Saturday, January 31, 2009

re: the design and collection tool below, you can click on them and enlarge them. You will see tomas´design lacks a bit in detail, but hopefully by clicking on our flickr link where recent photos are posted on the sidebar, you will have a better idea. all best, Laurie and Steve

the design drawn by Tomas.
The tool we are using to collect data.

here we both sit, al lado, typing away, entering something on each blog. and me i will likely cheat and post some of what steve writes as he is faster than i at this typing thing! also, i am posting photos from the purchase of the baskets, some of our little apartment and our last couple trips to mandorani. and if that isn´t enough, i will try to scan the design and our data collection tool and likely put it on the flicker site, as people have expressed interest.

all this will need to be done before the next dose of medicina. i went yesterday for a visit as i continuing to have these incredible couphing spells at night or when i exert myself, where i couldn´t catch my breath. here, it is so easy to just go and wait ones turn at the clinic, no appts are necessary, at least in most of the clinics i have (unfortunately) come to know. so after our first educational trip to mandorani i went the same day to la clinca san jose and was ever so fortunate to be able to see Dr Pinedo, el gordito as he affectionately called. he was my original doctor here and knows me by name (and our project!). so i told him what was up and he did a few tests showing no infection and an improved chest xray, but he feels what is now going on is more of an allergic thing, almost like a hypersensitive bronchial tree that when i cough sometimes reacts almost like an asthma attack. i thought it was something like this, being this damn nurse that i am. so he medicated me with an inhaler (i feel sorry for asthmatic peruvians needing an inhaler, it was 125 soles, an incredible price equivalent to about 42 dollars!) ) and a temporary round of steroids and a cough medicine. after the first dose the coughing spellls were noticeably less but i still have an attack here and there so after calling him today, i will see him tomorrow at his insisitence so follow this closely. i just love him. we talked about the project. he always asks and he said something to the effect, "when someone does something with love it is always good." he also added he will make sure i am OK thorouighout our time here. (which i might add maybe reduced by two weeks as tomas is moving along!)

besides my health, what is my other most important concern to report here (of course, other than steve, who is great) is our project. our first educational visit went smashingly well. we went to the home of bernadina and florencio, where their stove still was not dry and minus the final (mas bonita) layer of arcilla and pig and cuy hair. it was the first lighting. bernadina lit it patiently and was not surprised it took a bit because of the dampness. our only concerns on using it were to see not enough of a space between the pot for the largest pot on both burners and to see the rejilla nearly buried in the bottom of the fire chamber. currently in some of the pictures you can see a metal piece at the opening but this will be removed once that part is dry. so we sent for tomas who came and assured us on the next model(s) we will address this. he stayed for the interview and the educational piece which was nice. he gets the whole picture as did the family, of what our goals are. and the reception and conversation compared to sipascancha was amazing! but time will tell as one cannot say for sure how these will get used until one comes back! so, in a nutshell, we immediately put the stove on and began boiling water. the plan was to do that all first, talk about the wood and various lighting issues while getting the potatoes ready for the retention cooker. We used sheepskins inside the rice bags to line the baskets and hot pot of potatoes. then we walked around, addressed various hygiene issue (which this family seems to be on top of) and talked more about the stove and the retention cooker and how the two could be used together, or when they were working the chakra, how the retention cooker could be cooking away their soups or potatoes for the evening meal. we did the health tests also and all went well. tomas, as i said, stayed for all and can now prepare the other families for what will follow. he is really being helpful and hopes to complete all the stoves in one week to ten days!

on monday we hope to teach two families, that of victoria and juana. again i will just say these families are with us here and i am so happy we have the time to devote to each!

finally, for me, just a huge thanks for all the folks who have corresponded and encouraged us, especially with regard to this health thing here. i have said before and will say again, knowing you folks are out "there" and keeping up with us means so much. Muchisimas gracias.

and Dad, welcome home! Keep getting better!

