Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day, 2011

My friends,

Victor Hugo made the observation that
Nothing else in the world...not all the so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

I saw the proof of that this Christmas Morning.

When I left Peru in September, I promised myself that the children of Maras, Urubamba, Peru would have clean drinking water not only in their school, but also in their homes, so that they could rid themselves of the parasites in their bodies. The children represented approximately 50 families. If our group of 12 health tourists could find sponsors for 50 water filters at $30 each, we could ensure that every child in this school always had clean water to drink. I knew this could be done. But I had no idea how fast this could happen.

I designed the gift card above, which could be used to make donations of water filters or to obtain donations from others. The card would be used this holiday season to raise funds. I ran this card past  John Mundy, an employee  of ProPeru, the agency that supported us during our visit in August. During that visit we built healthy cookstoves, fluorided the teeth of children, and promoted the simple ceramic water filters that could remove more than 99 percent of pathogens from drinking water.

John informed me that ProPeru was in the process of creating a Web site where such donations could be possible. The site became functional in early December, with an objective of sponsoring 250 filters for 250 families in Peru and Ghana. The amount to be raised would be $7,500.
This far exceeded my objective, which was to simply outfit all the families of Maras school children with filters, at a cost of approximately 1,500.

This morning, when I visited the Web site, I learned that in just a couple weeks, the objective had already been exceeded, with one individual accounting for more than two thirds of the targeted $7,500. His personal objective is to raise twice the original goal. Right behind this rain maker was my friend, John Mundy, who had met twice his personal objective of $500.

Clearly, this is an idea that resonated – it was an idea whose time has come.

By most standards in the world, we are incredibly wealthy. But regardless of all the material wealth we possess, one of the greatest demonstrations of this wealth is the ability to pour ourselves a clean glass of water from a tap. This is a wealth we can all afford to share.

Instead of buying more “stuff” for my friends this holiday season, I made purchases in their names -- water filters for the children of Maras.

If you want to join me this holiday season in helping individuals in third world countries have clean water to drink, I invite you to come to my personal Web page hosted by Pro World, the parent company for ProPeru. We’ve already exceeded our goal of having enough donations to serve all the Maras children – and a lot more children in Peru and Ghana. But ProWorld’s objective of 250 filters is only a beginning. There are many, many other families in Peru and Ghana who would benefit from clean water. If you want to give, don't be dissuaded by the fact that the objective has been met. There are mountains yet to climb.

If you have decided you want to participate, you can go to my Web page at  You will know you are on the right page when you see this graphic: 

 You can easily make a donation in any denomination. I started my page with the purchase of a single filter for $30.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Chapter 26: My Favorite Photos

Well, the one above is definitely my favorite. I was walking along the cobblestone street of the market in Pisac, a community where tourists go to buy the cool things nobody really needs. I came to a curb and a ball came bounding to my feet, tossed by this little guy, who had a very serious look on his face, like he wanted to make contact, but he wasn't taking any chances. I kicked it back to him with my foot, and that began a game of toss. He would throw it, I would stumble over cobblestones trying to catch it and making a general fool out of myself, and he would watch very somberly while his parents smiled. I put my hat on his head and he began to cry while everyone else laughed. So I figured they liked me, and I set up the shoot. He smiled in one of the photos, but this one really captured the mood of a very careful little guy who was both curious about and intimidated by the tall gringo with the strange hat.
 While I was in Pisac I visited a cemetery, where someone with an irreverent sense of humor preceded me and left this bit of whimsy behind:

 The other photos on this page are offered not for their design or artistic content, but for what they divulge. They recount an experience, and are presented in no particular order. I recommend that you skim them and dwell only on those that catch your fancy.
Barf: My introduction to Peru began in the Lima airport, where an ad showed a young man barfing when he should have taken his high-altitude pills.
HowThe other half lives: Cuzco, once the Inca capital, has more than 300,000 residents.
And on this rock I will build my church: This colorful wall of Inca stone work is situated at the base of a cathedral.
Blue sky: Perhaps because of the altitude and the closeness to space, Peru's skies can be a deep blue.

