Category: Uncategorized

This year, Peru experienced heavy rains.  We average two to three inches of rain per year on the north coast; not surprising as it is a desert.  Since January 1, Piura province has had 25 inches of rain.  Most storms dumped 1-2 inches of rain per hour while the worst storms dumped 5 inches per hour.  (Global Precipitation Measurement mission of NASA)  Rains in the interior were equally strong and resulted in massive floods and numerous landslides down river.  In late January, landslides blocked the Pan-American highway, which is the supply route to the north of the country from Lima.  By March, the highway was cut off in Trujillo and Chiclayo.

Yes, it was bad!

We live outside of the village of El Ñuro, which is within jurisdiction of the town of Los Organos.  The paved road ends at the pier in Ñuro and our home is three kilometers further on via a dirt road.  The soil has a high clay content so when it rains it becomes a sloppy slippery mess, often impassable after even a half inch of rain.  It usually dries out sufficiently with a day of sunshine.  Normally we have one or two days during the rainy season (January-April) when we can’t drive into town.  This year was different.  Rains began in December and have continued into April.  In mid-February, the road to our house became impassable due to landslides and wash outs.


Quebrada Puerto Rico

On the 8th of February, heavy rains flooded the quebrada next to our property and threatened to flood buildings below.  The photo is taken from our home.  The  quebrada normally drained out to the beach through a 10 foot diameter drainage pipe under the road.  However, a year ago, the pipe collapsed and the resulting hole had been filled with rocks and dirt.


Yes, that’s Doug in the hole left after the pipe’s collapse.

The owners of the property below needed to reopen the drainage to prevent further flooding.  They did so, and thus left a gully across the road.  We were able to get our pick-up on the far side so we could still get in to town and back.   It meant we had to pack stuff up to the house on foot, but it was do-able.


We left for a trip to the states on the 18th of February and returned on the 26th of March.  We missed the majority of the storms, but certainly experienced the aftermath.

We were unable to drive home as the road between Ñuro and the road to the house was destroyed.


Even walking was problematic.



We had to walk home along the beach carrying our luggage from our trip.  Thank heavens for Juana and Sanchez who came to help….  Stormy too.  This walk was a bit surreal…. it was so quiet and amidst all the destruction, there were thousands of little red crabs scurrying along the beach.  In its own way, it was all very beautiful.  Certainly the usually brown hills surrounding this area looked more like a jungle without the forest.

IMG_1090Even through all of this, we felt fortunate.  Our home survived with minimal damage.  Many throughout Peru had lost their homes.  Our biggest issue was getting access to clean water.  We live completely off the grid.  Power is supplied by solar panels.  Water is delivered to us by trucks which fill our cistern.  With the road destroyed, trucks weren’t going to be able to get to us.  More on this next.

Water delivery

For the majority of us, we can just open a faucet in our kitchen, bathroom or wherever and get water.  We also know, intellectually, that there are many people in this world who do not have easy access to water.  Yesterday we came across this scene in the town of Los Organos (where we do our grocery shopping).  You can see the water truck filling barrels and 5 gallon buckets in front of people’s homes.  Some who are fortunate enough to have a small pump will then pump water into their homes.  Others will carry water in as needed in smaller containers.  Hotels and some homes have larger storage tanks or cisterns.
IMG_0448In January of this year, a large reservoir in Mancora  collapsed.  This reservoir provided much of the water piped into Mancora as well as Vichayito, Los Organos and El Nuro.  Now it is being delivered by trucks.

Finding information on what the government is doing about replacing the reservoir or working toward an alternative solution is difficult.  The web site for the water company hasn’t been updated for a few years.  The newspaper last month had a small blurb about a petition to replace all the officials of the water company.  Rumors are rampant, but no one seems to have any official or accurate information.

I put together a Keynote presentation as my final project.  You can access it using this link:

Hope you enjoy it!

As I continue to investigate the state of water in Peru and the sustainability of current practices, I am struck by how government has stalled forward progress.  Here’s a broad summary:

1981-  President Fernando Belaunde Terry merged water and sanitation services into the National Service of Water and Sewage Supply (SENAPA).  SENAPA consisted of 15 constituent companies and 10 operational units.  200 cities (20%) were not included and were responsible for administering their own services.

