Thursday, November 20, 2008

Home Again

Hello from US soil! I'm back in Minneapolis, got in at around 6:30 last night. There was a little bit of drama getting checked in for my flight yesterday. My itinerary gave me 25 minutes at my layover in Houston, which totally wouldn't have been enough time, even if I didn't have to go through customs. It was a little difficult working through all the details in Spanish with the clerk at 4:30 in the morning. I ended up getting put on a later flight out of Houston, which cost me another $170 (the airline wouldn't do the change for free, cause it wasn't their fault I had a crappy itinerary). Not the end of the world, but it was frustrating. I also had an overweight bag (it was full of sweaters and alcohol) and they wanted to charge me extra for it, but I feigned not understanding until they gave up and said it was okay. Ha! Sometimes it comes in handy to be a foreigner. Once I actually got on the first plane it was all okay. I even had pretty short layovers, so I didn't have to waste much time in the airports. The bad thing was that the new flight put me into Minneapolis too late for Alex to come and pick me up. He had a concert, and had to be there at 6:3o. Luckily, his roommate Scott was free and nice enough to come pick me up. Thanks Scott! I even got to Alex's concert in time to see him perform, so it was all good. And all of my luggage made it here, contents unharmed!

The day before I left I bummed around Quito for the last time. I did a little shopping and packed up my luggage (that part took awhile; I have more stuff than I thought!). Got a hair wrap put in by a couple of guys on the street, that was fun. Lorena, my host mom from the previous months, was nice enough to let me stay at her house, and she even fed me. I said goodbye to the family, and got a taxi at 4 am to the airport.

I'm working on getting all the pictures uploaded and edited from the last 3 weeks of travel, so hopefully later today or tomorrow I'll put up some of the highlights. In summary, I have a few last comments to make about my travels as a whole:
1. There is so much diversity in South America. People, animals, geography... it was so exciting to just see all the differences!
2. The differences in medical care that I saw between the rich and the poor is pretty extreme. Sure health care is supposedly "free" to everyone in Ecuador, but that doesn't mean much when you still have to pay for medication, miss a day of work, or the hospital is 8 hours away.
3. Moms were the definite caretakers of the family everywhere I went. Dad's didn't seem that involved in the health of their families.
4. I've never gotten so many cat calls in my life. Talk about being uncomfortable.
5. People were very interested in American politics, especially in the presidential election. A lot of the European travelers knew more about our political system that I do!

This will be my last entry. Thank you so much to everyone who has continued to check what I was up to for the last three months. It was nice to write and know that someone was reading. I really appreciate your interest and support! It's good to be home.

New Word of the Day: aduanas (customs, like in an airport)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Catching Up Part 2

Hey all! Here are the rest of my journal entries for the last few weeks!

Monday, November 10, 2008

I have hiked Machu Picchu! It was four days of hiking and biking, some parts definitely harder than others. We went 25 miles or so the first day by bike, then 15 miles hiking through the jungle up and down mountains the next day. The third day was also hiking, but a lot simpler, no mountains! We just followed railroad tracks for 5 hours. I got a pretty good blister somewhere in there. At the end of the second day we stopped at some gorgeous hot springs. It was really nice to relax the tired muscles in the hot water, and it was surprisingly clean and new looking. The third night we spent in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. We got up the next morning at 3:45 in order to hike the hour and a half to the top of Machu Picchu to be there when the sun rose. It was quite the hike, let me tell you! Straight up a mountain. There were stairs almost the whole way up, so it was like climbing stairs for over an hour. Oof. Besides our group of 6, maybe 10 other people did the early morning walk. When we got to the top we were excited to see that we just beat the tourists coming by bus, and we were first in line. Ha! Once we got in we raced to the other side of the park to get to the Waynu Picchu entrance before everyone else. They only let in 400 people a day to that part, and we wanted to go up in the morning while it was still cool. I was #20 in the door. Waynu Picchu is the mountain you always see sticking up behind the ruins in the pictures. From the top there is just an amazing view. But it was a pretty tricky hike too, another hour straight up. From the bottom you couldn’t even tell where the path was, it was just straight up there. I managed to twist my ankle on the first step up Waynu Picchu. So close to the end! It swelled up pretty good afterwards, hiking on it probably wasn’t the best idea, but I couldn’t not go all the way. The view was totally worth it, all the ruins were just stretched out below just like in all the pictures. The walk back down was pretty terrifying at times; it was definitely a proceed at your own risk hike! I didn’t think I would be able to do the hiking that day, I had considered taking the bus, and I’m really proud of myself that I could do it. We did take the bus back down, since the weather wasn’t looking great and our legs were like jelly. Monica and I were both pretty exhausted after that, so we just hung out in a coffee shop until our train back to Cusco that evening. Played some gin. Our train was nice, and I sat next to a friendly German physicist. He had a cool gizmo that showed the altitude changing. When we got back to Cusco Monica and I went right back to the hotel and crashed. It was a good sleep, until 8 am when our shower inexplicably turned on. Weird. We had a lazy day wandering around Cusco; did some shopping, sat in the part, searched for a 12 sided stone… We met our hiking friends at a restaurant called Jack’s for supper and exchanged pictures. Also, we finally found the 12 sided stone, it was on the street by the restaurant. It really was a stone in a wall that had 12 sides. Somehow I was expecting more. Left at 8:30 for our night bus to Puno.

