Why is the word “shampoo” always the smallest print on the shampoo bottle??

Happy New Year! Like everyone I hope the turn of the calendar brings good things. Love, hope, healing and solutions to the big problems of the world as well as the little issues in our own lives.

Speaking of problems of the world, let’s start with one that’s easy to solve. The new house we live in here in Calca has a fine solar powered water tank for the hot water supply. This baby is glorious. I mean, it’s a bit of a drag in rain season when the sun may not show for 3 days straight but on a sunny day, we’ve got hot water ranging from scalding hot on the low end to microwaved lava on the high side, what with the UV factor here in the Andes mountains totally of the scale. Forget about medium to lukewarm hot water heaters and low flow save-the-world shower heads, with our solar powered tank we can burn skin totally guilt free and I love it.

There is one detail though. For some reason I love washing my sexy naked body in scalding hot water but I don’t like the scalding hot quite as much during those crucial 15 minutes while I’m trying to find the shampoo bottle, picking up bottle after bottle after bottle to try and find that lucky one.

Once upon a time when I was young and single finding the shampoo bottle was easy: there was no more than one or two bottles in the shower. Nowadays there’s about 18. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, salt and oil something. Separate instances for colored hair and frizzy hair and shiny hair, plus a half a dozen near-empty bottles that must remain in the shower but never be used again, for some reason.

Not that I’m picky – at one point I resorted to washing my hair with bar soap no mas – but according to everyone else who lives in this house each and every one of those bottles is special and there’s only one designated winner that papi can use. So I have to pick up a dozen or so bottles and read the hallucinating verbiage on every one of them.

  • Extracts of coffee and avocado
  • Brilliant and radiant
  • Repairs and heals
  • Full of vitamins and beta kerosene
  • Moisturizes (moisture, shower, what am I missing here?)
  • Free of gluten and beaver liver products

And somewhere in the middle of all the exotic words and pictures, in teeny tiny little letters, the word “Shampoo”.

Here’s a suggestion for all you P&G type multinationals, a slam dunk product idea. I know you can’t do anything about the small print on the back of the bottle but on the front of the bottle, just a one-liner, 3 words:


Specialized Riprock meets Sacred Valley of the Inca (and my son Milan)

I had no idea what I was buying the other day. We’d set out to buy a new bicycle for our son Milan and ended up walking half way around Cusco. The first bike store we’d gone to was closed, the second store was closed, on our way to the third store we got side-tracked into the Post Office, a vain attempt to find an Ali Express package that went missing back in March. Long story short we found a Specialized Peru bike store around the corner from the Post Office and out of their last 4 or 5 bikes in inventory(*) they actually had the right size for our son.

I had no idea Specialized was a brand name leave alone that they are actually the brand most credited with inventing the mountain bike but walking into the store it was obvious these were high-end bikes. We’re not wealthy but we’re comfortable and there wasn’t any way I was going to walk to 3 more stores. Since we live in the Peruvian countryside now splurging on a good bike for the kid seemed like a defensible theory so we picked up a Specialized Riprock for the little dude.

To be abundantly clear my son would have loved any other new bike just the same and how much fun your kids have with their bike has nothing to do with the price of the bike. Taking them out to play is all that matters.

With that disclaimer out of the way and not to mince words, my son’s new Riprock is freaking awesome.

Since we live in the Sacred Valley now there is literally 1 paved road within a 3 mile radius of our house, everything else is rock, dirt and gravel. Back when we lived in the city my son was still riding his little 12″ bicycle but it was already too small for him, even in the city. Here on the country roads he really couldn’t ride it any more, 3″ rocks everywhere was just too rough on the little 12″ tires. With his new Riprock my son eats mud for breakfast and slings rocks at lunchtime. I honestly thought the oversized tires were a bit silly when I first saw them in the store but they really help with his balance on slippery mud and when hitting rocks. Now we can easily ride from our house to the main square in Calca, splashing through every puddle and mooing at every cow along the road.

