Monday, April 21, 2014

Churches, camping trip, conservatories

Friday morning started off very cool, as Anne and I went around to local churches to find which were open for the public to enter and pray.  Catedral only had the side room open, but that was still quite cool.  We then moved on to San Francisco, which was stellar.  Not so much gold, but I was ok with that.  The 2 churches near San Pedro were open, but I could only get a picture in one.  One small church whose name I don’t know was available too.  San Cristobal, which I visited for the first time earlier this week, was open as well.  It was interesting to me, since the Catholic tradition is so different for this holiday.  There are many statues of saints and virgins available to be seen, and many people wait to touch these statues or others of Jesus.  Some churches prohibited photos, but in others I was able to get some good pictures. 
Iglesia San Francisco
Iglesia San Pedro
For the afternoon I hung out at home and checked a few more things off my long to-do list.  I have a lot to get done before being ready to travel.  In the afternoon, I headed to the camping trip with the little church.  There was a younger American who I already knew, then 1 more American girl, a Dutch girl, and a guy from New Zealand.  It was comical, since the guy from New Zealand uses words I would never use and has a different accent, so I struggled to understand his English more than I have struggled with Spanish in a long time.  Good to remember these misunderstandings happen in my first language too J  We delayed enough that we didn’t get the tents up before the dark.  I think it took close to 2 hours to get the campsite all ready, which I thought was a bit much but does match up well with Peruvian time.  In the evening we had dinner of 2 pieces of bread with cheese, which wasn’t quite enough to satisfy my beastly appetite, and a teaching from the pastor.  He basically discussed that our lives should be focused on bringing glory to God, and that the start of that begins with ourselves in forgiveness.  The girl from the Netherlands was an atheist, and the teachings made her very uncomfortable.  I wanted to try to reach out to her to make her feel welcomed, but her 2 other friends were already there and I didn’t have much more that I could do.  Everyone played soccer or other games until late, but I was tired so I went to bed. 
 Our fire :)
Night shot of the lake; I moved just enough to make all the lights look like candy canes.
I initially slept fairly well considering the hard ground below my sleeping bag, but at about 3 AM I was woke up by an obnoxious dog barking.  It went on for an absurdly long time, perhaps 1 hour.  The thought “I’m going to kill that dog,” went through my head many times, but I didn’t get up because I would have had to climb over the people in my tent.  Eventually it shut up, but wow was it annoying.  Early in the morning a soccer game started by another group near our campsite, which also made it hard to sleep.  At one point the tent by my head was hit by a soccer ball; I can think of more pleasant ways to be woken up. 
Camp site during the day
The next day we first had breakfast, which looked shockingly similar to the dinner we’d had the night before.  It is meals like those that make me happy that I have multivitamins here.  The rest of the morning was an alternation between games and lessons.  It still didn’t have the level of discussion that I was hoping for, but I’m learning that such teaching styles don’t really exist here in Peru.  I was going to give one of the lessons, but I realized that what I had planned was a bit too strong compared to what the other people were saying.  So I was in the process of changing it on the fly when the rain started, ruining all plans.  We quickly did what we could to keep our stuff dry, then stayed in dry places.  By the time the rain stopped it was almost lunch time, and we were all hungry after the small meals we were having.  Not a good time to attempt to talk.  So I will be giving my testimony next week instead. 
Fun cultural difference: Peruvians do not believe in rubbing in sun block :)
Quechua Speaker in the town of Urcos
Today was really fun.  I took Anne and her friend to the little church.  Music was excellent, such a great Easter celebration.  This community is one of my favorite places to worship the Lord.  So much passion, so much sincerity.  Following worship, we discovered that there was more white people than Peruvians!  Crazy, I don’t think that’s ever happened before.  So instead of having people try to translate wherever they were, they wanted a translator up front.  Because I attempted that this weekend, they called me up front.  I probably understand ~95% of words now, unless it’s in a bible passage because those words are super challenging.  So, I ran into some troubles with the translation.  Fortunately, one of the Americans who was visiting was fluent in both languages and had done translating for her church back home, so she took over.  I was so happy to not have to do it, but I think the very fact that I can make an ok attempt at it speaks to the incredible advancement of my Spanish during my time here.  The teaching was good, it was also about how we need to start with cleaning up ourselves before we can attempt to clean up the world.  I personally thought a little too much time was spent on the negative effects of cell phones on our culture, but I did agree with the majority of his points. 
My church family :)  Left to right:  Crouched = Carlos, Standing = Jesus (pastor), Amy (pastor's daughter), Taylor (friend from Grand Rapids), I totally forgot her name...  waiting for her to find me on facebook haha, Emparatriz (my professor and pastor's wife), Chelsie, me, upper right hand corner is Antony (pastor's son)

