Thursday, February 27, 2014

Striking in Cuzco

I got up today fully knowing I wouldn’t be going to work, so I slept in; a much needed break after the adventures of the last few days.  Around 8:30 I got up.  My first reaction was to check the window to see if cars were passing by.  Traffic was below a normal level but still existent.  I was curious so I asked when I should head out to take pictures.  Sandro told me around 9 or 10 should be great.  Unfortunately I did not have a functional camera in my possession.  I called Samir repeatedly, then eventually went to ProWorld to contact him via internet and to get his home’s phone number.  I finally reached him around 9:30.  I prepared the blogs a bit before his arrival at 11.  We hung out and he started planning his jungle trip since it was raining.  In a few minutes all was well with the weather, so we set out to walk to the plaza.  It was crazy; soccer and volleyball were being played in the streets, and almost no cars were present.  I was told that the cars that could be struck with rocks if they decided to try to break the strike.  Not worth the attempt.  Walking in the middle of the street was enjoyable.  Nothing disturbed the peace minus a few motorcycles, 2 ambulances, and some police.  They would move the barriers to pass, and people had no problem letting emergency personnel through.

The plaza was great.  Many people huddled around Catedral to hear the words of an announcer.  Because of the low quality speakers I made out very few words from his mouth.  It seemed that they were saying something to the nature of “sdkfjshafkjshfsjdhfsd CUZCO oiucnjavduio uio STRIKE klshuzxviod dsfsh sdhuissdf GAS sdkfoopiewpqub….”  Still, I got some iconic photos with the flags and the epic backgrounds of the Plaza de Armas.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

For lunch we went to the delicious Israeli place.  Samir’s family joined us, and I enjoyed their company a lot.  My Spanish is much more advanced now, so chatting with them came quite easily.  They thought it was interesting that I was combining physics with medicine.  The meal was great for both the company and the food.  Afterward, we introduced Samir to San Blas, a cool area above the plaza but still very touristy.  We went higher up than I’d been before, and discovered some great outlooks over the city.  Very cool. 

After that I took a taxi home (it was safe to drive by this time), I worked on blogs/photos/laundry, then headed back out to dinner with the ProWorld peeps.  We found a great place near the plaza that I fully expect to re-visit.  The soup was delicious, as was the pizza I’d been longing for. 

An interesting side-story is that the girls who decided not to walk with us had a much longer adventure than we did.  Last night more rocks were piled on top of the mound in the middle of the road that prevented the buses from passing, then it was lit on fire.  Therefore, there was no hope of their bus getting to the city.  Throughout the day I kept tabs on them, and nothing much happened until they finally arrived home at about 6 PM.  

Throughout the day I was collecting information about the strike from my family and the few taxi drivers I took.  Basically, this is a protest because the president promised many things to the entire Cuzco region when he was elected, but has failed to follow through on them.  First, he promised to lower the price of natural gas coming from Lima to 12 soles per liter.  However, it still remains near 14 soles in Cuzco, and it’s even worse for the small, impoverished towns.  It shouldn't be so because natural gas is an abundant natural resource in Cuzco.  However, all the gas is immediately shipped to Lima without allowing Cuzco residents to access it.  Furthermore, Cuzco was promised a larger international airport so that planes full of tourists could fly here directly instead of going through Lima.  The politicians in Lima don’t want this because it would mean that less money would come to them through the airport; therefore, no plans have been made to fulfill this promise.  Overall I could see it being good for Peru because it was significantly lower the cost of trips to Cuzco, so more foreigners might come.  It is likely that the final straw was a gigantic wage increase that the ministers (you can think of them like governors) gave themselves.  They voted to triple their already high wages instead of using the funds to combat the social injustices that are taking place around the country.  I learned that of the 13 regions of Peru, the Cuzco region is the 4th poorest.  That’s absurd.  Cuzco is the tourist center of Peru, meaning a lot of foreign money is constantly pouring into the region.  Likely, all this money is lost to corruption in government and to a tiny upper class as the rest of the people suffer.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

El Paro (The Strike)

Part 1- written at 1 PM:
I expected today to be uneventful, as I was returning from Nazca at 11AM, then planned to relax by writing about my experiences and catching up on pictures.  As is becoming all too common here in Peru, this was not so.

I received a call from Tania this morning around 8.  She informed me that the strike on transportation began this morning.  It is getting bigger and broader to get the attention of the government.  The way I understood this was that taxis and buses wouldn’t run, but my bus would still be able to arrive without hindrance.  Nope.  This is a strike on all transportation in and around the city of Cuzco.  It’s not optional since all the streets have been filled with rocks, burning tires, and other debris.  This is a real, legitimate strike; not one of the cute picketing campaigns I’m accustomed to in the US.  Hence, no vehicles are allowed into or out of the city.  Well over an hour drive from the city we hit stop and go traffic.  Several minutes later the stewardess came to the cabin and informed us of the strike.  There were rocks strewn across the road even way out here, since the small towns of the Cuzco region were also participating in the strike.  After combatting phone troubles, I finally was able to contact Sandro.  He informed me that cars should be able to start entering the city around 3 or 4, and until then I should wait patiently.  I’d love to walk, but it would take 5 hours or more and I couldn’t be promised security.  At one point in the bus we had to seal the windows and blinds because of danger.  The danger was actually from rock throwing, which they were continuing to do in the streets. 

I have been enjoying myself a lot throughout this experience.  Some may argue too much, but there haven’t been any significant threats up to this point.  It feels as though I’m a part of something historical and interesting.  I’ve been mulling over the idea of doing interviews and taking pics tomorrow around the city.  Gotta go, we might start walking now.