1985-1990-  President Alan Garcia pass a law transferring responsibility for rural water and sanitation functions to regional governments.  However, with the change in government in 1990, these changes never materialized.

Garcia also transferred all SENAPA companies and operational units to municipalities.  Going forward, SENAPA was only to give technical assistance.  This was also not implemented.

1990-2000-  President Alberto Fujimori moved toward commercializing and decentralizing water and sanitation services.  In 1992, he placed SENAPA under direct control of the president and created the National Water and Sewage Program (PRONAP).  In 1994, EPS was created.  EPS was a municipal utility that was legally and financially separate from the municipality.  The National Superintendence of Sanitation Services (SUNASS) was created.  However, no public-private partnership in water supply or sanitation was put in place during the Fujimori government.

2005-  The first water/sanitation concession was awarded in Tumbes while Alejandro Toledo was president.

2006-2011-  President Alan Garcia initiated “Agua Para Todos” and vowed to have water available to all before the end of his administration.  In 2006-2007 nine small towns (5,000-25,000 population) introduced a model program for water and sanitation services.  This model moved the decision making to the communities who would hire specialized operators overseen by a community based supervisory board.  After municipal elections in 2007, three new mayors abandoned the project and returned to the old model.  The other 6 cities continue to operate with specialized operators.

2011-2015  President Ollanta Humala has initiated construction on several large projects developing the infrastructure for water and sanitation in some areas.  One such project is in Callao, the major port of Lima.

It seems like each administration has developed and followed its own path.  Improvements overall certainly have been made, but many projects have just been abandoned.  Presidential elections occur every five years, as do local elections for mayors.  In 1999 it was estimated that EPS changed general managers on average every 17 months.  With this kind of turn over, how can there be a clearly defined plan to deliver water and sanitation services to all?
IMG_0345Here is a local example.  If you look closely, you can see a water reservoir situated on the hill on the right.  In the foreground you also see a water reservoir.  The one on the hill was built by a mayor who was in office around seven years ago.  The one in the foreground was built by his successor.  I was told that when the successor was asked why he didn’t complete the work on the first reservoir, he said it wasn’t his project.  Since it wasn’t his project, he didn’t want anything to do with it and he built his own.  As far as I know, there isn’t anything wrong with the first one.

Continuo a investigar el estado de agua en Perú y la sostenibilidad de los sistemas actual, pienso cómo el gobierno se ha estancado el progreso hacia adelante.  Acá es un resumen:

1981-  El presidente Fernando Belaúnde Terry combinó servicios de agua y saneamiento en SENAPA.  SENAPA consistió de 15 empresas y 10 unidades de operaciones.  200 ciudades no fueron incluidos y fueron responsables de la administración de sus propios servicios.

1985-1990-  Presidente Alan Garcia inicio una ley que transferió responsabilidad para servicios de agua y saneamiento rural a gobierno regional.  Pero, con el cambio de gobierno en 1990, estos cambios no pasaron. Presidente Garcia también tranferió todo de las empresas de SENAPA a las municipalidades.  SENAPA estaría responsable solo para ayuda técnica.  Esto también no paso.

1990-2000-  Presidente Alberto Fujimori quería comercializar y descentralizar servicios de agua y saneamiento.  En 1992, puso SENAPA baja control directo del presidente y creyó PRONAP.  En 1994, EPS creyó.  EPS era una cámara municipal que era  legalmente y financieramente independiente del municipalidad.  SUNASS creyó.  Sin embargo, ninguna asociación publica-privada estabilizó para servicios de agua y saneamiento durante la presidencia de Fujimori.

2005-  La primera concesión era concedido en Tumbes durante la presidencia de Alejandro Toledo.

2006-2011-  El presidente Alan Garcia empezó Agua Para Todos y prometió que toda la gente tendrián agua antes que terminó su administración.  En 2006 y 2007 nueve pueblos de 5-25 mil introdujeron un programa model para agua y saneamiento.  Esto model se mueve la proceso de decisiones a la comunidad.  La comunidad contratar a operadores especializados supervisados por cominitario consejo de supervisión basada.  Después de elecciones municipal, tres nuevos alcaldes abandonaron el proyecto.  Los otros seis pueblo continuaron.