And here a bit of a repeat, but steve´s slant on the latest:
So, last Tuesday we went out to C’Orao to make a progress check. We found out where the first stove was being built and walked out there in a sea of mud and animal shit (it had rained overnight). Bernardina and Florencio’s house is one of the furthest ones, it was really beautiful once we got out of the main area. Lush fields, a mountainside, clean air, and a huge sky. To our immense relief as we got closer we could see construction underway, they were putting in the chimney. The stove was well underway. We thanked Tomas profusely and scheduled our meeting with the family. We also learned that another person had signed on, a friend of Tomas’ named Erasmo. We gave each other high fives and went out for dinner at Los Perros to celebrate. In our two days of down time we read a lot. I finished Shadow Of The Wind (SO EXCELLENT) and also blew through William Gibson’s latest book Spook Country which was a lot of fun, with a sly punchline ending. Our local source of English book exchanges (Jerusalem Books) finally decided to keep their regular hours so I was able to trade some. We also got a call from Jorge, saying that two people had shown up to volunteer at Hampy and that they had stove experience and wanted to do a project. They are going to come over tonight and we will share our hard-earned lessons with them, and probably give them however many stove parts we have left over. We are excited to meet them – we don’t even know where they are from! Yesterday we did our first teaching session with Bernardina and Florencio. The difference between C’Orao and Sipascancha is huge. Part of it has to do with the women speaking Spanish instead of Quechua, we can actually have conversations. We fired up the stove (the clay was still wet) and brought a pot of potatoes to a boil, then put it into their new retention basket (they used sheep skins inside of plastic rice bags for the insulation). Then we did our health tests, talked a bunch about hygiene and related things, did our interviews, and left them with a basket full of potatoes cooking away. Around three hours in total, more time than we ever spent on a family in Sipascancha. They were really nice folks and very together in most ways – animals were separated, food was in bags, and they used a latrine hole (since nobody in C’Orao has bathrooms yet). We also called Tomas in to discuss some fine tuning of the design, we may need to buy extra grates for the wood (to keep air flowing under the wood as well as over and around), because he is using the grates we bought for the ash chute. He also developed this really cool staggered stairstep thing for the burners so that they can fit different sizes of pots. After we finished at that house, we visited the next one and set up our appointment with them for Monday morning. Finally kicking into gear! Also, we learned that another person from the original group had decided they wanted a stove as well (he had been undecided before), bringing our total to eleven families. We are hoping a few more of the holdouts end up changing their minds when they see the finished product. If we keep up a good pace we could be done by the 3rd week of February. As a result, we are considering the possibility of coming home two weeks early, the climate here is just brutal. It was 46 degrees on Tuesday night, keep in mind this is the equivalent of July here. Yesterday Laurie went back to the doctor after an awful, terrifying two hour coughing fit in the night. She was re-diagnosed with a kind of reactive bronchitis almost like asthma. They gave her an inhaler and a different kind of cough syrup. Another reason to leave early. I have decided to trust the doctors and try not to worry, but it’s hard. On the other hand, her back is fully recovered. Laurie has also been keeping up a brisk correspondence with the Bio-Energy mailing list where all the stove people hang out. Another guy on the list is starting a project in Peru (near the coast) and so we have been sharing our lessons and hearing about some other experiences. A guy named Charlie Sellers (who we met last year at the ETHOS conference) said that when he did a project in Peru he ran into many of the same problems – stoves being changed, deconstructed, etc. Like us, he found that the need for warmth and the necessity of fast cooking times often outweighed the more efficient but slower rocket design. After all, nothing can bring water to a boil faster than a traditional three stone fire. These are some of the reasons we have skewed our model away from the rocket design and more towards a hybrid type. Our focus is less on fuel efficiency and more on removing the smoke from the room. Another problem with the Lorena design that was used in Sipascancha was that the second pot never got hot enough, since it only had the hot airflow on the way to the chimney as the heat source. Now, both burners have the potential for flames directly under them. Less efficient, but we were pleased to note that during our cooking yesterday the wood was burning very cleanly, with very little smoke. We (finally) have some new pictures up on the Flickr site, you can see them at

Monday, January 26, 2009

my latest enfermedad--bronchitis---is better. i went to the doctor today and she was pleased with my progress. so just a couple more days more of antibiotics and expectorant cough syrup! she did warn me the cough will persist especially in the afternoons and nights for maybe 2 weeks but as long as i feel OK and have no funny colored stuff exiting my lungs, that it's ok. and of course to "abrigarme!"  (ie., bundle up.)  i brought steve with me as he has had a hard time watching me cough and has put his foot down that if i am sick again in two weeks we are out of here. so he heard the doctor too and at least for now is OK with her advice (i did ask her if she thought i should go home and she said no--) so, i will just hope for the best---whatever that might be. i am stubborn and this project has proved to be a challenge this time. and i simply hate giving up. i am hopeful that since our project has shrunk to 10 families that we will be able to accomplish this with my being able to pace myself. forever the optimist.  but no worries, i have made a promise.

i am resuming my dental work at such an incredible deal, its so exciting- 80$ a crown for god´s sake!! and my dentist is a sweetheart who calls me Laurita and always says "-ita" with, "solamente faltita una poquita laurita, as he drills away..." i will consider him my dentist from here on out!