Print Shop: This business fitted right into the stonework from an old Inca wall.
 Tie the knot: Incas had no written language, but they did have a way of sending messages by using knotted strings. This sample was on display in the hotel where I stayed in Cuzco, which included a mini-museum of Inca artifacts. 

A guy can dream, can't he? This particular artifact, a pottery piece, seems to acknowledge man's lingering suspicion that life would only get better if you just had a penis large enough to trip over. This appears to be pre-columbian art, so this particular aspiration apparently didn't originate with the conquistadors.
 Yum! This Peruvian airline snack has a name that sounds like a duck quacking.

Soft drink: Marketed by Coca Cola, Inca Kola tastes like cream soda. The Inca were children of the sun, which probably explains the color for this popular beverage.

Peruvian electricians may have learned their skills by working with the knotted messages left behind by the Incas.
Segway: One thing I never expected to see in Peru.

Golden arches: In the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco, they are black.
No homophobes: School boys are totally comfortable walking arm in arm.

Protection: School children all wear hats as protection from the sun.
Sidewalk vendor: Every time I walked past this spot on an Urubamba street there was this lady cooking and selling food to passers-by.
Bleak: The salt ponds at Maras created an unforgettable landscape.
Harvest: A worker drags the salt crystals into heaps where they drain and dry.
Stairway to heaven: Those stones sticking out of the sides of the terraces will take you 500 feet up to the top of this depression, which the Incas apparently used to test how crops grew in different microclimates. As smart as they were, why couldn't they invent the bannister?

Be honest! Basic translation of the Urubamba sign: "We are organized to live and work in a atmosphere of improved security" There were several signs like that opposing delinquency and crime.

Courtesy: "Motos" are motorcycles with cabs. For about 35 cents you can go anywhere in Urubamba. The drivers scoot down alleys, beeping at every intersection to avoid collisions, and also beeping to warn pedestrians they are coming so that they don't step sideways into harm's way. The drivers are skilled and patient enough to wait until this stray dog finishes its business.

Shaman: On our second day in Urubamba, with coca leaves in hand, he held what I believe was a pagan ceremony asking the spirits of the mountains and Mother Earth to welcome and protect us. But he closed with a Christian benediction.
Sacrifice: The Shaman's ceremony included burning a variety of artifacts, including an ice-cream sandwich and cookies.

Organized: With it's new smoke-free cook stove this well-organized kitchen is soot-free and something to show off to the neighbors.

Well, hello! Jasvir, a Sihk and a native of Punjab, India, was our pharmacist. This gentle soul had no trouble making friends with a little girl who peeked at her from a doorway, although the little tyke was somewhat shy, as the next photo illustrates:
Apu Chichon: The spirit of the Chichon glacier is always there, looming two miles above Urubamba. This view is from Ccotowincho, "Little Afghanistan."
Array: One of the beauties of the ProPeru cook-stove is that its cooking wells can be tailored to the homeowner's pots. By fitting into those wells, the pots take full advantage of the stove's heat.
Hombres: What I like about this picture is that it reminds me of two men whose primary interest is in helping others. Jaime Olave at the left, is ProPeru's cookstove guru. He has a genius for simplicity. The stoves are cheap to make and easy to repair. They are tailored to the situation of the user. And Jaime understands that while the homeowner feels smoke in the house keeps it warmer and discourages fleas on the animals, that same homeowner can grasp the concept that soot on the walls helps explain that nagging cough. With Jaime is the president of Ccotowincho, who asked that we hold a clinic on the day we installed stoves. There was no sense of self-importance in evidence, just a humble concern about people in his community who urgently needed to meet with health professionals.

The armada: There's something about a fleet of motos streaming down a narrow, dusty road with a carload of volunteers on a community visit. Drum roll, anyone? How about a couple bars of Pomp and Circumstance?
Modesty: The president of Chichubamba is impeccably dressed, as he hoists a ceramic pot filter and dodges the clothesline while explaining his community's potable water system. What struck me was that he was there for the mission, not for himself.
Maria Elena invited us in to see her kitten-suckling dog
My very first cook stove, and the family that received it. We had to scrape the soot off the wall so that the mud that glued the chimney to the wall would stick.
Four burner:  The stove above was installed in a home restaurant by Jaime Olave. It has four burners, and the stove is running long hours, but as the picture indicates, there is no smoke in the kitchen, and therefore none in the bedroom that the kitchen leads into.

