Peru or Bust, one couple's journey to represent USA abroad and aid in ways small and large.

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Archive for November 2014

Reflections on Bolivia..

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Much like going to Ecuador for the 1st time, several sights and aspects of life around La Paz and Bolivia stood out, for instance; the shoeshines that seriously look like they could be terrorists:

Or the proud ‘Cholita’ (Mountain woman) ‘Paceña‘ (related to La Paz) with their unique pollera dresses and undersized bowler hats.

These are strong, beefy women and we unfortunately missed the wrestling matches that take place every Sunday night.

Then there is the dead/dried llama fetus that you get at the witch markets to bury next to your house for good luck.

To the odd mannequins that are around the shops.

Headed down to the world’s largest salt flats of Uyuni in the south (with long time friends Adam and Holly), good times.


Written by galbavy

November 19, 2014 at 4:16 pm

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Chewing Coca Leaves..

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The coca leaf has been chewed and brewed for tea traditionally for centuries all up and down the Andean region, specifically Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia and the habit is not going away anytime soon. Read HERE a good article about coca leaf myth and reality.


In other words, it’s a way of life for the outdoor workers of Molinopampa and for much of the manual labor (construction, mining, etc.) in Peru and other Andes countries.  Chewing is called ‘chacchar’ in Quechua, or ‘coquear’ in parts of northern Peru (though in other parts of the county, coquear might be understood as using cocaine), nonetheless, ‘echar una bola’ might be best and most colloquial because that’s basically what you’ll be doing, tossing a ball in your cheek.  Here’s how you do it.

1. Many by the coca leaves in bulk in quantities desired, even 1 sol or about 30 cents will get you a bag.

2. Separate out the small sticks and seeds and put a large marble to golf ball sized wad in the side of your mouth.  Some say that stripping out the center vein of each leaf with your teeth is best, but this is a tedious process and not necessary.

3. When leaves are moist after 1 to 5 minutes add alkaline material to the wad of leaves in your mouth to ‘activate’ the coca by changing the pH of your mouth to be more basic, allowing the coca alkaloids to be absorbed.  This should produce a bit of a numbing feeling in the mouth and chewing the mixture feels more like staying busy with chewing gum rather then any type of mood-changing drug.

4. You can spit mouth juices as they come (will be quite greenish), but most locals just swallow and work on the same wad for 15 to 60 minutes, sometimes longer; often adding a bit of leaves or especially a bit more alkali.

5. Toss the wad when you’d like, and rinse out the small leave pieces with water.  Once again, you never see locals rinsing because it’s a natural leaf that they just spit out completely or swallow.

But, the Alkali is the trick and there’s a couple substances based on where you are in South America:

Northern Peru / Ecuador: You’ll often see ‘cal seco’ or ‘cal mojado’ being sold cheap at the stores and used in people’s small ‘cal’ containers (called a ‘poporo‘ or a ‘calero’ or a ‘puro’ in Molinopampa).  Cal is basically lime that you would use for concrete or other industrial processes [some say pure slacklime, but I would guess more likely a mixture of quicklime (calcium oxide, CaO) and hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide, Ca(OH)2].  It’s caustic and therefore gives you a bit of a chemical burn in the mouth, thus, the coca chewers like to put the stick with cal in the center of the coca wad and not let it touch the skin of the inside of the mouth.

Southern Peru (Cusco) / Bolivia: Is a real big fan of breaking off a pea-sized chunk of ‘Lejia’ or ‘ilucta’ (pronounced ‘Lij-ckta’) in Quechwa.  It’s often a thick, black (or grey), soft, tarry substance that’s made from ashes obtained by burning the quinoa grain (though ‘lejia’ in english translates to bleach or caustic soda or lye).  And lye or the strong alkali, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is probably a big percentage of what the chewed ‘lejia’ is.  Sometimes the makers have a ‘lejia dulce’ or ‘menta’/mint after they mix anise and/or sugar cane with the ash that’s pressed into a black or grey chunk.

Either way, it’s an activity not to be missed should you be allowed or have the opportunity to try.

Written by galbavy

November 19, 2014 at 7:01 am

How to build an industrial cocina mejorada..

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Much like the standard family model (HERE).  The more industrial, commercial version of the cocina mejorada requires material planning and the same special mud (HERE) for use within.  The difference is getting ahold of a nice solid metal ‘plancha’ or ‘laton’ to install on the cookspace.  Here’s photos from the cocina put together in Molinopampa’s main restaurant ‘Betto’s’.

Written by galbavy

November 17, 2014 at 10:13 pm

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How to build our cocina mejoradas..

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After spending almost 2 years building over 50 or 60 of these types of improved cookstoves, I’m not sure if I’ve even put together a guide on how to replicate this design.  In past posts you can find plenty of pictures of families happy with their cookstoves, but here’s an outline of the steps to make your very own solid cookstove catered to the requests of the residents of Molinopampa..

First, put together a batch of the Barro Especial (special mud) to be used inside of the cookstove where the fire will be burning.

Step by step mixing instructions are HERE.

As well, get together other items needed (adobes, losa, 33 bricks, 1/2 bag of cement, 1/4 and 1/2″ rebar, costal of sand, etc.) and transport them to the house or institution that you’ll be building at..

Start with construction of the base and adobes that will be holding up the cement losa/top..

Place bricks in a V shape where chimney will be installed and use a plum-bob to find the exact spot in the roof needed to cut a hole to install the chimeny..

Slowly lift losa/cement top into place and finish cement work and detailing..

That’s the basics, make sure to inform the family to wait at least 8 days for the barro especial to dry solid and toss water (wet) over the cemented areas the next day so that it doesn’t crack while drying.

Written by galbavy

November 12, 2014 at 6:46 pm

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Saying Goodbye to Molinopampa..

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Wow, how did our exit from this town sneak up on us.  We were just getting warmed up and, boom, our closing date comes up and we’re on the way back to Lima to finish all logistics.  It has been quite a bit of time that we’ve been situated here, since Sept 14, 2012 in Peru; and since end of November in Molinopampa.  I guess all things in life have their duration and our commitment of volunteerism for the good folks of Molinopampa is no exception.  Check in with Andrea’s Farewell post (HERE).


And after the baptism mass there was a quick procession for the Senor de los Milagros holiday last month.

Written by galbavy

November 6, 2014 at 11:51 pm

Posted in Andrea, Kids

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