Aparece que cada gobierno elaboró y inició sus propios proyectos.  Claro que hay mejora de servicios durante los últimos veinte años, pero muchos proyectos estaban abandonados.  En 1999 estimaba que EPS cambio sus gerentes cada 17 meses. Con tantos cambios de administración, ¿como puede ser un plan decisivo para entregar agua y saneamiento a todos?


Hay un ejemplo acá en Organos.  En esta photo hay dos embalses de agua.  Uno arriba, otro debajo.  El alcalde construyó el nuevo debajo.  Eligió a construir un de nuevo y no utilizó lo que era construido. ¿Por que?  Dijo que no es su propio proyecto.

In week 2 of my class Developing a Personal Ethic for Sustainability, our assignment is to identify a local sustainability issue.  I’m to think about my own context and select an issue I would like to explore further.  Two issues immediately came to mind:  water and plastic.

I thought I would focus on water first.  I’ve been surfing the web researching the issue and most of the statistics I quote here are from the Wikipedia article “Water Supply and Sanitation in Peru.”

Water, as I’ve said before, is a huge issue here.  For us, it is expensive to get potable water to the house and the quality isn’t what we consider drinkable.  Fortunately, we are able to buy the water and can filter or buy drinking water as well.  We do try to conserve, have a grey water system recycling household water to the garden, and reuse water vacuumed from the pool during cleaning.  That’s on a personal level.

Regions of Peru

The water issue in Peru, and specifically in the North Coast where we live, is very complex.  On average, water is abundant but it is unequally distributed across the country and from season to season.  It is most abundant in the forested and mountainous regions which are the most sparsely populated.  These regions, part of the Atlantic Watershed, provide water for the rest of the country.  Two thirds of the population of Peru live in major cities along the coast.  Lima with 8.6 million (2010) is the second largest city located on a desert. (Cairo being first with 12 million.)

Quelccaya Ice CapTwo thirds of all tropical glaciers are located in Peru.  These are rapidly melting due to climate change resulting in irregular river flow, floods and droughts.  Quelccaya Glacier is the largest ice cap in the Peruvian Andes.  It has shrunk 30% in the last 30 years.

I found these statistics to be of interest:

  • It has been estimated that 85% of the population in Peru have access to water.
  • 83% of urban dwellers have water piped while only 46% of rural dwellers do.
  • 81% of urban dwellers have improved sanitation while 37% of the rural population do.
  • 28% of the rural population, including our local village of El Nuro, have no sanitation services and use the open fields surrounding them.
  • In 2008, water flowed (assuming it was piped) for an average of 18 hours per day in the mountains, 10 hours a day in Lima, and 8 hours a day along the remaining coast.  In the village of El Nuro, there is no piped water.  It is all delivered by truck.  In Los Organos, it is not always flowing through the pipes.  It is common for some of our friends to go for several days without piped water.

These are the challenges outlined for Peru:

Source:  Wikipedia, Water Supply and Sanitation in Peru; 2012 National Water Resources Policy and Strategy (PENRH)

  • insufficient service coverage;  Peru will have to meet an increase in water demand caused by population growth and economic development.  The population in Peru is estimated to be 36 million (75% in urban areas) in 2025.  GDP grew by 6.9% in 2011 and is expected to grow at a similar rate.
  • poor service quality which puts public health at risk
  • deficient sustainability of built systems.  Many of the systems in place have not been maintained and are not efficient.
  • tariffs do not cover investment and operational costs or maintenance of services
  • institutional and financial weakness
  • inequitable water resources throughout the country; most is available in the forested and mountainous regions, not where most of the population lives.  The phenomena of El Nino and La Nina generally bring more rainfall than normal.  These phenomena also cause ever more extreme climate events such as severe flooding and droughts.
  • deteriorating water quality.  Industrial activity and waste produced by the increasing population have contributed to declining quality of groundwater and surface water.