After the talk, I hung out with the other foreigners who were around, then eventually went to some nature conservatories with Emparatriz, 2 Americans who live with her, another guy from the church, and my new friend from Michigan.  It was great to see people saving animals who were rescued from bad situations.  Illegal trading, poaching, etc.  The condor was by far the most impressive.  Their wingspan gets up to about 10 feet, which looks incredibly impressive during flight, as I hope my picture captured J  We also went to what was basically a llama petting zoo, where I attempted to play Lady and the Tramp with the beasts.  Good times.  

Andean Condor in flight
This is probably the most adorable llama I've ever seen.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Museums, Feast of 12 Plates

In the last 2 days, I’ve had some great experiences with Emparatriz for our “classes.”  Yesterday we went to the Inca Museum, which had some of the coolest artifacts I’ve seen.  Jewelry, the cotton strings they used to communicate across the kingdom, paintings, pottery..  The more I learn about them, the more impressed I am. 

Today, we went to the Yale museum that has exclusively artifacts of Machu Picchu.  It was full of all of Hiram Bingham’s pictures.  With how overgrown Machu Picchu was after 400 years of abandonment, it is really astonishing that the city was still intact.  It is cool to see it in that form.  This may be my favorite museum thus far, it talks about the royalty and the servants, the history surrounding the scientific discovery, etc. 

For lunch, I went to Sandro’s aunt’s house.  So good!  The feast of 12 plates represents the last supper, since there were 12 disciples.  I fared well, but didn’t get through 12.  They gave us too much for each course, so there was no way.  Here was the lineup:

1.      1 pear
2.      soup (I’ll just show you one variety)

3.      another soup
4.      another soup
5.      Main dish of breaded fish and chicken plus a potato

6.      Salad

7.      Sweet fruit dish

8   Empenada

.       Rice pudding

9.      Piece of bread

1.   Cookie thing

I considered 11 rounds pretty decent J 


The rest of the day I’ve been editing photos and writing various applications and such.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Procession, San Cristobal

In the afternoon yesterday, after writing the post I put up yesterday, I first celebrated the completion of my thesis with my Spanish professor, Emparatriz.  The Oreo Sundae isn’t as good as what I would find in Vibrant Grains, but it was still a great way to celebrate.  Emparatriz told me that I’ll be able to share my testimony at the little church camping trip this weekend.  That will be awesome, I certainly have a lot to say.  The language barrier may be an interesting hurdle, but I’m sure everything will work out J

Then I went to the Plaza de Armas for the procession.  The main thing I was told before going was to watch my pockets at all times so that I didn’t get robbed.  Isn’t this a religious event?  I believe some people have missed the point.  Anyway, there’s basically a big statue of Christ that is paraded around the main plazas of the city, and it ends at Catedral.  I have never seen that many people in the plaza at one time.  I arrived at 7, which is when the procession was supposed to enter the Plaza de Armas.  The streets were absolutely absurd, there were so many people that the roads were almost impassible.  Once the plaza was in sight, everything got worse.  There were so many people that I couldn’t enter the plaza, but had to stay on one of the side-streets.  We were packed tighter than sardines.  Many people ran away early because they couldn’t handle the volume of people.  Some mentally or emotionally, others because they physically couldn’t breathe.  There was an adolescent boy near me who basically fainted and was being held up by his friends and/or family.  They kept him there for a while hoping he’d wake up, and eventually they brought him somewhere he could breathe.  I’m glad I have become accustomed to Peru or such an experience would be very shocking to me.  I did manage to get a few good pictures throughout the night; it is helpful to be tall.




