Monday, January 13, 2014

Finishing the Week Strong

I felt much better today.  Basically normal, appetite and all.  I got to work (almost) on time since I haven’t adequately accounted for the time I have to wait for the bus.  I didn’t miss my stop this time, which was nice.  I think I know when to stand up and go to the door now.  That only works in the mornings though, since then the bus isn’t ridiculously packed.  It was a pretty good day at the clinic.  We didn’t have any patients until 9, so it was totally fine that I arrived a little after 8.  Throughout the day we had to take 3 X-rays, and my supervisor allowed me more and more responsibility.  She’s now allowing me to align the X-ray machine on the patient and do some of the ‘processing.’  I now know how to remove the film from its case, put it on a metal holder, dip it in the various fluids, and restock the next one in the case.  That’s really just about the entire process of acquiring X-rays here.  She still needs to be there for the patient interaction stuff, but at least I know much of the technical stuff now.  Feels like I can at least do a little something.  Staying engaged helps, even if it hasn’t been easy all week.  I also learned what happens when it rains and there are X-ray films hanging outside.  First you have to realize it’s raining (oops..), then you put it on a chair in the office.  It wasn’t raining hard so the X-ray was fine.  Some patients we did X-rays on talked to me afterward.  They have now figured out that I’m a volunteer, which I think helps their expectations of me and makes them more grateful.  I feel as though I have progressed from being useless and out of place to mostly useless but at least fun to have around.  I accept that.  Toward the end of the morning I went to the lab with the nursing student, where all the middle-aged women there spewed compliments at me.  They called me by something that I think would translate to “cutie” (bonito for those of you know Spanish), then rattled on for a solid minute about how sexy my accent was when I said where I was from.  Estados Unidos.  It’s just all good fun.  At noon, the nursing student said she had to buy “Little mouths,” which I later figured out means snacks.  I find that people here can put “-ita” or “-ito” on the end of just about anything (“ita” means little, cute, something like that), so it’s hard to know what’s what.  At the time I figured this was medical supplies, and I wanted to get to know the city better, so I joined her.  We really don’t talk much, she’s one of the people I really have to struggle to understand.  Apparently she had little idea of where we were going because it took about 30 minutes to find the pastry store.  During this journey, I realized that a few types of shops are disproportionately present on the streets of this part of Cuzco.  Dentistry, vision (glasses, etc.), and dessert places.  I can understand desserts, but the other 2 were strange to me.  Between dentistry and vision, I must have seen at least 15 stores on the street today.  Ridiculous.  There are some of the typical shoe and clothes stores, along with most other things you’d expect in the US.  But dentists?? 

Catie told me yesterday that Tania would like me to not wear my scrubs back into the house after working at the clinic, since I could bring back sicknesses that could affect her children.  I doubt that my taking them off and putting them in a bag would have any huge effect on the likelihood, and my past illness was definitely food related not clinic related, but I think the most respectful thing to do is to honor her wishes.  So as of today I started to wear shorts under the scrubs, then take them off in the garage.  It’s not a big deal at all, totally worth the bonus points with the family.

I took the “San Jeronimo” bus home as usual, and managed to get off at the right stop.  Woop woop, I’m figuring this out.  I had a substantial lunch with no issues, so I think I’m officially rid of whatever was ailing me.  I plan to continue my altitude training tomorrow with Joaquin J  I talked more with him today after lunch, since I wanted to hear more on the subject of what Tania was saying about other volunteers.  It was just hard for me to believe that I was the best Spanish speaker of the 6 volunteers they’ve had.  Language is such a vital tool to international travel, especially in places where English is not widely spoken.  For a short vacation English will suffice, but that’s quite different than staying with a host family for several months.  I guess the guy before me, who was also here for 4 months, didn’t speak a lick of Spanish until the day he left.  He never even tried.  He had classes for 4 months just like I do, but he never tried to integrate it into his life.  Sounds like his performance in the class wasn’t too hot anyhow.  I imagine staying out late at the discotecas didn’t help his case.  I guess Benji had to go everywhere with him to buy things and whatnot.  The family wasn’t super happy about his lack of effort.  It just breaks my heart that people like this go abroad and make America look bad.  I’ve always known there were Americans who thought we were better than everyone else, that there’s no point to learning another language or culture, etc., but I thought they were at least smart enough to stay home and not bring those sentiments abroad with them.  If I were this family I doubt I would have taken another volunteer after that stint.  But again, I’m glad they did J

I had a lot of fun with my Spanish class today.  I enjoy that instead of just going through the questions in a rigid manner, we discuss them and have real conversations.  A good one started out with “Are you proud of your country?”  To explain myself fully, I am proud of what America represents, but I often think we’ve done wrong to other nations and people groups.  If I claim blind pride in America, that is actually a very insensitive thing to say to people who have been negatively impacted by our wide influence.  So we started talking about this, and he altered the question to be the people instead of the systems, and of course I love the people so then I could be proud to be an American.  He said he would like to vote for the US president since the election will often have a direct impact on his life.  I of course asked him if he’d like to pay taxes to us, which we got a good laugh out of.  In contrast to the low voting percentage of the US, Peru has made it mandatory for adults to vote.  This certainly could be a good thing, but he doesn’t like it because many people aren’t politically educated.  For example, a woman who danced in clubs and bars and the like ran for congress.  No political background, totally there as a forefront for someone else.  Or she just thought it would be fun, I don’t know.  Apparently she even tattooed the voting number on her body.  And she was elected!  So they have a congresswoman who is completely unqualified and certainly doesn’t have any idea what is best for the country.  This also led to me learning that in Peru, they use the word for pumpkin as their version of dumb blond.  Fascinating.  Again, having real and meaningful conversations in Spanish is great for my confidence, my understanding, and my vocabulary.

The rest of the night was quite fun.  When I came home, Joaquin was waiting for me at the top of the stairs to scare me.  It was dark outside, but I could see his shadow from the indoor light.  Gabriella thought this looked like great fun, so she decided to chime in.  We were basically saying “Boo” back and forth and pretending to be scared.  After a few minutes my dinner was ready, so I stopped playing.  She didn’t like that.  She went upstairs for a while with her mom, then told me she was never going to play with me again.  I must say I wasn’t too devastated by her broad proclamation, since they never hold at age 3.  So, I ate and started watching a movie with Joaquin.  Eventually Gabriella returned downstairs to remind me of her statement and give me some solid 3 year old sass.  Great times.  I’d go back to playing the game with her, and she would start to smile, then hide and pretend she was disinterested.  She eventually came back and played for a while.  When her dad came home she turned the sass switch back on and declared that I was bothering her and she would never play with me again.  Of course she stayed within 5 feet of me despite the fact that I was bothering her so intensely.  Within a few minutes we were starting the boos all over again.  She’d set up a scenario, telling me where I should walk before she scared me and where I should go after.  Pretty great.  Man, this little girl is adorable beyond all reason.  Joaquin was content to watch the movie, and went to bed early so he can be well-rested for our adventures in the morning.  I know that events like those described in the paragraph above are not full of differences about Peru or unique aspects of the culture; they are entirely like stories we could tell about any kid in the US.  But that’s precisely why I want to include them.  This trip is a little bit of a dichotomy for me.  On one hand, I’m experiencing cultural differences like I never have before.  But on the other hand, I am just becoming a kid again, playing marbles and pretending to be afraid of a 3 year old.  I think both components will have positive effects on me in the long run.

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