Para la secundo semana de mi clase “El desarrollo de una Ética Personal para Sostenibilidad,¨ nuestra tarea es identificar una cuestión local de sostenibilidad.  Tengo que pensar de mi contexto a elegir una cuestión que quiero investigar.  Pensaba de dos cuestiones inmediatamente:  agua y plástico.

Voy a centrarme en agua primero.  Leía informes por el internet.  Hay dos que cito.  Wikipedia, ¨Water Supply and Sanitation in Peru¨  (Suministro de Agua y Saneamiento en Peru) y PENRH, 2012.

Agua es una cuestión muy grave acá.  A nosotros, tenemos que comprar camiones de agua potable que son carros.  La calidad de la agua no es puro y necesitamos comprar agua de mesa también.  Afortunadamente, podemos hacerlo.  Tratamos a conservar y tenemos una sistema para reciclar agua de la cocina y duchas para el jardín.  Eso es un nivel personal.

Regions of Peru

La cuestión de agua en Peru, en el norte específicamente, es muy complicado.  Como media, agua es abundante pero no es disponible igualmente en todos partes del Perú.  También no es igual en todos los estaciones.  Agua es mas abundante en los bosques, la selva y las montañas.  Estas zonas suministrar agua al resto de Perú.  Dos terceros del población vive en ciudades major en la costa.  Lima con 8.6 millones (2010) es la segunda ciudad más grande ubicada en un desierto. (Cairo es primero con 12 millones.)

Quelccaya Ice CapDos terceros del los glaciares tropical están ubicados en Perú.  Estos se están derritiendo por motivo de Cambio Climático que resultan en varios niveles de ríos, inundaciones, y sequías.  Quelccaya Glaciar es la glaciar más grande en Los Andes de Perú.  Se encogía 30% en los últimos 30 años.

Estos estadísticos son de interés:

  • Aproximadamente 85% de la población de Perú tiene acceso de agua.
  • 83% de la población urbana tiene agua entregada en casa, y 46% de la población rural lo tiene.
  • 81% de la población urbana tiene sistema saneamiento y 37% de la población rural la tiene.
  • 28% de la población rural, incluido nuestro pueble del Ñuro, no tiene servicios saneamiento.
  • En 2008, la gente en las montañas tenia agua para 18 horas diaria.  La gente en Lima tenia agua para 10 horas diarias, y la gente en otro partes de la costa tenia 8 horas diaria.  En El Ñuro, no hay servicio de agua.  En Los Organos, a veces había días sin agua.

Estos son los retos para Perú:

  • cobertura insuficiente.  Perú va a tener una exigencia de agua para una población que crecer y para desarrollo industrial.  La población de Perú puede ser 36 millones en 2025 con 75% ubicado en las ciudades.  La economía creció 6.9% en 2011 y puede continuar así.
  • calidad mala del servicio que dañe la salud publica.
  • sistemas deficientes no son sostenible.
  • tarifas no suficiente para cobrar gastos de inversion o mantenimiento de servicios.
  • recursos de agua no son igual en las varias zonas de Peru.
  • calidad de agua se deteriora por motivo de actividad industrial y una población que aumentar.


Yesterday I began an on-line course called Learning for Sustainability; Developing a Personal Ethic from the University of Edinburg.  This is the second MOOC (Mass On-line Offering Course) I’ve taking on Sustainability through Coursera.

I’ve always been interested in conserving resources and eating naturally, but have more recently realized I didn’t know, and didn’t think about, what went into getting that food or service to my home.  For example, red meat production needs a large carbon footprint.  It’s not just the meat we get from the animal, but all the feed that the animal consumed, the production of the feed, the fuel required by the farm equipment…. and on it goes.

Doug and I also use solar panels to power our home.  We live in a rural area where there is no power grid.  I’ve always felt really good about using solar, a renewable source.  But, again, never really thought about the processes that went into making the panels themselves or the converter and gauges that go along with it.