The first time we took him out on his new bike he was afraid to get it dirty. About 3 days later you could hardly even see the bike’s original color anymore. I’m sure most kids fortunate enough to ride a Specialized bike live in nice suburbs and not on dirt roads but that’s OK too. Living in the Peruvian country side isn’t better per se than living in a nice suburb, or vice versa. Everyone should live their life. But if you do live on a dirt road, your kid needs a new bike and the price tag doesn’t affect your way of life, get a Riprock and make sure your washer machine is tuned up 🙂

(*) Many stores in Peru have had inventory shortages due to COVID-19, imports have been bogged down since March.

Peru’s COVID-19 vaccine debacle explained

Vaccine buyer dude(tte): “Hi Minsa, we need some money to buy the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Minsa: “Fill out the request.”

Vaccine buyer dude(tte): “Here you go!”

Minsa: “No no no no. You have to take it to Mesa de Partes, around the corner over there.”

Vaccine buyer dude(tte): “Hi Mesa de Partes, I have a request here for some money to buy the COVID-19 vaccine.”

… stamp stamp sign stamp finger print copy of DNI …

Mesa de Partes: “5 to 7 business days”

Vaccine buyer dude(tte): “Sweet, so in 5 to 7 business days we get the money to buy the COVID-19 vaccine?”

Mesa de Partes: “No no no no. In 5 to 7 business days we will get this to the right person.”

Vaccine buyer dude(tte): “Wait, so you’re telling me it will take you 5 to 7 business days just to take this request back to the guy who gave it to me 2 minutes ago? That’s so outrageous.”

Mesa de Partes: “Next!”

Vaccine buyer dude(tte): “Wait wait wait. There’s a pandemic going on. There’s got to be a way you can expedite this?!”

Mesa de Partes: “Next!”

… (5 to 7 business days later) …

Vaccine buyer dude(tte): “Hi Minsa, did you get a chance to approve the request for funds to buy the COVID-19 vaccine?”

Minsa: “Well let me see….”

Minsa: “Says here this vendor isn’t registered to do business in Peru. We’ll need their application, ficha RUC, 3 years of tax returns and a sworn declaration of something.”

Minsa: “Also a sample of the product they want to sell so we can evaluate if it meets criteria.”

Vaccine buyer dude(tte): “But how am I supposed to get a sample of the vaccine if you don’t want to provide any funds to buy it?”

Minsa: “Surely you must know someone who lives in the USA who can buy a sample for you?”

Minsa: “If their ficha RUC is a RUS then we’ll also need the individual owners’ sworn declaration of something.”

Minsa: “As soon as you have it all ready take it over to Mesa de Partes, around the corner over there.”

Vaccine buyer dude(tte): “But there’s a pandemic.”

Minsa: “Next!”

Riding a Trinx Striker from Cusco to the Sacred Valley of the Inca

After 13 years in the big city we recently moved out of Cusco to a house in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We live near Calca now, about an hour away from Cusco by car. The Sacred Valley isn’t comparable to the truly rural villages of the Peruvian Andes but it’s still relatively “country”. A world of difference from the city for sure.

No need to congratulate me on the new house, it’s just another rented place. Once I win the lottery I’ll actually be able to buy or build a house, with the way the prices of land are here. But I digress.

First order of business once moved in was to get some new bicycles. In the city of Cusco it’s next to impossible to ride a bicycle but here in the Sacred Valley riding a bicycle is perfect for short hops to town or the store, or just to ride around with the kids. We didn’t find any bike stores in Calca so we bought a machine for my son Milan (more on that one later) and a full-size Trinx Striker mountain bike in Cusco. The former fit in the back of the car to take to our new house in Calca but the full size bike didn’t, so I decided to ride it from Cusco to Calca.

How hard could it be? I used to ride 100+ kilometers in a day when I was younger. I hail from the very same country as Eddy Merckx and I owned a bicycle as recently as 1994. There’s no sarcasm in that, for middle-aged guys like me 1994 does seem recent.

I personally haven’t seen the inside of a gym since high school but a friend of mine who ran marathons told me that the secret is to not exert yourself. If you exert yourself, you’ll get tired. If you don’t exert yourself – he said, run at a pace that allows you to talk without being short of breath – you won’t get tired but have all the endurance you need.