Part 2-  Evening

What a day.  After some careful deliberation following my first writing, Samir, myself, and about 15 other people from our bus decided to start walking toward Cuzco despite the alleged distance.  It was a big group and we had some big guys, so safety wasn’t as big of a concern.  We walked past all the buses to find the main blockage point, which was a large pile of rocks likely a meter tall that covered all of the road.  It was completely impassable.  See my shared facebook post from Samir, since I didn’t want to have my big camera out.  The local people were preventing anyone from manipulating it, so the time of bus departure was not looking promising at that point.  As we kept going we found the girls laying by the side of the road.  We were surprised to see them, since they’d already been there 6 hours and we assumed that they had pressed on down the road.  Apparently they had walked 2 hours down the road to the first town, but they didn’t find much there so they returned to the buses.  That seemed crazy to us, since we were told Cuzco was only 5-6 hours away.  This was confirmed by a sign that said 52 kilometers.  That is longer than a marathon, and I was wearing 2 backpacks.  But Samir and I sure as heck weren’t going to sit around for the huge rock pile to be removed.  So with our group, we pressed on.  The remainder of the road did have blockage, but it wasn’t as intense as the rocks on the bus side of the barrier.  We were walking at a good pace for about an hour and a half when we came upon a large truck by the side of the road with a kid standing next to it.  We asked for a ride, so he asked his parents who said they couldn’t find the keys.  I have my doubts to the validity of that statement, but we thanked them and pressed on nonetheless.  After a little while we found 2 buses going the other direction, which looked like another chance at salvation.  These buses were full of passengers for Lima.  Boy were they in for an unpleasant surprise ahead.  They also told us we were a 4 hour bus ride from Cuzco, but we were certain that they were wrong because our bus did not have 4 more hours of travel time on schedule when we had to stop.  So, again we continued our journey.  Finally the Spaniards in our group found a cab, but it was small and could only take 4 people.  It was going to take us to the next town where we could find another cab.  We were fully prepared to take whatever we could get, but that cab wasn’t for us.  A short while later we found a large taxi van, and 6 of us piled in.  The driver first offered to take us to the next town, then agreed to take us all the way to Cuzco when we told him that was our final destination.  It was only 17 soles per person, which is approximately $7.  We were so happy to have this guy find us.  There were a few moments on the trip home where I was a bit tense.  There were some people making sure certain parts of the road weren’t being used.  These people seemed to be using their day off work to consume too much alcohol, which never helps situations.  Our driver knew the people so they let us pass without additional charge.  This happened twice throughout the trip home.  Our ride also felt suspiciously like a rally-race because of the constant dodging of obstacles in the road.  After about an hour and a half we were dropped off in Plaza Santiago, where we took cabs to our homes or hotels.  The roads were mostly cleared by our 5:15 arrival to the city, although this 48 hour strike will resume intensity tomorrow.  Samir still has my camera because I put it in his bag to avoid attention throughout the walk, so if I can get that from him tomorrow I plan to get some pictures of this event.  I asked Sandro about it and he told me that I have nothing to worry about with safety, so I’ll take his word for it.  If you are coming to Peru within the week, or if you have a daughter who is coming here soon, I don’t believe there are any safety concerns.  This strike is only for 2 days; public transit will be normal on Thursday.  I don’t know anything about the openness of the clinic since they could be continuing their strike, but as far as the wide-spread civil unrest it will have settled down.  I confirmed this with Sandro who already has lots of experience in this area. 

Sneak peak of tomorrow:  the city is very safe so I was able to get some great pictures of the strikers in the plaza!   

Nazca Lines

I honestly didn’t want to get up at 7 to go see the lines today.  I would have been perfectly content to sleep.  But the Lines are supposedly one of the best sights in Peru, so I couldn’t miss it.  We weren’t given breakfast before the trip, since people with weak stomachs don’t tend to do well in the small planes used for these tours.  We got to the airport at 8 and there were 5 of us plus one Italian who was just joining us for the trip.  There were 4 seats per plane, so those 4 went and we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  By 9:25 we were getting antsy and hungry.  Finally another group came, then we had to pay our airport tax and get through security.  I wish we were told to do those things earlier, since the time they took made us miss the take-off time for the plane.  Each plane only has a 6 minute window.  Hence we and our growling bellies sat for an additional half hour.  It was cool to take pictures with the plane and all, but I’ll be honest that I wasn’t in the best mood by the time we finally got off the ground.  For the amount of money we had to pay I didn’t think it was reasonable that we had to deal with all these hold-ups.  The tour was cool, but it was hard to make out all the smaller, most interesting structures.  It was frustrating when I missed some of the drawings, again because I paid enough that I wanted to see everything.  I also thought the lady next to me was going to cover me in her breakfast because she wasn’t fairing very well with the plane flight. 

Samir and I preparing for takeoff

The hummingbird of the famous Nazca Lines

When we got off we paid and took our ride home, where breakfast was supposed to be waiting for us.  It was 11 at this point, and I was famished.  The chicken we’d eaten the night before didn’t sit well, so this delay in nutrition was very torturous.   Finally at 11:30 food finally came.  1 egg and 2 small pieces of bread.  My dark mood did not improve.  Eventually we went out and got more food along with trying to figure out bus tickets.  It finally worked out the girls would take an economy bus that left at 6 while Samir and I took Cruz Del Sur (the best company) at 9.  We were willing to wait to have good beds and a safer bus. 

After walking around the city for a little while and finding nothing interesting, we went back and chilled at the hotel.

Nothing else exciting happened until Samir, myself, and our new friend, the Italian from the plane this morning, decided to check out the little museum dedicated to Maria Reiche.  She’s the mathematician who dedicated her life to studying the lines.  It looked pretty sketchy from the outside; there was nothing more than some adobe walls, a metal gate, and a sign.  Our boredom caused us to press on and knock.  A lady opened the door and looked at us.  The few seconds of awkward silence were awful, so we asked if we could we could see the museum.  She gave us a blank stare and said “The museum?”  We pointed to the sign and she finally realized what was going on, so she let us in and directed us toward a little, dirty, run-down hut within the outer walls.  There didn’t seem to be anything of value there.  Some basic replicas of the lines, some books by Ms. Reiche, nothing more.  When we asked her questions, it seemed that everything led to a vent about the inadequacy of society and how money was all that mattered to everyone.  She mentioned that the lines pointed to water, but failed to give any concrete examples.  Soon we wanted to just get out, so we lied about our bus time and left.  

Islas Ballestas, Sandboarding

Now today was something I’m more accustomed to.  We had to leave for the islands at 6:30 AM, which meant not quite enough sleep for all of us.  After an hour bus ride and an extremely hectic (AKA typical Peruvian) dock experience, we were situated on the boat for the tour.  The first things to notice were all the birds flying around the boat.  I strove to get some good shots of individual birds in flight, and I did succeed in a few cases.

The first actual main attraction was the “Candlestick figure,” which is a huge glyph in the sand on the side of a dune on the way to the islands.  I have yet to understand how something like that stays in the sand so well.  Their explanations didn’t seem quite good enough to me.  The glyph is a great mystery; there were 3 groups who could have created it.  It could potentially have been a Nazca glyph, related to the famous Nazca Lines.  However, there is controversy over this theory.  The main candle is directed exactly at the Nazca Lines, which is compelling evidence.  However, the Nazca Lines were made on flat ground instead of on the side of a dune, and they are much more shallow in the ground than this figure.  It could have also been made by the first European settlers, though I don’t recall why they would have wanted to do that.  The third option was pirate roots, since they could have used it to find this lucrative port from afar.  Very interesting.