Physical therapy continues and really i have no more pain with that sciatic nerve thing. so i just enjoy it for what it is...a bit of electrotherapy, a warm pack and then massage. i have maybe 4 or 5 more treaments.

on the project front, its been hard waiting and waiting to get going. steve is going NUTS. however tomorrow and with my doc´s permission we visit mandorani to see how the first stove is going. i am optimisitic. (steve isn´t.) friday is our anticipated first home visit interview and teaching day!! and we have new rubber boots! (if you could see this mudhole that mandorani is right now you would also be excited!) yesterday i tried rice in the retention cooker. the recommendations were to use 1 cup of rice to 1 1/2 cups water and to boil the rice for 5 minutes before burying it in the in the cooker. the top part was not quite cooked and underneath a bit mushy. hmmm. my next plan is to try less water and continue using the small pot. (recommendations are also to use a pretty full pot.)

we are making arrangements to donate the remainder of our 10 or so chimneys and rejillas to jorge (of steve has mentioned him. he has a nonprofit working in a place called choco and is interested in a stove project. i am waiting to hear from him as to how he´d like to progress.

to ellen: i will call adelita and nino and see what we can cook up about a continued school interchange and if they received anything from the teachers before school let out. so i´ll keep you posted. as to the location of choco, its in a different direction than mandorani or ququihana! i will ask jorge and hopefully we will also get to visit. so more on that later. and thanks for the books and encouragement! also i have yet to scan the stove plans because of this little inconvenience of being sick.

to dad: Get well very soon!!! (family and friends : my dad has pneumonia and is in the hospital. mom says this morning he was chatting away and drinking his coffee and she is not sure how long he´ll be there. and shortly i am calling and will know more.

to josiah and mica: yeah, call my mom! sounds like dad is OK though. and thanks so much for the sweet letter. really. yeah things have been rough. i will call soon to chat about dad and how the ten-stove thing is going. my love to your dad too! and thanks for the encouragement. i love you!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

it worked!! the soup cooked completely in two hours! all the vegies, even the lentils and potatoes! i will admit a stray (and unsoaked) garbanzo bean was not quite done! so yeah for retention cookers!!!
and yeah for OBAMA!
so we went to mandorani today.  (oh, i found out the difference between mandorani and corao! corao, coming from cusco is on the right side of the road and mandorani is on the left!)  the remaining interested people all met outside of tomas´house (luckily it wasn´t raining).  he explained all that had come to pass since the christmas meeting.  marta unfortunately withdrew her participation only because it placed her in the middle.  she is apparently a member of the board and felt it put her in an awkward place to be part of our project.  she was not happy about this decision but felt she had to make it.  so we have 10 families on board.  all ten families read and understood the agreement and visited tomas' house and stove. they seemed happy about the stove as tomas explained its function.  and they seemed happy that the agreement had not changed since the christmas meeting.  all were apologetic about the behavior of their elected officials.  unfortunately this division has been and will always be.  we visited the soldadura and the chimneys look lovely.  (really, soon i will post pictures!)  the first two stoves will be constructed next week and we will follow with our interviews, exams and education.  and today as i type i am cooking a soup in our retention cooker.  our plans are to experiment with soup, rice, beans and potatoes.  soup for today because my steve is a bit under the weather.  it's a vegie soup and will we see how it goes.  it has all uniformly cut vegies, barley, quinoa, peas, lima beans, water and tomato puree. six uniformly sized potatoes are in it too, and of course some spices!  the basket is mainly lined with rice sacks packed with blankets because i have had trouble acquiring paja. (on the bottom and along the sides, and two blankets on top and tucked all around for good measure!) so i will report tomorrow on the soup and what changes may be necessary.  again love you all and as always steve and i encourage folks to write.  we miss you!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

