Welches in Peru

Welches in Peru
Our family (November 2018)

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

My Remote Monitoring and Control Proposal

27 March 2017

Apologies in advance, as this post is a bit technically slanted and intended for those with knowledge about such communication systems.

I complete and send out my Request for Proposal (RFP) for a remote monitoring and control (telemetry) system for our transmission sites.  This telemetry system is necessary to have accurate and timely information about the integrity of our remote FM transmission equipment and our sites including security.

My proposed system makes use of our satellite links to return site data back to our studios in Curahuasi.  All our remote dish antennas were intentionally purchased as transmit and receive capable for this to be possible.
 
Our General Dynamics 2.4m C-Band receive and transmit satellite antennas.
This equipment includes equipment from;
  • ·         ND Satcom SKYWAN modems for the satellite link (from ND Satcom in Germany) utilising a single TDMA carrier to save an appreciable amount of money on satellite bandwidth
  • ·         T-Box LT2 telemetry data gathering units for the sites and the T-Box central monitoring solution (from Maximation in Australia)

Our ND Satcom SKYWAN solution using a single TDMA carrier technology.
 
The T-Box LT2 unit used for collecting site data.
Most importantly when operational this solution will save many unnecessary (viz. long and hazardous) journeys to our most distant remote sites and with very few staff to attend to transmission matters (i.e. right now it’s only me!).  Not to mention unnecessary time away from the family.  And also to deploy local security personnel in the event that a break in has been committed as we are in some cases at least 12 hours away (if not more considering the need for daytime travel) from responding to our furthest sites.

I now hope that this new telemetry equipment can be quoted to Diospi Suyana at the right price to enable us to implement this most important solution.  Otherwise we will be essentially running blind at our remote sites.

Regards,

Chris

Monday, 26 June 2017

Another Miraculous Recovery for Me

22 March 2017

My Emergency British Passport issued for my access into Rio, Brazil
Continuing on with my passport thread from my last blog post…

The week after I returned from Rio de Janeiro, I followed up with Her Majesties Passport Office (known as the HMPO) to see if there was any possibility of reactivating my British Passport after I was told in Lima that it was cancelled and I would have to reapply for a new one.  I had my original passport returned from Cusco and in my hands by this time (as it never made a flight to Lima).  This renewal process would cost me time and money – including the usual delays and sometimes missing mail in the Peru postal system.

So on the Tuesday I initially email and then call to speak to a nice natured customer support person who with a thick Irish accent told me this was a highly unlikely outcome as he had never heard of this happening before.  However at my insistence he would follow up internally to ask in any case.

I had no answer by the following day – Wednesday, and so I called the HMPO again.  I got a different customer representative this time and as requested I again provided my two relevant passport numbers.  But to my surprise upon the agent verifying these numbers, I receive the incredible news that my original British passport was active and my Emergency Passport was cancelled despite being stamped “Date of Expiry: 21 September 2017”!!!

As this is highly irregular, it is one I can only put down to another miraculous recovery in answer to prayer (not unlike my wallet recovery in Lima – see my 2016 blog post: http://welchesinperu.blogspot.pe/2016/06/a-miraculous-recovery-in-lima.html).

Be encouraged by this, as we read Psalm 57:10 “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”

Bendiciones,

Chris

Thursday, 22 June 2017

A visit to Hispamar in Rio de Janeiro

16 to 18 March 2017

A satellite launch rocket model in the foyer of Hispamar offices, Rio de Janeiro
Dr Klaus and I head off to Rio de Janeiro to visit South American satellite operator Hispamar.  We depart from Curahuasi at 5:30 AM for Cusco (about 2 ½ hours’ drive) where we then fly to Lima airport (just over an hours’ flight) to then catch our flight to Rio de Janeiro.  But firstly Klaus makes a Diospi Suyana presentation in Lima in the afternoon before our early evening flight to Brazil.  

