In Memoriam: Hugo Mancha

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 11 Jan 2007

Ayer por la tarde Hugo Mancha falleció. Yo trabajé con el en el Diego Thomson en Lima, Perú. Allá el era profesor en informatica. El también se tomó tiempo para mostrarme Pachacamac por un día. Me da mucha pena escuchar esta noticia, y mando muchos saludos a su familia y sus amigos. Que Dios les ayude en este tiempo.

Yesterday in the evening Hugo Mancha died. He was a computing teacher at the Diego Thomson and a friend of mine. I worked with him during my civilian service in Peru last year. During my time in Peru he also took some time off to show me the historical place Pachacamac. All the best to his family and co-workers and I hope that God helps them through this time of sorrow.

No news today

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 13 Nov 2006

The last few weeks I was on vacation – in Peru again. That explains the absence of posts during that time. I uploaded a few (very few) pictures on Flickr. I’ll add many more during the next days once I have time to catalog and label all of the pictures taken.

1st round of Peruvian presidential election is over

Posted by Patrice Neff Wed, 26 Apr 2006

It's now almost official: and will get into the second round of the Peruvian presidential election. The official ONPE Web site states, that 98.872% of the votes have been counted. Ollanta Humala now got 30.7% of the valid votes, Alan García 24.3% and 23.7%.

Let me give a short summary of the two candidates in the second route. Humala is a left-wing politician, former military commander and doesn't seem to have very clear visions for the country. Mostly he wants to help the poor and has a few very drastic ideas. Some Peruvians fear that Humala would prohibit Peruvians from leaving the country, because he claims that mainly the rich Peruvians leave and thus the country gets poorer. García seems to be a bit more on the center, though his party is counted among the left ones. His party has a long history as a strong opposition party in congress and García was himself president from 1985 to 1990 and his term is mainly remembered for extreme inflation, increased terrorism and general chaos. I haven't yet heard good things about his term from any of my Peruvian friends.

So it's no wonder that in Peru the current saying solo queda elegir entre el sida y el cancer (it now remains to choose between AIDS and cancer) is very popular.

It seems probable now, that García will win the second round, because supporters of Lourdes Flores are more likely to vote for him than for Humala. Many Peruvians feel, that at least they can get rid of Alan after his five-year term while with Humala it seems much more likely that he would try to stay in office for much longer. In that aspect, Humala is often compared with , who was originally elected in a democratic process but has since then used his powers to extend his term limit. That assessment has been repeated to me by several Peruvians.

A current poll by the pollster DATUM currently predicts that García will win with 54% over Humala. But if we have learned one thing from the first round it's that pollsters can't be trusted in Peru either. The second round is scheduled for May 28.

Back home - En Suiza de nuevo

Posted by Patrice Neff Sat, 15 Apr 2006

I got home a few hours ago (yesterday actually). No problems on the way. So I'm now in Switzerland again. Thanks again to all the friends who came to the airport in Lima and in Switzerland.

Llegué hace unas horas (ayer el viernes). No tenía problemas y ya estoy en Suiza de nuevo después de más que seis meses en Perú. Voy a escribir más en español en este weblog en el futuro. Gracias otra vez a todos los amigos que me han despedido al aeropuerto en Lima y también a todos los amigos que me han recibido de nuevo al aeropuerto en Zurich.

Humala & Alan

Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 11 Apr 2006

As of about half an hour ago, 83.87 percent of the votes have been counted and it seems more and more certain that will make it to the second round. He currently has a 0.9 percent lead over Lourdes.

Unfortunately the official ONPE site is always a few hours behind. Though it doesn't matter much because they are currently counting at a rate of 3% a day (or so it seems).

Update: The Peru Election weblog reports that ONPE (the official electoral office) has just started counting the votes aborad. About three percent of the Peruviants vote from abroad, so this could actually alter the result in favour of Lourdes. The foreigners are estimated to vote more in favor of Lourdes while the rural areas (which is the main part of the votes that have not been counted yet) generally vote for Alan and Humala. The suspense will probably only terminate when 100 percent of the votes have been counted.

I'm coming home

Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 11 Apr 2006

After more than six months in Peru, after learning Spanish for a month, after working at the Diego Thomson for more than six months, after getting to know different parts of the country, after getting robbed a few times (three times to be exact), after getting to know many great people, the Peruvian culture and my girlfriend, after accepting a new job in Switzerland, after learning about the Peruvian history and politics and the Spanish language, I'm now finally going back to Switzerland. Yes, you heard that right. In less than a week, I'll finally be able to eat my favourite Kebabs at the Limon restaurant again.

I'm leaving Peru on April 13 and will arrive in Switzerland April 14. (Disclaimer: I have no control over any plane crashes, terror attacks, weather situations, the airline, etc. Actually I have no control over anything.)

Flight: IB3474
Coming from: Madrid
Arrival date: Friday, April 14, 2006
Arrival time: 18:35 Zurich local time

And as the theme song for the occasion I recommend Perfect Summer by Waiting For Steve. Though it seems I'm returning for something like winter, according to some photos.

Surprising election result in Peru

Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 11 Apr 2006

Readers of my weblog know, that in Peru was election weekend. The results for the presidential race are surprising. wins, which for some time has been predicted. But for second place it's still unclear whether or will take it. This is important, because the top two contenders will go on to the second round.

According to the latest numbers of today, Monday, 5pm Peruvian time with 75.64 percent of the votes counted, Humala gets 29.65%, García 24.95% and Lourdes 24.69% (source). Lourdes and Alan have switched the second/third place a few times.

In my opinion a second round with Humala and Alan would be the worst result possible. Alan has proven that he is a bad president and Humala doesn't exactly sound promising either. But many Peruvians don't trust Lourdes because she has strong links to big business.

The evangelicals are glad, that Humberto Lay, an evangelical pastor, did better than many expected. His party gets about three seats in congress. It's the only new party without a serious presidential candiate which gets new seats. There will be six parties with representation in the congress. Of this, three have presidential hopefuls (APRA of Alan, Unión por el Perú for Humala and Unidad Nacional for Lourdes), and two parties represent former presidents (Alianza por el futuro which wants back and Frente de centro for ). Not much can be said about congress representation, though, because just about 14 percent of the votes have been counted.

My sources for following the elections are:

I'll keep you posted.

Election weekend

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 07 Apr 2006

It has started. From now until Sunday it's not allowed to sell alcohol here in Peru. Also parties seem to be generally forbidden until Sunday. So it's even more drastic than I thought before.

Update: I learned a few more things about this. The law is called "ley seca" (the "dry law") and under this law selling and consuming alcohol is forbidden from Friday until Monday lunchtime on the election weekend. The reason is that drunkards actually go voting. Also large congregations are forbidden, with a few exceptions such as church services which are allowed on Saturday but not un Sunday.

Good summary of the elections in Peru

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 06 Apr 2006

This Washington Post coverage of the Peruvian Election provides a very good summary of what's going on. One excerpt:

Can Peruvian polls be trusted?
No. Peruvian polls are notoriously unreliable. The most solid prediction is that there will be a second round and Humala will be in it. The volatility of the polls rests on the fact that many Peruvians do not make up their minds until a few days before the election and that polls rarely reach the 20 percent of voters in the poorest, most remote areas of the country. (Because isolated, low income voters are most likely to vote for Humala, this may mean he is even further ahead than polls suggest).

