Thursday, January 31, 2008

Show me the money!

Living in Peru, one of the changes that I had to adjust to was the new money. The Peruvan SOL is the currency that is used here. However, American Dollars are also used to purchase large things such as automobiles or property. I am able to withdrawal American Dollars from ATM's in Peru, then I have to change my dollars into SOLES. A year ago, the exchange rate was 3.2 to 1. For every dollar, I would recieve $3.20 in Peruvan currency. Due to the decline of the Dollar, the current rate is 2.9 to 1. That is a 10% decrease in spending power! While living in the States I did not care about exchange rates but living in Peru, I pay very close attention to it.

Another interesting thing that I have had to deal with is false bills and coins. It seems as though with every purchase, cashiers are holding bills up to the light or closely examining coins to check for authenticity. They other day I was paying my taxi fare and the driver gave me a coin back claiming it was not authentic. I have posted the picture here, can you guess which of the three coins is false? Look closely. I'll let you know at the end of this post.

I have also had to get used to using coins. 1, 2, and 5 SOL coins are very popular. Interestingly enough, all prices are rounded to the nearest 10 cent amount so the 1 and 5 cent pieces are never used except at the Airport. Yes that is right, the $18.52 airport tax is not rounded up or down. Thus every time you fly you get 3 pennies. There is a missionary working with SAM that is collecting those pennies and hopes to one day pay the full tax in pennies!

Speaking of flying, my favorite bill here is the $10. It has a picture of a famous Peruvian aviator on one side and on the other side, his biplane flying inverted over the country side! So did you guess the correct coin? It is the middle one, there are a few things that give it away. The quality and thickness of the writing "UN Nuevo SOL" are not the same as the other two. The false coin also does not have the 5 dots above the word "UN".

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Bike, the Base, the Bird, and the Boat

During my recent visit to Pucallpa, I was reunited with my "moto". Having survived the trip down from the USA, I was able to put the bike together again and go for a few rides. As you will see from the "Base pictures" the road is dirt so a "dirt" bike, is a good thing to have. While it was expensive to ship the bike down to Peru, I have not seen another one like it or one in that good of condition for being 6 years old. I'm thankful to have it waiting for me in Pucallpa when I return in March.

The South America Mission flight operations are located about 20 minutes outside of Pucallpa. Since one of our planes is a float plane, we need access to water. The SAM base is located at the end of a dirt road that dead ends into a 2 mile long lake. Extra bonus points for telling me the make of the car we are driving in.

The hanger along with fuel storage, parts room, fix-it shop, and 5 houses for pilots and mechanics, are all in this one location. It still remains to be seen whether I will live out at the airbase or in town.

Returning from Sunday morning church service in Pucallpa, we stopped by a local food stand to pick up lunch. This parrot was happily chewing away on some nuts from a nearby tree. I'm not sure it can speak any Spanish but it was very accustomed to having people around him.

One of the ways to beat the heat and humidity is to go out on the lake and water ski. Although it was only my 3rd time on skis, I was able to drop a ski and get pulled around with just one.

Well that's it for this blog update. The only other thing to say is...


A pictoral flight in the jungle

Over New Years, I had the opportunity to visit the city of Pucallpa, Peru where I will be working once I am finished with language school. I will post some other pictures from Pucallpa as well but this post is about a flight that I was able take into the jungle on our Cessna 206 float plane. Some missionaries working in a village called Puerto Belem (Port Bethlehem ) needed to be resupplied with food, gasoline, and propane for their cooking stove.

The flight was 1 hour long but to travel the distance in boat takes about 2 weeks of steady travel! It is little wonder when you look at the rivers and how "non-straight" they are. A wonderful blessing for pilots and passengers is that up at our regular cruising altitude of 6,000 feet, it is usually 65 degrees. The jungle is just flat out hot and humid, you start sweating just standing in the sun, so flying is pretty close to spoiling people... but I think missionaries that work in these villages deserve to be "spoiled."

The landing or "splashdown" approach at Puerto Belem was probably the best part of the flight. Our final approach path was a twisting, turning, journey that had us dropping lower and lower into the jungle canopy.

Since the river is about 120 feet wide and our wingspan is almost 40 feet, there is not a whole lot of room for error. Note the trees hanging into the river and the lack of "river straightness" to land the float plane.

After recieving a tour of the village and talking with the missionaries who are working there, we set off on our flight back to Pucallpa.

The takeoff was "interesting" (read exciting and really cool) as we had to get onto the "step" of the floats, (just like when a boat planes on the water) go around a corner in the river, lift one float out of the water, accelerate, lift the other float off, stay ground affect around another bend in the river, and then climb out on our way back home!

On the flight back we worked our way around some 5,000 foot mountains and picked our way through the afternoon cumulus cloud buildups. Thanks so much to Jon, our Chief Pilot, for giving me some time behind the wheel and showing me a taste of the excitement that I have waiting for me in the years ahead.

See you soon OB-1467!

The shoe fix

There are definetly some advantages to living here in Peru. One of them is that some things are very cheap. My sneakers were starting to come apart after playing soccer in them. The cement courts are not very forgiving on shoes or wrists for that matter either. Since they do not sell shoes larger than size 11 here, I have to bring all my size 12 shoes from the USA. I currently have about 5 new pairs waiting to be used within the next 2 years.

I went down the street to the local shoe repair person and he was able to cut out the old material and sew in a piece of leather that should do the trick. I did have to go back and forth to the store 3 times because the hours are not really 9-5 and 3pm seems like the hour for taking a nap, but for $2 I was on my way again with some repaired shoes.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Speaking Spanish

The whole point of spending my time here in Arequipa is to learn Spanish so that I will be able to communicate and do my job effectively here in Peru. I have been attending a language institute here that is called ABC and it is run by some very fine Peruvian Christians.
For the first few months I hardly said a word and did a lot of listening. Then bit by bit, like a giant jigsaw puzzle, I began to pick up words here and then. More of more pieces starte
d coming together as I learned how to say things in the past, present, and future tenses. I know for a fact that I will never stop learning more and more vocabulary, but most of the basic words and verbs I do know. I would say at the moment my level would be comparable to the Spanish level of the daughter of my grammar teacher... I'll let you figure out what level that is.

However, I am enjoying having the ability to communicate more and more. I already see how some things are expressed better in Spanish and if I have the choice, I would us the Spanish word instead of English. For example, the verb "conocer" means to know something physically (knowing something mentally is "saber", a different verb). There are a number of ways to say "concer" in the past tense and depending on which one you use, it can mean "you met someone for the first time ever" or it can mean "you already knew that person". Needless to say, it keeps me on my toes.
Right now it looks as though I will be finishing up with my classes here sometime in March. I am still learning more grammar and have to finish learning about the "subjunctive" tense which is used in Spanish to express desires, doubts, feelings, and things like that. I told my Spanish teacher that I am a guy and don't have feelings but she said I still needed to learn the "subjunctive" anyways... I still think it's unnecessary because my friend Todd and I wore this get-up for New Years and still did not feel anything!