Then came a clanger when I try to get my Rio flight boarding pass - I find that neither my Australian passport nor my Peru Extranjeria Carné is sufficient to enter Brazil!  I am told I would need a visitors’ visa with my Australian passport (despite our Australian trade agreement).  With the time I have available whilst Klaus makes his presentation, I head off to the Brazil embassy in Lima.  But I am told there that a visitor’s visa will take 3 days and there is no way to expedite it! 

So I try for my second option – I have a British passport and I am informed at the airport that this requires no visa to enter Brazil (due to EU relations).  However my British passport is in Curahuasi.  So I go for a two pronged approach – firstly (a long shot) I get Sandi to drop it into Diospi Suyana and they put it in the next taxi to Cusco.  Then there is a plan to get it on the next flight to Lima but we are not sure if this is possible. 

The second option is I go to the British embassy in Lima and see if they can issue an emergency passport.  So I arrive at the embassy with a few hours left up my sleeve before I need to make my way back to the airport through highly unpredictable Lima afternoon traffic.  The process normally takes much longer, but I explain my plight and they agree to do this in time as a special favour.  I rush out to get passport photos and then return in the nick of time.  It was a good thing I pursued this as my original British passport never made it onto a plane in Cusco.
 
The view filling out my Emergency Passport application in the British Embassy, Lima.
But upon leaving the embassy I am told the Emergency Passport has cancelled my original British passport so I would need to reapply for a new one after my trip.  This was a clanger – but I will pick up this story again in a later post.

So back to the airport – Klaus is stuck in Lima traffic jam for over 2 hours but makes it in time to get our flight to Brazil.  We land in Rio at 4:35 AM on Friday 17 March and catch a cab into town with a very talkative driver with the sun rising over the city.  There is no hotel for us on this schedule for us as there is no time.  Klaus must leave for Germany this evening.
 
Flying into Rio at dawn is impressive in size and features (stock photo).
We fill in time with breakfast in a small café and arrive to meet the Hispamar management team at 9:00 AM.  Hispamar are the South American division of the Spanish satellite operator Hispasat.  They operate seven satellites and lease capacity to public and private institutions.  Klaus makes his Diospi Suyana presentation.  This turns out to be successful when the Director of Negotiations for South America, Sergio Chavez asserts was so impressed that he wants to make Diospi Suyana their company’s corporate responsibility!  Albeit subject to head office approval in Madrid, Spain so we don’t know the final outcome for sure yet. 
 
Klaus presenting to the Hispamar management team with Sergio Chavez on the left.
We are then given a tour of their facility.  During the tour we are introduced to all the staff.  The satellite control centre is well presented and equipped with the right monitoring equipment (with a number of high end digital spectrum analysers).  The seaside view on one side, city on the other and mountains on the other from the office windows is compelling.
The amazing view from Hispamar offices with famous Rio sights.
The Hispamar satellite control room and customer centre.
We enjoy a classic Brazilian “Rodízio” lunch with Sergio and some of his team.  I had not had anything like this since I left Australia!  We depart ways with the Hispamar team and then at 2:00 PM Klaus presents to a German journalist with offices and studios in Rio.

At 3:30 PM we drive back to the airport, avoiding the temptation to use the rest of the daylight in Rio to visit some sights whilst driving past Sugarloaf Mountain with cable cars running to and fro, or climb up to the famous “Christ the Redeemer”.  Rio is a risky and unpredictable place at nightfall.  And besides, it would not be enjoyable without our wives and in my case, family.
 
Speeding past Sugarloarf Mountain with its famous cable cars on our way back to Rio airport.
Listening to Portuguese music over the airport speaker system for hours on end – it is a most unusual and almost enticing sounding language to my ears.  It sounds nothing like Spanish to me despite what some have said about similarities.

As Klaus summaries, three days go without hotel accommodation but filled with a thousand impressions.

Regards,

Chris

Friday, 16 June 2017

What a good thing that Radio Diospi Suyana exists!