Today I went to the clinic and worked with Dr. Marco in his office.  He is by far the best doctor I’ve worked with.  The cases weren’t nearly as interesting as much of what I saw at Belenpampa, but being involved makes it 100% better.  He explained to me how to calculate the risk factors for diabetes, and also explained the process of pre-natal care here.  One patient whose baby was sick due to a lack nutrients didn’t speak Spanish well, so we had to bring in a Quechua translator. 

In the afternoon I went to San Cristobal with Emparatriz.  I’m so thankful for her, she’s been making these last few weeks much more enjoyable J


The rest of the day I did random things I should have completed long ago, like the most recent Gilman Blog post.  It feels so great to do other things now after spending so much time with my thesis.  I also got an email back from Dr. Graves, my PI from Stanford so long ago, and he is excited to write me a glowing letter.  He’s such a great guy, I’m happy that we’ve maintained such a good relationship over the last 3.5 years that asking for a letter was just part of the conversation.  We are both taking on some challenging athletic feats, so it was fun to chat about that too.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thesis, Saylla, Gabriela

When I arrived in Peru, my Spanish was so basic that it took me a week and a half to figure out my supervisor’s name in the clinic.  Since, my language skills have improved so much that I was able to facilitate, transcribe, and translate interviews with Peruvian physicians and do literature searches in Spanish for my project.  After countless more hours of work, I have submitted my 35 page thesis to Grand Valley State University.  That, friends, is the sweet taste of victory. 

I do apologize that my temporary marriage to my project prevented me from providing updates about my life, but I doubt you would have found very much entertainment in my various attempts to make desks out of pillows and books anyway.

Monday I had a very interesting experience with Santa Rosa.  It was some kind of exercise promotion day, so they closed the clinic and went on a long walk to the nearby town of Saylla.  I was unprepared for the sun, so they gave me a Ministry of Health hat, which I will now treasure forever.  Really.  We stapled signs with phrases about healthy living on our backs and ran or walked the ~5 kilometers on the main roads.  See the picture below for my sign J  I sincerely doubt that had any positive impact on people who saw us, but it was good for the healthcare professionals to get their exercise.  Many people started running and stopped.  Because I didn’t want to be first, I walked most of the time and only ran when the people in the far back caught up with me.  It was a great view, there were a few pictures I saw in my head that I’d like to go back and make a reality. 

This sign reads "Sports are a mirror; they smile at you if you look at them smiling.  I didn't write it, but I think it's precious :)

Translation:  Together Against TB.  Breathe Life.


In Saylla, we stopped by the health center before eating lunch together.  It was so nice!  It all looked nice and clean.  Everything was organized so people weren’t congregated outside or in the hallways.  This looked like a place I could see myself receiving healthcare treatment.  Shocking, after my experiences in Belenpampa and Santa Rosa. 

For lunch, we are Chicharron, which is a super fatty, fried, finger food of Peru.  Somehow I avoided it for 3 and a half months.  It was great, but I am certain that it more than removed any health benefits from out walk that morning.  Dr. Marco was kind enough to buy my lunch, which I really appreciated even if it was only 12 soles.  I got to talk to him and a dentist for a while over lunch.  I’m still figuring out exactly when to use formal and informal tenses of “you” in Spanish…  There came a point when I just couldn’t stand speaking in the formal way while ripping apart meat with my bare hands. 