The primary reason to go on this trip is for the islands, which have been nick-named the poor man’s Galapagos Islands.  So cool.  Far from the island the bird concentration increases, since there are so many birds who call Islas Ballestas their home.  The islands are preserved so people aren’t allowed to set foot on them.  The three main birds are the Guanay (known for its guano), Pelicans, and the Humboldt Penguins.  I got some great pictures of each of these types of birds, which I was very excited about.  As far as the best moment, I must give that to the sea lions.  These creatures earned the name “lions,” since many have a prominent mane similar to the mammal.  The boat pulled into a beautiful cove in the island, which was swarmed by hundreds of sea lions.  The summation of their calls and grunts enveloped the boat.  Being surrounded by such preserved nature to see and hear was a stellar moment that I won’t soon forget.  Here are a few highlights:

Sea Lion


Before returning to Huacachina, we stopped by the town of Paracas.  Of all the places we went on this trip, I most wanted to spend more time here.  We only had an hour to explore.  The shops were great and not very expensive, which is of course the perfect combination.  The vibe of the town was great, but the hour we were there wasn’t quite enough to take it all in. 

Back in the gorgeous oasis, we bummed out for a while before going sandboarding.  Wow, what a fun time.  The dune buggy ride is probably very similar to what’s offered in Silver Lake, Michigan, although I’ve never actually had the chance to do that ride.  It’s thrilling to speed over dunes, never knowing whether a calm dip or a gaping valley awaits you. There was a guy with us who was quite obviously high, but that did make him very enjoyable.  He would constantly yell phrases like “SCARE ME, AMIGO” or “FASTER AMIGO, FASTER.”  Yes, every time he talked to the driver he called him amigo.  After cruising around for a while, we went to a place to board down the dune.  Our friend was anxious to start, so he took off standing and didn’t make it down the hill very well.  I decided to go laying on the board face first for max speed and the thrill of head-first.  I enjoyed it a lot, sand boarding is a fun sport.  Unfortunately the second dune took the life of my beat-up camera because Samir didn’t wear the wrist strap and he dropped it in the sand.  I did bring it for that purpose just in case, but I was still hoping it would last more of my beating.  I’m going to play with it and see if I can get more of the sand out of the lens so it works again, but I’m honestly not sure if that’s an easy fix.  I nailed the third dune standing up until I biffed it hard at the bottom.  What a rush though, it’s a great sport.  I like that it doesn’t hurt to fall, although I found sand in my body for days to come.

At night we took a trip to Nazca to prepare ourselves for the lines the next morning.  I didn’t like the cost, but I knew it would be expensive because I was flying in a small aircraft for an extended period of time.  I couldn’t miss out on one of the most iconic sights of Peru even if it cost me as much as the entire Puno trip combined.  I think the companies know that too, which is always unfortunate.  

Arrival in Huacachina

Samir and I arrived around 8:30 to Ica, allowing us to get to Huacachina around 9.  It was a nice little town.  I am fairly certain that there are always more tourists than natives in this town at all times.  It’s absolutely gorgeous, it looks like something that couldn’t exist in reality.  Huge sand dunes on 4 sides surrounding the perfect desert oasis surrounded by palm trees.  Tourism is the only industry, and we quickly learned that there was not actually much to do here.  We planned to do the traditional buggy ride and sand boarding in the late afternoon, and until then we walked around the oasis, ate, and I had a milk shake. 

We unfortunately didn’t plan the sandboarding far enough in advance, so in order to go we would have had to pay the same price for half the time.  When we planned the tour of the Islas Ballestas for the following morning, we discovered that we could make it back in time to do the longer sandboarding session.  So, we didn’t actually end up doing anything all day today.  It was a strange change for me since I’m always forcing myself to work harder and faster, but I will say that the break was nice.  

Trip to the Coast

Today I slept in a bit and finished up the details for the trip.  Joaquin and I went to the park to play in the morning, then I returned and headed to ProWorld for my last internet computer session for a few days.  I was very glad to have this relaxed morning instead of having to show up at the terminal early in the day.  After lunch and some photo editing, I met Samir at the bus station. 

Our bus company was Oltursa, and we were very impressed.  The seats were huge and comfortable, the tv’s were nice, and everything seemed very professional.  We took this picture to illustrate our excitement about the interior.  No tears like on the way home from Puno, but I was nonetheless excited about our bus.


The ride was stellar.  Not the excessive turning and altitude changes, but looking at the mountains that caused them.  Wow, so incredible.  Here's one of the highlight pictures:

I must confess that I wasn’t entirely relaxed once it got dark out.  Sharp turns that I can’t see are not my favorite thing.  At one point we noticed some lights far down below, presumably from a city.  That indicated that we probably couldn’t take a fall from this height and live to tell about it.  I still managed to sleep because I accepted my role as a hopeless bystander, but Samir had some more troubles.  We didn’t regret taking a slightly more expensive bus to ease our anxiety about the trek.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Preparing for Huacachina

Today I woke up with clogged nostrils, so I decided not to go to work.  Sickness continues to pursue me and hinder my running here.  I was also exhausted from the long week, so a few extra hours of sleep was greatly appreciated.  After I woke up I texted my friends in the clinic that I wouldn’t be in today.  After a few minutes, Katherine called me to inform me that I’d chosen the perfect day to not come to work.  When she and Michelle showed up at the clinic, the front gate was locked.  They knocked and the front guard let them in.  Apparently there was some kind of strike that I didn’t know about, so the place was only staffed for emergencies.  A few doctors, someone in the ER, some people in the sala de partos since babies just keep being born irrelative to the changes of the surrounding world.  They were told they didn’t have to be there today or tomorrow because of the strike.  It’s very strange that I heard nothing of this while I was working this week.  Apparently everyone knew to not show up to work today but didn’t tell me.  This turn of events caused us to want to leave earlier and maximize our weekend time on the coast.  We tried to see if we could catch a bus to Ica tonight, but it was impossible.  The last bus left at 5PM, which was too early for us to manage with Spanish classes and the like.  Katherine, Michelle and Rani are leaving tomorrow morning on a cheaper bus.  They’ll arrive around midnight and stay in a hostel.  I thought for a while and talked to Samir, and we decided to take an afternoon bus that was more expensive.  It was one of the 3 companies recommended to us by our families, so we know it will be good, comfortable, and safe for the journey.  The trip to Ica takes 14-18 hours depending on the bus, so comfort and safety are very important.  Samir and I will arrive at 8AM, which will be perfect for starting the day after a good night’s rest.  With the money we save for not needing a room that first night, the nicer bus that also includes a meal is only $10-15 more than the one the girls are taking.  Sounds great to me! 