I just have a few other comments about the hiking that have come to me now that I’ve written this all out. Johan was a very interesting guide. Very knowledgeable and capable, but still really young and immature in a lot of ways. He had a lot of tall tales and stories to impress us, he liked the praise I think. Apparently his family was pretty poor until someone from the Lonely Planet guidebook stumbled upon them and wrote a good review. Now they’re doing really well I guess. It’s kind of interesting that the one review changed their whole family’s life. Johan was telling me about the religion of a lot of the Andean people in the area. Apparently a lot of them combine elements from Catholicism and traditional Quichua religion. Makes sense. He told me about a ceremony involving coca leaves as an offering to the gods, and about a man who could tell the future. It was interesting, to say the least. Oh, and speaking of coca leaves, I bought some dried leaves at a stop along our hike and we chewed some. Supposed to be good for hiking, makes you not tired or thirsty. I don’t think I really got the same effect, but it did make part of my tongue go numb. Good stuff.

New Word of the Day: coca (cocaine plant leaves)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today was a day of waiting. But before I get to that, I’ll tell you about Puno and Lake Titicaca. We got into Puno at about 4 am, way earlier than we expected, and didn’t know what to do. It was to early to do anything, and too late to try and find a hotel. We ran into a travel agent who booked us on a tour of the lake for later that day, and knew of a cheap hotel that was open. We were slightly concerned because we had to pay him for everything upfront (scam!), but it was all okay. It would have been the perfect time to scam us though, we were really too tired to care. The hotel was pretty nice. We slept for a few hours there and headed out at around 9 for our tour. Took a bus to Lake Titicaca, then a boat out to see some of the floating islands. The lake is very pretty, and the water itself looked really clean and clear. Apparently it’s the highest lake in the world, cause of the equatorial bulge. The floating islands were very cool; they are islands made out of reeds by the indigenous people. So they’ve made their own islands! It was sweet. They showed us a little model of the process. They actually cut big 10 x 10 meters pieces of land out of the bottom of the lake when the water levels are low, and that land just bobs up to the top. Then they tie them all together and pile lots and lots of reeds on top. They anchor it to the lake bottom, otherwise they would float all over the place. If someone ever wants to leave, they just get a saw and cut off their part of the island. Everything is made out of reeds: houses, boats, they even eat it. Kind of flavorless and starchy. There was a family on the island we visited (it was called Uros) and, of course, they had lots of things to sell. I did buy a little painting off a kid ( I nicknamed him Tubby), he told me it was a picture of a woman who was getting married being taken by boat to her new husband’s home by her father. It seemed appropriate. Tubby threw in a little bracelet for free. The sad thing was that the people weren’t interested in conversation unless you were going to buy something. All the people were overweight, and our guide said it was a result of living on the water. I don’t really know what that means, but I’ll have to look into it further. I can’t imagine their diet is that good, they live off of fish and reeds, with the occasional traded potato and rice. It was very peaceful and pretty on the reed islands; when you were sitting on it you could feel and see the island moving underneath. After our tour of the island we got a little history lesson. Apparently Titicaca means “stone puma” in Quichua, and it has been a very important lake for thousands of years.

After all that excitement we went back to our hotel (after grabbing a quick lunch) and crashed for a few hours. Our bus was at 8:30 pm (another night bus!), so we just hung out until then. Wandered around a local market looking for a plastic satchel for Monica. Unsuccessful. We also FINALLY rode in a Tuctuc, a motorcycle taxi. We’d seen them everywhere and just hadn’t ever taken one. It was fun. We took it to the bus station. And that’s where everything went bad….