Our first assignment was to talk about what we had for breakfast.  We were not only to list what we had but to comment on where it had come from.  I am sharing my response here.  Two reasons.  First, I would love to get feedback from any readers on the subject and hear what choices you make to live more sustainably.  Second, I think most people in this class already practice living sustainably and I’m sure I will learn a lot from them.  I would like to open the discussion to a broader audience and hope to do so through my blog.  I believe education and discussion is key to moving our world toward more sustainable practices.  So, here is my response:

Greetings!  I’m Karen and live on the north coast of Peru.  The coast of Peru is a desert, so not much grows here.  The region has an average rainfall of 4 inches, which usually falls during March.  The ground contains a lot of clay and has a high salt content as we are right on the ocean.

One proponent of sustainability is buying locally.  I was thinking about what “local” meant and how far afield one needs to go to find food.  For my purposes, I will define local as the north of Peru with Trujillo being the southern limit.  Anything traveling by road here from Trujillo will travel at least 9 hours and we are 2 hours from the Ecuadorian border.  However, crops like coffee or tea which are grown in the hills and mountains east of here are shipped to Lima (about 18 hours) for processing.  Once processed, they are then shipped throughout Peru and exported to other countries.  I don’t think I can call the coffee I drink as being local even though it may be grown in the north close to my home.

I live in a rural area and don’t have supermarkets available close by.  All of our food comes out of the local market which resembles a farmer’s market you’d find in the states.  Once a month we travel to the city of Piura and will buy a few items from a large chain grocery there.  However, we find the produce is not as tasty or as inexpensive as the local market.

Fish is a staple here and is caught fresh every day.  Tuna, swordfish, Mero, shark and scores of smaller fish lower on the food chain are usually available.  All manner of seafood such as octopus, shrimp, calamari, crab, and clams are also fresh daily.

Chicken. pork and goat meat is available.  The pork and goat meat is locally raised and slaughtered locally.  Pork and goat are generally only available once a week.  Peruvian beef is terrible and what we find in our market is probably raised in Peru.  Beef is imported from Argentina and the US but generally only restaurants and large chain grocery stores have it available.  I suspect the chicken comes from large poultry farm operations south of Trujillo.  My guess is these farms resemble the large poultry operations in other countries where the chickens are grown in crowed conditions and fed antibiotics and growth hormones.  There are some local chickens raised by families in the village, but they are used by the family for subsistence.

Fruits and vegetables generally come from the hills and mountains southeast of us and travel 5 to 6 hours by car or truck twice a week.  Although they are fresh, it is impossible to know whether they are organic or not.  My guess is that most of the chakra farms are organic. I think some of the local venders believe organic to mean it was grown on a “chakra” which is a country family farm as opposed to a large corporate operation.  This does not preclude the chakra farmers from using pesticides or other chemicals.

Dry goods are also trucked in from the larger cities; things like pasta, rice, wheat, beans and lentils are Peruvian.  I buy olive oil, from the south of Peru, from this vendor as well.  The dry goods stall will also have limited supplies of brand name products like Quaker Oats, Jiffy peanut butter.

So, to the question about breakfast….I had oatmeal with apples, soy milk and coffee for breakfast.  The oatmeal is definitely not local as it is Quaker brand and is distributed out of Chile.  The package doesn’t tell me where the oats were grown and harvested.   The apples also come from Chile.  Both the soy milk and the coffee are Peruvian products.

I try to consume only fresh foods available in the market.  I stew my own tomatoes, make my own stock for cooking and rarely buy anything canned or processed.  I think the soy milk is probably the most processed thing I buy.  If I could find a source for soy beans, I might try to make my own.

I am fortunate to live where there is fresh fish, fruits and vegetables of all kinds available year round.
The use of plastic bags here is so prevalent and the lack of environmental awareness regarding the plastic has been hard to deal with.  I try to take my own bags to the market, but they still want to put things into the plastic before it goes into my bag.  Some of the vendors are catching on that I don’t want the plastic bag and will load my bag instead.

Our biggest issue, by far, is water.  It is also our biggest living expense.  We buy a truck of water every 10 days or so for S/.400 (about $130).  The last statistic I heard was that 30% of Peruvians lack access to clean water.  All of our water is trucked to us and stored in a cistern.  It is then pumped up to two elevated tanks that provide gravity fed water to the house.  Even though we buy “potable” water, it isn’t pure enough to drink.  I do not have the luxury of turning on the tap and having clean water.    Therefore, we also have to buy drinking water.  We buy large 21 liter bottles of drinking water which are refilled each week or so.

