Thursday, February 16, 2006

Back in the States

We're back in Mobile, Alabama after our overnight flight via Houston. Overall, the trip home went relatively smoothly - Will was an absolute champ compared to the whiney brat who spent six hours kicking the backs of our seat on the flight from Lima. Holly is coming down with something so she showered and has crawled into bed for a nap before our appointment with the midwife this afternoon.

I'm fresh out of the shower myself too and trying to figure out how to deal with our latest computer crisis - the power supply to Holly's laptop has gone missing. We're sure we packed it and I vaguely remember seeing it when the security guy in the Lima airport went through the bag it was in (to verify that my electric razor wouldn't turn on in mid-flight). When we got to Mobile and starting unpacking, we discovered a TSA inspection notice in the bag and now we can't find the power supply. Coincidence? I think not.

Since Holly's laptop is now my one lifeline to my work stuff (since my laptop died), I'm scrambling to find a replacement for it. We can't afford wait to get one from eBay so I've been doing some sleuthing and think I can get a generic power adapter from BestBuy. Either way, it looks like I'll probably be driving back to New Orleans tonight or first thing tomorrow morning just so I can back on my main work machine and not have to use up the vacation time we're trying to save for when Katherine is born.

All in all, its good to be home but we're also really sad at having to leave all the wonderful new friends we've made in Lima. Coming home to New Orleans is bittersweet since we don't think we'll be there much longer at all.

Friday, February 10, 2006

YAMM (Yet Another Monkey Moment)

Just Like His Old Man

Will shows he has a future in home improvement too.

No Escaping Household Projects

Yesterday I ended up replacing the doorbell unit in the house we're staying in. The owner of the house offered to have an electrician come by and do it but it was just easier to take care of it myself. It also gave me a chance to check out the local hardware store.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Trivial Peru-suit

Some odds and ends about life in Lima, Peru:

  • Household power is 220 volts (i.e. twice that of the U.S.) and the local plugs are round pegs. However most of the receptacles are cleverly designed to allow U.S. style plugs to be used as well. The few electronics we brought with us (laptops, camera charger, my razor, etc.) all work on 220 volts with no adapters required.
  • Almost all construction is done with concrete and bricks. The main building structure is concrete with rebar and bricks are used for the walls, floors, and ceilings. A plaster-like mortar is then used to finish coat everything. Details like crown molding and trim are done with this mortar. Wood is pretty much only used for door frames and the occasional rooftop structure in the more affluent homes.
  • Wrought iron is everywhere - gates, fences, windows, and security doors. The quality of it is not to the standard of the historic stuff we have in front of our home in New Orleans, but it lasts well in this incredibly dry climate.
  • In the middle to upper-class homes and apartments we've been in, flooring materials are almost always tile or wood (parquet). We've seen ads for places for rent that have carpeting but I can't imagine keeping it clean in this dusty environment. Carpeting is probably almost only in the most upscale places that feature air conditioning.
  • Trash service in our neighborhood is every day of the week except Sunday. You put your trash out on the curb after 8:30 PM and a truck usually comes by no later than 11:00 PM. Supposedly you can get fined for putting out your trash earlier but I routinely see bags out after 6:00 PM.
  • People sweep our street every two or three days. Our neighborhood is swarming with street sweepers in orange safety vests and dust masks. They do an excellent job of keeping things generally clean (much more so than in New Orleans, even pre-Katrina). Again, we're in a really nice neighborhood so I'm sure it gets more attention than many of the others.
  • We have a gas stove that is fueled via a propane tank, not unlike a grill. In an earthquake prone area, this makes a lot of sense particularly since there is no need for gas heating like there is in the U.S. Our house has electric space heaters in every room for the cool winter days. You can get propane tanks delivered just by calling a company - we haven't had to call yet so I don't know the price.
  • Our water heater is electric and very small (about half the size of a U.S. water heater). From what I can tell, it may be an instant heat one where it just heats up the water as it comes through (rather than maintaining a bunch of water at a hot temperature like the water heaters we use). To augment the water heaters, most places have huge black tanks on their roofs that take advantage of solar heating to preheat the water.
  • We have yet to see a dishwasher here - even in the few upscale places we've seen in person and online. I don't know if its because of their excessive water usage or energy requirements. Most clothes washers I've seen are front loaders which are much more efficient in terms of water usage. We also have a dryer but many people in our neighborhood just rely on clotheslines.
  • I have a theory that you can tell the age of a house/apartment by the type of conspicuous security measures it has. The really old places do not have much more than iron bars on the first floor windows and doors (and sometimes on the uppers floors too). Places from the years of a lot of violence will have fences with sharp stakes and/or electricified fences). Modern construction tends to just have tall fences without the threatening embellishments. I have done any research to confirm this theory - its just my general impression from walking around.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Las Islas Ballestas

There really aren't words that can describe the experience of boating around these little islands. The sites, the sounds, and even the smells (of guano) are all incredible. I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Will Trips Out

As Holly promised you, here are some pictures of Will "watching music" as he puts it. He loves it when I fire up iTunes and play a podcast with the visualizations (i.e. trippy graphics) turned on.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

It's the small things that get you....

I'm sorry for not posting any updates recently. Work has been incredibly busy for me - I'm deep into a bunch of really cool software development so its been hard to switch gears back to writing English instead of code (not to mention speaking Spanish). But my time has also been wasted trying to resolve a bunch of little things - it's been like death by a thousand paper cuts. Some of these have included:

  • Our last purchase of Skype minutes for calling out to people didn't go through. Our credit card was charged by the Skype's processing company (MoneyBookers) but the credit never showed up in our Skype account. Skype's customer service claimed it wasn't their problem and that I needed to contact MoneyBookers. MoneyBookers never answered my e-mails to their customer service department and for some reason, Skype has their customer service numbers blocked so I couldn't call them. And even if I could have called them, I didn't have the credits in Skype to do so. This finally got resolved today after I had to spend much time making a royal pain in the ass of myself in Skype's customer forums.
  • It took me two days to get the final installment of the rent on our house in Peru wired. Between a dodgy network connection and USAA Federal Savings Bank's customer service hours not really being what the claim on their web site, it took two days of calling to get this resolved. At least I can take comfort in the fact that I'm now certain to be on some watch list for some shadowy U.S. intelligence agency. I am now a U.S. citizen that called from Peru to wire money from a U.S. bank to an account in a Indonesia that belongs to an English citizen.
  • Finally, I'm still in an ongoing struggle to get reimbursed for Will's daycare post-Katrina from our dependent care flexible spending account (FSA). We had started the account when my company merged with SAIC to cover his costs at Newcomb this fall. Once the storm hit and Newcomb was flooded, we requested that our contributions to this account be stopped since we were not sure if we'd have a change to even use the money already in the account. When we returned to New Orleans two months later, we were fortunate enough to find another pre-school for Will and we submitted their bill for reimbursement from our FSA. It was rejected because stopping our contributions resulted in us being considered to be no longer enrolled in the FSA. Even though the FSA is supposed to cover any expense in the calendar year, we're now finding we're being denied access to our own money. Fortunately, I have an awesome HR representative from my company batting for me on this one so there is hope yet.
Taken singly, none of these is all that major (except maybe for the last one) but dealing with them all together has just been a royal pain. I'm looking forward to getting away for a long weekend this coming weekend and doing my best to not thing about all the work stacking up.