Remnants of a boondoggle

A while back we took a drive behind Calca. We were just driving around the countryside with no particular place to go when we stumbled upon an unusual sight: the groundwork for what was supposed to be the Southern Camisea natural gas pipeline, passing a stone’s throw behind a small settlement.

The homes in this rural area are barely more than mud block huts with straw roofs. There are no paved roads, little if any health care infrastructure, and teachers from the city barely show up a few days a week to teach in the nearest schools. Yet somehow the powers that be thought that running a gas pipeline from pristine jungle over the Andes mountains was the best way to invest in the future of Peru. The powers that be in Peru during the first 2 decades of the 21st century sure loved their so-called “mega-projects”, with the most infamous of course the Interoceanic highway.

Eventually the Southern natural gas pipeline got cancelled in the fallout of the Odebrecht scandal, which it should be noted would have never existed if it were not for a court case in the US.

Peru’s constitutional crisis explained

  • The President is corrupt, incompetent and does not act with the best interest of the country in mind.
  • Congress and the Judicial branch are corrupt, incompetent and do not act with the best interest of the country in mind.
  • 60% of people working in public service are incompetent, corrupt and do not act with the best interest of the country in mind.

A nation will be sad tonight (UPDATED)

The only question is will it be Peru or Argentina? Unless there’s a draw in the Argentina – Peru World Cup 2018 match tonight, in which case both teams hold on to feeble hopes for a berth in the 2018 World Cup, the winner is likely in and the loser is likely out. Argentina hasn’t been out of a World Cup tournament in basically living memory and Peru hasn’t been in one in basically the same time frame, so tonight 2 nations will be on edge.

Calling that affair a “World Cup” is a bit odd when you consider that the United Kingdom alone could in theory send as many teams to the big event as all of South America combined(*) Sure that’s only a theoretical possibility but in practice it’s likely that the UK will send 50 or 75% as many teams to the so-called World Cup as South America will. TV money have anything to do with that?

Now for the real question, where will Otto sleep tonight? An Argentina fan in Peru, things could get dicey tonight in the Otto Rock home. If you need a place to stay Otto, let me know, Mamacita Linda has an extra apartment with a big TV!

(*) Excluding the small Guyana type countries that nobody believes really exist.

UPDATE: Argentina-Peru 0-0. Everything will be decided next Tuesday.

Rosemary

At breakfast today, during a conversation Mamacita Linda was having with our maid Vasilia, I learned that the Spanish word “romero” means Rosemary, the herb. I didn’t know that before. Mamacita Linda has been bothered for a while by a minor discomfort in her ear and our maid Vasilia suggested some natural concoction with “romero” would help ease the discomfort.

I didn’t know “romero” means Rosemary so you can imagine the surprised look I got from the two of them when I blurted out “If I ever have another son – which I’m not – I’d want to call him Romero.” They looked at me all puzzled so I added “After Bishop Romero.”

More puzzled looks.

I was surprised neither my wife nor our maid knew anything about Bishop Romero. It’s not polite to talk about girls’ ages but both Vasilia and Mamacita Linda are old enough to remember when poverty and social injustice were far more obvious in Latin America than today.

When you have 3 little ones, you live in the moment, the experience of 3 little kids is just so overwhelming. So on the rare occasions we discuss life before marriage and kids, it feels almost foreign, like a previous life. I explained to Mamacita Linda and Vasilia how I used to fly shrimp larvae from a shrimp farm in the Florida Keys to Honduras many moons ago and got to know Central America a little bit. Even though I didn’t know him well, I attended a few meetings with the late Ambassador White who spoke out against social injustice and the geopolitical forces that perpetuated it in Central America for too long.

Neither Vasilia nor Mamacita Linda knew much about the complicated history of El Salvador but our conversation quickly turned to Peru. Not unlike El Salvador, the latter part of the 20th century was a very tough chapter in the history of Peru, with hyperinflation and the Shining Path terrorism. Mamacita Linda talked about how the Shining Path terrorism wasn’t felt too badly here in Cusco but she remembers as a kid seeing the reports about car bombs in Lima on TV.

“It was bad in Lima”.

There’s no such thing as a lesser evil or trauma when it comes to kids living in a world marred by violence but when Vasilia finally spoke up, her story was much more personal. Growing up in the country she didn’t experience Shining Path terrorism over the TV but very personally. Her parents would hide out behind the house whenever the Shining Path guerillas came to town, or at least hide the kids. The guerillas would come and take whatever they’d want and terrorize the town. Fortunately Vasilia and her family all lived through it. Her grandfather wasn’t so lucky, one day the Shining Path guerillas came to town, took Vasilia’s grandfather away and he was never seen again.

To the average tourist or casual observer there isn’t much history of terrorism in Peru nowadays but for those who were affected the wounds are still there.

That’s OK, he’s always been old

Some of the places I used to live have a very high median age, Belgium, Florida. I remember walking into the old Langford Hotel in Winter Park with a friend of mine who was in his 60s at the time. One of the patrons at the bar said in all seriousness “nice to see a couple of young guys in here!” So I’m a bit fascinated in Peru by the mob of young people you see everywhere, the median age here is so much younger than in the places I used to live.

