, Peru, Lima and then Lurín, with the kids helping me to identify landmarks along the way. They were awed by the fact that they could see their own individual houses, and ¨fly¨ over the dunes that stand nearby. Some noticed that the photographs were several years old, and pointed out changes that had taken place in their neighborhood since they were taken.

Afterwards the kids presented Walter and Marcos and me with a cake that they had baked for us. Later we went to one of the internet cafes down the street and installed Google Earth on two of the computers there so that they could continue to explore.

Buying Jeans in Lima

I had a feeling that it would be difficult to find pants in my size (W34 L34), since the average Peruvian is about a foot shorter than me. So I went first to the largest department stores, figuring that they would have the largest selection. The first thing that I noticed was that there was only one size printed on each of the labels. I asked one of the attendants whether it was the waist size or the length. ¨The waist size.¨ Not wanting to appear the stupid gringo, I read the labels carefully for several different brands, trying to decipher the coded information that surely must include the length. But I couldn´t find any number that could possibly be the length.

I selected a pair of size 34 Lee jeans that I liked and took them to the same attendant to ask her what the length was. Without even glancing at the pants, she replied, ¨32¨. I scanned the label again, and couldn´t find a ¨32¨ anywhere. Dumbfounded, I asked her, ¨How do you know?¨. ¨They´re all 32¨, she replied.

And so it is in Peru. You can buy any waist size you want, but unless you want to pay more than $50 for jeans imported from the US, the length is always 32. That´s more than enough length for 95% of the customers, and it costs less than a dollar to have someone tailor them to your preferred length. So it doesn´t make economic sense for the stores to order and manage lots of different sizes when they can get a better price ordering larger lots of fewer sizes.

A few days later I went to the huge clothing market in the district of Gamarra, and after asking half a dozen people where to find extra long jeans, I finally found two pairs of jeans with a 33 inch length for less than $20 each, one of them in an off-the-street backroom store that sells Chinese imitations of American brands, and the other at a Chilean import store. After paying a lady at the market 90 cents to let the hems down, they fit me as well as my American-bought jeans.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Break For Graduation and Wedding

I went back to Indiana for most of the month of May to attend my daughter Marta´s graduation and my son Dan´s wedding. (Chris and Eric, my other two sons, are at the far right of the wedding picture). It was a short trip, but I was able to spend quite a bit of time with them and enjoy some really hot weather for a change. One of the highlights of the wedding celebration was the ¨after party¨. When the reception finished around 10:30 my kids and their significant others and I went in search of a bar to continue celebrating. Since Greencastle is a three bar town, we felt very lucky to find one that stayed open until 3:00 am, and a karaoke bar no less! You could choose pretty much any song as long as it was either a country tune or more than 20 years old. Chris´s wife Anne and I sang ¨Leavin´ On a Jet Plane¨.
I also made a short trip to visit my friend Larry Winiarski in Oregon, to help him with the construction of the aquaflector and to see it close up. We didn´t get as far as we had hoped (an actual test of its output) because it rained most of the time I was there.
I learned that Larry had converted his van to run on filtered used vegetable oil (discarded from restaurants that make deep fried food). It seemed to run very well on the free fuel, the only tricks necessary being the need to start the engine on regular diesel fuel, and the use of a heat exchanger to warm the oil before it is injected into the engine.