So our bus had nice seats. They folded all the way back like tiny beds. Pretty comfortable in the scheme of bus travel. I fell asleep and woke up around 2:30 to find that the bus had stopped. This is not uncommon, so I fell back asleep. Woke up again at 5:30 to see that we were still in the same spot. Well, that can’t be good, I thought to myself. It took another hour for us to get going, there was some problem with the motor. Probably had to wait until daylight to get it fixed. We’re on our way and we get about 30 minutes, and then stop again in a little town. There we sit for 2 and a half hours while they change two tires that were flat. Two! They were the slowest tire changers I’ve ever seen in my life. Honestly, I wanted to go out and do it myself. We finally got to Tacna, our destination, at around 12:30 pm, only 6 hours later than scheduled. Once in Tacna we had to find a way to get across the border to Arica, Chile. There was a bus strike going on, so none of the buses were running. Perfect. We ended up taking a collectivo (a taxi for 5 strangers), which turned out to be okay, but cost a little more than we expected. I’m so sick of being hassled by people; there were about 20 people trying to get us to take their car. Total sensory overload, and we were exhausted, which didn’t help anything. We finally just picked a company and did the 30 minute ride to “la frontera”. It took forever to get into Chile, the line moved so slowly through customs! The nice thing was that we did not have to pay any fee to enter the country, so we avoided the $100 that airtravelers have to fork over. Anyway, we made it, and took another collective to Arica from the border. From there (that’s right, it continues) we had to take the 5 hour hus ride to Iquique on the coast. That’s where our flight was to Santiago. We were hoping to be able to spend the afternoon there, enjoy the coast, find a nice hostal….but no, we didn’t get in until after midnight. We’ve decided to just go to the airport rather than spend money on a hostal for all of 5 hours.

New Word of the Day: paro (strike)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We’ve now gone 3 nights without a bed to sleep in. It hasn’t been too bad, but we’re definitely looking forward to getting to Santiago. Showers! Sleeping in a bed! Ah. It’s gonna be good. The ride to the airport lastnight from the bus terminal was actually pretty far, and the taxi driver was going over 125 km per hour for quite a bit of the time. A little scary. When we got the airport it was deserted. There was just the one employee there. It was open, and he said it was perfectly fine to wait and sleep in the lobby. We had some PB&J for supper, cause nothing was open, and settled in. It was kind of cool to have an airport all to ourselves. Later on a manager came in and took pity on us. We must have looked really pathetic, cause he let us go into an office behind the ticket counters to sleep. It wasn’t that comfortable, but definitely better than the uncomfy chairs. The floor was definitely cleaner than some of the hostal beds we’ve stayed in. It was so nice of the jefe to let us sleep there, never would have happened at home. At 7 am we go up, stumbled out from behind the counter and were the first to check in for our flight. Now we’re on our way to the final destination, Santiago! From there we will just do some little day trips. So no more night buses! Yay! I’m so happy. My ankle is pretty swollen from my machu picchu mishap, and all the time on the bus hasn’t been helping.

New Word of the Day: hincharon (swelling)

Friday, November 14, 2008

This is day 3 in Santiago. We arrived at about 11 am on the 12th. Good flight, they even fed us. We took a ridiculously explensive taxi from the airport ($20!) and tried to get a room at La Casa Roja, but there weren’t any spaces. We went a few blocks down to Backpackers International, which was okay, but a little sterile. Not much atmosphere, you know? Our roomie was nice though, a girl from Australia. In the afternoon Monica and I went to a museum of pre-columbian art. It was very nice, if a little small. We wandered around downtown for awhile, looking at all the big buildings and people watching. Bought some german roasted peanuts, which were awesome. Santiago has such a different feel from Quito! It’s kind of posh feeling downtown, coffee shops and ritzy clothes stores. Even the people look different. There are definitely more European genes at work, although everyone still has dark hair and eyes. Monica and I are cat called less here, although we still get some of it. We went and had good icecream Wed night and went to bed after an hour of tv (that was just to make it a reasonable hour to go to bed; 8 would have been to early!). I slept like a rock. Woke up around 9 and decided we didn’t have time to make it to the nearby winery for their morning tour. We chose instead to do a day of shopping, and hit the winery the next day. The first market we went to was small, over priced, and they wouldn’t bargain. Bad combo in a market. But the second, Santa Lucia, was awesome! It was huge, and there were lots of really really cool unique things. I bought some jewelry mostly. It took us hours to go all the way through. I bought some clothes for myself. Cause I needed more things in my suitcase… It was fun in the market to be able to speak Spanish with the vendors, when there were so many Americans around who couldn’t and just spoke loudly in English. Chilean Spanish is harder to understand though, they slur together a lot of their sounds and go very quickly. For supper we tried a café near the hostal, I had some good pizza and wine. All in all a very good day!

