Post Cards from Peru: Kitesurfing in Paracas

The sun is unseasonably warm; the sky is bluish.  Life is good four hours south of Lima in Paracas thanks to this year’s fickle El Niño.  Enjoying some ceviche, washed down with some sweet dark beer followed by a Chilcano along with some Afro-Peruvian cajon music in the background; ah life is good in Peru.

Paracas Kitesurfer.

Kitesurfing in Paracas Bay.

The little dudes, known as the dynamic duo of Zos and Bo (the Bozos) ask Diplomonkey to stay another day in Paracas.  Why not?  Gives us another day of ceviche, clean air, and a beautifully stark desert landscape by the South Pacific.  These sort of days make foreign service life all the better.

Gearing up for a sail.

Gearing up for a sail.

Kitesurfing

Kitesurfers in Paracas Bay.

Kitesurfer

Paracas Bay Kitesurfer.

Sunset in Paracas Bay.

Sunset in Paracas Bay.

Hope you enjoy the views from Paracas. Come down for a visit, take your shoes off, and have a Chilcano and some ceviche.

Cheers!

Peru and Paprika: About Sixty Kilometers South of Paracas and Just Outside of Ica

It has been far too long since I have thrown something out there about Peru; bad, bad Diplomonkey for focusing so, so much on Ecuador of late  Okay, so here goes what I think I will start to call postcards from Peru.  These are the snippets of the life experiences that I am enjoying during my Lima assignment.

Woman sorting paprika by color and size.

Woman Sorting Paprika by Color and Size.

Life in the Foreign Service has its ups and downs of course, but one of the greatest benefit of this career and the lifestyle that we choose, is the possibility to go out and see new and wonderful things. We also get to meet  people around the world that we would likely never have any interaction with otherwise.

Women sorting paprika in the desert.

Women Sorting Paprika in the Desert #1.

Culture shock: yes little Dorothy, it abounds when we go overseas on a new assignment.  We also get to face it, ironically enough, when we also return home to the States.  But still it is worthwhile to do this gig, the pictures speak for themselves.

Woman Sorting Paprika #2

Woman Sorting Paprika Outside of Ica.

Enjoy the photos; and next time you pick up some paprika, you will have hopefully a better notion from where it comes.

Producing Paprika in the Desert.

Women Sorting Paprika in the Desert #2.

Cheers from Lima!

4,208 Kilometers from Lima

As Diplomonkey prepares for his next Ecuador trip, he has a flashback to the fun filled afternoon spent earlier this year with the little dudes (AKA as Zos and Bo, which together make up the dynamic duo of the BoZos) at Florida’s Gold Coast Railroad Museum. Although nearly half a year and 4,208 kilometers separate us from that sunny January afternoon, the memories are as fresh today as though the visit occurred only yesterday.

Florida Gold Coast Railroad Museum 1

Florida Gold Coast Railroad Museum – Ghost Train 1594

Foreign Service life with kids is about getting the most fun with the little guys in new settings, collecting memories along the way that hopefully last a lifetime. Despite the hardships we often confront, and occasional (real) dangers, we are incredibly fortunate to get the chance to live and work in different places around the world in the service of our country.

Sam being Sam

Sam being Sam

Fortunately since most of our assignments are accompanied, we get to experience new places with our kids.  Sometimes these places, as incredibly as it might seem, are back home in faraway and exotic Florida.

Gold Coast Railroad Museum - Ghost Train

Florida Gold Coast Railroad Museum – Ghost Train 4033

Our kids growing up overseas are blessed with being able to experience unique life experiences. Our hopes and desires, as parents, are all to often tied to giving our children every material thing that they might possibly need to succeed. I guess that the Foreign Service life style, with its shipment weight allowances limitations and the ever present possibility of an evacuation, forces many of us to focus on what truly is important for the kids – experiences, memories, and the ability years later to say “I did this” or “saw that when I was a kid in the land of Erehwon (i.e., Nowhere spelled backwards, taken from an old foreign service exam).”

Zos and Bo, The Dynamic  Duo of the BoZos

Zos and Bo, The Dynamic Duo of the BoZos

Nasa Railroad Switch

Nasa Railroad SW 1500 Switcher Locomotive #2 – Because We Are Future Astronauts!

Enjoy the pictures!

