Fog Crept In

The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. ~ Carl Sandburg


Red-Headed Woodpecker

From the other room, I heard Melanie call out that she saw a Red-headed Woodpecker in the backyard. I hurried to take a look. It faces a challenging future according to All About Birds. We seldom see them since local habitat for this handsome bird was removed with the addition of streets and housing near us a decade ago. This one visited behind our house several times that day giving opportunities for a few photos. We hope to see it more this year.

Tree Trimming

This is not a story about trimming trees for the holidays. We have trees 50-60 ft tall behind the house. Their branches were extending out over the roof dropping debris and small twigs during the year. It was time to cut them back. There was no way I could reach them. The tree service had the equipment and personnel to do it safely. A few years ago they removed two large dead Elms. The video below of this recent work takes about 2 minutes.

Lights Out On The Radio Tower

A short distance from the back of our house is a tall radio tower. We normally see this 100 meter tall structure with some red lights along its length and a blinking red light on top. It is visible through our living room windows. This is a view one day a couple of years ago when I walked close to it.

Zoomed in on the top one can see the light that normally blinks to warn aircraft. We have a lot of low flying helicopter traffic carrying patients to the University of Iowa for medical care. It is very important for them to see it, especially at night.

In early February I noticed none of the lights on the tower were glowing. The top light was not blinking. Curiosity got the best of me. I decided to email the facilities office at the university to tell them. I assumed they already knew. But, just in case, it wouldn’t hurt. I got a quick response and was included in subsequent emails to different offices as they tried to establish who was responsible for fixing the problem.

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Peru | Everyday Life

by Melanie and Jim

As tourists, we were able to experience some of Peru’s highlights. We enjoyed high-quality accommodations, comfortable travel, and excellent food. Most Peruvians’ everyday life is not as carefree and luxurious. Our tour guide Walter made sure we had some opportunities to see the ways Peruvians really live.


Peru is the land of potatoes, a crop domesticated thousands of years ago. More than 3,000 varieties are grown in the Andes, well-adapted to the elevation and harsh conditions. Along with corn (maize,) quinoa, beans (legumes,) and tomatoes, potatoes make up a large part of the native diet. Chicken is a favorite, too, evident by the popularity of chicken restaurants including KFC fast food.

Another typical meat is cuy, or guinea pig. Though most of the world knows guinea pigs as pets, they are another indigenous food and a convenient way to add protein to the diet. Walter told us they are a favorite for feasts and special occasions, and often a whole one is roasted for each person. For all the galleries below, click any picture to open the gallery and see more detail. 

We were treated to a home-cooked lunch that featured cuy and stuffed peppers,  and a beverage made from Peruvian purple corn. White corn was also a side dish, sporting kernels as big as a pistachio nut in the shell.

Outside of larger cities, supermarket-style grocery stores are not widely available. Single-commodity shops and markets with a variety of vendors are available all over. Markets are like U.S. farmers’ markets, with produce, butchered meat, and various breads on display.


Education is free and compulsory for children through secondary school. University is free for poor students but only available based on high performance on entrance exams. Children attend primary school close to their homes for first through sixth grades, or until they are approximately 12 years old. Older children have five years of secondary school. For those who live in the country or small villages, this can mean walking miles across mountainsides. All the school children wear uniforms to school.

Our group visited a primary school in a small village. A wall and gate enclosed the school property with grassy yard and small classroom buildings, garden, and a separate outbuilding for the bathrooms. The two classrooms each held about 14 children. The children we joined were in fourth through sixth grades. The uniforms they wore were hardly standard, as some had uniform sweaters but no matching trousers or skirts, or other combinations of non-matching items. The families of many are very poor.

To thank the teacher and students for hosting us, we each brought some school supplies for their use. Also, we stopped on the way and bought reams of paper, something the teacher requested. Tripmates brought maps, including a map of the U.S. that Walter and another traveler showed. We used the map to point out our home states and tell them a little about our country.


A large amount of our tour group’s travel was in a comfortable bus on well-maintained highways. Roads within villages and in the countryside were more variable in quality. The city streets of Lima and Cuzco were hectic with traffic, but with the apparent chaos, we only witnessed one minor fender bender. Pedestrians cross streets at their own peril; jaywalking is not advised, and even crossing with lights requires caution. Lima has a number of in-city private bus companies running designated routes for mass transit. There also is a public metro rail, though the one time we used it, the scheduling seemed quite random for arrivals and departures at the terminal.

Besides the transportation infrastructure, another element that creates challenges is the public water systems. It’s not unusual when traveling to use bottled water to avoid digestive distress and other illnesses. Walter told us even Peruvians don’t drink tap water without boiling it first.

Also, the sewage system isn’t sufficient to deal with human waste. Toilet paper is disposed in trash rather in the toilet, a minor inconvenience, but not always easy to manage. Many growing urban areas in the Sacred Valley dump human waste directly in the Urubamba River. The tourism that supports and grows the economy creates costly problems, as well.


The home we visited for our lunch was large and comfortable, but probably not typical. The host family has been providing these lunches for years, earning income that allowed the addition of an extra kitchen space. The kitchens and dining room are arranged around a central courtyard.

It’s common for families to start with a small home and add on over time. We saw many buildings obviously unfinished, with concrete columns jutting into the sky, creating the base for upper floors. Later when finances allow, the walls will be filled in with clay tile blocks, and windows added when able.

A hillside home in some places would be a prime location for the views. Instead, the slopes surrounding Cuzco are filled with slum housing. The city has expanded rapidly in the last 30 years, as more people have resettled from the countrysides for better job opportunities. While this provides opportunity and resources, the risks of landslides are continual, and a moderate earthquake could be a major catastrophe.

Peru Post Links

This is our final post about our trip to Peru. If you’d like to see more, all the posts including this one are listed below. Please take a look and feel free to ask if you have questions. Thanks so much for spending time with us on our trip of a lifetime!

Peru | Lima | First Impressions
Peru | Textiles and Ceramics
Peru | Arts & Crafts
Peru | Pisac & Ollantaytambo
Peru | Machu Picchu
Peru | Tipon and Sacsayhuaman
Peru | Beer Bar – Oxen – Blessings
Peru | Hillside Homes | Traffic Woes
Peru | Everyday Life
Inca Pot | c 1500
Noon @ Ollantaytambo
Peru | Machu Picchu Plus Much More

Peru | Machu Picchu Plus Much More

by Jim and Melanie

Unique Views of Machu Picchu

Countless photographs and video clips have been made of Machu Picchu. We did our share. There’ve been many creative attempts to capture the essence and beauty of the place. One of the best we have seen is a collaboration between Destin Sandlin of Smarter Every Day on YouTube and Jeff Cremer of Jeff Cremer Photography, based in Peru.

Jeff set up his Canon camera with a 400 mm lens at a popular vista site above Machu Picchu. The camera system was programmed to automatically take 1920 highly zoomed photos of the site. The system captured 32 rows of photos. Each row was 60 images wide. Each image was 18 megabytes in raw format. It took 1 hour and 44 minutes. Click for more technical details. This 4 minute video will show Destin and Jeff as they got started on this project.

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