el documento!
20 de enero 2009.
Las firmas abajo indican que estas personas de la comunidad de Mandorani están de acuerdo en participar con la organización “Vidas Mejoradas” y en su proyecto de Cocinas Mejoradas. Aquí los compromisos:
1.) Todas pagarán S/30.00 para participar antes de ellos puedan recibir su cocina.
2.) Todos están de acuerdo en que Tomas Huellca y Andres Quispe son los trabajadores y ellos juntos van a construir todas las cocinas iguales.
3.) Todos están de acuerdo en que Laura Iaccino y Steven Bouton darán la chimenea de dos metros, una rejilla y barrillas para las hornillas de la cocina. También, nosotros daremos una canasta grande para usar como una cocina de retención, y cositas para cada familia como cepillos de uñas, decolorante, y cositas para cortar las uñas.
4.) La gente que participa deberá tener listo: 18 adobes, tres carretillas de arcilla, dos carretillas de tierra fina, tres carretillas de barro y pelo de cuy, chancho o conejo. (¿líquido de planta?) Ellos necesitan tener paja, u otras cosas para dar aislamiento a la cocina de retención.
5.) Todos están de acuerdo en permitir una foto de su cocina y en dar un día después que la cocina está construida a Laura y Steven para hacer un examen y una entrevista a cada persona en la familia sobre salud y los hábitos de vida. También ellos necesitan dar más tiempo en este día a Laura y Steven para enseñar el uso de la cocina mejorada de leña, la cocina de retención y consejos sobre hábitos de vida para ayudar a la familia a tener mejor salud y una vida mejorada.
6.) Todos están de acuerdo en mantener su cocina y chimenea en la manera que recomiendan los trabajadores. Ellos pueden cambiar su cocina únicamente con el permiso de los trabajadores y solo para hacer que la cocina funcione de mejor manera.
7.) Todos están de acuerdo en permitir visitas cada dos meses de un representante de Laura y Steven para ver si las familias están usando y manteniendo la cocina y chimenea de la manera recomendada, y practicando los consejos para ayudar a cada familia a tener una vida más saludable.
8.) Después de dos años, cada familia tiene que repetir su examen y entrevista como la primera vez para comparar los cambios.
9.) Después de los dos años, y con cada visita positiva, cada familia en este proyecto pueden recibir sus S/30 mas S/5 como interés de beneficio.
and we continue to learn more! never stops!! yesterday in the morning as i laid in bed recovering from the gripe, i received a call from tomas indicating some sort of problem.

(Background: we did return to mandorani and tell them in no uncertain terms all would receive the same stove, that it the only fair way, and if they chose to have the more expensive model that their neighbor (but not member of the association, just Victors cousin...hint, hint...) had , they had our blessings. what appeared to be the result of this meeting at the time was that all wanted what we had to offer. But, big mistake on our part was to not immediately construct a document and obtain signatures verifying agreement. in fact we failed to do this as well when we had the original meeting on christmas! we did have folks signed up and practically all the money collected however.)

so, back to yesterday and this unintelligible phone call. as i have said before no one seems to know how to talk into a phone, so i decided to make a "quick trip" to see just what in the hell was up. apparently juana said something to tomas that was disrespectful in regards to him building her stove. (she was to be at the meeting but was not.) and according to juana it was tomas who had insulted her. so, off we go to victors to make sure all is still understood, as juana always says she cannot speak spanish well enough to make herself understood. much conversation in loud quechua ensued. and it was just juana, victor, tomas, and a woman on the board, but who did not live there fulltime. i was sick and short tempered myself. more than once i asked simply (actually i had to yell) if the project was on or off. victor said it was off. (speaking of victor he has now more than once lied to us about who will be at the meetings, not to mention the original agreement on chritmas that everyone including him appeared to agree upon. despite it being verbal.) i tossed him the money and left. i then realized he had no right to speak for the people we had met at the original meeting on christmas day, who, ironically, are never at these little meetings but at the time very motivated to proceed. so i stormed back in and asked him if he indeed had that right to speak for these people and if this was how he defined democracy. he paused and said no, as did the few others there. so after what seemed three hours of much unintelligible quechua it was decided the five who wanted the more expensive decked out stove model would back out of our project and receive their money back and the remainder will meet at tomas´house tomorrow to review everything, the agreement (which i have just written for signatures), materials, etc. i will get a better drawing of the stove for our geeky friends. (this includes you dad!) the first one does not cover enough details even for steve and i. so, i apologize for this being short and sweet but just wanted to keep all abreast of the latest here in mandorani. more to come tomorrow. and love to all!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

from steve´s blog!

We have learned more lessons this week. The day after I left off last time (i.e. Saturday the 9th), we got a call from Victor and Juana, the president and secretary of the Mandorani association in C’orao. They said they wanted to come into Cuzco and talk to us on Sunday. Well, sure, we said, although in our hearts we were thinking “what now?” When they arrived we were expecting maybe some changes in the numbers of people who wanted stoves. But no, they presented us with a different design that they said five of the 25 families wanted. There were several obvious and immediate problems. First of all, the design they presented came complete with shower and hot water system, and cost 300 soles just for materials (ours is around 65). Secondly, they wanted Victor’s cousin (insert alarm bells here) to build them, when we asked how much it would be he told us 150 soles each (we are paying Tomas and Andres 50)!!! We politely said NO WAY. Then they started in on how they didn’t want Tomas to build their five stoves (but that it was perfectly OK with the other 15, who also supposedly do not want this fancier design). All of their arguments were dubious and unconvincing. After three hours, we came up with a compromise: we would only buy them the basic stove, no extras. We would buy them the same stuff we buy for the other 15 families, and they would have to buy the extra rebar for the design (another ten soles). We would only pay the cousin 50 apiece to build them, the same as our builders. Finally they left, but we were still bothered by the whole thing.