Sign Post - Need One for US Embassy Lima 4208 KM

Sign Post – Missing a Sign for U.S. Embassy Lima 4,208 KM

Cheers from Lima, the land 4,208 kilometers away!

Okay, I Have Been a Bit of a Slacker #2

Washington DC is not only one of my favorite cities, but also I would dare say my abode for a decade and I miss it dearly.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and the opportunity it gives me and my family to move around internationally and explore the world, as well as prove myself every two to three years; if I do not get evacuated from post.

WASDC 1

I would be lying if I said I did not miss friends, old haunts, and even the intrigue and politics of the city and the Hill.  I guess being gone for a time makes one anxious for a return, which allows one to savor the city and its environs all the more.

Capitol Hill, Perspective #1

Capitol Hill, Perspective #1

The Capitol Dome, Restoration, #1

The Capitol Dome, Restoration, #1

The Capitol Dome Restoration, #2

The Capitol Dome Restoration, #2

Fortunately, work has taken me back to Washington DC twice in the past six months.  It has allowed me to explore the city both on the day of arrival and of departure on the weekend – sorry during the other time in the city, work and its obligations is a relentless task master that does not afford much time to explore.

Tulips on the Mall

Tulips on the Mall

So I guess any opportunity I get, I will maximize it to the most.  This time around I explored everything between old town Alexandria (even hit Starbucks numerous times) to Capitol Hill down through the mall (including the Shackler for a quick half hour visit) and around the tidal basin (including the Jefferson Memorial) and up to the Lincoln Memorial (by way of the FDR, MLK, and WWI and Korea memorials.  Experiencing along the way as many of the sights and the characters that make Washington DC so special.

The Percussion King - A Great Street Performer

The Percussion King – A Great Street Performer

Tidal Basin Fishermen

Tidal Basin Fishermen

Walked by main State, and waved at the security cameras, and got on the orange line and headed out to Georgetown via Rosslyn.  I even ran up  the hundred or so runs on the mechanical escalator with my pack just for old-time sake, to prove that though a young old fart, I am still in decent shape, and then across the Key Bridge.

Tourists - Blessed Them for Visiting and Contributing to the Economy

Tourists – Blessed Them for Visiting and Contributing to the Economy

On the other side of the river, I even find the time to climb the exorcist stairs, hit GU’s bookstore for a school cap – go Hoyas, and take a picture of the little row house with a view of the Potomac that wifie and I considered buying when we first moved to DC.

Finished the day off as the sun is setting at Pizza Paradiso enjoying the Belgian beers I cannot get in Peru, some pizza Atomica, and all the olives I can eat when I get tapped on the shoulder by a headquarters’ retiree which allowed me the chance to catch up with a friend.  Ah, life is good in the nation’s capital.

I am so sorely tempted to make an offer on that little 120 year-old row house, with its English garden with its big trees, its tiny rooms but with a view of the river and around the corner from GU.  Guess I will have to wait a while until I rotate back home.

Cheers from an on the road FSO.

Okay, I Have Been a Bit of a Slacker #1

April has been a busy month.  I guess that two back-to-back trips stateside will take it out of you.  First trip was all about cattle in Texas and Florida, while the follow-up trip was just about meetings in Washington, DC.

Texas Cattle 1

Selecting Texas Brahman Cattle 

Texas Brahman

George the Texas Brahman Bull

Texas Brahman 2

Texas Brahman Bull

Texas and Florida are always great.  Saw some impressive animals and was able to get some decent photos with the Nikon D70.  It’s always fun to play cowboy; grandpa would be proud.

Florida Black Angus 3

Florida Black Angus Up Close #1

Florida Black Angus 2

Florida Black Angus and Stormy Clouds

Florida Black Angus

Florida Black Angus Up Close #2

Anyhow, I hope folks enjoy the southern cowboy-style pictures.  The Washington DC will go up separately, hopefully with some witty commentary.

Hatuey Beer at Versailles Cafe

Hatuey Beer from Miami’s Little Havana’s Cafe Versailles.

In the meantime, go out and enjoy a cold Miami Cuban Hatuey!

Cheers!

Home Again, Off Again…

Okay so the hours are long, the workload heavy, the time spent away from family painful; fortunately the work remains rewarding and wifie has not (yet) changed the locks on the front door.

Banana1

Rice field and shack outside of Babahoyo, Ecuador.

