Andean Quechua World Organization

The Andean Quechua World Organization is a Peruvian NGO that was founded by the Cardenas-Torres family.  Wilfredo (aka Willow) is the President and his 3-generation family members are all important supporters, including his mother and father.

The Cardenas-Torres Family

The NGO’s principal activity is installing school playground equipment in very remote locations in the Cuzco/Sacred Valley region.  Getting to locations is frequently half the fun, traveling long distances on steep gravel roads into the surrounding mountains.

David C-T and Son Fabricating Playground Equipment

David, Willow’s brother, is an excellent welder and the principal fabricator of the playground equipment.  He is assisted by his friend Jhon plus assorted relatives.  The actual installation work is a family activity.

Willow C-T Mixing Concrete to Be Used to Anchor Playground Equipment

David and Villager Digging Holes

Willow and his sister Marcia also work as guides in the Cuzco/Sacred Valley area.  So if you are interested in hiring an experienced local guide (or even building playgrounds), contact Willow at  Or you can contact me.

Willow with My Grandson at Machu Picchu

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Playgrounds Move Higher as We near the Andes Mountains

In the mountains 3 hours east of Cuzco, we have been moving higher and higher with our school playground installations.  We started in Ccolcca, situated 12,000 fsl.  The Cardenas-Torres family, my grandson, and I first visited the village preschool 1-1/2 years ago.  At that time, we installed an outdoor xylophone-style instrument manufactured by FreeNotes Harmony Park.

Young Quechua Children Enjoying Their New Playground Activity

That Christmas, the C-T family returned and installed a swing set, climbing tower, and monkey bars.  They also brought Christmas gifts and played Santa for the village kids.

Playground Equipment Installed at Ccolcaa

Santa Enjoying the New Swing Set at Ccolcca

Then last fall, the C-T family installed playground equipment (swing set and monkey bars) at a Lauramarca preschool.  This village, located at 12,200 fsl, is above Ccolcaa, even higher in the mountains.

Swing Set at Lauramarca Preschool

At Christmas time, the C-T family returned to Ccolcca and added a second playground at a school adjacent to the Ccolcca preschool.  They also played Santa at Lauramarca.

Monkey Bars at Ccolcca Primary School

Swing Set at Ccolcca Primary School; Preschool Swing Can Be Seen on the Other Side of Rock Wall

Santa Entertaining the Children at Lauramarca

The next village above Lauramarca (and Ccolcca) is Accocuna.  Their school is on the schedule for a playground.

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Assisting a Quechua Village Preschool near Machu Picchu

The Torres-Cardenas family recently installed playground equipment at a preschool in the Quechua Indian village of Pataccancha, located in the mountains above Ollantaytambo (the entry point to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail).

Transporting Playground Equipment to a Village above Ollantaytambo

At the Peruvian village preschool, the C-T family installed a 4-seat swing set, monkey bars, and a climbing tower.  The local teachers and villagers assisted with the playground installations.

Playground Equipment Installed at Patacancha Preschool.

Many of the young Quechua children at the preschool were all very colorfully attired.  And check out the dog.

Children at the Patacancha Preschool

After the installation at Patacancha, the C-T family took a 9-k hike down a section of the Inca Trail.

The Cardenas-Torres Family Taking a Break from Their Hike on the Inca Trail.

Two of the C-T members are official guides to the Cuzco/Sacred Valley area.  Another is a welder and fabricates the playground equipment.  Installations are always a family activity, frequently involving 3 generations.  They are a great family to work with.

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How to Make LDS Church Meetings Less Boring

Robert Kirby in his latest column in alleges that LDS church services are boring:

[I need to find] ways to entertain myself in church when it gets boring. Which happens a lot.

Please don’t try to tell me that you’ve never been bored sitting in church. You’re either a liar or some freak of nature.

Some people endure boredom well. I’m not one of them. In fact, I don’t endure it at all. So it’s on me to find ways to keep my spirits up while at the same time not ruining the worship experience for everyone around me.

Sometimes I read. Currently, I’m in the middle of “The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot,” by Bart D. Ehrman, professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s good. Look it up.

I agree with Kirby, church meetings are frequently boring.  In fact, I’ve quit going.

How many times do I a need a lecture on baptism by immersion?  (Retorical.)  In classes, I’m tired of one-answer questions.  And there is a desperate need for better class manuals.

One way to reduce the boredom is to move from a 3-hour church meeting block to a 2-hour block.  But that just reduces the time you have to suffer, it doesn’t help eliminate the boredom.

The Church needs new ideas for meetings.  How about:

  • occasionally having a 1-hr social period with upbeat chamber music?  Or folk songs?  Or inspirational broadway tunes?  or a sing-along?  With live entertainment, drinks, and light refreshments.
  • a get-together that involves doing humanitarian work?
  • occasionally having small meeting in members’s homes?
  • training in how to better serve the wider community?
  • language training?  If you speak Spanish and need to improve your English skills (ESL)?  Or if you speak English and want to learn Spanish?
  • personal improvement lessons?  Anger management?  Financial?  Leadership?  Teacher?
  • classes in biblical scholarship?
  • a book club (with both Mormon and non-Mormon reads)?
  • instructions on how to sing hymns?  We used to do that in Sunday School.

