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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.

Nuestro calendario social está muy ocupado esta semana.

Our social calendar is very full this week.

Primero, nuestros amigos Jim y Dani de Canadá nos visitaron lunes.  Jim y Dani viven y trabajan en el territorio del Yukon durante los veranos en Norteamérica.

Dani and Jim

Dani and Jim

Viven acá en Vichayito durante los veranos de América del sur.  ¡Siempre han tenido verano!  Este día había trabajadores ruidosos en su casa.  Entonces, se escaparon a nuestra casa por el día.

First, our friends Jim and Dani from Canada are coming on Monday.  They live and work in the Yukon Territory during the North American summers.  They live here in Vichayito during the summers in South America.  They always have summer!  Monday, there were noisy workers at their house so they escaped to our for the day.

Gaby and Julio

Gaby and Julio

Ayer nuestros amigos de Máncora, Gaby y Julio tuvieron un día libre de trabajo y quisieron visitarnos.  Gaby cocinó una causa vegetariana y deliciosa.  En la tarde jugamos un juego de Rummicubos.  ¡Que lindo día!

Yesterday our friends from Mancora, Gaby and Julio had a day off from work and wanted to visit.  Gaby cooked a vegetarian ¨causa¨ which was delicious.  In the afternoon, we played a game of tile rummy.  What a great day!

Hoy día vamos a la casa de Helena y Gonzalo para comer pollo.  Ellos tenían un restaurante afuera de Lima y ¡puedan cocinar platos maravillosos!

Today we are going to the house of Helena and Gonzalo to eat chicken.  They used to own a restaurant outside of Lima and can cook some truly marvelous dishes.



Sara and Edhie

Sara and Edhie

El sábado, una amiga, que recientemente fue licenciada como un dermatólogo en Guatemala y que se trasladó a la casa de su padres en Talara en octubre, vendrá para visitarnos.  Ella quiere pasar el día con nosotros y quiere quedarse acá por la noche.

Saturday, a friend, who recently graduated as a dermatologist in Guatemala and who has moved back to her parents´house in Talara in October, will come to visit us.  She wanted to spend the day with us and spend the night.

El domingo, su padres vendrán para visitarnos.  Todos se irán en la tarde domingo.

On Sunday, her parents will come visit.  They will all leave for Talara Sunday afternoon.

¡Whew!  Tenemos muchas visitas.  Con nuestros amigos siempre hemos tomado mucha cerveza y mucho vino y hemos comido platos deliciosos.  Hablamos mucho y nos reímos mucho.

Whew!  We have had lots of company.  With our friends, we always drink a lot of beer and wine, and eat delicious dishes.  We talk a lot and laugh a lot.

Somos bendecidos con buenos amigos.

We are blessed with good friends.

ImageEl otro día cuando Douglas y yo regresábamos de Los Organos, encontramos una ave al lado de la pista.  Este ave era una ¨sula nebouxii¨  o una ¨Blue Footed Booby.¨   Recibió su nombre porque tiene patas azules brillantes.  Su pico también puede ser azul.  Estábamos como a tres metros de él y podíamos verlo con mucha claridad.  Tenía líneas marrones sobre su cabeza y una barriga blanca.  Sus alas eran marrones y, cuando estaban abiertas podrían ser 152 cm punto a punto. ¡Que lindo!

The other day when Doug and I were coming back from Los Organos, we came across a bird by the side of the road.  This bird was a Blue Footed Booby.  It received its name because it has bright blue feet.  Its beak can also be blue.  We were three meters away from him and we could see him clearly.  It had brown streaks over his head and a white belly.  Its wings were brown and when they were spread they could be a meter and a half from tip to tip.  So very cool and beautiful.

Yoga bags

Cuando estaba en Piura, compré dos mats de yoga y estaba guardándolos para regalárselos a mis amigas por Navidad. Pero, el otro día asistieron muchas personas en la clase do yoga. Por eso, no tenían suficiente mats para todos. Entonces, decidí regalárselos la próxima clase. Planeaba coser bolsas para cada mat y jueves por la tarde, hice esto. Viernes, en la mañana, le regalé una bolsa y mat a mi amiga Lucia. Ella estaba muy feliz y agradecía su regalo mucho. Esta fin de semana, fui a coser la otra bolsa para mi amiga Helena y lo regalé hoy día.

IMGP3339 DSC02496

Ahora, solo falta una bolsa y mat para mi.

When I was in Piura, I bought two yoga mats and was planning on giving them to my friends for Christmas.  But, the other day there were so many people at yoga, there were not enough mats to go around.  Because of this, I decided to give my friends their mats at the next class.  I had planned on sewing bags for each mat and on Thursday afternoon I did so.  Friday morning I gave Lucia a bag.  She was very happy and appreciated her gift a lot.  This weekend, I made another bag for my friend Helena and gave it to her today.

Now, I only need a bag and mat for me.

DSCF8324Helena, Karen and Lucia.