Even though I try to make good choices, I’m thinking that I am somewhat limited in my choices for living sustainably.  I’d like to have a smaller sustainability footprint, but some things that we need just aren’t available to me.  Food must travel to get here and water only comes by truck.


imageAfter deciding to make humitas today we went to the local market to buy choclo. Choclo is a Peruvian version of corn on the cob, but the kernels are general much larger than the sweet corn we get in the states. Humitas are very similar to tamales.  Actually, no one has been able to give me a definitive answer as to how the two differ.   Traditionally the humitas have cilantro in the mash which makes them green whereas the tamales can have meat, olives, and eggs in the mash.  However, you can find recipes for humitas that don’t include cilantro and tamales recipes that do.
Today we bought choclo from an elderly gentleman who comes in to our local market once a week from the jungle.  (He is often the only one who has grapefruit; probably my favorite fruit.)  Today he was also selling  ears of choclo for 70 centimos (about 20 cents each). I told him what I was making and he began selecting the younger and smaller ears telling me they were better for humitas. I asked for 12 ears, but by the time he finished filling our bag we had 16. This may be why. He opened a few of the ears he rejected to show me how few of the kernels that had matured. The photo here shows one he did not reject.  He told me the unseasonal rain had ruined much of the crop, and this was the result of too much rain during the growing of the choclo.

The process for making humitas is a bit labor intensive, but the results are delicious.


1 T olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped finely

8 ears of corn

salt and pepper

1/2 cup milk (I use soy), optional

1/2 t dried red pepper flakes

1 t cumin

1-3 T aji amarillo paste (yellow pepper paste)

1/2 lb. of queso fresco

2-3 egg white, whipped until it forms peaks

1.  Saute onions until soft in olive oil.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

2.  Cut around the base of corn cobs and gently remove the husks whole.  Grate the kernels off cobs.

3.  Mix in onions, aji paste, queso fresco and spices.  Add milk if the mixture is too thick.  The mash should be a bit runny.  Chill mixture until firm.  I suggest chilling it overnight.  I get impatient and use it while it is still a bit runny.  This makes for more mess, but the results are still quite delicious.

4.  When you are ready to fill the corn husks, line the bottom of a large pan with the cobs left after grating the kernels.  Add water to just cover the cobs.  Put the empty husks in and bring to a boil.  Steaming the husks makes them more flexible and easier to work with.

5.  Lay two of the widest husks side by side; narrow ends at the top and bottom and overlapping a few inches at the center.  Spoon 1/4 cup of the corn mash into the center.  Fold in the sides to cover the filling.  Then fold in the top and bottom to make an enclosed rectangular package.  Tie crosswise with string.  (To be totally “correct” you can make strips of the corn husks, tie them together to make a strip long enough to go around).

6.  Place a layer of corn husks over the cobs in your pot.  Check that the water level is still just above the cobs.  Add humitas and then cover these with more husks.  Steam humitas for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  Keep an eye on the water level so the pot doesn’t boil dry.

The humitas keep well in the refrigerator for several days.  As labor intensive as they are to make, I usually make a large batch.

Doug and I spent the morning and early afternoon with a new friend who told us a story so compelling, it brought me back to my blog.   I never asked him if I could retell his story, so I will use an alias.   Pablo is a 61 year old Peruvian man who, along with his two sons, has purchased property very close to ours.  He has been visiting this week making plans to begin construction on his house.  We’ve come to know him and have enjoyed becoming friends.

Today, he told us this story.

When he was younger, he had a great desire to go to the United States. He tried to go through all the proper channels and made application to the US Embassy for a visa, but was denied on two separate occassions. Finally, at the age of 35, he went down to the docks in Callao in Lima and began asking questions.  He ended up paying some guy $2500 to stow away in a container on a ship bound for the US.  He was told it would be a 12 day journey, and the ship was bound for Los Angeles.