14 March 2017


Doris Manco, head of our Diospi Suyana Media Centre, writes:

“Quechua-pastor Antonio Pacheco and his wife Ignasia visited us yesterday.  Their friendly words really encouraged the team of our media centre.  They told us that they had been praying for years for a Christian radio station which broadcasts an encouraging message.  At times they feel lonely, forgotten and forsaken in their village.  Diospi Suyana’s radio programme which also broadcasts its songs and talks in the Quechua language was a real answer to prayer and a lovely surprise…”

They listen to us with their battery powered transistor radios.

Such visits motivate us no end.  They show how people living in the countryside yearn for the Gospel of Faith.  Pastor Pacheco put the first financial contribution into the donation box of our radio and TV station.  Both of them said it was only a small seed.  But they had no idea what their donation meant for us.  It was a powerfully moving token of appreciation of our work.

For us it is a privilege to be part of the team of Diospi Suyana Radio & TV.

Doris Manco
The guests are given a private tour of the studios.
Here is the link to the original Diospi Suyana post (in English);
http://www.diospi-suyana.de/quechua-ehepaar-spendet-fuer-das-medienzentrum-von-diospi-suyana/?lang=en

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Return to Chincheros (Day 3 & 4) – my additional sights of interest and the road back to Curahuasi

11 & 12 March 2017

Saturday 11 March – in the morning we go looking for other site options in case our preferred site encounters issues with the purchase.  And then around midday we pull into a fuel station to fill up, but see no adults attending.  We only see an 8 year old at the payment register but he does not acknowledge our arrival.  Then we notice why – the fuel register computer has internet access and he is immersed in a video game – we all could not help but have a good laugh at this!


Our 8 year old fuel station attendant in Uripa immersed in his video game!
Then we head into town to talk to find our Uripa community president.  It turns out she runs a stall in the market during the day.  From here we arrange our meeting with the Uripa community leaders in the night so we can discuss purchasing our preferred allotment. 

The Uripa Quechua community president in her stall (with black hat facing the camera).
We hold two meetings, the first with the Uripa community members at a local school.  This meeting was scheduled to start at 5:00 PM but starts about an hour and a half later (normal in Quechua culture).  Klaus spoke to present Diospi Suyana and our request.  Then it seemed most wanted to have their say as is their customary right of reply, each with repeated lengthy welcoming formalities.  All this making us late for the second meeting down town.

The second meeting was with in a community room which was accessed via side alley door down a pitch dark muddy pooled and urine smelling alleyway.  It led to a set of concrete stairs of varying step heights and without any railings, up to the first floor past some exposed electrical cables.  It broke every work health and safety rule I know.  But once inside the room was small and cosy with a single glowing bulb hanging from a ceiling which just cleared my head by a few centimetres.   There were paper files piled up high on desks and on shelves.  Seats were arranged facing the president’s desk for the group of about 15 Quechua leaders who were attentive our Klaus’s presentation and then wanted to hear from each of us (my contribution was very short due to my lack in Spanish).  It was a surreal experience for me, as I felt like I was in a scene from an Indiana Jones or similar adventure movie.  I later mentioned this to Klaus over a late dinner that evening, and he jokes it is a page out of a missionary novel and I laugh, as it is probably very true.

The Uripa community meeting with the president front and centre (in grey jumper and black hat).
Sunday 12 March - after our late night, we are all awoken at 5:30 AM with unsolicited high volume church bells followed by three blaring songs emanating from the Catholic Church from across the Uripa Plaza de Armes, calling all Catholics to attend mass.  A presumptuous legacy for 50% of the population in Uripa that are no longer Catholic, or who may do night work and don’t need the early morning mass attendance call.
 
The Uripa Catholic church blaring out bells and songs for about 20 minutes at 5:30 AM.!
After a snooze, we arise again for our team (Klaus, Udo, Doris and me) to embark at 7:00 AM on our road journey back to Curahuasi.  This trip presented the usual beautiful scenery but also flaunt with the many Peruvian Andes road hazards.  Landslides over the national highway are common at this time of year due to heavy rains washing away soil to bring down rocks and boulders.  The following is a photo montage of some highlights of our trip.
 