Also it seems, that Flores is currently in the lead again according to the polls. I have read some very critical articles against Humala in the newspapers (though I only read the first pages at the kiosk). So the following interpretation seems plausible:

"Humala's support has fallen because of a barrage of attacks against him these last few days. ... That has generated a fear of voting for the unknown," said CPI's director, Manuel Saavedra.

But again: polls are unreliable.

Peru's Ex-president Fujimori marries

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 06 Apr 2006

Marriages are rarely news-worthy for me. But this one is special for several reasons. First, Fujimori is a former president of Peru and would like to become president again. Second, he is currently imprisoned in Chile where the courts are evaluating if they can extradite him to Peru. Third, his party is campaigning and would like to get some Fujimori people elected into congress. They also have a candiate for the presidency but she has not much hope to get elected.

So out from his prison, Fujimori now married a Japanese woman (Fujimori is Japanese as well). Many Peruvians see this as a move to get his party some more sympathy votes. Personally I think so myself, because the timing is just "too perfect" and Fujimori too political.

The elections are on Sunday.

Ollanta Humala and the Peruvian presidential elections

Posted by Patrice Neff Wed, 05 Apr 2006

The Guardian has a piece about the upcoming presidential election in Peru of this Sunday, April 9. If you are interested in the first-round favourite Ollanta Humala you should read it, because the document presents some information about him.

Then there is this piece of knowledge:

But surveys suggest professional politicians are almost universally despised as self-serving. This context helps explain the apparent popularity of Mr Humala, who has not previously run for office, according to John Crabtree of the Centre for Latin American Studies at Oxford University.

You don't need to survey for that, though. Whenever I talk with my Peruvian friends and taxi drivers it's very clear that politicians are liars, corrupt, self-serving and anything but responsible. Women and non-politians are trusted more. Also I'm told that it helped Fujimori that he was Asian and that also Humberto Lay, an evangelical pastor with Chinese parents who runs for president, profits from the notion that Asians have a better moral base.

Also most Peruvians I talked with feel that Peru has a lot of unused natural resources that the past governments should have used to enrich the people. They usually talk about the sea resources.

I'll comment more about the elections here, as I'm very interested in the outcome. Though I'll be more interested in what the new government actually will achieve. Hopes are generally very low.

(Via Findory)

No party on election day

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 03 Apr 2006

On of the stranger things about Sunday's election in Peru is a law that forbids any congregations. It's even forbidden to have a church service on that day.

I guess the reason for that is, that voting is obligatory here, which was new to me, coming from Switzerland where it's voluntary. Many people have to travel in order to get to the place where they are actually registered for voting. If they had anything going on that Sunday, they might not go voting and rather pay the fine. That's the only sensible reason I can currently think of for such a law.

Update April 4: I learned today, that the actual reason is different. Flavio also mentiones it in his comment. It seems the law was brought for security reasons, specifically because of fear from terror attacks. The church services I know were rescheduled from Sunday morning to Saturday night by the way.

Conference finished

Posted by Patrice Neff Sat, 01 Apr 2006

The conference finished a short while ago. About 30 people came and were very interested. I'll upload pictures on Monday and will also check if the recorded MP3 files are any good.

Conference for Free Software in Education

Posted by Patrice Neff Sat, 01 Apr 2006

Today we have a conference about free software in education at the Diego Thomson in Lima, Peru. We will have the following presentations:

  • Software libre in schools (Movie)
  • Linux distributions and Skolelinux
  • Experiences and successes
  • Technological perspectives
  • The LINEDUX project
  • Work networks

For some of the talks I have no idea what they are about. One of the talks will be mine (The Skolelinux one of course). And I will try to record the presentations and make them available online. In Spanish only, though.

Presidential election in Peru

Posted by Patrice Neff Sat, 01 Apr 2006

Next Sunday the Peruvians will elect their next president. Or much more likely they will just elect the participants of the second round. Currently it looks as if no candidate will get majority the first time round.

The race will most likely be decided between Lourdes Flores and Ollanta Humala. Flores is very pro-business, though she claims to be more to the center than before, and Humala is extremely leftist. Though Humala doesn't have a clear policy, because he mainly gains votes by declaring that all other politicians are corrupt and that he is not. For quite some time Flores led the polls but currently Humala leads by a few percent points. For the second round it's very undecided yet with one poll claiming Humala's victory and others claiming that Flores will win. Flores uses the general opinion that women are not as corrupt as the men in her favor.

Many Peruvians don't have much hope, though. I mean just look at Alan García. He is currently at third place and for some time it looked as he might just win the election. He already was president before and his presidency was probably one of the worst the world has ever seen. Knowing that he might get elected really makes you think.

Many Christians hope that Humberto Lay of Restauración Nacional will get some points - or at least that his party gets some congressmen. Lay is a christian pastor and the party as well is christian. As a candidate for that party, one person of the Diego Thomson is running for congress as well.

Intranet Diego Thomson

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 27 Mar 2006

The Diego Thomson now has its very own Intranet. Sort of.


Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 28 Feb 2006

Yesterday I had the unpleasant experience of being robbed. A young man grabbed me from behind and another young man with two boys (about eight years old) took all my things. Luckily I wasn't traveling with too many things: just a bit of money, my pocket knife and my Bible. I sure am glad that for quite some time now I never travel with my identity documents or credit cards. The whole thing happened about one block from the church and during the day, at ca. 16:30.

Not the one to give up easily, I went looking for police. When I asked people in the street, where I could find police, they didn't know. The first police car I saw on the street ignored my request to stop, even though they confirmed that they had seen me. The second car had to stop at the red light, so I talked to the policemen in the car and told them about the incident. They didn't really care. They were kind enough to drive me back near to where I live, but they had no intention to go looking for the kids and make them return the stolen stuff. And that was the really disappointing thing. Peru is therefore a country where not even the police has the courage to stand up to crime. And that's pretty sad.

I was told today, that groups like that are called Pirañitas ("little piranhas").

And that's already the second time, where something was stolen from me in Peru. In Arequipa someone stole my digital camera - which thought me to be a bit more careful with my stuff. Not enough, yet, it seems.

Another Skolelinux lesson

Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 28 Feb 2006

I taught another lesson on Saturday. This time to five teachers who are not from the . I showed them how to install the standalone client including how to partition the disk. They were very content and one of the participants commented that it's easier to install than Windows. And that's exactly my opinion as well. The only thing that makes a Linux installation more difficult than Windows nowadays is the fact, that it doesn't come pre-installed. Only very few people actually install Windows themselves, while most people just use the pre-installed OEM versions.

I'll have a lesson with the same people again at one of their colleges to install Skolelinux clients in their network.

Current weather

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 24 Feb 2006

Swiss weather forecast for February 24, 2006While my Swiss friends are currently whitstanding a cold 0°C I'm sweating quite a lot here in Peru. While claims 26° for Lima I have a suspicion that it's more. At least it feels hot. This may also come from the fact that I'm not allowed to wear short trousers at work here, which is a shame.

But I do love that kind of weather. Even though I'm currently loosing skin like a snake because I got burned on my trip to Pachacamac last week.

New apartment

Posted by Patrice Neff Sat, 11 Feb 2006

I found a new apartment yesterday and moved in the evening. The reason I moved again is that the new place is much closer where I work (about 10 minutes by foot) and the air quality and hygiene in general in the old one was sickeing.