Also, Gabby has improved!  She is out of urgent care and finally has started urinating, meaning that her kidneys are starting to kick in.  I don't think I have ever been so happy to hear about someone's urination, and I doubt I ever will be again.  


Legitimately, not much else exciting happened last week.  Yesterday at the little church I met a girl from Grand Rapids!  She even went to GVSU for a year before transferring to Northern Michigan!  She was the first person I have met here who actually knew my city…  3 and a half months is a long time to go without anyone understanding my cultural context.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gabriela's Transport

As far as events in my own life, this weekend was very tame.  Yesterday I made sure to get my run and weight lifting in, then went to church in the evening.  I do really like the little church, I do feel welcomed there.  In the evening I talked with Jason, which seemed to be exactly what we both needed.  It was nice to have a relief from all the stress and tension surrounding the Gabriela situation.  Today, I have literally been working on my project since I woke up except for breaks for meals and talking to Stephan over Skype.  Great progress, I have a tremendous amount of data that I now just have to organize.  I’m not yet entirely sure how I’ll do that, but I will probably end up having a 25-30 page paper when I’m done with this.

I wanted to include everything about Gabriela in one fluent post, so I’ll now go to that.  Saturday morning was very tense.  As I previously posted, it was determined that Gabriela had to get to Lima ASAP to see a specialist and to use a machine that wasn’t present in Cuzco.  However, because they ended up deciding to go to a public hospital instead of a private one, they had to wait for a bed.  No beds were available in the ICU.  We waited all morning, and around noon we found out that a bed was opening up and she could get on a plane and go.  It was mad chaos in the house to get everything packed before the trip, and tension was high because of the gravity of the situation.  Eventually we had everything ready to go and we got to the airport.  We had to wait for a long time for Sandro, Tania, and Gabriela to arrive.  A doctor went with them to Lima to ensure that no medical complications occurred on the plane.  Transferring an ICU patient to another city is no easy task.  She was on oxygen and had a drip that had to be held at all times.  She looked very tired and uncomfortable.  Tania and Sandro were beyond themselves by this point.  If their family hadn’t been helping them with packing and everything I don’t think it would have worked well because of their exhaustion and desperation.  The whole extended family was there to support them for the transport, although Tania hardly seemed aware of everything going on around her.  She was only concerned with the little girl in her arms. 

When they finally left and got on the plane, we all hung around for a little while.  I think no one knew what to do, so we just did nothing.  There was so much sadness and heaviness in the group, it was hard to bear.  She might not be my real family like she is for all of them, but I do certainly have a connection with her and the family so I’m not immune to the sadness. 

The rest of the day went on as normal, and eventually we heard that they were in Lima without complications.  The parents couldn’t stay in the ICU room, which I think will be good for them because they will finally have a mandatory time to relax.  Sleep will help their desperation and return their sanity. 


There wasn’t much news today (Sunday), which is fantastic because it means nothing went wrong.  I learned tonight that she has improved slightly.  She is a little more stable, which is all we can ask at this point.  We will continue to hope for a steady progression towards health.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Measuring Conflicts, Gabriela Goes to Lima

The clinic today was interesting, the lady in charge of CRED and I had some more differences on our height measurements.  On some of them I may have done wrong, but I’m more confident of my measurements now and know I am not that incompetent.  For example, there was one baby I measured to be ~66.5 cm, I don’t remember exactly.  She didn’t like it, so she did it again.  We always do it with both legs in case one is longer.  I had consistent measurements for the 2.  She had 65 for one and 67.7 for the other.  So she decided that 67.7 was correct and put that in the chart.  First, kid had only gained 150 g, and it would be surprising for him to gain 3 cm height [compared to the previous month] without significant weight gain.  Possible, sure, but unlikely.  Second, the baby was probably crooked on her test which is why she had such a tremendous difference between legs.  She also told me today that a measurement couldn’t end in .0, because we don’t know that precisely.  It would have to be .1, .2, .3, etc.  That of course makes absolutely no sense.  Precision is defined by the device, and if that child looks like it is exactly 66.0 cm tall, I am not going to manufacture it and put 65.9 or 66.1.  Ok maybe now I will just to avoid conflict, but it’s just annoying.  Sometimes I think that my training as a scientist actually makes life here more difficult…  We left on perfectly good terms, but I was frustrated because I thought I was measuring just fine and I wasn’t trusted.