I’m so excited for this trip.  We’ll visit the famous Nazca Lines, Huacachina, and perhaps the coast a bit as well.  While in Nazca, we might visit the largest sand dune in the world.  Huacachina is the home of sand boarding, which is exactly what it sounds like.  You board or ski down sand dunes instead of snow.  What a cool extreme sport!  There are also some buggy rides and whatnot in the dunes as well that we might check out.  The coast has the Islas Bellestas, which have been called a “poor man’s Galapagos Islands” in several tour guide books.  That sounds like a place I want to visit, right? 

The evening was spent figuring out tickets with Samir and working out trip details with Katherine.  While I was waiting around the plaza, one the sales people I’d seen before came up to me to try to sell some hats.  I wasn’t very interested, but she kept going.  When she started lowering the price I started listening.  I got her down to 5 soles for a hat (under $2), and I decided that it would be the purchase.  It could be good for me or as a gift, and the price was unbelievably low.  Samir and I went to the great Israeli restaurant for dinner, then I headed back home.  I need to get my rest so I’m ready for the trip!   I will warn you, the blog will probably be a little behind next week.  I won’t have anything up before Tuesday when I return, since my computer will not be joining me for this trip.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Good Doc

I’m tired so I’ll make this quick.  I’m afraid that my descriptions are going to become shorter and more succinct because I just don’t have time to do and describe everything. 

My friends and I are working on planning an adventure this weekend!  We’re going to the Nazca Lines, Ica, and Huacachina.  The Nazca lines are massive designs in the ground that can only be seen from the air.  They’re a grand mystery.  The most intriguing question is “Why did they make such designs?”  I think they’re about as compelling of evidence as you will find for extraterrestrials. 

Katherine changed services into my department today, which was exciting.  I want to still mostly work with my Spanish, and when I switch languages quickly I typically have more errors in my Spanish as a result.  But it is still nice to have another friend to talk to.  I taught her many things I’ve learned over the past few weeks.  I didn’t do physical exams today because the doctor did all of them.  He’s a pediatrician so he has a better grasp on the exams than most docs.  His sense of humor is also welcomed in these rooms.    He taught us many reflexes.  Apparently babies have a tendency to walk if you stand them up, even at this age.  If you put them on one side in your hand, the back muscles will contract.  This is for compensating for body movements during walking.  I’m continually surprised by the complexity of babies even right after birth. 

The doc invited us to his office afterward, but he couldn’t get the door open.  First the key wouldn’t go in.  When it finally did, it broke off in the lock.  It was quite the fiasco to figure this out, I went back to my service before seeing how everything changes. 

After waiting a while, Jorge came back to do rounds.  I learned how to measure a uterus, and we had many fun jokes to share today.  I think poor Katherine was asked when she wanted to get pregnant at least 3 times. 

Physical Exams, Lomo Saltado

This morning I reported early to the clinic so that I could learn more before we had to do rounds with the babies.  Andy took me into the hospitalization room and demonstrated an exam for me on a baby, then had me do it.  In total I did 3 physical exams, although they weren’t in front of a doctor.  Wow, what a cool experience.  If the baby isn’t already crying (which is rare), you start by listening with a stethoscope to the lungs and heart.  The lungs should not have mucus or make a scratching noise.  The touching exam starts with the head, checking for the fontanels in the skull.  Several things can be gleaned from this test.  First, if the skull is fully closed that is a big problem because the skull won’t expand appropriately and brain problems are likely to develop.  Also, if the baby has hypertension you can feel swelling in the fontanels.  Hypotension will do the opposite, where the fontanels will be little depressions down into the head.  You then move onto the ears.  The ears have to be permeable to sound, and should look to have consistent development between the 2 of them.  The nose should be clear and not have any obstructions.  Next is the mouth, where we check visually for a continuous pallet.  The neck is then checked to make sure it doesn’t have any masses, and the clavicles are checked to be without fracture.  This can be common for babies as they exit their mom’s body, especially if the baby is particularly large.  For chest and thorax, palpation for abnormalities is enough.  I next would grab the hands of the baby, let it hold on for a few seconds, then let go to test the Moro reflex.  The arms should spread out as if going into a hug.  The legs must be free of clicks when we move them around.  Tomorrow the med students will teach me what to describe the exam with words, so maybe I can do it when we do rounds with the doctor!!

It was also a pretty cool day in the Sala de Partos.  Two ladies were groaning in the Sala de Dilatacion for much of the day, so it was only a matter of time.  Right around 1:00, it was obvious that she was close so I stuck around to watch.  And I was told I could help with the post-birth preparation.  Wilson was receiving this baby, so he was super excited.  As much as I am liking this rotation and as much as I’ve been becoming acclimated to the typical sights and sounds, I’m not sure that’s one I want to explore.  It might be the only time in my life I would have the chance to deliver a child, but I just fear the consequences of an error in that setting.  This was one of the more impressive births I’ve seen.  She got in position, and a minute later the head popped out.  Absurd.  She did seem like she was probably from a more rural region since she mainly spoke Quechua, and I’ve heard that their births tend to go faster because of the musculature of the women.  For some reason she stopped pushing at this point, although she clearly wasn’t done.  Fortunately this time there weren’t complications because of it, but an aspirator was required to get the baby healthy.  When things like that are happening I tend to just stand back and let the professionals handle it. 

For the sake of time I’ll skip to the evening when I hung out with Kevin.  I took a different bus on this trip for the fun of it, and I did eventually make my way to our meeting place.  He fetched me and took me to his dad’s restaurant.  It looks about like a typical Peruvian restaurant.  Not huge, not tiny, pretty clean but not sparkling.  He took me into the kitchen, where I first got to taste fried rice (this tastes very similar all around the world), then we started on Lomo Saltado.  Here are a few pictures of the experience:

How do you cut a whole chicken?  Knife and a hammer.

The finished product.

It was absolutely fantastic, I definitely want to make this again in the states.  Kevin will bring me a list of spices eventually, since I didn’t catch everything and I’m not sure what they are called in English.  His dad was very kind, he told me I could come back more if I wanted to learn more Peruvian dishes.  When he found out about mom’s restaurant and that I can cook, he said he could get ingredients for some dishes I knew and I could teach him.  I’d love to introduce them to mostaccioli, but I’m not sure they have all the ingredients I need.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Helping with Newborns

I have decided that I need 24 hours to do things and sleep, then an additional 2-3 hours to write and reflect on those experiences.  Gah.  I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed this week because I now have quite a few friends from different groups (church in addition to my fellow foreigners), and I’m also trying to maintain professional contacts, get my senior project on the road, and prepare for my medical school applications. 