The women:  My understanding is that the braids are connected to indicate the woman is married.
Sawdust: Ernestina sifts sawdust from local carpenters to obtain a grain size suitable for mixing with clay. Some of the sawdust burns out when the clay is fired, creating the tiny openings water seeps through.
 Marketing: Who needs fancy? The message is as clear as a cool glass of water: Quality of water. efficient. economical; easy to use; no change in the flavor; maintain fresh water. versatile. Most of the words are "cognates," meaning they are virtually the same in Spanish and English. Now go out and buy one of those ceramic pot filters, gringo!
Training: Dr. Chuck Morrison showed our team members how to take blood pressure prior to conducting a community clinic.
End of the day: Vendors head home as the market closes; one woman hoists a toddler into the blanket that holds the child to her back.
Heebie Geebies: Jesus will never seem the same to me after this poster. Jeeper's, creepers, where'dja get those peepers? Is this some sort of Little Orphan Annie redux?
Clinic day: Kids at the elementary school at Maras wait to have their teeth fluorided and to learn how to wash their hands.
Excited: Is it that they never saw gringos before, or are they just glad to cut class?
Or maybe the just knew they had some new playmates, Like Jasvir, above, who held a boy's top while it spun in her hand:
Curious: She's only washing her hands! I wish I knew what those kids were thinking.
Primitive: Alveena wants to study to be a physician's assistant, but right now, she's just a novice in a baseball cap in a country far from home. The fluoride she is applying to this youngster's teeth will help stop decay.

When we showed up at one community school to conduct a health clinic, a local summoned the families by blowing on a conch shell:
It worked. They showed up:
Looking up: I like this photo of Amanda Gary. She really got into her flouriding duty:
Reconstructive surgery: Pleased by Amanda's enthusiasm was this lady, below, who clearly benefited from special medical help, probably as an infant. She shows just the slightest trace of a hare lip, which can make it hard for children to eat and can therefore lead to their deaths:
On one of our clinic days, in which we fluorided the teeth of 150 children (!), I pulled maternal duty, rocking this baby while her mother attended to a second child. The eyelids got heavier as my smock got damper and damper.

Three wheels on my wagon: One particular clinic day ended on a humorous note: When we were cleaning up after the clinic, I noticed that the truck from the health center, below,  wasn't going anywhere:
Lesson: Ya gotta be flexible

Sentries: As our group paraded into Ccotowincho to scout out locations for cook stoves, these youngsters, above,  eyed the gringos from atop a bank.
On another visit for a health survey, these other boys kept a wary eye on us,
while this pair entertained themselves with an old bicycle tire that they rolled down a hill:

Almost a uniform: Below, a woman in Urubamba displays the customary attire: a tall white hat, long braids, and a blanket that serves as a knapsack.
 Those hats are so cool! I want one. Problem is, hats like the one below are only worn by women:

Up from the earth: The people of Ccotowincho are impoverished, but that doesn't stop them. They turn the earth under the feet into building materials, virtually pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.
Ceramic pot filter press: The lever does the initial squeezing, and the 20-ton jack finishes the job.
Removal: After pressing, the "greenware" is removed from the mold for drying and firing.
A home in Ccotowincho: "Everyone who lives here comes from a worse place."
To enter this home you step down from the street.
Everyone an entrepreneur: The "beer" that this sign is advertising for sale may actually be chicha, a mildly-alcoholic drink brewed from corn and drunk by everyone.

Staying busy: Doin' the laundry; making the bricks...these people stay busy.
Wash day: coming home from the laundromat.
The laundromat:
Doin' the laundry: The water source was a concrete channel that carried glacial runoff.
Sifting: In his backyard a Ccotowincho resident draws down a hillside, sifting the earth for materials to make more barro (mud) for bricks.
Moto repair: I just missed the photo of this man under his moto working on the chain drive. Note the tripod jack the vehicle leans against to provide access to the undercarriage.
Who needs billboards? All Humberto needs to tell people he wants to make big changes as mayor of Urubamba is some paint and an available wall.
PSN offers a different idea on the wall below: "First those who have the least."