Network theory

Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 07 Feb 2006

In today's course here at the I'm going to teach about . This will probably be my hardest class so far as it is a lot of theory. That stuff is sometimes difficult enough to explain in my native tongue - let alone in a foreign language that I only started learning a bit more than four months ago.

Attached you'll find the presentation I'll use. Any comments are welcome.

Theoría de redes

Claro SMS

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 02 Feb 2006

Claro Perú, the mobile phone company, again gave me a few minutes of free talks with other Claro mobile phones. That's nice. What's not so nice is that their SMS to communicate arrived at 5:47am. I don't know about other people, but I have my mobile phone sounds fully enabled at night because I use the phone as an alarm clock here. So had I been asleep, they would have woken me up with their promotional message. How awfully considerate of them...

A Sunday in Peru

Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 31 Jan 2006

This Sunday after church I met with a couple I got to know during my vacations down in Puno. They arrived in Lima from up north on Sunday and left again on Monday to down south.

So we went sight-seeing with a tour bus which cost five Soles and left from near the Plaza de Armas. The tour was hardly impressing. But they drove us up a mountain from where we got a nice view over the city. Though I'll probably have to go again on a nicer day with less clouds.

And in the evening I finally had a Japanese meal again. It was extremly expensive for Peruvian prices. We paid 140 Soles for the Sushi & Tempura offering. That was said to be for two people but it was enough for the three of us. Of course we had to have a Miso soup first, because that just belongs to a Japanese meal for me.

Pictures are available on my Flickr account as always.

Course session 3+4: Linux administration

Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 31 Jan 2006

Last Thursday and today I held two more courses in my series of teachers schooling. Things have been going quite well and the Linux administration course has been completed now. I'll continue on Thursday with network administration.

You can download the presentation I used for the three-day course here: Administración de Linux.

Update: The third class was blogged by Juan. The fourth was blogged by Juan and Richard. Isai blogged them as well (third course, permissions and fourth course but his design seems to be broken at the moment. Great example of how weblogs can be used in a learning environment.

Lourdes Flores leads polls

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 27 Jan 2006

in April this year there will be a presidential in Peru to replace the incument after serving only one term (up two terms would be possible). He has approval ratings of ca. 10 percent.

According to a new poll the woman leads the polls. This was greeted by the stockmarkets, because for some time it looked as if , an ally of Chavez and Morales, might win the elections. Former president still gets third place, which is a bad sign.

These polls will probably change again over the next months. The current numbers are:
  1. Flores: 29 percent
  2. Humala: 18 percent
  3. García: 13 percent

Course session 2: Linux administration

Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 24 Jan 2006

Today was the second day of Linux courses. After finishing the installation part last week I now went on to explain parts of the Linux administration. Originally I planned to do the following today:
  • Software installation
  • Text environment: bash and commands
  • Graphical environments (Gnome, KDE, Windowmaker to show that you can choose different window managers)

But we actually got no further then software installation. Between starting too late, some people not understanding very quickly, me not being the ultra-perfect Spanish speaker and me covering the topic extensively quite some time got lost.

And I have to grumble a bit: the Debian system used to be a lot easier. It's gotten quite complex to explain with the APT pinning and preferences and all. That ate quite some time as well.

The slideshow (which will be made available at the end of the course) for today looked like this:
  • Instalar software
    • dpkg, rpm
    • apt-get, apt-cache
      • search
      • show
      • install
      • upgrade, dist-upgrade
    • sources.list
      • Backports
    • (which unfortunately was and is down)
    • Synaptic
    • dpkg-reconfigure
    • debfoster

Taxis in Lima

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 19 Jan 2006

I have so far neglected to give you actual information about life in Peru. So let me now give you some information about transportation here in Lima.

There is no viable public transportation except buses and taxis. What I miss most are trains as I'm an avid train user in Switzerland and have owned a General Abonnoment for several years now.

The buses (called "combi") are run by individuals. They buy a bus, decide on a price, put on a bus number or a route and drive that. That's all. To my knowledge there are no bus maps available centrally. So if you want to know if it's possible to get from point A to B by bus you have to ask a local.

Unfortunately it's very difficult to use the bus from my apartment to the office. So I have to take a taxi every time. In Lima you fix the price before entering the taxi but in other cities there seem to be different rules. The cheapest fare for anything here I've ever gotten was 3 Nuevo Soles. From my apartment to my office (or the other way) I pay between 5 to 7 Nuevo Soles. Depends on the time, the mood of the taxi driver, my mood, the traffic and probably other factors as well. As it often the case in Peru they will often give you a higher price only because you're a foreigner.
Every week a few taxi drivers hope I'm just a tourist and will tell me the route costs 10 Nuevo Soles. This is probably more common than normal, because I always tell them to drive to Cruz del Sur, the bus company. They then think I want to travel somewhere and so I can only be some stupid tourist. Truth is that I work just opposite the road of Cruz del Sur and that almost every taxi drivers knows where that place is. They probably don't know the Diego Thomson, though. When a taxi driver tells me that fare is 10 Nuevo Soles I don't even bother to negotiate and send him (no, I've never seen a female taxi driver so far) away. They then always want to negotiate and immediatly drop down to 8 or even less Soles. But I send them away for the principle which is that I don't want to sit in the taxi of a dishonest driver (who might just as well try to physically rob me later).

I have heard by the way, that in Cusco the procedure is different. There you apparently don't negotiate but just tell the destination and board the taxi. At the end you give the driver 2 (day price) or 3 (night price) Soles and all is good. Sounds like a better (and cheaper) system to me.

Also one peculiarity is that many times the taxi driver hears where you want to go and immediately declines to the trip. Without even asking how much you're willing to pay. What exactly is the reason for this I don't know, but that reminds me that I should ask a taxi driver next time I get an opportunity. This was very common in La Paz where we had a hard time finding a taxi to the bus terminal because so many taxi drivers just flat out declined.

I hope that summarizes the public transportation system in Lima correctly. There is also a Wikipedia article: Public transport in Lima.

Place ny additions or questions in the comment section.

First Linux class completed

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 19 Jan 2006

Today in the morning I successfully held the first Linux course in my teachers schooling series. The topic was installation of . It went very well and I think the students actually understood most of my Spanish. Juan blogged the whole class (though in Spanish).

They were very enthusiastic and one of the teachers (or students rather - for a short time) started to investigate and looking for many programs. I showed them the Gaim instant messenger and they liked it. Also they were blown away by my description of diskless thin clients. The before-mentioned teacher is thinking about setting up a few Pentium 1 computers at his home. With thin clients that could be easily done. So I'll show them how to do this in the network administration course.

As the installation part is now finished, I'll directly continue with system administration next Tuesday. I had originally planned on two days of installation.

There are pictures of the class in Flickr account but they are only available to my friends for privacy reasons.

Teachers schooling

Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 17 Jan 2006

During the next 2.5 months until the end of March I'll be holding teachers schoolings. During that time, I'll teach the following courses:
  • Linux installation: and it's goals, Installation, Grub, Partitions
  • Linux administration: Gnome desktop environment, software installation, text environment (bash, processes, commands, etc.), system booting, X Windows, display managers, other graphical environments
  • Network administration: Users, permissions, thin clients, theory about networks (server, cables, switches, hubs, etc.)
  • Python: Basics, Python documentation, object-oriented programming, graphical programming using PythonCard and Boa Constructor, file system, database using SQLite, Internet programming, program design,UML, XML, Python software examples
  • PHP: HTML, CSS, LAMP installation, PHP basics, documentation online, Databases with MySQL, phpMyAdmin, object-oriented programming, program design

The Spanish program is online: El programa de la capacitación enero - marzo 2006.