Today was a good day in the clinic.  When I arrived we did a round with the babies.  I didn’t like this doctor as much, he would ask questions but didn’t help very much if the students weren’t sure.  I prefer the docs who explain everything that’s going on instead of judging if the students don’t already know.  So I didn’t learn as much, but there was one baby with something interesting on its head.  A little bump, although I forget what they decided it was.  Immediately following the round the med students went to a computer that has internet in the clinic to look for answers to the questions posed by the doctor.  They figured it out, but I was still a little lost because of their speed. 

Because I want sleep, I’m going to skip to the visit of the moms.  Cool stuff, they didn’t feel like getting the machine that allows you to hear the heart of the baby so they used a little basic, manual device to magnify the sound.  It looks similar to a little vase without a completed bottom.  You just put it on the belly of the mom, stick your ear on the other side, and move it around as necessary to find the heart.  Again, so different from the US.  At almost 1 PM, I learned that I could tend to the baby if I stuck around for the upcoming birth.  I of course decided to hold off on lunch and wait here.  It took a while for the mom to even go to the sala de partos, and once she did things were complicated.  Once she got the head out she didn’t push well so it was stuck there for a few seconds.  That’s bad for the baby, and when it came out I was very worried that I was going to see my first infant mortality.  I don’t want to see that unless I have to, it would be such a sad, heart-wrenching experience.  It took probably 30 seconds, but the baby did start crying eventually.  It was a weak cry, and the poor girl could barely move.  She was a 6 on the Apgar scale, meaning that she wasn’t as lively as she should be.  This could lead to many problems in the future.  I stood back when everything was super intense.  They aspirated the fluids from the throat and lungs of the baby girl, after which things started to look better.  Her skin wasn’t so white, etc.  There probably was some remaining problems with her blood or her circulation, but she was more or less stable.  It was then that I stepped in and they showed me how to assess the newborn.  Measurements, antibiotics for the eyes and body, etc.   Very cool, it’s a useful skill to  have.  Some Chilean students were helping out for the day, but they had to leave this evening.  They were very nice, and Wilson and I enjoyed hanging out with them.  I didn’t leave the clinic until 2:30, and my stomach was starving.  Tomorrow I have to get to the clinic a half hour early, which is too bad, but I’m going to familiarize myself with some of the patients to I can present them!  I’m very excited for this experience :D

Rest of day = normal.  Need sleep now.  

Church Retreat

This weekend I went to a retreat with the church La Vid, which extended from Friday until Sunday evening.  It was overall a great experience, although it did have great swings up and down because of the language barrier and other cultural differences that I wasn't prepared for.  I'm not going to describe it in much detail here, but I will show you some pictures of the beautiful place where I got to hang out for the weekend.  It's a town called Andahuaylillas.  Say that 10 times fast\.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Preparing for more responsibility

I only have 10 minutes to write this so I will be brief.  In the clinic today, 3 interesting things happened.  First, I asked one of the med students about my musings from yesterday; could I do physical exams and present patients if I stayed another week?  He said absolutely, and subsequently explained all the components of a physical exam; first in general, then for the babies.  That’s the exam that I would be able to do.  I had to look up a few words, but overall I understood everything he said.  On Monday I should be able to practice these new skills!  Second was a pregnant woman (7 months, not ready for birth) who fell in the clinic today.  She was there for something else and fell, then had some significant pains in her abdomen.  I went with the obstetrician and Andy to get her from a doctors consultation office, since that’s where she was taken immediately after the fall.  It was an exciting trip across the clinic because of the urgency.  I helped get her on the transport bed, then we took her to ultrasound.  I’m not exactly sure what was found out there, but they decided to let her rest in the clinic for a while under supervision.  They also filled out paperwork for a hospital visit in case that was necessary later on.  At the end of the day Dr. Jorge did the rounds.  It was appropriate that every bet was filled on the international day of love.  Jorge is a fun guy.  He both gets all the necessary work completed and jokes around with patients.  For example, he asked a woman if she wanted to have another baby right now, and she of course said no.  He jokingly explained that they will probably be back in 2-3 years because she will want to relive the experience.  I learned a lot from this round, since he is also very thorough and speaks good Spanish.  I may ask to follow him in the future, since I think he would be a great guy to have write my letter of rec.  After the round I also acquired permission to take the week of Meghan’s visit off from the clinic :D

Friday, February 14, 2014

MD/PhD with Dr. Peter Rohloff

In Belenpampa today, I did rounds with another new doctor.  I could understand him very well, so I learned about several topics.  I think I have a good grip on the physical exam for the babies, and I have a basic understanding of why each test is done.  I haven’t encountered many problems yet so I don’t know potential pathologies.  I also learned about cells that appear white in the gums of a baby; they could easily be mistaken for teeth starting to come in.  They aren’t pathological, just an interesting side-note.  The med students jokingly handed me a patient sheet to present it to the doctor.  I realized that I would absolutely love to do that.  Presenting patients to doctors on rounds is something I’ll have to become accustomed to at some point, and that would be a great experience to have now.  I think it would also make a good impression on the doctors too, potentially increasing my responsibilities elsewhere.  I’d also like to ask if I’d be allowed to do physical exams of the babies.  I would have people watching me so I would have very little worries about missing anything critical to the health of the child.  They seem to be quite straight forward, and again it would be stellar experience for my future clinical career.  It dawned on me that perhaps I should stay in sala de partos another week.  This discipline is probably the nearest to an American hospital of all in the clinic, and I am learning a lot of deep things compared to the shallow lessons I learned in the others.  It is also a great way to network with many doctors because they rotate rounds with the babies.  Thinking these thoughts was shocking to me because I was so opposed to working here 2 weeks ago.  It’s amazing how fast you can become accustomed to a new situation. 

Additionally, the labor room was busy today.  There were 3 women in the dilation room when I arrived.  Around 10:00 the first one went in.  She had to push for a while, and she experienced a lot of pain, but eventually she got the baby out.  While everyone was watching her I got to do another round of checking the baby hearts with the ultrasound.  I later asked Wilson about why we do this, and he explained that it’s best for the baby’s heart to be between 120 and 160 beats per minute.  Below this range is brachycardia and above is tachycardia.  I’m not entirely sure what happens if we find one out of range, but perhaps I’ll find out later.  I thought it was interesting that the obstetricians always wanted to make sure she kept her mouth shut so that all the pressure would go toward getting the baby out instead of toward making noise.  That was just about the only thing they repeated to the new mom.  Immediately after this baby popped out, another woman entered the room to have her child.  There are 2 beds, so she got into the other one.  Wilson had to go fast to get all the measurements and preparation of the first baby done before the second one entered the world.  The second lady was in more pain than the ones I’ve seen previously.  Or she didn’t tolerate it as well, who knows.  She was shrieking and begging for help and saying she couldn’t keep going because it hurt too much.  Naturally she did eventually finish the job.  As if she had a choice.  I enjoyed watching the preparation and everything they do with the babies, if I stick around another week that might be something I could do as well. 