After arriving at the port one night, and waiting around until the wee hours of the morning, he was escorted into a soft topped container.  There were three other men in the container when he entered; all hoping to get to the US.  There was a barrel of water, a large container of hard-tack biscuits and a large bag of hard candies.  By early morning there was a total of 15 men in the container.

The container was then loaded on to the ship with no one wise to the fact that these 15 men were inside.  The ship set sail from Lima and made their first stop in Ecuador.  The heat at the equator was stifling and the container felt like a sauna.  One of the men had a pocket knife and cut a hole in the cloth roof for more air and ventilation.  They were in port in Ecuador for 3 full days before the ship set sail again.  Having been at sea for 10 days already, they realized the trip to Los Angeles was going to take more than 12 days and they began to ration their food and water…. a few crackers and a couple of sips of water every 12 hours.

Another stop was made in Columbia.  The authorities in Columbia had intelligence that the ship was carrying cocaine and began a search.  They did indeed find a kilo of cocaine and then proceeded to make a more thorough search of the ship for more.  It was at this point the men in the container were discovered.

They were taken to the captain, who denied having any knowledge of the stowaways.  Columbian immigration officials were called and an investigation ensued.  The Columbian authorities did not want to deal with the stowaways, so left them on the ship to continue on.

The next stop was in Puerto Rico.  The ship was greeted by Puerto Rican immigration, presumably being alerted by Columbian authorities.The men were off-loaded and held at a house under guard; one immigration officer for every two men.  They were held in this house for two weeks until flight accommodations could be made to send them back to Peru.

Once back in Lima, the Peruvian authorities took charge.  Normally they would be incarcerated until their identity could be confirmed.  The authorities also wanted to confirm each did not have an outstanding criminal charge, as many escaping Peru do so for this very reason.  However, Pablo had phoned his sister when he learned his flight information.  She arrived to meet him along with a policemen friend and was whisked off and out of the airport.

Pablo, still determined to go to the US, once again applied for a visa at the US Embassy.  Ironically, this time he was given a 1 month business visa.  With this visa, he bought a ticket for a flight to Miami.

Success, you think?  Well, the story doesn’t end there.

When he arrived in Miami, he didn’t know anyone there, didn’t speak any English and didn’t know what he was going to do.  He spent two days in the airport before finally getting in touch with a friend of a friend in Fort Lauderdale.  This friend offered his home for a short time so Pablo could figure out what he was going to do.  This friend also helped Pablo extend his visa for 6 months giving the motive of learning English.

Pablo decided that he would travel to Texas.  He bought a Greyhouse bus ticket and went on his way.  Somewhere in Alabama, the bus stopped for breakfast along the road.  And, as expected, when the bus was ready to leave, the driver made the announcement and loaded passengers.  Pablo, not knowing the language and being curious about his surroundings, did not realize the bus was loading and leaving, and it continued on without him.  All of his papers, clothes, etc. went with the bus.  He became upset and angry, yelling at people who were not able to understand his spanish.  Eventually a spanish speaking person was located and helped him sort things out.  He went to a Greyhound station and was put on a bus to the next stop where his luggage was waiting for him.

At this point in his story, he mentioned a girlfriend who was the motivation for all of this in the first place.  When he arrived in Texas, Pablo discovered she was pregnant and with someone else.  He didn’t want to elaborate further about the girlfriend.

Pablo then decided to head to the San Francisco area where he knew some people.  He settled into life there, got a job and eventually married an American women.  By virtue of this marriage, he gained US citizenship.

What an amazing story.  I know these things happen and I’ve read some horrific stories reported in the news.  But to hear it first hand, from someone who experienced it, is quite different.  Maybe we distance ourselves from such stories, hoping not to get too close…. or hoping perhaps that they really don’t happen to ordinary people.  Certainly all my hassles and problems with Peruvian immigration to gain residency status pales alongside of Pablo’s adventures.