Next, Gabriella.  I didn’t hear any updates until I was at ProWorld, when Nico and Mila went to support the family in the hospital.  Nico came back and told me they weren’t able to see Gabby because she had been moved to the ICU.  Something went wrong today, and she got worse.  I went home shortly after that to find out that she is now going to Lima tomorrow in the morning.  The family only told me that things became more complicated, so I have no more details on what is actually going on.  I only know that this is a very tense time in the house and we all need to be praying for Gabriella’s health.  We can only hope that she makes it through this, and that my family doesn’t have to go catastrophically far in debt to pay for the last minute plane tickets and an unknown amount of time in the expensive, private hospital in Lima. 

Even as all this transpires, Joaquin is staying in the house with Tania's mom and Benji.  Therefore, life goes on in a relatively normal fashion.  The only major changes have been the stress-level and the people who are here helping Joaquin with homework and making meals for us.  I think they want it to be as smooth as possible for Joaquin.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Gabriela's Health

Before I get into Gabriella’s health, I want to quickly summarize my week.  I have made great strides on the project, and the clinic is going very well.  I was able to interview the director, which proved insightful and helpful.  I’m getting better at weighing and taking height and cephalic measurements of the babies.  I also made a new friend from the Netherlands!  She doesn’t speak Spanish, but her English is good and my Dutch is improving as well.  Just kidding, I’m not taking up another language just yet… 

Now to the important stuff.  Gabriella moved from Hospital Regional to the Hospital of EsSalud.  This one is much better, because it is funded by the government AND specific taxes from the workers who attend it.  The Regional Hospital is only general government funds, so this leaves it without the ability to remain clean and keep patients well-attended to.  Here she has remained hooked up to the dialysis machine all the time, and is continuing to receive treatments.  The acute kidney failure continues.  Her disease is called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome; more information can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemolytic-uremic_syndrome.  It was caused by an E. Coli infection.  The bacterial infection spread and was activated by an antibiotic that she was given in response to the diarrhea that she was experiencing early last week.  It’s the most common cause of acute kidney failure in kids.  It has about a 5-10% mortality rate, though the survivors rarely have serious problems following the disease.  I hope and pray (and encourage you to pray) that she is part of the healthy 90-95%. 

Her current situation is not very good.  She has a very high blood pressure, with systolic around 157.  I wasn’t told diastolic.  The pressure rose yesterday morning, and they have been unable to control it.  The absence of kidney function is making everything difficult.  Such a high blood pressure can’t be sustained for too long, especially in a child of 3 years.  If it remains unchanging, it’s likely that she will have to be brought to Lima.  This would be incredibly expensive, and they would have to go to a private hospital because the public ones have all the problems of Cuzco’s Regional, but magnified because of the sheer number of patients in the metropolis.  I don’t know how they would afford this, and I don’t know what would happen with the family if her condition were to worsen.  I am only hoping and praying that she returns to normal health.

I was able to go to the EsSalud Hospital today to see her.  She’s still herself, but she is tired and in pain.  Sandro and Tania haven’t slept much in the last week; the tiredness and exasperation is really showing through in their faces and body language.  I was happy to help even for a very short while today by reading Gabriella “Cat in the Hat” in Spanish.  She fell asleep, which I know is a blessing to her parents. 


I’m glad she is in the hospital of EsSalud, it may be the first time in Peru that I’ve felt like I was in a really legitimate health center.  It’s still not exactly an American hospital, but it’s close.  Here are some pictures of the hospital room and the hospital from the outside.  I covered Gabriella’s face for privacy reasons.