I think the most frustrating aspect is that there is this constant scheming, backstabbing, and manipulation among the rural poor. When you introduce what are basically gifts, it is amplified. Reminds me of my stepfather’s story of a Peruano he knew who bought a large plot of land and tried to establish a commune type situation with some campesinos. They constantly plotted against each other and refused to work together, it eventually broke the guy’s heart and spirit. In addition, there is the depressing feeling that nothing we do is good enough, that people are always going to act put out because you aren’t giving more. Just like the little kid in the shelter who kind of guilt-tripped us because he didn’t get a remote controlled car like some of the other kids (the nuns distributed our 50 presents at random). I have no doubt that this is a legacy of colonialism, but that doesn’t make it any easier to work with in the here and now. If we were like your typical NGO and didn’t treat them as equals, there would be fewer problems. But since we are working directly with people, we keep encountering this kind of behavior.

So, last night, we consulted our expert in all things NGO-related, our friend Jorge ( He told us to take back our offer and insist that either everybody accept our design and plan, or not get a stove. He also told us to put it down on paper (fortunately, we already have). So when we go to C’Orao for our next meeting this Friday, we are going to say to the five families “sorry, either you take our design and our builders, or you can take your extra money which you obviously have and buy one of your own, since this guy is supposedly charging 100 soles more”. Also, since it turns out that this cousin was a guy we met in C’Orao and told about our project, we unfortunately feel like we have to keep our mouths shut about what we are doing from now on. It seems clear to us that this guy saw a business opportunity and moved in on it. Plus, he isn’t even part of Mandorani! Double plus, they gave us all this talk about how unfair it was that we divided the community by only giving four stoves before! Yet apparently it is totally OK for these five families to further divide things. OK, rant over.

This morning we met Jorge again so he could take us to a dentist friend of his (his dad is/was a dentist also, so he knows lots). Laurie and I are both getting some work done, I am getting (finally) a replacement crown for the one I got a temporary of almost ten years ago in Duvall, plus four fillings. Total is about $185 USD. Laurie is getting a bit more, two crowns plus whitening. We made appointments for, like, this week. Very efficient.

While we were waiting we got a call on Laurie’s phone. Somebody had been trying to call us all morning (and not leaving messages, of course), so we were on alert. I couldn’t understand it and Laurie was with the dentist, so Jorge translated and said it was Juana. At first we thought this was Juana the secretary of Mandorani and had the same “oh god, what next?” response. But after we left we were called again, and it turned out that it was Pedro’s mom Juanita. She was waiting for us at the bus station with Pedro’s pregnant wife-to-be Paulina. Neither of us can understand Juanita because she talks in rapid Quechua like we can speak it, and only speaks a little bit of Spanish in response to direct questions. Paulina speaks no Spanish at all. When we arrived at the station they had a note from Pedro. Paulina had an infected tooth. Well, we just turned right back around and marched back to our new dentist with these two campesina women. Laurie gave up her appointment tomorrow when it turned out the tooth would have to be pulled. It also turned out that instead of coming on Saturday, Paulina was here for a pregnancy checkup that was scheduled for 7 AM tomorrow. Right now, Laurie is at the hospital with them in the hopes that she can get checked up today, since the dentist is at 11 AM tomorrow. It will cost 30 soles to pull the tooth, which of course we are paying. We will also put them up at our place tonight. Just another normal day for Vidas Mejoradas…

For your amusement and edification, let me present an example of phrase construction in Quechua:
wasi = house
wasicha = little house
wasichayki = your little house
wasichaykikuna = your little houses
wasichaykikunamanta = from your little houses
wasichaykikunamantachu = from your little houses?
The rule is: suffixes, suffixes, and more suffixes.
The accent is always on the second-to-last syllable.

Love to all, S & L

Saturday, January 10, 2009

yesterday we returned to the san pedro market to buy more of our baskets we are converting into retention cookers. we go to a booth run by a woman named paulina. our last visit there we were only able to buy three baskets and i have already reported the near robbery of my belongings in my purse as a result of carrying one of these baskets on my head. so we didn´t know what to expect, if she would have them all or if we would just go weekly buying three at a time. (her booth has limited space. for 25 huge baskets!) we met her and she said to give her a few minutes so we went off to buy food. when we came back much to our surprise a campesino bearing the load of twelve of these huge baskets comes into the market. right after that he carried the second load. all the remaining twenty two! the next task was to figure out just how to get these monstrous baskets to our place. as typical of most peruvians i have come to love nothing stops them. "todo es posible". paulina reassured me it could be done with one taxi. she flagged one down and in her quite take-charge manner she had the driver put some in the back (it was a toyota wagon), had me get in the front seat and then they tied the rest to the top of the car. steve scrunched in alongside the baskets. when we arrived to the hostal juan carlos said to me, " oh, are you going into the bread delievery business?!". i explained what we were doing with these baskets and he just smiled. i think he thinks we are on the eccentric side. so now we have them all safe and sound in waterproof areas of our apartment. next to come is to begin cooking with them at home and seeing what insulating materials work best and just how many rice sacks we need. it will be a snap to bring them one by one to mandorani on the bus!