Ubiquitous: Every roof has these critters on them. I'm not sure exactly what they are supposed to do.

Chain gang: Off in a field a team of 20-40 men and women were sifting dirt, which was carried up to the street, where these folks were mixing it with water, making barro. A few days later there was a new wall in the gap where the man with the yellow shirt is standing.
Not just any lemonade stand: Nope, this lady was selling chicha. She had set up on a sidewalk opposite my room at a hotel in Aguas Calientes (hot springs,) where the bus leaves for Machu Picchu.

Seen it all before: The llamas were watching just one more tourist bus arrive at Machu Picchu when I shot this photo.
Theme park? If it wasn't genuine, you'd be tempted to think some developer invented the fairy-land setting for this Wonder of the World.
Almost Enthralled: If you think they are pleased to be there, check out the guy in the lower right.
Caretaker's hut? I think that's the name that's been given to this building.

Where's my nine iron? I have trouble not envisioning the layout above as a putt-putt golf course. Meanwhile, the scene below almost looks like a diorama, carved out of balsa wood. It's all so meticulous, and it's set off against a mountain with a virtually vertical face.

In the groove: A lot of people try to make the visit into a religious experience.
Terraces: My understanding is that the soil within the terraces was organized to promote drainage.
Shaping: The Incas worked their rocks into place by grinding them down to fit. The size of the rock and the straightness of the lines in this photo speak for themselves. Pictured is Jill Wakefield, chancellor of Seattle Central Community College.
Curves:  A great fit, particularly when the lines aren't straight.
 Wascally Wabbit: The Incas were pagans, so why shouldn't they believe in the Easter Bunny? I think that's him there in this rock arrangement. And he looks like he got out of the wrong side of the bed.

Perspective: I like this picture for its demonstration of the scale of Machu Picchu.

Llamas are curious: 
Llamas are regal: 
But sometimes llamas are just a little bit aloof. People who see this photo sometimes just laugh. There's something about it that's just funny to them.
Rocky road: One look at this trail to the Sun Gate convinces me I would not have wanted to be a messenger for the Incas.
She'll be comin' around the mountain... However, when I shot this photo I could imagine a courier running up from below with an important message.
No surprises: From this point on the trail to the sun gate it would be possible to keep an eye on what was going on below. I don't think it was easy to sneak up on the Incas.
National flower:  This is the Kantu, for which the ceramic pot filter is named. These were growing along the Inca trail to the Sun Gate.
Welcoming Committee: And here it is, the Sun Gate, and some other folks who wanted to see it that day.

Cui Cui!  This last photo is one I took of Ernestina, the lady who squeezes our mud into ceramic pot filter greenware. She was bundling up these grasses to feed her "cui," (guinea pigs), who are named for the squeeky sound they make as they scurry around the house. 
Since I was leaving she offered her face for one of those cheeky-cheeky kisses hispanic people bestow and she whispered something that sounded like "professor" in my ear. Later that day someone else referred to me by that title. (It's because you're always taking notes," explained Joe Lerman, our translator and guide from ProPeru. That, and my safari pants and shirt, Tilly hat and  fly-fisheman's vest that holds my notes, pens and camera gear. I'd like to say it makes me look distinguished, but peculiar would probably be a better description.

One final photo: This is one of the phony $100 bills that someone slipped into Jasvir's wallet, replacing real currency. That was pretty cruel, but Jasvir handled it with grace and resignation.
Jasvir is a native of the Punjab, who returned to India, where she spent a year in volunteer work, including several months serving in an orphanage. When the earthquake devastated Haiti, she fought with her personnel director and won the opportunity to spend two weeks there, organizing a pharmacy from the drugs that were donated. She is a class act.

For those of you who have followed the Inca Diaries, it's been good to have you along for the ride.