I'm sure this will prove to be quite a challenge for my Spanish. But I'll give my best. Any feedback to the course contents?


Posted by Patrice Neff Sun, 15 Jan 2006

From Puno we went on to . "We" because I got to know a German couple (Matthias & Daniela, picture only available if you're on my Flickr contact list) in Puno with whom I continued my trip.

So we went to where we stayed for one day (two nights). We chose the really nice and moderately cheap hotel Continental. My room provided a beautiful view over Lake Titicaca and cost 50 Bolivanos a night (80 for matrimonial I think). We rented a pedalo, enjoyed the beautiful weather and the cheap food. The next day we took the bus to . That bus had some troubles. It came about two hours late and the organisation wasn't really able to handle the problems. We were already thinking about getting our money back, skipping La Paz and returning to Puno the next day. But in the end we were glad we didn't do that.

In La Paz we went to the hotel Torino which also cost 50 Bolivanos for good quality but not on par with Copacabana's Continental. We took the tourist tour bus which during about 3.5 hours drove us through La Paz and the nearby . The evening we spent at the restuarant Dumbo where we enjoyed some of the best food and service in our live for ridicilously cheap prices. We each paid about 50 Bolivanos for that meal including a bottle of wine which we shared. I also bought three more Narnia books for 15 Bolivanos each. And we went to see the Narnia movie in the cinema.

The next morning we took the bus to Puno. We left at about 8 o'clock and arrived at around 1 pm. I checked out the returning buses to Lima and ended up using again. This time I had the standard class Imperial from Puno to Arequipa (the same average service I had from Lima to Cusco two weeks ago) and the luxurious Cruzero (with something to sleep in that almost deservers the word "bed") from Arequipa to Lima. Unfortunately I had just a few minutes stop in Arequipa because the first bus was late. I arrived the next morning at 10 o'clock in Lima just 50 meters from my office.

And because I had slept well in the bus I went straight to the office to check my mail, update my weblog and sync with my blogroll. A few news related to my blogroll might come up shortly.

Lake Titicaca

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 09 Jan 2006

Saturday early morning I arrived in Puno by bus. This allowed me to take some beautiful sunrise pictures. From the bus terminal I then went directly to a two-day tour of the .

We first went to the floating islands. The Uros build these islands of reeds. One island lasts about ten years. After that, they have to build a new island which takes about two months.

After visiting two of these islands we continued to the island Amantani. The trip there took us three hours on the boat. This island is the second-biggest on the lake after Isla de Sol. We were distributed to different families after arriving. We went to the family and ate lunch at their house. We then met our guide again to climb a mountain-top. From there we were able to watch the sunset. This is probably the first day where I have pictures of the sunrise as well as the sunset. In the evening we had a party where I learned a simple local dance. We spent the night at the families houses.

In the morning we went to the Taquile island which took us about one hour. We walked around the island, ate some really good fish at a restaurant and left for Puno again. After another three-hour trip we arrived there.

We were very lucky with the weather. While it is the rainy season, we had sun for almost the whole two days. So the long boat trips were really cool. Also I can especially recommend the Amantani island. It's quite untouristic so far and you actually get to sleep at families houses. It's culture is still very authenthic as tourism only came here five years ago. But how long this will last, I don't know.

There is a map of the Lake Titicaca at Wikipedia. It shows you the position of the two islands Amantani and Taquile. It also shows how little of the lake we have actually navigated during this two days.

I am currently still uploading pictures and probably won't get to upload all of them until returning to Lima next week. See all the current .

Sunrise over Lake Titicaca
Floating island
Totora Boat
Football game on Amantani island
Me with an Amantani man
Morning at Amantani Island

Pictures uploaded

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 06 Jan 2006

Wow, that took a while. But in order to be able to use the full capacity of my camera for Puno, Lake Titicaca and La Paz I just uploaded all of the pictures to Flickr. 96 new pictures for your pleasure.

Machu Pichu

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 06 Jan 2006

Yesterday I went to Machu Pichu. I went with Stephen, whom I had met in a Cusco restaurant on Tuesday. Boy am I glad that I went there. When I first came to Peru I wasn't sure if I really wanted to do Cusco and Machu Pichu.

Machu Pichu is a city of the Incas, built around 1440. It was then "forgotten" (some locals still knew about it) until in 1911 Hiram Bingham rediscovered the city. The Peruvian government then made sure it became a tourist attraction. Wikipedia has much more information about .

It was a rainy day, though it only rained maybe half of the tour. And the weather allowed for some very nice views because of the clouded mountains. Generally, I found Machu Pichu mostly worthwhile for it's stunning views. It's embedded in the middle of a few mountains.

I'm including here a few of my pictures. There are many more on Flickr.

Machu Pichu
Machu Pichu
Machu Pichu fields
Machu Pichu
Machu Pichu
Machu Pichu River
Machu Pichu
Patrice on Machu Pichu

Inca museum Cusco

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 06 Jan 2006

Wednesday in the afternoon we visited the Inca museum in Cusco. I can highly recommend it. Gives good information about the pre-inca and Inca cultures. Even includes some colonial stuff.

The entrance fee to the museum was 10 soles. We also took a guide who spoke English and expected a tip. And I would not recommend taking the tour without the guide. You miss too much information without one.

Arrived in Cusco

Posted by Patrice Neff Wed, 04 Jan 2006

Cusco Plaza de ArmasAfter a long 20 hour bus trip I arrived in Cusco on the second of January (with the conclusion that next time I'll take the plane). I then checked into a nice hotel called Incawasi located just at the Plaza de Armas. I then took the opportunity to catch some sleep after a long New Year night.

Then yesterday I walked around Cusco a bit without doing any "serious" sight-seeing yet. Went eating in the evenign and met an American called Stephen. Went out for a beer together and called it a night.

Today we booked our passage for Machu Pichu. So tomorrow I'll finally visit that archeological site. I hope it's as impressive as it sounds. A funny thing happened when we booked the tour, though. There were two offers: one day and three days. The one day tour cost 120 US Dollars while the three day tour cost 119 US Dollars. Seriously! Apparently they are trying to promote the longer tour. But the time just doesn't suffice for the long tour. So tomorrow early in the morning we'll leave and I hope I can provide you with some interesting information and pictures abut Machu Pichu on Friday.

Friday night I will continue to Puno. At the same agency I booked the bus to Puno with a two day tour for Lake Titicaca including one night at a hotel. All for 39 US Dollars. Sometimes prices sure are cheap here in Peru. But not for Machu Pichu.

Upcoming vacations

Posted by Patrice Neff Sun, 01 Jan 2006

For the next two weeks I'll be travelling a bit in the south of Peru. I'm currently planing to do Cusco (and Machu Pichu), Puno, La Paz (Bolivia) and if time permits, Arequipa. As I have been to Arequipa for one month I'm not prioritising that very highly. And everything except the initial trip on that list is quite provisional. It may well be that I pick fewer or different places.

So the next two weeks my posting will be very spare if I do any at all. But I guess I'll have to do some Flickr uploads from Internet cafes as my memory card is a bit limited and I'm not taking my laptop.

Oh and I wish you a happy new year.