i went to therapy yesterday. my therapist is named roger and he is very sweet. i bring along a towel and shorts. the first three sessions will be for pain relief, and after that exercises. he told me walking my some 20 blocks a day is way too much. in fact he was shocked! i am not to even exercise. the first part of the treatment was electrostimulation therapy (like your little machine, vivian) and that went on for 15 minutes. next he placed a heavy hot pack from my shoulder blades to my thighs again for fifteen minutes. he kept coming in and asking me if it was still "calientito y no frio!" after that he massaged my lower back, bum, hips and upper legs with baby oil. i could feel him bringing out that nervey type pain but it never got worse than that! so he impressed upon me the importance to come to all sessions and to call if i couldn´t. all very professional except maybe for the blaring 80´s rock throughout the therapy rooms! i said,"oh someone here likes amercian music," to which he commented with a big smile, "Oh yes, everyone!"

and last night we finally got to visit with maribel and umberto, our friends from our previous time here. he is a doctor who had helped me get data on health problems in sipascancha and she is a lawyer. back then they simply could not figure out why we were doing what we were doing. it was just infathomable to them that we wanted to help the campesinos with our stoves. well we got to cry on their shoulders explaining our disappointing results up there. we told them about our new project and all he could say is that i simply must be an optimist at heart to be doing it again! so it was great. he is always full of questions about life in the US and about us, why we do what we do. maribel has not been well, sadly. she wants nothing more than to have a baby and is having problems and recently had surgery. she tells me there is a 60% chance she can still become pregnant and she is leaving it in God´s hands. steve made umberto some cd´s. he was thrilled. so all in all, a great stimulating conversation about life here and there, the current economic mess, what people do to try to help, the whys, the why nots. we are going to their place next week and will have dinner there.

one last thing. i just read the book The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara. i had seen the movie and the book simply outdid it. of course i was particularly drawn to the parts where they were in peru. his descriptions of the country and its people were strikingly similar to what i see now in the campesino villages. it was very moving.

OK time to go. we are headed home for a little siesta. again love to all.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

for sleeve´s slant on all please check out
a quick update here! today we went to mandorani and have begun our project! this weekend tomas and andres will buy the supplies (sheet metal for the chimneys, and rebar for the burners and grates), and transport them to a welder in Córao. we discussed the possibility that all may not have adobe and tomas said not to worry as the members of the association will all share and there will be enough for everyone! next week the welder will begin making the chimneys and grates, and the week after tomas and andres will build 3-4 stoves a week. we will follow bringing the retention cookers, doing the interviews and teaching. we should be complete the first week of march!

and we are underway in purchasing large baskets for our retention cookers. they will be lined with various materials to retain the heat of a simmering pot of rice or potatoes, even soups and beans. we bought three yesterday for a good price. (we need 25!). i was carrying one on my head and all the time alert to steve in front of me carrying two more. well, all of a sudden i feel a slight tug on my bag slung over my chest. i whipped around and yelled. the woman behind me looked down and innocent. the rest of the way i carried the basket differently so to keep an eye on my bag. on arriving home, lo and behold that woman had actually slit my handwoven bag but fortunately not stolen any of the contents. whew! you have got to watch everything here i swear!

yesterday i picked up two outstanding posters of two scenes i had a local copy center make: one is a disheveled garbage strewn mess of a campesino home and surroundings, including a shot of a kid pooping diarrhea, a father drinking alcohol, and animals shitting here and there. the other is of a cleaner and more organized home and surroundings. we will be using these to have discusions of what the differences are as a teaching tool. i will take a photo to post. (yes we have a new camera!!) we made new copies of our basic stove design and the ten rules of thumb to follow (courtesy of Larry and Ken) when building an improved stove. we also made sheets to describe retention cooking. while we will use these in mandorani, we also will be able to hand them out to the numerous people we talk to about our project as many are willing to build an improved stove, know the value of it in terms of their health, and appreciate the plans.

otherwise on the home front, we have an intact kitchen ceiling! last night we had a hail storm mixed with furious rain. all was intact and leakfree!!! water ran down the streets like rivers. it ws amazing even for an oregonian to experience.

and on the health scene, i am registered for physical therapy three days a week through the end of the month. i met my doctor there who apparently has a disabled daughter who also goes to this clinic. i thanked him profusely as if he had not helped me i would be in a fetal position by now!! i noticed they have some very modern looking equipment including pilates balls, etc. i will let you know how it goes!