As a Foreign Service Officer, I must explore the countryside, engage with people, and report on new things.  These are requirements that appeal however to Diplomonkey’s inner Viking’s wunder lust.

In recent travel to Ecuador alone, I have seen the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano towering over the cloud line to shrimp and tilapia farms along the Guayas River to even Arabian pure breed horses in lush mountain pastures 3,000 meters above sea level (far removed from the burning sands of their origin in the Arabian peninsula).

Cotopaxi Volcano

Cotopaxi Volcano and Quito.

Arabian Horses at Altitude.

Arabian Horses at Altitude.

Bulls Up High.

Bulls on up High.

At the same time, I have walked along the route that Francisco de Orellana took in the sixteenth century when he set out to explore and conquer the Amazon.  Pretty cool, but surreal nonetheless (can you say Indiana Jones).

Francisco de Orellana

Statute of Francisco de Orellana, Spanish Explorer and Conquistador.

Camino de los Conquistadores

Walking in the Footsteps of Orellana along the Camino de los Conquistadores.

Sanctuary of the Virgin of Guapulo and Convent - or simply the Guapulo Church

Sanctuary of the Virgin of Guapulo and Convent – or simply the Guapulo Church.

Anyhow, it’s off to Texas and Florida again in a couple of weeks to look at cattle for export to South America.  In the meantime, to make amends while still in Lima I will make wifie a Chilcano with ginger syrup tonight.  For the more adventurous, the recipe follows.  Cheers from Lima.

Ingredients:

  • One jigger Peruvian Pisco (use the Mosto Verde – Torontel variety if possible)
  • Half a jigger of Ginger syrup
  • A dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Juice of half a Peruvian lime (somewhat similar to a large key lime), leave the seeds that fall in for effect
  • Top off with Ginger Ale (about three jigger’s worth)
  • Add an ice-cube or two and gently stir.

The Road to Antioquia, Peru

Okay it’s late and I’m tired, but I need to mention the hidden little gem of Antioquia which is just outside of Lima; bug bites and all.  Or better still, let me tell you about the road you take to get up there.  Foreign Service life is about exploring new places anyhow.

Curving Roadway

Curving Roadway

Antioquia is a quaint little village located 64 kilometers east of Lima in the Lurin river valley.  Like most little towns in Peru it counts with a tiny church, a plaza de armas (i.e., a main square), bodegas, and the occasional B&B.  Unlike other towns Diplomonkey has so far visited, Antioquia’s buildings are decorated with whimsical painted motifs and biblical passages.  The town is set along the Lurin river, where there is enough water to permit agriculture despite the desiccated surroundings – ah so many quinces, apples, peppers, and a plethora of mangos that just make the month water.

Putin River Valley

Upper Lurin River Valley

But for today let’s not focus on the destination but on the road to Antioquia.  I guess this post is really about a case of the means to an end sort of scenario.  Diplomonkey, true to form, again is losing focus; bad monkey, focus!

Church at Sisicaya

Church at Sisicaya, Halfway Mark

Right!  So the drive up into the Andes takes a leisurely two hours each way, which reminds me that I need to get new tires for the Jeep.  Focus Diplomonkey, focus!

Antioquia Road 2

Truck parked on the Cliff

Okay so we leave La Molina and head east towards Cieneguilla and beyond. The kilometers slowly click by as we traverse badly eroded roads along cliff sides.  Huge boulders, precariously balanced on smaller slabs of rock give way eventually to a series rickety bridges and packs of wild dogs.  Begone ye beasties, away from my Nikon D2.  From my FCS buddy, I know that most of these bridges might be American made ones; the Chinese ones on the other hand tend to fall into the crevasses. Oh what fun!

Bridge on the road to Antioquia

Bridge on the road to Antioquia

Anyhow, tonight I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  Once the weather improves, I will head out again and get some pictures of the town.  And surely next time  I will take some industrial strength bug spray; off to the MED Unit tomorrow for antihistamines.

The Adventure Has Only Begun

A couple of months ago while contemplating our Florida R&R travel, I came upon the brilliant idea of working with the dudes on a father and son project.  A rocket project nonetheless.

Rocket

Designing a Rocket

The months went by, but true to my word I ordered a scale model V-2 rocket from Estes and had it shipped to my in-laws.  Despite the threat of another government shutdown just prior to our travel date, (the last one for us occurred while we were on evacuation status from Embassy Cairo) we make it home for Christmas, the first time in four years.