We pass some beautiful patchwork quilt mountaintop farms (about 4,000 m above sea level).
Landslides like the ones pictured here are common along the Panamericana highway in these parts – especially after heavy rain like that experienced in March
This landslide blocks the alternative route to Abancay
We find an alternative dirt road which takes us through some poor adobe villages with sights such as this one.
We finally arrive in Abancay with one more mountain pass to go (this one 4,000 m).  But on our descent to Curahuasi we catch up with a tour bus.  It was one of the scariest things you will see on the roads in Peru, as most of these drivers assume the right to be wherever they want on the road with no regard for anybody else (including their passengers!).  Time and time again I photo him on the wrong side of the road, crossing double yellow lines including on blind corners with no knowledge of oncoming traffic.   Not to mention the speed he was doing, the lack of roadside railings and unforgiving steep mountainous drop-offs are no deterrent.




The above photos are repeated insane and inconsiderate death defying manoeuvres for this bus on our road down to Curahuasi – tragically a common sight which is almost never apprehended with the almost complete absence of any police on the road. 
Klaus posted a 2014 link to the online “La Primera Digital” site which refers to an earlier study from the Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones (MTC) of Peru, instigated after a string of bad accidents.  The study found 40% of bus drivers in Peru had psychopathic traits!  Also that in 72% of cases, drivers are responsible for road accidents in Peru.  Further 33% of accidents are caused by speeding and 28% by dangerous manoeuvres.  Then a subsequent study by the same author now explains the unscrupulous behaviour of many public transport drivers.  According to the research, drivers who have had one or more accident reflect more negative behaviours than those who have never had one. They become more aggressive and the chances of them colliding again are greater.

There is more too of course, but I think the most tragic realisation is that it appears nothing has ever been done in Peru to address such findings.

As for our family, we pray for safety, we take special care on our journeys and we stand on the promise we were given before we came to Peru from Psalm 121 versus 1 to 3 which reminds me of this;

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip –
    he who watches over you will not slumber.

Regards,

Chris

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Return to Chincheros (Day 2 & 3) – an Australian in the South-Peruvian Mountains

10 March 2017

Here is the article that Klaus posted on the Diospi Suyana website on 14 March (with some minor clarification edits by me) and which I am very humbled by;

An Australian in the South-Peruvian Mountains


Sitting at his desk in the Diospi Suyana Centro de Medios, Chris analyses the topography of the Chincheros Province.  Where should Diospi Suyana‘s antenna be placed so that it reaches all 52,000 inhabitants?  Having taken hundreds of measurements, he has found “The Perfect Place”.  A couple of days later we are standing on the mountain together and mark out a square using four piles of stones.  Chris’ hard work was worth it and his positive mood influences our little team no end.

For the Australian from Sydney, the Andes are unchartered territory.  He is getting his fair dose of long meetings with various village communities – something he has never come across beforehand – which have to grant us permission to go ahead with our project.  Last Saturday we had the pleasure of two such meetings with the Quechua.

Australia is seven times bigger than Peru, but has 10 million inhabitants less.  His homeland counts among the countries in the world which have the highest living standard, whereas here we find here extreme poverty with people living in adobe huts are the inhabitants of Chincheros.

“Everything I have experienced today,” says Chris that evening, “is like a film; I can hardly believe it!” “You are right,” I answer laconically, “it sounds like a missionary report!” The father of eight laughs heartily. 

For 25 years he worked as a TV high-tech expert for the three metropolitan commercial TV stations.  His high salary from back then is history.  One cannot miss noticing that the green continent fills this tall fella with enthusiasm.  As a missionary he is no longer his own boss, but has found his fulfilment on the Peruvian mountain peaks.  For God and for the people.  The finished product of our Christian Family TV and radio programme would be unthinkable without Chris.