The rest of the morning was spent hanging out with Wilson, since Andy left to go sleep because he had to stay through the night yesterday.  Great times.  I learned that mixing Quinoa with milk is a delicious combination during our short break.  We visited some other services, then went around taking turns listening to baby hearts in wombs.  Quality day in the clinic.

You are probably wondering why I titled this post with something other than everything I’ve explained above, since it all is important and significant.  Well, today I finally had the opportunity to talk over the phone with Dr. Peter Rohloff, who is the founding doctor of Wuqu’ Kawoq.  He also has a dual appointment at Harvard.  I wanted to talk to him not just because of my summer plans to join him in Guatemala, but also because I love his career trajectory.  His PhD is in the biological sciences, then founded this organization because he saw a need.  He now leads a research group in Guatemala, although it is in a discipline entirely different than his research training.  It is some combination of anthropology and epidemiology and global health and other subjects.  I’m happy to get some exposure to another form of research before I have to choose my PhD.  Anyway, he had some great advice for me as I look forward to my future.  I’ve been unsure of which path I would most like to take as I move beyond my undergraduate.  I love medical care, and while a PhD is great I have been unsure of whether or not it is worth 4 years of my life.  His first caution was that my PhD might come in a different discipline than I will actually work in long term.  That has certainly been his experience.  He actually encourages most of the undergrads he works with not to pursue MD/PhDs, since many people pursue them for the wrong reasons.  He also talked about other ways to get med school paid for without needing to do the MD/PhD route.  It’s essential to have financial options after med school or one can be forced into a discipline that doesn’t involve working in a poor country for little or no pay.  However, all other paths involve some amount of time of approximately 3-4 years.  To me, all this information is a conformation that I should continue along the path of MD/PhD.  If I’m going to have to spend 3-4 extra years to open the door to a career involving global health, I would like to exit those years with skills that will improve my ability to better the lives of people.  I do love science, and I could see a scientific background serving me very well all over the world.  So we talked about PhD’s that would be most ideal for my career.  Bioengineering is an obvious choice for someone with my physics background, and it can also lead to many excellent opportunities globally.  He told me about some of the projects he was aware of coming out of the MIT biomedical engineering department, and they sound exciting challenging, and most importantly beneficial to the poor and marginalized of the world.  I would find a project like that very fulfilling.  The key to me is getting to ask questions that will actually have some kind of beneficial impact on patients, and I’m now confident that I will be able to find a lab where that is possible.  So we moved on to schools.  He likes University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which is where he earned his degrees.  It’s not a government funded MD/PhD program, which means that it isn’t as good of a deal financially.  That is a big deal to me.  But I do acknowledge that there are advantages to not having government regulation, and he said that it allowed him a more in-depth PhD experience than he could have got in most MSTP (NIH funded) programs.  MSTP’s will still be the majority of my applications, but I will follow his advice to apply to U of I.  He also mentioned that the other best schools would be the Harvard-MIT dual degree program and the Emory-Georgia Tech joint program.  I don’t know as much about Emory, but I am pretty sure I would enjoy the Harvard-MIT program J  Lastly he talked about some specific challenges I’ll face as an MD/PhD.  For example, I may feel pressured to go for a fellowship, but my age by that time will also push me toward avoiding it.  Who knows, that’s a long ways away.  Global health also doesn’t have a clearly defined specialty of choice.  Radiology could serve me well, since it has a good lifestyle and good pay so I would be more free to pursue other interests like public health even with an appointment in the US.  That would be a good specialty for me since I have such a deep background in imaging.  My main hesitations have always been not seeing how to apply it to global health and not getting to interact with people directly.  He gave a few examples of potential options for how to use that, although it is still largely unexplored.  That doesn’t mean it’s not doable, it just means there’s a need that perhaps I could fill.  Emergency med is also nice because of the flexibility, but I’m not sure I’d like the hours.  I now have more confidence that I could handle the pace and trauma after getting to understand my reaction to shocking situations here in Peru, but again that’s not likely for me.  Internal medicine is also a potential option, simply because of the required depth of knowledge in many subjects.  I would be prepared to handle almost any problem that arose.  I like the sounds of internal medicine because I enjoy complexity and solving problems, which is a huge part of that discipline.  I asked about palliative care because I did like what I saw over Christmas break, and Dr. Rohloff said that is also unexplored.  That was the just of the conversation.  I was very thankful that he took the time to meet with me, despite the my tardiness and dropped calls from dysfunctional Peruvian internet.  He’s used to it in Guatemala.  In summary, I’m happy to say that I now have more direction as I move forward in the MD/PhD application process.  I will probably begin drafting my essays in the near future!  Exciting times J

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Doctor, Other Célula

The clinic was pretty boring today.  No women were even in the staging area for a birth all morning.  Still, there was some good stuff that happened. 

The first set of rounds to inspect the babies was with a doctor I hadn’t worked with before.  He didn’t have med students do any of the touching, but he was very thorough and described everything he was doing in very good detail.  I still don’t understand everything by any means, but I think I picked up a few useful bits of information from this set of rounds.

Once that finished, we went to the largest waiting room of Belenpampa for a Catholic mass.  I’m telling you, these things pop up everywhere.  I guess that today is “Patient Day,” so this is their way of blessing their patients and thanking God for the healing he has provided.  We only caught the very end of it because of rounds, but it was still super interesting to see.  Once the service ended the priest came into the maternity/neonatal area to bless the rooms, the babies, and the mothers.  It’s so interesting to me that government-funded clinics have such religious emphases since that would never happen in the US.  I’m also still not yet entirely accustomed to having holy water cast over me, but I’m getting more and more accustomed to it now. 

Much of the down time I talked with the med students.  They’re helping me learn slang and other fun cultural components.  They’re so fun and nice, they have spiced up this week significantly for me.  Especially since I’ve been tired.  We were able to watch the Olympics for a while, although figure skating was the only sport with TV time at the moment.  It’s impressive, but there are other events I prefer.  Sofia came by during a lull in Tópico and we enjoyed a figure skating rivalry.  Both the US and Italy had strong presences in figure skating.  