My christmas here in Peru

Posted by Patrice Neff Sun, 01 Jan 2006

I want to summarize shortly what I did during the past few days here in Peru. Christmas away from home is of course something special. New Year as well. But due to the wonder that's called I was actually able to communicate almost as well as if I was in Switzerland. So on the 24th of December I called some of my relatives. To say they were surprised would be an understatement. My grandparents are still used to the prohibitive high prices from only a few years ago. For example before leaving for Japan (for six months in 2003 and 2004), my dear coworkers at gave me 300 CHF worth of phone cards. I don't think I phoned for much more than three hours with that budget. I think Skype was just coming up then (I remember faintly that one of the missionaries in Hokkaido was using it), but back then SkypeOut was not yet available. So my family and friends in Switzerland would have had to install the Skype client and purchase and connect quite some audio technology. This is getting easier but still a lot more difficult than just picking up the phone (which is almost always installed by a skilled electrician). So this time I set up my mum on Skype but also knew that I'd be able to make use of SkypeOut for ridiculously cheap prices.

So, after that praise (which probably could be applied to other VoIP-companies as well, but I just happen to use Skype) let me finally get back to my topic.

The evening of the 24th I spent with a Peruvian/Swiss family in Lima. We ate turkey, had some more Panetone (as if I had not already had enough in December 2005) and watched the firework over Lima.

The 25th I invited some friends from church and work to eat a cheese fondue. At the Wong supermarket near my house I found instant Gerber fondue that I just had to heat before eating. From the before-mentioned family I borrowed the Rechaud, the obligatory utensil in every Swiss kitchen around the world. Some people quite liked the fondue, while others didn't really care for it all that much. I was prepared for that occasion and had brought Spaghetti. But no-one wanted them, so it can't have been all that bad. :-) A few us then spent some hours talking and the idea popped up to do a Peruvian evening the next night. So it came to be and two of my friends at work cooked a nice dinner. We ate it while watching Shrek 2 and The Pianist. The latter I quite liked while the former is simply pale in comparison to the first Shrek (that's why I'm so glad that Pixar doesn't do sequels - or rather only when required to by Disney).

The 26th there was a school-end party at the school including a meal for the professors. And two days later, there was the graduation of the 5th year classes. I have made one picture of that available for general viewing at Flickr. All the others are only visible to my Flickr friends due to privacy reasons.

Sylvester we spent almost in the same fashion. Watching a film and eating chicken.

Visa extension

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 30 Dec 2005

I wanted to extend my 3-month visa today. So I went to the appropriate office here in Lima (Migraciones at Avenida España) to find out how it works. An extended search on the Internet did not reveal much useful information. When I finally found the right counter, I told the woman about my wish. She had one look at my immigration card and then declined to do anything.

Apparently you can only apply for an extension during the first two months of your stay, not later. So now I'll have to pay 1 US Dollar for every day that I choose to stay beyound my original last day. I'll have to visit the office again a few days before leaving the country in order to pay my debt.

As I'm planing a trip to Puno anyway, I'm now wondering if it might be a good idea to go over the border to Bolivia and visit La Paz for a few days in order to get an extra three months for free. I guess I will have to check if it's possible to pay the debt I'll have until then (about ten days' worth) at the border.

That solution would also help extend my visited countries map. ;-)

Two week diary

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 22 Dec 2005

Some notes about what I did the past two weeks.

At work, there were three projects I was involved in. First I prepared the rollout which is now scheduled for end of January. I patched the installer (see also the followup) a bit and tested the configurations. The big change will be, that the users finally get central user accounts and a home directory on the server. So the'll be able to log in at different computers and have the same configuration and data.

Second we set up a course for the non-computing students here. This will start in January as far as I know.

And third I'm busy preparing the courses for the computing profs here. They will get some courses in Linux, OpenOffice, Python, PHP, MySQL, etc. Stuff they will need to properly teach the curriculum in use here. Details about this will follow when I have them.

While not much I also had some time outside of my work. Almost two weeks ago now I moved into a new apartment. It's the in Miraflores. Quite nice, though I have to say that my current room stinks. I hope the room where I'm planned to move into once it's free is better in that aspect.

Sunday the 11th I went to a football match between San Martín and with Oliver, a friend from work. Unfortunately we ("La U" that is) lost 1:0 because of a penalty. Was quite a boring match. Maybe because there were only very few matches to go before the end of the season and the positions in the league table were pretty much fixed already. The season should start again in Match and I hope I can go to another match then.

Last weekend some of us young people at church had a meal together. Including gift-exchange. I was so stupid not to take my camera (may actually have been a good think). But it was a great evening. Six of us ended up going to a friend's home and talking the whole night. So without going to sleep we made us some breakfast the next morning and went to church directly. To the early 8:30 service instead of the usual 11 o'clock service.

Oh and I also saw King Kong on the day it came out last Thursday. Quite liked it but still am waiting for Narnia. With a bit of luck I can finally see it today. It was at least announced as "upcoming" last week. But when I now look at the Web site it still lists it under "Próximos estrenos".

Computer education for non-computing teachers

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 15 Dec 2005

One of my tasks was to create a curriculum for teaching computing to the other two study fields of study (primartia and inicial). Last week I created that curriculum and we are also setting up a course for February/March next year.

The PDF file Currículo primaria e inicial is available for download. The main points we teach are:
  • Use the Linux system: logging in, running applications, loggin out
  • Internet: Firefox, find information using Web search engines or Wikipedia, email
  • Applications: text editing, presentations, graphics
  • How to use computers for teaching

I initially created that curriculum as a suggestion. But all the people attending the meeting about it immediately liked it. So I didn't have to change anything (except adding some sound tasks to it).

This whole course will of course be tought using free software (, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, Gimp, etc.) Some software is mentioned in the curriculum.

Teacher meeting

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 05 Dec 2005

I just had a meeting with all of the computing teachers at the . Actually it was supposed to be with all of them, but only two (of about five or so) showed up - well it's a start. With the people who were there we had some great discussion about Open Source education at the Diego and about how I can proceed with my project. It was at times a bit difficult to follow the discussion, but I believe I got most of the points.

It was also an opportunity to ask some question. I was mainly interested in how teaching with the current (quite new) curriculum works. It turns out that there are still some reservations about replacing Visual Basic (from the old curriculum) with Python (the new curriculum). There seem to be two main points about that. First, the existing teachers don't know Python as well as Visual Basic. That's easy to solve and the headmistress made it very clear that the teachers must either adapt to the new curriculum or be replaced with teachers who are able to teach it. The second point was, that they fear Python does not have the commercial backing so that students could then go on and work for some company. Well first, Visual Basic is not really commercially used. I don't know where they got that idea. Second, Python is used by many companies (also see the Job openings). And I also explained to them that Python is probably the best language to teach. It teaches clear style (indentions for example) and is easily understood (though that's not that true for non-English-speaking people). Hm, what about a Spanish translation of the Python programming language... :-)

"Hello world" would then look like
imprime "Hola mundo"

Or a loop might look like:
mientras x<=10:
    imprime x, x*10

Anyway, back to the meeting. We then talked a bit about the Linux environment. When I explained to them what Skolelinux can do for us, they were very excited. I already wrote about the profiles earlier. With that it's possible to install a Skolelinux network very easily without much technical knowledge. You can choose a Server or Workstation profile (and others, particularily thin client / thin client server) and the installer will then automatically set up a network with central log in, central home directories, proxy server, other servers and also tons of education software. Independently of my plans, they said that central home directories would be very nice. I already had planned on that, so that's a go.