Mamacita Linda went to Lima earlier this week to see Aerosmith live. Big week for rock fans here in Peru, Aerosmith played in Lima on Monday and today the much hyped Guns N’ Roses reunion tour hits Lima. BTW, is that why you’re on the road Otto?

While Mamacita Linda was in Lima for the concert, her and a few friends were browsing rock stars on Youtube and she called me in a great big panic:

Mamacita Linda: “Papiiiiiiiiii!!!”
Me: “Erghh? You OK?”
Mamacita Linda: “Nooooo!!!”
Me: “What happened?”
Mamacita Linda: “We were looking up videos on Youtube and we saw Jon Bon Jovi, he’s old now!!!!!”
Me: “Erghh? He’s about 10 years older than me?”
Me: “And by the way, you just saw Aerosmith, I think Steven Tyler is older than Jon Bon Jovi.”
Mamacita Linda: “But for me Steven Tyler was always an old guy, so it doesn’t bother me that he’s really an old guy. But Bon Jovi used to be young and PAPI*!”

That’s one of the sentiments that fascinates me the most: the young people in Peru just know when they see an older person, that that person has always been old.

I have to admit, subconsciously I do the opposite: when I see all these young people who don’t remember a world without cellphones or internet, I somehow think that in 20 years time they’re going to understand a world without internet, cellphones or 24 hour news just because I used to know that world once, when I was the age these young kids are now. Of course that’ll never happen, no matter how old these young people ever grow up to be, they’ll never go back in time to a world without internet or cellphones.

(*) “PAPI” is used to describe handsome guys.

Arriba o Abajo?

When you’re standing on the North Pole, any direction you take is due South. You and your best friend can be standing back to back on the North Pole, step away in opposite directions and both of you will be walking due South. I recommend doing this in the summer. The same is true if you’re standing on the South Pole, any direction you step away from the Pole is due North.

In a city like Cusco, high up in the Andes mountains, the locals have the same kind of directional system. Everything is either up or down. Arriba o Abajo? The only variations are if some place is way up or way down from where you’re at than it’s Arriiiiiiba o Abaaaaaajjo?

The other day Mamacita Linda was going to the market to buy fresh groceries. I ask “which market”.

“The one arriiiiiba”

There’s about 4 or 5 markets “arriba” from us but since she said “arriiiiiiba” that narrowed it down to either the main market in downtown Cusco or the Huancaro market.

A while back we took the kids to a birthday party at a friend’s house. I’d never been to the house before so I ask where it is.

“Abaaaaaaaaaajo todavia”

That describes an area of probably 100,000 people, maybe more.

Sometimes you don’t know if they mean “arriba/abajo” in the immediate sense or in the long run. For example, the main avenue coming into Cusco, Avenida Cultura, generally slopes up towards the city center and down towards the outlying areas of San Jeronimo and Saylla, but there are a few stretches where the slope is opposite. Whenever we’re out and about I’d give my earthly kingdom for some left/right directions once in a while!!

* * *

The farthest North I’ve been is Qikiqtarjuaq, 68 degrees North latitude.

Runway at Qikiqtarjuaq CYVM

The runway at Qikiqtarjuaq (CYVM) is marked to TRUE North, not magnetic North.

Mooney Acclaim on ramp at Qikiqtarjuaq (CYVM) airport.

Mooney Acclaim on ramp at Qikiqtarjuaq (CYVM) airport.

Sad sad sad

Mamacita linda is so sad right now we almost adopted another puppy, but not even that could cheer her up. The result of the Presidential elections here shows that there will be a runoff between Keiko Fujimori and either PPK or Veronika Mendoza. Right now exit polls show a statistical dead heat between PPK and Veronika but the sentiment here is that Veronika has the advantage (later reporting areas will likely favor her over PPK).

The thought of a Veronika presidency is unbearable to Mamacita Linda. I don’t have a dog in this fight but I don’t think Veronika Mendoza has the right composure or vision to be President of Peru at this time either.

FWIW a friend who knows Veronika personally (and knows her quite well) tells me she’s a good person.

Update: With a good part of the votes now counted the 2nd round runoff will be between PPK and Keiko Fujimori, which is less bad for Peru IMHO. Official results here.

Multiple guess: 2016 Peru presidential candidates

Which of the following is a candidate for president in the 2016 Peru presidential elections:

a) A drunk.
b) A cheat.
c) A guy allegedly tied to the murder of a journalist.
d) A dude who insults supporters and whose body guards beat up hecklers.
e) All of the above.

Winners and losers of the 2016 Peru presidential elections so far:

WINNER: Keiko Fujimori, because she’ll be the next Prez of Peru and has managed to present herself as a rather reasonable person and candidate in the midst of this entire farce that passes for democratic elections.

WINNER: Julio Guzman, a guy nobody knew a few months ago and became a leading candidate before getting banned by the electoral body (for now). No matter what happens in this election cycle he looks likely to be an influential politico going forward.

LOSER: Everybody who hoped there would be substantive change for the better any time soon.

LOSER: Whoever got paid to write Cesar Acuña’s thesis back in the day because you know that dude’s in deep doo-doo now that everybody knows he or she copied/pasted the whole thing.