The last clinical event of the day was another round with the doctor I mentioned before, who asks questions and is very thorough.  I enjoyed rounds a lot.  I learned about the muscular development of babies and how that development influences their ability to take in food or milk.  The woman had the baby in the wrong position and that’s why she was experiencing problems with vomiting.  At the end he asked us if we had any questions.  There were so many things I wanted to know more about but didn’t know enough to ask about.  Fortunately he just kept going.  He discussed some of the differences between the medical system in the US and that in Peru.  For example, Tuberculosis is a significant problem in Peru, but it is hardly on our minds in the US.  Perhaps the most interesting to me was his explanation of finances in this clinic.  I guess that there was a recent change in September that made the budget even tighter.  If they don’t conserve gloves, masks, syringes, etc, it is entirely possible that the entire clinic will collapse.  When he put it that way, it is more clear to me why there are so many things that I see as needing improvement hygienically.  They see it too.  They want it to change.  But if they don’t continue providing care in this way, it could be catastrophic to the future of the clinic and its patients.

The afternoon was normal.  I played some soccer with Joaquin outside, which is always a joy.  I don’t think steps are usually part of a soccer field, but it works fine for us.  Spanish, ProWorld, etc. was typical as well.

In the evening I went to the Célula, although this was a different one than last time.  We talked about having encounters with God, and John 4 was one of the central passages.  I’m very familiar with this passage because we’ve studied it in IV many times, although Carlos did take a bit of a different perspective on it which I enjoyed.  At the end of Carlos’ expositions we always go around person by person to discuss our response or what we learned.  That could be intimidating, but I managed ok.  The night ended with an announcement of a retreat that’s going on this weekend.  I have other plans I was making, but I would really like to go to this.  It’s funny because now I’m the guy who has to be convinced instead of the one always doing the convincing.  I still don’t know if I’ll be hanging around the city this weekend or running away to this retreat.  You’ll know Monday J

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Med Students, Interesting Labor

I’m going to sum up Monday and Tuesday into 1 day because I don’t want to be behind anymore. 

I arrived in Cuzco around 5:30 Monday morning.  The sleep from the bus helped, but I was still tired.  I didn’t have a chance to sleep before going to work. 

Monday was the first day for 2 new med students; Wilson and Andy.  They’re both very nice, although Wilson spent much more time talking to me the first day.  He invited me on a trip he’ll be going on next month, asked me all about myself and America, etc.  These guys are in their 6th year of med school, so they are nearing completion.  They will be in sala de partos for one month, and after that will rotate to a rural town 3 hours from Cuzco.  Things will be more intense for them than they were for the other 2 med students I worked with last week.  I’m not sure why this happened, but the doctor doing rounds on Monday was very intense.  I liked him a lot, it was great to have him asking all the students (nursing and med) to improve their learning instead of just having them do menial tasks.  I wouldn’t know everything if it was in English, but I’m trying to learn what I can in Spanish.  The med students are going to have to get in at 7 AM to familiarize themselves with the charts before rounds at 8.  I like showing up at 8 instead.  They often have to spend the night in the clinic to assist with births when they occur outside business hours, and have to work either Saturday or Sunday.  The other med students had no such regimen.  Rounds started late and went about an hour and a half.  That is far more thorough than previous doctors had done, so I really liked this guy for his in-depth examinations. 

Once the excitement was done, I must confess it was hard to stay awake.  I just wanted to go home and rest, but I waited around until 1 because it was best that way. 

The afternoon was nothing too special, just catching up with blogging and chatting with Samir, the new ProWorld student who is working in dentistry at Belenpampa.  This day was mostly a catch up day, and it ended with me going to sleep very early.

Today I slept through my run because I was still so tired.  The clinic was largely uneventful, but it is nice to have 2 med students to follow around now.  I can almost always be doing something.  The first main interesting event of the day (aside from talking to the med students) was a lady whose belly was still very large after the birth of her child.  This same complication occurred in her first pregnancy, although I can’t explain what is going wrong.  I watched an ultrasound that was used to try to figure it out, though something more in-depth was supposed to happen after I left.  Second was probably the most exciting and scary event of my time in Belenpampa.  A woman was brought into the Sala de Partos  to give birth, but no matter how hard she pushed that baby wasn’t moving.  A doctor came and helped by pushing the belly with his hands or squeezing it down with a towel.  To no avail.  The patient was then hurriedly transferred to a transport bed and rushed to the hospital for a C-section, since apparently they can’t do those here.  They were moving very fast through the main hallway to get her out, it was a very dramatic scene.  I hope she ended up alright, but I’m sure the whole situation was a bit traumatic for her.  At least that’s what her face displayed as everything was transpiring. 

My afternoon was nothing exciting, so I’ll skip to the evening.  Sofia invited the girls and myself to a bar that also has bingo and other childhood type games this evening.  It sounded fun so we all went.  I couldn’t get there when Sofia told me to meet her, and Katherine ended up being very late after our meeting time anyway.  While we waited around I hung out with Rani and a friend of hers and Katherine’s named Ben.  We have a lot in common; love the outdoors and hiking, grew up in small towns, etc.  I can tell we’re going to be friends during the rest of his time in Cuzco. 

We finally found the place Sofia was talking about, but there wasn’t room for all 4 of us at the table with her and her friends.  So we had to sit downstairs at another table.  This place is quite unique, it’s basically a bar with a children’s theme.  Kids games line the shelves and you can play games as a group such as trivia and bingo as well.  We ordered drinks and soon discovered Jenga on the shelf.  Great times with that game.  It was great chatting while playing that obnoxious game.  Kate got frustrated since she had bad luck this evening.  Rani’s sassy side came out as she reminded Kate several times of her struggles.  And Ben and I found out that we share a taste in music and are both Christian!  At 11 we all left except Kate, who stayed with Sofia and her friends.  Rani and I both live south along the Aveneda de la Cultura, so we were going to share a cab but managed to catch what must have been the last bus.  Great day, but I’m not going to get much sleep before I start my run tomorrow morning….