We also checked what technologies I'll have to teach to the professors. I'll probably show them how install and administer a Linux network, GUI programming using Boa Constructor and open source replacements for software like Photoshop (replaced by Gimp), Corel Draw (OpenOffice Draw, Sodipodi or Inkscape), Page Maker (Scribus) and FrontPage (shudder but can happily be replaced with

And in the end we also talked about computing education for the other two branches of study (primaria and inicial). They have 200 hours to learn some computing and I'm going to write a proposal of how to use this 200 hours until next Monday.

New apartment

Posted by Patrice Neff Sat, 03 Dec 2005

This week we looked for a new apartment. Because the family I'm currently staying with will have a full house over christmas, I'm moving. I now found something yesterday. It's in the district of Aurora in Miraflores, quite near to my current guest family. It has a nice garden, a kitchen I can use and enough storage to have a bit more order than now.

The Swiss club is quite near and I was recommended to buy myself a season pass for the club. Reason: they have a swimming pool.

I'm moving in next Friday and will then be able to provide you with photos.

What a night

Posted by Patrice Neff Sat, 26 Nov 2005

This night we were three people who camped at work. At three in the morning I decided to stop working for a while. Because today the second season of Columbo arrived, I took the beamer and we watched a bit of Columbo.

Now I'm going to try and work with libexif from Ruby. I'd like to use it in a private Rails project I'm working on.

Peru and Chile - what the ambassador thinks

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 24 Nov 2005

A reader's letter was printed in the current edition of The Economist. The ambassador of Peru to Great Britain responds to last week's story An unwelcome visitor. That story also mentions the current crisis over the fishing zones:

This is especially so since it coincides with a crisis in relations with Peru, triggered by Peru's recent approval of a law to modify the countries' maritime boundary unilaterally, to claim some rich fishing grounds.

And this is what the Peruvian ambassador has to say about this:

SIR – You state that recent tensions between Peru and Chile have been “triggered by Peru's recent approval of a law to modify the countries' maritime boundary unilaterally, to claim some rich fishing grounds” (“An unwelcome visitor”, November 12th). The approval of a base-line law (a line drawn by countries along their coasts to measure the breadth of their sea) is a practice carried out by almost every state in the world and in no way signifies the unilateral establishment of maritime boundaries with Chile. Since the current fishing agreements between Peru and Chile cannot be upgraded to the category of maritime boundary treaties, Peru proposed negotiations to determine these boundaries, which were not accepted. The refusal of Chile to agree to the negotiations has exhausted the possibility of finding a bilateral solution, leaving Peru the option of peacefully settling the dispute by other means as set out in international law.

Luis Solari Tudela

Ambassador for Peru


Of course an ambassador will not exactly be very objective in these matters.

Weekend trip with Diego Thomson

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 21 Nov 2005

As announced on Friday we had a weekend retreat with the Diego Thomson. The staff and teachers were part of it. We went to , about one hour of Lima. The center is called .

The weekend was a really good opportunity to get to know some of the teachers and staff. I'm glad I could be part of it. Also we had a topic during this retreat - everything was about stress and how to avoid it. Quite interesting.

I uploaded the photos again.

School weekend

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 18 Nov 2005

This weekend the school staff is at a camp together. Should be a good opportunity to get to know some of them better.

Podcasting at Diego Thomson?

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 18 Nov 2005

A post at (in German) just made me think if podcasts might be applied to education here at the Diego Thomson. At least in the new Linux course room it should be pretty easy to record classes by adding a microphone to the teacher's station.

This recorded lessons could then be posted to a weblog (or to the Moodle platform).

Claro mobile phone

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 18 Nov 2005

Last week I bought a SIM card for using it with my existing Samsung SGH-D500 mobile phone. If you need the number, you can request it from me by mail.

One of the reasons I bought a SIM card instead of a new mobile phone with Claro offers incoluded was MMS and WAP. I want to continue to moblog here. But the Claro package did not contain any information about configuring MMS or GPRS (but it contained an EULA of 10 pages or so).

So I browsed the Web and found some information about how to configure GPRS (this or this - TIM just became Claro so the same settings should apply). Unfortunately this did not work. It appears that I'm able to connect through GPRS but then the connection times out. Sending MMS does not work, either.

So today I went to the local Claro store for help. But they were not very helpful. They told me to buy some software (called "Actualización de software mensaje multimedia" or in English "Multimedia message software actualisation"). Up until now I was pretty sure, that GPRS and MMS are worldwide standards. But it seems that the mobile phone industry is even worse at standards than the software industry.

Well, hopefully I'll be able to send MMS messages from Peru one day. But it may take a trip to the main Claro centre.

New blog coordinates

Posted by Patrice Neff Wed, 16 Nov 2005

I changed the coordinates of the blog to my current working place (the Diego Thomson) in Peru. At GeoURL you can now find my current neighbours.

Update 17/11/2005: Had to remove the map of my neighbourhood, because Maporama does not seem to provide stable links for maps.

This week at the Diego

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 11 Nov 2005

I have been having a look at different software this week.

I digged a bit into (Debian-Edu), a Linux distribution optimized for schools. I was really impressed with the profile system. This is an idea to pre-configure the system for certain roles. For example there is a server profile which gives you a network server with central login, home directories on the server, mail (I think) and other things, tool. There is a client profile which needs almost no configuration and automatically integrates into the network. Language support is quite good, though Spanish is a bit rough in certain areas.

What I want to try next is installing GNOME on Skolelinux. I'm interested in how easy this is going to be. We currently use Gnome here at the Diego and I'd like to continue that. Though I have read quite an interesting mail by Knut Yrvin, stating that GNOME's language support is worse then KDE's. His mail is quite interesting to get a general perspective of internationalization of software.

Apart from Skolelinux I also wanted to try out . Unfortunately on my test machines the installation always failed (or maybe just took hours and I was too impatient). I'll try again with a future release - or maybe just with Ubuntu.

Then I have stumbled over the software , a school administration software. (When I bookmarked it at, I saw that I had already stumbled over that back in August...) The tool likes quite nice, but doesn't provide the features we would need here, yet. Or so I think. And what annoyed me (at a first glance), was the strange division of courses into sections. I don't fully understand yet, what courses or divisions are supposed to be. There does not seem to be a demo online, but you can test it out very easily if you use Debian unstable. It's included in the distribution.

And now I'm going home. A bit early today, because I'm feeling quite dizzy. Have not been as healthy as I'm used to since coming to Lima.

Peru ruft Botschafter aus Japan ab

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 11 Nov 2005

Peru scheint ja momentan ziemlich streilustig zu sein. Neben dem Streit mit Chile, legt sich Peru nun auch noch mit Japan an. Da Fujimori neben dem peruanischen auch den japanischen Pass besitzt, wurde dieser in Chile von japanischen Diplomaten besucht. Nun zieht Peru den Botschafter aus Japan ab.

Peruvian government officials reacted sharply to Japan's response to the detention of Fujimori.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Oscar Maurtua summoned Japanese Ambassador to Peru Hitohiro Ishida on Tuesday and protested the embassy's response.

"Japan's action is unacceptable because it has no right to intervene in the extradition between Peru and Chile," Maurtua was quoted as telling Ishida.

Auch ist Peru wütend, dass Fujimori aus Japan nicht ausgeliefert wurde. Peru hatte an Japan wiederholt Anträge zur Auslieferung gestellt.