The ride from Cusco to Calca starts of with about an 1,800 feet (550 meters) climb, starting around 10,800 feet elevation up to about 12,600 feet elevation. From there it’s downhill to about 9,800 feet (Pisaq) and about 20 more kilometers relatively flat to Calca.

I heeded my friend’s advice and rode as effortlessly as possible up the hill leaving Cusco. About halfway up the hill a bunch of really cool mountain-bike pro dudes came flying down the hill and gave me a friendly wave. I could tell they were cool and professional by the expensive bikes and fancy gear they were using. I told myself I was even cooler because I was actually riding up the hill, not just down the hill.

About 60 percent up the hill I noticed a distinct weakness in my friend’s “don’t exert yourself theory”: namely, if you don’t exert yourself the darn Trinx doesn’t move up the 12,000 foot hill. About 80 percent up the hill I seriously considered waving down any station wagon taxi (there’s a lot of them in Peru) pay them a hundred Soles to take me to Calca and another thousand Soles to swear to everlasting secrecy. Proud to say I managed to get up to the top of the hill without having to walk or hang on to the back of a car. I wavered a few times on my friend’s “don’t exert yourself” theory but I mostly stuck to it and in the end it paid off.

From there it was literally all downhill. I had firmly committed to riding downhill with extreme care, as a responsible father of 3 should. However the flesh is weak and after the first two curves I got the Trinx up to near-supersonic speeds, brake discs glowing red all the way down to Pisaq. In Pisaq my better judgment returned and I decided to take the back roads from Taray, not the main highway through the Sacred Valley which has too much traffic. I’ve got a Trinx and a bottle of Gatorade, 20 km of dirt roads can’t hurt.

As soon as I got to the house in Calca my very understanding family immediately asked me to take them for a ride, accompany them to their friend’s house, walk the dogs, fire up the grill and a few other minor things. Just another day 🙂

Peru coup update

Manuel Merino, the crooked bully who orchestrated last Monday’s illegitimate ouster of Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra has this morning resigned as interim president.

Initially the thug appeared to have support of the Lima oligarchy and the military but widespread street protests ensued. The Peruvian national police (PNP) repressed the citizen protests with excessive force, allegedly on orders that “nothing is off limits”. Last night 2 protesters, Jack Bryan Pintado Sánchez and Inti Sotelo Camargo, were killed. All indications are they were shot by police.

Subsequent to the deaths of Jack and Inti the Peruvian political class massively abandoned Manuel Merino. My guess is he’ll seek exile in Brazil before sunset tomorrow.

Peru is still in the midst of its most severe constitutional crisis since at least the beginning of this century but the people of Peru stood up and drew a line in the sand for the thugs and oligarchs. Sadly 2 young men paid for it with their lives. I hope Manuel Merino rots in jail for the rest of his days.

Coup d’état in Peru

I suppose I owe a follow up to my cryptic post of yesterday. Although I’d been meaning to write about the deterioration of the Peruvian currency (PEN – Peruvian Soles) for some time, the world headline news of the ousting of President Martin Vizcarra saw me throwing up a cryptic one-liner predicting swift demise of the PEN.

First things first: we are all fine and daily life has been mostly normal this morning. But to be abundantly clear: there was a coup d’état in Peru yesterday whereby a bunch of thugs in congress effectively voted themselves into the executive branch.

All the talking heads are talking but any time you take power of your country outside of the established constitutional order, it’s a coup d’état.

Ostensibly congress impeached the sitting President, Martin Vizcarra, on corruption allegations. Legally, congress in Peru has the authority to impeach the president but legal and legitimate are 2 different things. The big rub in this case is that Martin Vizcarra was governing without vice-president due to the political turmoil of the past few years. Without any vice-president in the executive branch, the president of congress was next in line for the presidency.