So sorry to disappoint my very faithful readers, but I have decided not to continue blogging.  Any stories I have to tell will be told on Facebook.  I suggest you friend Doug….he is a very faithful Facebook patron.  Otherwise, you can contact me via email:

Ayer, Doug y yo fuimos a Talara para dejar nuestra camioneta para el servicio de mantenimiento en el taller de Fast Service.  También teníamos una luz en el salpicadero que indicaba un problema con el motor.

La gerente del taller, Lucia, es una chica muy amable y competente.  Ella estuvo de baja de trabajo por los últimos tres meses porque dio a luz.  Fue un place a verla.  Lucia nos dio la bienvenida e hizo un presupuesto para el servicio.  El presupuesto fue de S/. 1600.  Fue un poco carro, pero lo esperábamos porque la camioneta cumplió 100 mil kilómetros.

Entonces, dejemos la camioneta y tomamos el autobús al Ñuro.  El bus nos dejó a la entrada de Ñuro.  Finalmente, encontramos una moto que nos llevó a la casa.

En la tarde regresamos a Fast Service en Talara en moto y autobús para recoger nuestra camioneta.  ¡Que sorpresa!  El jefe nos dio una cuenta de S/.3120.  Esto fue casi doble el presupuesto.

Pregunté ¿por qué?  El jefe nos dijo que había un error en el presupuesto y tenía que reemplazar otros repuestos adicionales.  Entonces, el precio subió.

Pregunté ¿por qué nadie no nos llamó para avisarnos de eso?  El jefe me dijo que él tampoco sabía que el presupuesto faltaba antes de ese momento.

Estábamos molestos. No era la primera vez que la cuenta excedía el presupuesto.  Discutimos con el jefe y le dije que no soportábamos esa situación.  Le dije que él no tenía permiso para hacer nada más del presupuesto.  Él nos dijo que sí, que él entendía y era su culpa, pero que teníamos que pagar la cuenta.

Mientras la gerente de taller y uno de los mecánicos le dijo a Douglas que el jefe les mandó a hacer el trabajo adicional y que no se preocupaban porque pagaremos.  Entonces, supimos que el jefe nos mintió.

Al final, le presenté el presupuesto en caja y pagué el S/.1600.  Recogimos las llaves y salimos.

¡Qué pena! Primero que el jefe no era honesto, pero también que no tomaba responsabilidad por su error.  Sí, de verdad, había un error.  El dueño del Fast Service, Gustavo, esta delicado y se queda en Lima.  Creo que no sabe nada de qué está pasando en su taller.

Yesterday, Doug and I went to Talara to get the truck services at Fast Service.  We also had a check engine light showing in the dash.

The shop manager, Lucia, is a very nice and very capable young lady.  She had been on leave from work for the last three months after giving birth to her daughter.  It was great to see her.  She welcomed us and gave us a quote for the work.  The quote was for S/.1600 (about $500).  This was a bit expensive, but we expected that because the truck had just over 100 thousand kilometers on it.

So, we left the truck and took a bus to Ñuro.  The bus dropped us off at the entrance to El Ñuro and we caught a moto to take us home.

In the afternoon, we returned to Fast Service in a moto and bus to pick up the truck.  What a surprise!  The boss gave us a bill for S/. 3120 (about $1150).  This was almost double the quote.

I asked why?  The boss told us that the quote was wrong and that they needed to replace several more parts which were not included in the original quote.  Thus the price went up.

I asked why no one had called us to advise us of this.  The boss told me he didn´t know the quote was wrong until that moment.

We were angry.  This wasn´t the first time the final bill exceeded the estimate.  We argued with the boss and I told him we would not accept the situation.  I told him he did not have permission to do anything beyond the quote.  He told us that he understood this, said it was his fault, but we still needed to pay the bill.

Meanwhile, the shop manager and one of the mechanics told Doug that the boss had told them to do the extra work and replace the additional parts and not to worry because we would pay the bill.  So, we knew the boss was lying.

In the end, I took the quote to the cashier and paid the S/. 1600.  We collected the keys and left.

What a shame!  First that the boss was dishonest, but also because he didn´t accept any responsibility for his mistake…if, indeed it was a mistake.  The owner of Fast Service, Gustavo, is very ill with cancer and is in Lima.  I doubt he knows anything of what is going on in his shop.