Chris’ specialist literature in his office.
Just under 4,000 m in altitude, Chris (left) marking the location coordinates.
The right hand mountain peak (3,960 m) is our preferred site.
The second meeting with a village community going into the night.  The lady on the far left with the black hat is the Uripa community president (and an impressive leader in my opinion).
Here is the link to the original Diospi Suyana post (in English) by Dr Klaus John;

Regards,

Chris

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Return to Andahuylas and Chincheros (Day 1)

09 March 2017

The Diospi Suyana transmission “site selection team” (Klaus, Udo, Doris and me) again drive back to Andahuylas (about 5 hours’ drive west of Curahuasi) and then onto Chincheros (a further 2 hours’ drive on from Andahuylas).

On this trip we firstly inspected the Andahuylas FM Tx site civil construction work by our subcontractor, as overseen by Udo Klemenz.

I am standing in front of the Andahuylas transmission site tower foundation excavations.
Udo reported the following regarding Andahuylas: “– we can definitely be pleased with the progress.  The four tower pits dug in rocky subsoil, in which the foundations for the tower will be laid, have been excavated and are currently being reinforced.”

The steel tower foundation bolt template is in place awaiting the rebar steel mesh and then the concrete pour.
All excavations (some 2.5m deep) are in difficult rocky ground and are done by hand – unthinkable in developed countries.
And then we drove onto Chincheros to select a new transmission FM site as I realised from further study that the initial choice was inadequate in coverage to the city of Uripa – being one of two main population areas of Chincheros Province.  It was blocked in that direction by a large hill and there was no practical solution to overcome this.  This trip I had some good options that shows to be viable from my desktop studies.  Lessons learnt - from this point forward I will ensure our homework is done before we head out into the field.

In my following post I continue with day 2 news from Chincheros Province.

As an adjunct to Udo’s weekly building report, we also report on a development with the Curahuasi broadcast site.  The local electrical utility Electro Sur, are finally erecting the poles up to our broadcast site.  Note the way the pole is being rigged into place (i.e. using the nearby tree!).

Electro Sur at work in Curahuasi running power to our new broadcast site.  In the background you can see the Colegio Diospi Suyana.
Regards,

Chris

Monday, 5 June 2017

Puno Transmission Site Purchase and Home Again (Day 3)

03 March 2017

After a bun with fried egg and piece of cheese for breakfast (being as close a menu to our liking as we can find), our team of 4 head off early to arrive at 8:00 am at the Puno hilltop location for the Diospi Suyana FM Tx site and purchase this from the landowners, Family Sardón who are very favourable towards Diospi Suyana.  They own a major share of this Llallahuani Hill.

An engineer, who we met the day before in the Town Hall, accompanies us.  He commits to draw up the necessary documents for the notary office in record time with an architect friend to enable a same day purchase (which is of course unheard of in developed countries!).  We found the suitable plot of land at a height of 4,098m after walking around to inspect the available site options where I verify the critical signal paths using Google Earth on my laptop and determine the best site with the required tower height (50 meters in this case) to get above a wall of nearby tower obstructions.  This site should be able to reach the 200,000 people living in Puno through this antenna with Diospi Suyana’s FM radio programme.
 
Doris helping me manage my laptop to make our final site selection on Llallahuani Hill over Puno.
 
The view of the city of Puno beneath Llallahuani Hill.
Immediately following this we arranged to meet at the notary’s office at 12:30 pm but where on earth are the engineers?  We hear that they are still drawing the plans and are fighting against a very slow internet connection, then a traffic jam delays them further.  Tension increases steadily in the bureau.  Lunch break starts at 1:30 pm and lasts till about 4 pm.  Not to mention the nine hour car journey back to Curahuasi that we plan to take. 