tonight i go for an eye exam! my glasses are on the outs and it´s about time. in the states and with insurance one pair run close to 600$. here i will get a free exam, and one pair of regular glasses and a pair of prescription UV sunglasses, all for 350$. how exciting! its been years since i allowed myself the extravagance of two new pairs of glasses. steve and i are talking about seeing a dentist here also. jorge, a friend here, has told us his father has worked for years making dental prosthesis´. he recommended a dentist to our friend, now gone, erika for crown work. she paid 100$ a crown and was pleased with his work. (and as an aside, jorge has perfect teeth!!) ! i am also overdue for dental work in spite of insurance in the states. so we will see.

and dad, a special message. tomas is drawing the design for me to scan and send to you. i´ll have it next week. and ellen, i will send you one also!

love to all!

Monday, January 05, 2009

a beautiful monday here; the sun is shining. steve is enroute to pisaq to a place where we discovered a better book exchange than exists in cuzco. and they even have cheesecake and he is bringing me a piece back. yummm. ( a note here: one day hitchiking from Mandorani /C´orao , a woman picked us up named Ulrike and she has a little restaurant on the plaza in Pisaq and she is the inventor of this peruvian special cheesecake and her restaurant is also where this great book exchange exists!)

so i am in town taking it easy, with a plan to catch up on the quechua i missed while ill last week. i will explain by first saying the beds here can be terrible. and i with my my less than optimal back first had a bed with a hole or sort of dip where my shoulders landed on the bed. one night i coughed hard and sprained those muscles in there and blamed the bed. (i then changed beds!) this sort of persisted and then out of the blue i developed sciatic pain first from my right butt cheek, down my right leg, which then disapppeared and then reappeared in my left butt cheek and down my left leg. it would not let loose to the degree that i could barely get out of bed let alone walk. and of course the nurse in me hobbled to the farmacia for muscle relaxants and pain pills. i slept with all of our available pillows tucked everywhere. at first it seemed to help but then it got worse nearly bringing me to tears. this of course did not sit well with steve. so i asked around on who to see and my friend rosanna sent me to a clinic called Hogar del Juan del Dios where they specialize in injuries and physical therapy. So i showed up at the hour it opened and was sent to the secretary to make an appointment for the same day at 2 PM. i then went and made many attempts to get my records of my MRI, and surgery for my disc problem. well you would think i wanted the damn white house sent to me!! one office, was kind enough to allow me to send an email giving my permission for them to release my records. well, the other wanted a signed and faxed release. they thought ahead enough to send it in spanish, albeit mexican spanish which is different than peruvian. this arrived and they at the clinic here had simply no idea what this was all about. i attempted to explain it was a law in the US to release personal medical records. so to their credit the folks at la clinica juan del dios attempted this long distance call 8 times only to have it cut off. meanwhile i had received word that this baloney of course was for my own protection. i on the other hand could see no harm in someone else receiving my MRI report! i also said this game is fine for everyone who knows the rules, but in this case it seemed absolutely ridiculous. meanwhile the pain was incrementing and as a result becoming increasingly difficult to walk! so, i saw the a doctor rozas for a mere 15 soles there. she believed it to be my sciatic nerve and that it was inflamed. she asked me to get some tests done: lumbar and sacral xray, some sort of electrical stimulation test between my muscles and nerves and then for some prescriptions. i said to her where do i get these done?? her response : en la calle. (ie., in the street!) hmm. so off i went in the taxi and i asked the kind sir to please bring me to where one gets xrays. the next thing i know i am on a street of dentists!! and he overcharged me to boot! so i hobbled to the other side of the street to hail another kind taxi driver who was very interested in our stoves but also dropped me off in front of an xray place that was closed!! i ended up looking over all the papers again and discovered to my surprise the clinic itself, juan del dios, was able to do the xrays, so off i go to the clinic again. let me just tell you getting an xray around here is nearly unmerciful. ice cold tables, no sheets no padding, no clothes, yikes!! but i got it done and was handed the films to bring to the doctor for 45 soles. they told me where i needed to go for this stimulation test at clinica pardo, which i was familiar with. i checked in and they sent me upstairs to wait for the doctor who does these tests. he is of course was late. the second i stepped away to go to the bathroom, he appeared and so did a line of other patients. there was no appointment in this case and you basically have to defend your position in the line. by this point i was in miserable pain and had not taken anything because i didn´t want to mask my symtoms. i finally got in to see him. (this after i lambasted two people shoving their way through the door by saying they were no better than children fighting to get on a bus and why could they not respect the line of people waiting before them?!) i then meet a Dr Ore and handed him the orders of the previous doctor rozas. he promptly said i don´t need this test, did yet another exam, seeing how much pain i was in and near tears. he looked at my xrays and did not believe i have herniated my disk further, and that with the bed and posture i simply have inflamed the sciatic nerve. he looked at her prescriptions and said they were not sufficient. he decided i needed two injections, one that night with a steroid and antiinflammatorio and the next night a repeat of the antiinflammatorio. he had one of the drugs and he gave it to me along with some samples of an oral antiinflmmatorio. this cost 60 soles, but for the first time all day felt i was in good hands! so, then with precriptions in hand, off i hobbled and hopped into taxis to not one but four different farmacias to buy the drugs for the injection. (here the meds are not in the clinics or hosptials, one has to purchase them first, including syringes and then return to the clinic for the injection.) then i returned one more time to the clinic of Dr Ore and saw the nurse who gave me the injection. and thankfully i finally headed home beside myself with exhaustion and pain. it was within minutes of arriving home and getting in bed the meds helped and steve fed me a yummy dinner of spaghetti. and it has gotten better since then. Dr Ore also prescribed physical therapy that i´ll start on wednesday or thursday for 10 sessions.