New pictures

Posted by Patrice Neff Wed, 09 Nov 2005

I have finally uploaded all my pictures from my first month in Peru. I think this is the right time, to summarise a few highlights from my first month here. The links in the following texts point to the corresponding pictures.

The second weekend in October, we visited the from Arequipa. We drove there by bus starting from Arequipa. The bus left at 2 am Saturday morning. We then went to Cruz de Cóndor where we saw some condors flying. Then we visited the village where we also passed the night. After a visit in a hot bath (in a bassin) Saturday night and another one (this time right out there in the nature) on Sunday in the afternoon, we left again for Arequipa.

The following Saturday we went to which is a city at the pacific. From there we took a taxi to Mejía and walked all the way back to Mollendo. The Sunday of that weekend we spent sightseeing Arequipa.

Two days later we finally went for our Cuy () eating.

October 28th was the last day at school and I had to say good bye from my wonderful teachers (picture only visible to friends).

If you enjoy my pictures and would like to see private ones as well, get an account at Flickr (it's free) and add me to your contacts.


Posted by Patrice Neff Tue, 08 Nov 2005

In Japan I took a picture of every bed I slept on. I'm trying to continue that tradition here in Peru. There is already a nice collection over at Flickr: My beds in Japan and Peru.

Beginning work on the curriculum

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 07 Nov 2005

One of my tasks here at the Diego Thompson is to work more on the Open Source curriculum. The new computing teachers should receive quite a good knowledge in that area. Matthias created a basic curriculum during his civilian service. I'm now going to put that few pages into more detail and also watch out for books or other material that could be used for the classes. Additionally I'm going to put a bit of that stuff into the curriculums for primary school and kindergarten teachers.

So I started with reading Matthias' curriculum a bit more thoroughly (now that I can actually read a bit of Spanish) and also got myself a schedule of the current Linux clases. Then I'm going to talk to the teachers and I also plan to watch them teach a bit to get a feeling of how they do things around here. From there I'll continue.

I'm doing this for the first time, you know. :-)

Mein Lieblingsbild

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 07 Nov 2005

Sonnenaufgang mit Kreuz im VordergrundIch habe gerade mein aktuelles Lieblingsbild auf Flickr hochgeladen. Das Bild hat ein Freund während unserem Ausflug im Colca Canyon geschossen. Ich habe es dann noch mit einem Bibelvers angereichert und das bildet nun meinen Bildschirmhintergrund. Hat eine fast perfekte Verteilung von dunkeln und hellen Bereichen um als Bildschirmhintergrund zu dienen.

Dürft ihr gerne auch verwenden.

PS: Die anderen Bilder noch aus Arequipa werde ich demnächst auch endlich mal hochladen. Und von hier aus Lima sollte es dann auch mal Bilder geben.

Fujimori in Chile

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 07 Nov 2005

Gestern ist , der letzte Präsident von Peru, in Chile gelandet und einige Stunden später wurde er festgenommen. Fujimori verliess durch einen Regierungsskandal während seiner zweiten Regierungszeit das Land in Richtung Japan. Gegen Fujimori sind seit einiger Zeit internationale Haftbefehle ausgestellt. Da er aber zusätzlich zur peruanischen Staatsbürgerschaft auch den japanischen Pass besitzt, hat sich Japan geweigert Fujimori auszuliefern.

Vor einigen Wochen hat sich Fujimori offiziell wieder zur nächsten Präsidentschaftswahl aufgestellt. Seine Chancen werden als recht hoch eingestuft und würde er gewählt, wäre er wieder immun und könnte strafrechtlich nicht belangt werden.

Nun ist er mitten in Spannungen zwischen Peru und Chile in Chile gelandet. Da wurde er nach entsprechenden Bitten von Peru dann auch festgenommen.

Bin ja mal gespannt, wie es weiter geht.

Peru-Chile border row escalates

Posted by Patrice Neff Thu, 03 Nov 2005

Peru is part in another border dispute, this time with Chile.

Peru's Congress has passed a bill to redraw its sea border with Chile, deepening a diplomatic row between the two Latin American nations.
The bill, backed in a 98-0 vote, grants Peru control of 37,900 square km rich fishing waters in the Pacific Ocean.

Chile - which currently controls the area - says the legislation violates treaties signed in the 1950s.

There was a war about the border to Ecuador in 1995, called the Cenepa war.

First day almost over

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 31 Oct 2005

My working times are probably going to be quite to my liking. The school is in the afternoons. So I started work today at 13:30 today and now at 21:05 I'm still at work. But I guess in the future I'll start work at late mornings.

I have talked a little with Juan here at the institute about the work I'm planning to do. We have planned what I'll be able to do in the beginning. So Wednesday I'll probably start doing some real work here. Tomorrow, Tuesday is a free day.

In the meantime I've had a first look at the online Linux courses of the Diego Thomson. Will help me in learning technical Spanish.

Starting my Work

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 31 Oct 2005

I have safely arrived in Lima yesterday. Today I'm starting my work here at the Diego Thomson.

Saying good-byes was hard in Arequipa and I'll miss some of the people (mostly "my family" and friends from school). But knowing myself I guess I'll integrate easily here and feel right at home after a few days. At least I hope that will be true again.

Hasta luego.

Mollendo, Mejía & guinea pigs

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 17 Oct 2005

This Saturday we drove to Mollendo by bus. The roundtrip cost 12 Soles (4.5 Swiss franks). Considering that the trip took about 2.5 hours one way, that's not exactly expensive. Anyway, once in Mollendo we took a taxi to Mejía. There we embarked on a walk back to Mollendo along the beach. Along the way we saw many small crabs (pictures will follow this week on Flickr). Also we had a good time together.

Today we'll probably go eating guinea pigs for our first times. I hope it tastes better than the one my father got in Ecuador. Many Peruvians like guinea pigs very much.

Got the permission

Posted by Patrice Neff Wed, 12 Oct 2005

So today I finally got the written permission to do my civilian service in Peru. My responsible contact at the Civilian Service office in Mels has been very helpful and also sent me the documents by E-Mail. That helps a lot when you are not in the country anymore to get the physical documents.

So my service will start on October 31, 2005 and continue until April 26, 2006. But I will probably do the final days of that service back in Switzerland.

Colca Canyon

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 10 Oct 2005

We spent this weekend at Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon of the world. Edgar, one of the language teachers at the ABC school, led us around. We had a great time seeing the canyon itself, condores, hot springs, traditionall villages and stunning nature. I'll write a more detailed report some time later this week. Also I have to upload about 100 pictures more to my Flickr photo page.

A note about my pictures on Flickr: the pictures where people can be recognized are only visible to friends. So get an account (yes it's free) and add me to your contact list. I'll then add you to my friends list too, and you'll be able to see my private pictures.


Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 07 Oct 2005

I'm currently uploading some pictures to Flickr. So you can go to to see my pictures from Peru. But I don't have much time now so I'm only uploading very few pictures. Will have to go to school shortly.

This weekend I'll be away for a trip to the canyon near Arequipa. I'll probably write about that Sunday night or Monday afternoon (Peruvian time).

Shoe size in Peru

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 03 Oct 2005

Shoe sizes are measured differently around the world. Just now I was wondering how shoes are measured in Peru. I did not find an answer yet and would be grateful for any information. Specifically I'm looking for a conversion from European to Peruvian shoe size.