In other words, congress was the judge, jury, executioner and most importantly, the direct beneficiary of impeaching Peru’s legitimate President Martin Vizcarra. The thugs in congress trumped up some charges against the President and in a few hours of open and shut debate, voted to throw out Vizcarra and take the keys to the executive office. There is no defensible argument that it was a legitimate impeachment, the Peruvian congress voted out Peru’s president because they could and because they would be the immediate and immense beneficiaries.

The details really aren’t important. What matters here is that the constitutional order in Peru is flimsy at best, and deteriorating. Peru today is not really a constitutional democracy, its system of governance is a ruling class comprised of oligarchs and thugs under the guise of a democracy.

Just because people trot out to vote every X years does not mean the country is a constitutional democracy. Unfortunately many ordinary Peruvians simply don’t have the level of education or understanding to make the distinction between a true democracy and marking a ballot every so many years.

As for the Peruvian Sol (PEN) there are many underlying issues, from populist policies across the board (printing money) to demographics (young population) to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic but all of those things are relatively not as important as the underlying constitutional order.

My life is perfect

The other day I got up. That’s always a good thing. Mamacita Linda looked even more beautiful than normal but unfortunately she didn’t have time for, you know, the thing we never have time for.

We took a drive out to the country side to look at some land for sale in Ccorao but it was too expensive. I mean, we don’t need much. Just a small house with 4 bedrooms, a workshop for Mamacita Linda, a small office, maybe a play room, a guest room for the baby sit on weekends and an in-law apartment. That’s all.

We drove on to Calca and had lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. A friend of mine was there but he didn’t recognize me. I think he was with customers or something so after saying hi about 2 or 3 times I gave up, didn’t want to insist. He was in his own world. Or it could have been my new pandemic look, either way, it was a weird experience.

When we got back home the kids watched a Dwayne Johnson movie on the tube. I’m sure there is a good reason why I pay for satellite TV, Netflix and a half a dozen mobile/internet subscriptions. I don’t know exactly what that reason is but let me know if you figure it out. Anyhow, my son asked “Papi, why don’t you go to the gym and work out so you look like him?”

Yeah, my life is perfect. Just perfect.

Pandemic look

Singrenacocha turquoise lake

Once upon a time there was a beautiful Inca princess. She was known throughout the Tahuantinsuyo empire by her 18 ounce turquoise necklace, bestowed on her by her father the Inca.

On her 21st birthday the princess hiked with 20 of her best girl friends to Apu Ausangate as was the tradition for Inca princesses. The hike was hard and the elements harsh. Turning back without completing the hike would mean she had to give up her crown and forego her spot as the next ruler of the Inca empire to a stronger and more determined princess.

The princess and her friends soldiered on and upwards. One afternoon when their feet were hurting so bad that they were about to give up, a humming bird appeared and told the girls to chew on coca leaves as this would give them the strength to continue. The girls did as they were told but unfortunately the princess chewed on a spiked coca leaf. Around the camp fire listening to Neil Young the princess had a really bad trip and in a vision appeared her country anio 2020. Shocked by the utter incompetence of the ruling class she saw in this vision the princess asked Neil Young, “This can’t really be happening? This cannot be my country in the year 2020?!”

Alas, Neil Young shook his head and said it was really so.

The princess decided if that was to be the future of her country she would have no part of it and could not be the ruler of the empire. For the first time since she was 9 years old she took off her necklace that symbolized her status as a princess, and in a whim, threw the 18 ounce stones in a nearby lagoon. She got on the next plane to Canada and lived happily ever after.

Unfortunately the princess never looked back, she never saw the water of Laguna Singrenacocha turn colors. The tears of the princess had dissolved the stones and the water of the lagoon has remained a stunning turquoise color ever since.

Depending on the screen you’re using the color of the lake may or may not appear true. I took these pictures on my iPhone and they are unedited, as are all the pictures on this blog. I do not know how to edit pictures nor do I want to know. I want real, raw, unedited reality. With the naked eye the color is stunning, an absolutely unrivaled view.

Needless to say, the above story is totally made up, although it might very well be true if it were possible. I suppose there is a scientific explanation for the color of the water, possibly related to the snow from the nearby mountains? Fellow blogger Jim R might know, he knows about science and cosmic explosions and stuff like that.