so there you go. medical care in peru. yes, its available, but sorely inconvenient.

on a more positive note, as i write los trabajadores are completing the repair of our ceiling in the kitchen!! Pedro came to visit us for the night from sipascancha and it was a pleasure to cook for him, treat him to a hot shower and give him medicines he needed for la gripe (like the flu). tomorrow or the next day we are expecting company from trujillo, old friends of mine, a couple, Rosa and Armando and their son Piero. (yet another god child!) tomorrow we will buy a new camara and wednesday we go to the market at san pedro to buy 25 baskets for our retention cookers. we are underway in collecting sacks to provide insulation for the pots in the cookers. and on thursday we go to córao to get the official list and give tomas the money to begin buying our materials. and yes, wednesday or thursday i also start physical therapy!

so now i am off for a rest before 4 hours of catchup quechua and my treat of cheescake. love to all. Laurie

ps more on quechua the next post and dad, i will get tomas to draw me the design and send it to you as soon as i can!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

happy new year to all! we just got back from having dinner with friends and their family. she even cooked a turkey!! it was all very nice. my favorite part was after dinner when we all began to toast and drink the wine. (yes, they drink it after eating!) first, nino toasted in spanish, in that formal yet warm way peruvians´do. then his wife´s father toasted us all in quechua, it was quite beautiful. finally i joined in and toasted everyone in english. everyone thought it was all wonderful! and after the wine was gone, adela´s father slipped out for a bit and returned with a sack of coca leaves. we then all took a handful of coca leaves and started chewing!

for those of you who remember a previous entry of mine regarding a young woman needing a job in the states so to practice english for four months, she is happily in new Jersey, staying with a fellow peruvian. the program is letting her look for a job there! so all's well that ends well.

speaking of quechua, steve and i are taking a class in it at rosanna´s school. we even have homework sort of conjugating verbs in singular and plural. they start with a "root" or in spanish a "raiz" and from there suffies are added. let me tell you a word has the potential to become very long!! thankfully the accent is almost always the second syllable from the last! its enough of a mouthful to say!

so yesterday steve went home with our laundry while i waited at the school for the second session of our class. and you wouldn´t believe but when he walked in the kitchen the ceiling had fallen in!! bamboo, plaster, mud everything, had hit the table and went from there! for those of you who know steve, you can imagine his reaction!! anyway he told one of the workers who apparently shrugged his shoulders saying something to effect, "too bad, tomorrow's a holiday!" well i was waiting in rosanna's office drinking a bit of wine, bringing in the new year. steve came in huffing and puffing telling the story of what had happened. i called the landlord and the worker had told him nothing of the fact our ceiling was sitting on the damn floor! i insisted he get in there and repair it. after the phone call, i was applauded for my firmness by rosanna and her boyfriend mario! so, we came home and it was mostly repaired. but not totally. while cooking, and with it raining outside, it was leaking. oh well. life in peru. hopefully tomorrow they´ll finish up the job!

tomorrow we go back for a full day of quechua. whew. on saturday i am off to a clinic where they specialize in orthopedic stuff. i have had this mystery traveling pain/muscle tightness in my back to my right butt cheek and then to the left. lord knows what in the hell it is. i have had enough reminders of the limited functionality of my body! so i am hoping its explainable, like sciatica or something and they have a therapist there. we will see.

the eight of the month we return to mandorani to see who actually wants a stove. we have measuring to do in regards to the retention cookers previously mentioned. soon it will all be underway and meanwhile we will start our new year off on a new foot. all best to everyone and as always we miss you.