Channeling the spirit of Wernher von Braun, one of the “fathers of rocket science,” the Diplomonkey crew dives into the construction of its mighty rocket.  Even Jack Jack Smack Attack helps with the build, accompanying the senior Diplo to the model shop and Home Depot for primer, glue, paints and the ever so sharp Exacto knife.  Boy, that knife sure is sharp.

V2 Rocket

V-2 Rocket Ready to Go

With the build, the black and yellow test pattern paint job, and final detailing complete, the Diplomonkey rocket scientists head to the model shop to purchase a set of powerful “D” engines, a launch pad, and controller.  With all the accouterments demanded of modern American rocketry in tow, and with a narrowing launch window since we have to return to Peru, we schedule the launch for a crisp but spectacular south Florida winter afternoon.

Launch Controller

Launch Controller

Dream Big

Dream Big, Greatness Lies Ahead

Five, four, three, two, one, oops a misfire.  With the problem assessed, yep Captain Jack had inverted the blasted connectors to the engine igniter – let’s try it again with a fresh igniter.  Five, four, three, two, one, blast-off in the best NASA style!

 

Rocket 8a

Thanks to Captain Ivan and aunt Jillian, the Diplomonkeys have great memories to share.  With two successful launches under their belts, the Diplomonkeys are now part of the space age.  Which, I guess makes us Diplonauts.

Always dream big and reach for the unreachable!

The Adventure Has Begun

The Adventure Has Only Begun (Michael Mitchell, Space Shuttle Engineer).

Cheers from Lima!

Home for Christmas

JackJack this year asked Santa for a trip home for Christmas.  With the request in hand, the senior simian drafts his official decision memo, attaching a notional schedule of course, and moves forward the packet of documents in bureaucratically efficient and expeditious manner.

With the R&R travel request approved, Captain Jack and the rest of the intrepid diplomatic simian crew hop onboard LAN Peru’s (Boeing 767) Lima-Miami flight (American Airlines code-share) for a stateside break – U.S. Embassy Lima’s Santa delivered, we are so grateful.

Santa at U.S. Embassy Lima

Waiting for Santa at U.S. Embassy Lima.

Beach outings along with seaside discussions about shadows and the wonders of Portuguese man o’ wars follow spectacular breakfasts not just at Starbucks, but also at Another Broken Egg Cafe – great Bloody Mary’s and crab cake stacks, if I dare to say so myself.

Bare Foot Diplomat

The Barefoot Diplomat and Son.

Portuguese man o'war: looks like an empanada, stings like a million bees.

Portuguese man o’war: looks like an empanada, but stings like a million bees.

Nothing says Florida like a shared sunrise with its true natives, even if in suburban Palm Beach County.

Sunrise in Wakodahatchee

Sunrise in the Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Wally Gator

Wakodahatchee Wetland’s “Wally the Gator”

For the record, for me home is Florida despite the years spent in Virginia and my ties to the Commonwealth.  Life is good in Florida, go Gators.

Cheers!

An Afternoon at the Car Museum

One of Lima’s hidden treasures, one a bit off the beaten track is the Asociación Museo del Automóvil – Colección Nicolini in La Molina.  This classic car collection is just spectacular – Jay Leno would be jealous.

Diplomonkey found it by happens chance driving out to countryside one day, making a mental note to go back there with the little dudes.  Off to the museum head the dynamic trio one grey Lima afternoon.

Car Museum Tickets

Car museum tickets, kid and adult entrance fees.

As soon as we enter the first showroom we see an incredible collection of classic cars spanning automotive history.  Dreams of racing cars and deep desert rallies become tangible to Diplomonkey in an instant.  As evidenced by the cars’ showroom appearance, all are fully restored and drivable.  A whiff of gasoline here, a smudge of oil there, are evidence of recent use.

Car Museum 3c

The shop is itself worthy of a lengthy visit.  Cars drawn from the four corners of Peru – coastal deserts, mountain highlands, jungle lowlands – are lovingly restored here; with parts fabricated on site when originals can no longer be sourced.

Definitively Diplomonkey must return to get higher resolution, more diverse pictures with the Nikon.  Until then, here is another teaser.

Car Museum 2c

Cheers, Diplomonkey!