Suddenly someone throws the door wide open and within seconds the notary officer is covered by his colleagues with foam!  Today is carnival and everything is permitted – foam in a can is all the vogue in town for such fun.
We were astounded to see professional adults behaving like school children in font of clients!
Back in Curahuasi Stefan Seiler of Diospi Suyana finance department does an express transfer of the agreed sum.  Senora Sardón and Doris Manco rush out the door of the notary lawyer’s offices in order to pay the sales tax.  We are in constant phone contact so we find when it is finally their turn in the Banco de Crédito, they do not have the correct document!  They hurry to the tax office, are given the document, and head back to the nearest bank branch.

Klaus cannot stop looking at his watch.  Udo Klemenz says “Keep cool” – he was a cool as a cucumber.  But Klaus says he is not 74 years old yet and has a right to get worked up about things! J
 
While we are waiting a client comes into the Notary’s office on his motorbike and decides the safest and cost free place to park it is in front of the reception desk!
At 2:30 pm everyone and everything comes together - the seller of the property, the statement of our funds transfer, the tax-paid form, the location plan and the notary.  The rest is a mere formality.

We then negotiate with representatives of two local construction companies about the civil works, after which we pick up our suitcases from the hotel and start the journey of 550km from Puno back to Curahuasi.  We stop at a petrol station overlooking Puno and in turn each of us says a prayer of thanks to God, in German, English and Spanish. 
Dr John signs the document before we head back to Curahuasi – 550 km / 9 hours.
 With God’s blessing we have reached an excellent result in a record time frame – and that during a Perú Carnival which is not trivial!  Just before 1:00 am Klaus’ car reaches Curahuasi.  

But I arrange to get out 2 ½ hours earlier than that in Cusco to stay the night with some fellow missionary friends.  This is too good an opportunity to pass up so I can go shopping in the morning for Jake’s 18th birthday present the next day.  Cusco is nearly half a million people and by far the best place to shop for anything specialised outside of Lima or Arequipa.  I also get some home hardware and a food shop in the big supermarket Plaza Vea (second largest retailer in all of Peru in fact) before getting a combi back to Curahuasi on Saturday afternoon.

Regards,

Chris

Friday, 2 June 2017

A Day of Honour in Puno (Day 2)

02 March 2017

Dr Klaus John makes a Diospi Suyana presentation in the council chambers of Puno and this is followed by a short notice council ceremony awarding Dr Klaus.  Also a certificate of honour for Udo, Doris and me (we don’t seek any recognition for our work, that is not our purpose).  But for what it is worth, this certification makes us honorary lifetime members of Puno! 
 
My honorary accolade from the Puno Province.
Here is the original Diospi Suyana article posted by Klaus with additional photos;

After this quite incredible morning we took a moment as a team to reflect on the shore of Lake Titicaca and get something to eat for lunch.  It was one of those amazing perfect days – warm, sunny and peaceful.

The Puno team on the shore of Lake Titicaca (despite our winter attire it was not cold!).
Then we tracked down the landowners of the only transmission hilltop authorised to serve Puno.  This was a mother and son who reside in Puno.  We visited their house and from appearances they seemed relatively wealthy as they had on display some amazing antiques.  Their collection included antique radios, typewriters, cameras, gramophones, rifles, owl figurines (would you believe) and even some genuine Inca artefacts.
 
The landowners antique radio and camera collection (one of a number in their home).
Klaus makes his Diospi Suyana PowerPoint presentation to them and they were impressed with the story of faith.  We made a time to meet on site on the transmission hill the following day to select a transmission site for Diospi Suyana.
 
Klaus presenting to the Puno transmission hilltop landowners.
Whilst on this trip I had further contact with satellite operator Intelsat, and it became apparent to Klaus and me that their senior management in Washington were unprepared to meet us in person, as previously committed by their CEO and SVP Sales and Marketing.  Furthermore ARSAT were unresponsive in correspondence to finalise their agreement option. 

So I then looked at satellite alternatives and on the Friday 3 March I commenced discussions with the Spanish satellite operator Hispamar.  They cover South America with their Amazonas fleet of satellites which are operated out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  I subsequently arranged a meeting with their South American management where Klaus I would travel to their offices in Rio.

Regards,

Chris