The Internet and Wikipedia addicted guy I am, I first went for the Wikipedia article on shoe size. There is some information in there, but most useful is the link International Shoe Size Conversion Charts. Unfortunately this charts do not include Peru yet. The author also writes that he would be grateful for any information about the sizes used in Latin America.

Funny what little details start to interest you when traveling abroad...

First days in Arequipa

Posted by Patrice Neff Mon, 03 Oct 2005

Saturday in the evening I arrived in Arequipa and was fetched at the airport by my temporary parents Oscar and Silvia. The plane was about 40 minutes late, though. The flight was only about 50 percent full which makes me wonder about the future of LAN (the airline). But maybe that was just an exception or it's completely out of season.

Yesterday I had some stomach problems. I suspect the altitude change as the reason for my sickness, though it may also have been the pizza I got in the plane. Silvia put me on a diet immediately and I am feeling much better now. I hope to resume normal eating tomorrow.

I had my first Spanish lesson at the ABC school today. My two teachers are called Sandra (for grammar) and Edgar (for 1-1 language practice). They have started at quite a high pace which is fine for me. I just hope I can keep up with that pace when practicing the vocabulary. Today's two topics were verbs (especially the regular ones) and family vocabulary. So I'm now able to talk about my hermanos (brothers), can say that I'm soltero (single) can answer questions like ¿Cómo te llamas? (What's your name?), ¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from?), ¿Cuántos años tienes? (How old are you) and some more stuff along those lines.

Even after only this few hours I was already able to talk much better with my family during dinner. For the beginning it's an advantage that Oscar know English quite well, though.

I haven't had much time to take pictures, yet. So you'll have to wait for those to be available. Also I haven't taken any real time out to the city. I've only walked a short distance from the house to one of the main avenues. My first impresison: lots and lots and lots of taxis. And very hectic streets.

There is an Internet cafe just across the street from where I currently live. It seems, that at least in Areqiupa that's a major way for people to get online. There are eight stations here and all are currently in use by Peruvians (except one of course which is in use by a certain Swiss). My guest family doesn't have Internet access at home, either.

Oh and the language school is also only about 50 steps (probably less but I'm not going to count them) from my home. So everything important is really close for me.

Continuing to Arequipa

Posted by Patrice Neff Sat, 01 Oct 2005

After all the excitement on my day of arrival everthing seems to continue on smoother lines now. Shortly after writing my blog post yesterday I was picked up at the hotel by the Rodriguez family. I then stayed at their home yesterday and today. It's planned that I'll return there after Arequipa.

I'm now waiting for my plane to Arequipa which is scheduled to fly at 19:40 (it's 18:40 in Peru now). Through a contact in Arequipa I was able to confirm my stay at a family in Arequipa and they should now know I'm coming and pick me up from the airport.

I spent most of today and yesterday learning Spanish. I did not invest too much time learning the language while still in Switzerland because I just didn't have any time left to invest. I'm looking forward to learn that language full-speed now and it definitely should be a lot easier than Japanese. :-) Even though I have lost much of the Japanese I knew there are currently many situations where I wished the people would understand that language, because I can only think of the sentence in Japanese but not in Spanish (of course if they understood English or German or French that would be even better). But anyway, staying with a Peruvian family and learning at a school for one month should do wonders to my Spanish abilities. Maybe I should also switch my computer's language, which thanks to the wonders of Mac OS X (or Linux for that matter) is easily done.

There's not much more to tell for now. Just a question to the gadget-equipped part of my readership: does anyone know if it is somehow possible to send MMS from Peru using an Orange mobile phone? The information I found on the Orange Web site about roaming in Peru says there is no way. Would be nice to be able to moblog from time to time.

Arrived in Lima

Posted by Patrice Neff Fri, 30 Sep 2005

I have now safely arrived in Lima, Peru. Checked in at a Hotel and am now using some free WiFi available from my room. So I was almost able to call my mum using Skype. Unfortunately she is not online with a microphone-equipped computer. But still: the wonders of modern technology...

Anyway. With arriving there were no major problems. Flight, Immigration control, luggage check, etc. Though the flight was a bit uncomfortable. I had a bad seat (right in the middle, with one person to the left of me and two on the right). According to the ticket I was sitting on the aisle but I wasn't in the mood to fight with the person who took that seat and switched quietly. Also - and more important - during my flight to Tokyo I had my own TV screen, while here with there were only a few shared ones. But as the flight only makes for two of the ca. 220 days of my stay in Peru, that's not too important to me.

But after coming out to the reception hall the problems started. I have a contact in Lima where I can stay for the first days in Lima (two days now and a few days after coming back from language school). At the airport a tourist office guy chatted me up and told me he was sent by those people. Actually he asked me whom I'm waiting for and I told him the name. Then he said he was sent by them. While I found it highly dubious in the beginning, it started to make sense after a while in the conversation. So he helped me to get to a hotel and we went for a drink. During the drink he asked me about my friend "Willy S." (full name known to me). I did not know such a person and told him so. We then realized that I was waiting for "Wilson R." and that he made a mistake at the airport. He was actually sent by Willy to pick up another guy. Ouch! I phoned my friends here in Lima, told them about the problem, and they are now coming to pick me up this morning.

Somehow I always seem to have some similar problems when arriving in foreign countries. When going to Japan I had met a nice young Japanese guy on the plane. In the airport he helped me get a ticket for the train. It was more expensive than the price that I expected, though (I had detailled information about how to get to my target when arriving, including ticket price). So I asked him about this. And only after about 15 minutes of discussing he finally realized he had purchased the wrong ticket. A few weeks later a friend told me, that maybe that guy at the airport had purchased a ticket to Ishikawa instead of Ichikawa (which sound quite similar, especially when pronounced by a Swiss guy who does not speak Japanese well).

So after all that excitement yesterday I stayed at the Hotel, watched a bit of TV and slept. Though I'm probably quite jet lagged because I was not able to sleep the times I wanted to.

Tomorrow, October 1st, I'm flying to Arequipa for language school.

By the way: my time zone is UTC-5. You can always check my current time online.

Blogging from Peru

Posted by Patrice Neff Wed, 28 Sep 2005

My reports from Peru will mostly be in English, because the audience is more international than it is with my usual blogging topics (which mostly center on Politics, Switzerland and some technology). So for all people who don't understand German, it might be nice to be able to exclude all my blog posts which are not related. There are two ways for doing this.

First, you can just look at This includes all English posts on my weblog. The according feed (for your RSS reader) is

The second way is to just look at the Peru category which is available at The category's feed is

Of course the latter solution will also work if you are interested in just one of any of the other categories.

Zivildienst in Peru

Posted by Patrice Neff Wed, 28 Sep 2005

Eine Weile hat es sich abgezeichnet, doch erst seit letzter Woche ist es definitiv. Ich habe die Möglichkeit in , einen Teil meines Zivildienstes zu leisten. Für die werde ich dort am Lehrerseminar im Bereich Informatik-Ausbildung arbeiten. Dabei handelt es sich um eine Fortsetzung der Arbeit, welche Matthias Stürmer im Frühling dieses Jahres dort gemacht hat.

Den Oktober werde ich aber erst in Arequipa an der Sprachschule verbringen. Danach bin ich für ca. sechs Monate in Lima.

Abflug ist bereits morgen, am 29. September. Ich freue mich auf diese geniale Gelegenheit und werde hier versuchen fleissig zu bloggen. Sicher fleissiger als im letzten Monat... ;-)