Note:  Kirby, excellent choice of books; I’m impressed.

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Thoughts about the New LDS Presidency

Expectedly, Russell M. Nelson was just named President of the LDS Church.  He had two basic themes in his short inaugural address:

  • He made an overly defensive justification for the seniority selection process.
  • He encouraged those who had left the Church or were thinking of leaving to reconsider.  Unfortunately, he gave them no compelling reason to return.  Just a plea.

Perhaps, expectedly, he named Dallin H. Oaks as his first counselor and Henry B. Eyring as his second counselor.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was moved back to Q12.  Oaks is next in line to be President of the Church.  So I guess you could view this elevation as training.

New First Presidency, Wearing Different Color Ties.

There are several problems with this shuffling of responsibilities:

  • The P3 just got a little bit older.  Nelson is 93, Oaks is 85, and Eyring is 84.  Uchtdorf is “just” 77.
  • The P3 is still a geriatric oligarchy made up of Utah white guys.  (And they are also all “folicly challenged.”)
  • Nelson and Oaks, for all intense and purposes, are twins in their beliefs concerning discrimination again the LGBTQ community.  Is this really the issue where the leadership wants to draw a line in the sand?
  • Oaks is a lawyer and his talks frequently seem more like legal briefs than inspirational sermons.
  • Uchtdorf was widely popular for his warm “inclusive” conference talks and is the darling of progressive Mormons.  He is also very charismatic (perhaps that was part of his problem).  The P3 is likely to get a whole lot more rigid and conservative with their doctrinal message.
  • Eyring will probably continue to be a non-player in the P3.
  • The Church’s obsessive and expensive hiring of lawyers and lobbyists is likely to continue.
  • The current Presidency is unlikely to fix the Church’s continuing PR nightmare.

President Abraham Lincoln chose a cabinet that had wide diversity.  Maybe this is a model that the LDS Church should consider.

Robert Kirby summarizes many member’s disappointment:

I’ll confess to a certain amount of disappointment in the reorganization of the Mormon First Presidency last week. It was not what I was hoping for.

I was hoping for some invigorating youthful faces (including some of color) in President Russell M. Nelson’s choice of counselors. Instead, he dropped the only alternative we had from Utah-based Mormonism — Elder Dieter Friedrich Uchtdorf.

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Book of Ecclesiastes Misinterpreted (by Me)

For years, one of the guiding principle in my life has been the Book of Ecclesiastes 11:1 (King James Version or KJV):

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

I took the passage to be an encouragement to travel, to enjoy the world, to broaden my horizons.  It was a justification for my obsessive interest in exploring the globe.  By traveling, I hoped to find myself.

Utah Lake at Sunset

Boy, was my interpretation ever wrong.  According to Adam S. Miller, in his book Nothing New Under the Sun:  A Blunt Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes the above passage should be interpreted:

Make smart investments and cross your fingers for a good return.

If I had open-mindedly read the verses that follow 11:1, I would have come to a more accurate understanding.

So my first mistake was to take the verse out of context.  My second was to rely solely on the KJV translation.  According to Grant Hardy:

The King James Version is no longer a good translation, which is why almost no one uses it anymore.  It is inaccurate to the extent that it relies on late, corrupted Greek manuscripts, and it is inadequate in that it does not communicate the authors’ meaning in an intelligible way.

Another translation (New English Bible or NEB) of 11:1 reads:

Send your grain across the seas, and in time you will get a return.

This translation sounds more like Miller’s interpretation.

But to hell with everybody.  I like my original interpretation best.  Do I really have to justify my obsession with scripture?

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I Reject the Idea of Skills-based Immigration

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) on Face the Nation said he is in favor of a skills-based immigration system, which he said the president supports:

If you’re a doctor, or a scientist, or a computer programmer, it shouldn’t matter whether you come from Nigeria, or Norway, or any other country on this earth.

This concept definitely runs counter to inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

But this noble idea is now lost in Washington DC, or at least on many Republicans including Trump.  But it shouldn’t be.

  • America has throughout history been a destination for people desiring to improve their lot in life.
  • Developing countries need their doctors, scientists, and computer programmers; these and other professionals need to stay home, not be lured to America.

Some parts of the globe are currently overrun with refugees.  People fleeing oppression and seeking opportunities to live in peace and security with their families.  America should continue to assist those seeking a better more secure life.  It should present them with opportunities, not exclusion.

My ancestors were part of the tired, poor, and huddled masses.  They came to America to find opportunities.  Once here they because productive members of society, mostly farmers.  Their progeny have become doctors, scientists, and computer programmers.  America gave my ancestors the opportunities they needed.

Mormon theologian Robert Kirby recently commented on the value that the tired, poor, and huddled (think unskilled) masses have brought to America:

The one attribute they’ll bring with them is the same one that our own immigrant ancestors brought. And it made America great.

We shouldn’t be a country of elitists, but a country dedicated to giving immigrants a new start.

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