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

La Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria

The plan for today was to sleep in to our heart’s content, then walk through the streets and assume there would be something to see.  The party was technically in the stadium, but we didn’t want to pay the money to get in and we figured it would be more fun to mingle with the crowds outside anyway.  We should have known that sleeping in wouldn’t happen based on our experience the day before.  I didn’t get woken up until around 7, and most of them stayed asleep longer than I did.  That still wasn’t very much sleep, but adrenaline carried my through the day.  We looked out the window around 8:30 to see this:

Pretty cool sight to wake up to, right?  It will probably never happen to me again.  After taking care of some necessary logistics, we got ready and headed outside to enjoy our surroundings.  At this time a band had taken over the main street.  People lined the sides, packed so close together it was as if they were on one of the crowded buses I’ve described to you.  Movement was nearly impossible.  We found a stream through the madness and eventually found a bakery where we bought a very carb-heavy breakfast.  Bread it hand, we joined the people lining the street.  We managed to find a spot close to the road, so I was able to snap some decent pictures.  At one point I wandered into the street to take a picture in the middle of the parade, as was common, and one of the dancers came over and inserted herself in the picture.  That’s what this party is like; it will literally reach out and drag you in.  Everyone had no problem letting you wear their costumes (if convenient), their masks, take pictures of or with them, etc.  I took full advantage of this and got pictures with many groups of people.  I think I covered just about every genre of clothing; the older woman with large, flowing dresses, younger women with short dresses, guys with elaborate vests, and arguably the most impressive was men in tremendous, extravagant garb that only my pictures will adequately describe to you.  Occasionally we would be asked by dancers to take pictures with them (I have to cite my “beautiful eyes” on this one), but usually we were the ones to ask. 

Vanesa (lady from travel agency) described this day as “disorganized” when I asked her about it on the phone.  I was, by the way, our main spokesperson in Spanish with all the tour guides.  I’m pretty sure Michelle’s Spanish is better, but I’m the one who started talking so they just rolled with it.  Back to the story.  Disorganized is a tremendous understatement.  Absolute insanity in most parts of the city.  Movement anywhere was tremendously difficult.  People were everywhere, and random streets would be filled with parades.  You never knew which streets though.  A parade would pop up out of nowhere, then disband at a random time.  We spent the morning adventuring around, trying to stay in the middle of the action. 

Eventually we grabbed lunch, which we found at a local place off the beaten path.  It was nice to get out of the beating sun for a while.  And 5 soles for a full lunch was a great price.  I don’t think tourists usually find it; prices would be higher if they did.  My soup had what seemed to have pumpkins in it.  The trout was good too, although I’m sure it’s not as tremendous as an authentic Peruvian place. 

When we ventured outside after lunch, this previously empty street had been filled with bands and dancers.  Again, one can never predict where the parades will go.  Fortunately, the bystanders hadn’t yet discovered this place, so I was able to get some really cool pictures of everyone.  Some of them were starting to look a little tired , but they still weren’t about to stop.  I believe it was here that a random dancer stroked Michelle’s chin and then kept going.  I wish I had caught it on camera, it was priceless and completely unexpected. 

After walking through the markets and finding another round of churros, we were off to Lake Titicaca for a little bit of peace.  Getting there was far from peaceful, as the streets were all filled with dancers, bystanders, or markets.  Just before the lake we found some guys with cool hats to take pictures with.  They had been drinking for a while by then, so they were quite the personalities.  At the lake I offered to take a picture of a dressed up couple, then took one for myself.  It’s one of my favorite pictures of the trip, I was so happy I got it.  We also saw a group of cowboys lying near the water with their instruments, finally answering my question of when people sleep on this weekend. 

The beach area was more calm than the surrounding city.  We were able to relax a little bit, which was nice for our tired bodies.  The first highlight was a guy videotaping a horrific voice-over being done by 4 girls in absurdly short dresses.  Without the guy with the video camera it would have just been pitiful.  But this guy made the act.  I don’t think he had much zoom in his camera, so he was running all around to get different shots while simultaneously directing the 4 ladies.  The best part was when he ran right at them, and they got out of the way just in time for him to zoom past them for a shot of the lake.  He then ran backwards again to capture the very [un]skilled dancing of the women.  Priceless.  The second highlight was finally getting a picture of the red-billed duck that I kept seeing from the boat to Taquile.  My friends have learned that I enjoy the simple things in life.  Katherine commented that only I would get super stoked about getting to take a picture of that little bird.  I don’t know how many times I said the words “wow” or “spectacular” throughout this weekend, but I’m sure it was quite excessive compared to what was necessary J

Eventually we headed back and found a much needed watermelon stand.  Katherine and Michelle were becoming very picky about their watermelon because there were so many stands.  Rani and I found this hilarious.  The 2 dismissed the first stand because they didn’t think it matched their standards.  I commented that they looked perfectly red to me, so they went back and got some.  And, of course, I was correct that they were delicious J  As I deserved, a piece of my watermelon fell to the ground as I was commenting on how right I was about the flavor.  A dichotomy of heartbreak and triumph.

We headed back up to the action and found some good spots to watch.  Most people were pretty happy by now if you know what I mean.  I imagine the alcohol makes it easier to dance or play an instrument for 10 hours a day.  It was getting dark so I didn’t take many pictures, but I thoroughly enjoyed the shenanigans of the drunk people.  For example, crash cymbal players were emboldened to think that they would be able to pull off great tricks like throwing their cymbals into the air.  Of course this was incorrect, but their attempts were excellent show material.  We also became good friends with some jolly men dressed as gorillas, as you can see in the below picture.  The final highlights of this parade were finding a man with a mask that must have been a solid 7 feet tall along with another guy who had a toilet paper roll on one of the feathers of his mask.  Hey, it’s not available in public here so he was a smart man for coming prepared!

Around 7 PM it started raining.  Many of us rushed inside to restaurants.  We tried several places before finally finding one that had an open table by the smelly rest room.  Food was great though, I like the Peruvian version of stir-fry.  The bands pressed on despite the rain.  It was great, nothing could derail this South American party.  Finally, we headed back to the hotel to get out bags.  Vanesa met us there with our bus tickets, since she’d got them for us for a very minimal price.  We had some time to sit around and chat.  Rani, Katherine, Michelle, and myself definitely became closer this weekend.  We have so many memories to laugh about, even if some of them were quite unpleasant when they were happening.  It’s great to know I have a good group to hang out and travel with now, that was a concern I’d harbored for a while now. 

Finally, we went to the bus station.  It was honestly very sad to say goodbye to the kind hotel owner, Vanesa, and her partner from the agency whose role I never figured out.  They were all so good to us, I couldn’t imagine people who would be more kind, caring, and understanding with us as their customers.  Whatever they earned this weekend, they deserved more because they were so spectacular. 

The bus that met us was an international bus coming from Bolivia, so it didn’t actually come into the terminal.  No tax!  A man from the company assisted us in tracking it down.  When we stepped on, I thought we were in heaven.  Spacious seats, almost horizontal for sleeping.  So different than our first bus.  The price was very low for this busy day, I have no idea how Vanesa managed to get us this bus.  The 4 of us were so obviously elated that we didn’t stop talking about our joy for 5-10 minutes.  My eyes were teary at one point.  Finally, once we got away from the beating drums of the city, we slept.  The perfect way to end a tremendous weekend J