El sábado pasado, mi amiga me llamó y me despertó.  Ella me preguntó que estaba haciendo este día.  Le dije que no tenía ninguno plan.  Ella me explicó que nuestros amigos, Gonzalo y Valerie se encontraron con una familia francesa que estaba viajando en América del Sur.  Ellos querían invitar a la familia a almorzar.  Le dije que estaba bien conmigo.  Entonces, Lucia añadió que Me levanté y empecé a cocinar ravioli con una salsa de tomate.  A la una, los otros llegaron; cada una con comida.  Al final, tuvimos diez adultos y tres niños acá para la tarde y comimos raviolis, tiradito mixto y arroz con mariscos.

Last Saturday, my friend Lucia called me and woke me up.  She asked me what I was doing that day.  I told her I had no planes.  She told me our friends Gonzalo and Valerie met a French family who were traveling en South America and that they wanted to invite this family to lunch.  I told her that was fine with me.


Anteayer durante todo el día vimos algunos grupos de aves volando por el sur.  Los aves tienen barrigas blancas con cabezas negras y un triángulo negro en las puntas de las alas.  El color de sus espaldas es gris con negra en las puntas.  Viajaban en grupos grandes de cientos en una línea como una cola.   Volaban encima de la superficie del mar.  A veces los mirábamos cuando estaban flotando juntos como una balsa; posible tomaban un descanso.  Creo que estas aves se llaman gaviotas y estaban migrando hacia el sur.  En total, Douglas estimó que estaban al menos ciento mil aves.

Ayer, fuimos a la casa de nuestros amigos Helena y Gonzalo.  Viven arriba de Punto Valeros y tienen una vista maravillosa de la playa, el mar y el muelle de Los Organos.  Vimos más grupos de gaviotas volando en esta zona.  Algunos de estos grupos estaban volando sobre  las casas y hoteles afrente de la playa.  Cada bandada de gaviotas también tenía cientos aves y volaban como bailarines.  Primero todos volaban en un dirección y, de repente y juntos, cambiaron su dirección como un rayo.

The day before yesterday, we saw groups of birds flying to the south.  The birds have white bellies with black heads and a triangle of black on the tips of their wings.  They are grey across the back with black at the tips.  Hundreds of birds were traveling together in a line like a tail.  They were flying just over the surface of the ocean.  A times we saw them floating in groups like a raft; possibly resting.  I think these birds are called Laughing Gulls and were migrating to the south.  In all, Doug estimated there were at least a hundred thousand birds.

Yesterday, we went to the house of our friends, Helena and Gonzalo.  They live up above Punto Valeros and have a marvelous view of the beach, the ocean and the pier at Los Organos.  We saw more groups of Laughing Gulls flying there.  Some of the groups were flying over the houses and hotels along the beachfront.  Each flock of birds also consisted of hundreds of bird and flew like ballet dancers.  First they flew in one direction and, suddenly and as one, changed directions in a flash.

6 noviembre 2013


Esta mañana empezó muy linda.


Primero, cuando llegué a yoga, Chito estaba enseñando una clase para algunos niños de seis o siete años.  Chito los enseñaba animado y todos los niños estaban atentos y felices.  Chito fingió que ellos estaban en la selva y saludaban a los monos en los arboles.   Luego fingió que eran leones con una voz ferociosa.  ¡Que lindo estuvo este grupo de niños que divirtió mucho.  Pensé que todos los profesores de niños deberían ver como Chito enseñó esta clase.




Un poco más tarde, durante la clase de yoga para adultos, vimos una garceta cerca del patio donde estábamos.  Estaba obvio que esta ave estaba cazando.  Estiraba su cuello al frente y se quedaba inmóvil por un rato.  Entonces, daba un paso con sus piernas largas, y otra vez, estiraba su cuello y esperaba.  De repente, se lanzó su pico en la hierba y capturó un ratoncito.  Lo levantó en su pico y lo tiró adentro de su boca.  Casi dos minutos después, la garceta capturó otro ratoncito.  ¡Que maravillosa es la naturaleza!  No sabía que estas aves comían ratones.  Pensaba que solamente comían peces o mariscos del mar.


This morning started out my day very nicely.

First, when I arrived for my yoga class, Chito was teaching a class to children six or seven years old.  Chito was animated in his teaching and all the kids were attentive and happy.  Chito pretended they were in the jungle and were waving to the monkeys in the trees.  Then he pretended they were lions, all with a very fierce roar.  It was so fun to watch this group of kids having so much fun.  I thought all elementary school teachers should watch Chito teaching this class.

A bit later, during the yoga class for adults, we saw an egret close to the patio where we were.  He was obviously hunting.  He would stretch out his neck in front of him, then stay perfectly still for a bit.  Then he would take a step with his long legs, and, again, stretch out his neck and freeze.  Suddenly, he thrust out his beak and captured a mouse.  He lifted it up and tossed it into his mouth.  A couple of minutes later, he caught another mouse.  How wonderful nature is!

I had no idea that egrets ate mice.  I thought they only ate fish or animals of the sea.