Today we went to the Cousino Macul winery. Their website said that it was very easy to walk to, just a thirty minute walk from one of the subway stops. Ha! There was no sidewalk, and while we were walking a woman came up to us and told us that it was too dangerous for us to walk that way, we should take a taxi. No taxis around. But we made it fine, so I’m not really sure why the road was so dangerous. We arrived for the start of the tour only 5 minutes late. It was a very good tour. I learned that white wines aren’t improved by age, and that they are only made from the juice, while red wines get their flavor and color from the grape skins. Good to know. I bought a bottle of the pricey ($18) “romantic, only to be consumed by couples” wine, hoping I can get that back to Minneapolis safely. We took a bus back, which apparently we got for free because the driver thought we had a pass, then tried to find a place to eat at a big mall by the subway stop. No food. We ended up getting a crappy but cheap lunch at a random diner place. We changed hostals, and are now at the Luz Azul, which I definitely prefer. It’s really cool looking, and has a kitchen! And it’s cheaper, so good all around. We tried to make brownie pancakes in the kitchen, cause there was no oven. They were okay, but not great. Further experimentation is necessary. We met some girls going to Valparaiso tomorrow, we’re going to go with them. We decided not to go to Mendoza, Argentina, because of the bus strikes. We’re slightly concerned that we could get there and then be stuck, which would be bad since I fly back on the 17th. We’re just chillin in the hostal this evening, it’s a nice hang out place. Note to self: buy more wine!

New word of the day: viñero (vineyard)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today was our coastal adventure. Metro to bus, bus to Vina del Mar, bus to Valparaiso, bus back to Vina del Mar, bus to Santiago, metro to hostal. Lots of travel time, but it was really pretty scenery. We got groceries when we got to Vina and ate sandwiches on the beach. The water was beautiful, lots of rocks and birds and pretty blue water. It would have been nice to spend more time there. Kitty, one of our new friends, cut her hand open making her sandwich, got it pretty deep, so we had to go looking for some steristrips. THAT was a fun one to try and explain in Spanish. We took a bus in the afternoon to nearby Valparaiso, and after walking for not that long realized that there was nothing to do there. We did take “el acensor” to the top of one of the big hills in town (it’s like a cable car). Then we walked UP another huge hill to the house of some famous poet. I’d never heard of him, to my shame. We didn’t have the time, money, or modivation to go into the museum part, but we had a really nice view of the ocean from up there. Took a bus back to Vina to get our bus back to Santiago, and got back just in time to make an omlette and go to bed. It was delicious. Oh, and the door to my locker in the hostal broke. Whoopsies. Kitty and Laura (the other new friend) are taking the same flight as me on Monday morning, think we’re gonna share a cab.

New Word of the Day: multa (fine, like the one you pay)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Well, I’m on the first leg of my journey home. I’m on the 7:40 am flight from Santiago to Quito. I changed hostels once again last night, because the Casa Roja was cheaper, and had a cheaper shuttle to the airport. Couldn’t stay with Monica though, which was kind of a bummer. We went to get a bus ticket for her to Mendoza last night, and they informed us that there is a bus strike and she can’t get to Argentina. Hopefully that clears up soon so she can be on her way! I guess it was a good decision for me not to go to Mendoza a few days ago, otherwise I would have been stuck there too. We still had a little celebration of our last night traveling together. Got some wine, which was harder than you might think. Everything was closed. It was a Sunday afternoon, I suppose, but that’s no excuse. We finally found a botelleria open, and got some really very good Chardonnay. Drank that bottle, then went and had some good pizza and more wine. And then we said good bye. It was sad, we’ve been together pretty much 24-7 for the last month. I hope it’s not the last time we hang out, I told her she needs to come to MN in May! With the exception of the sad parting, it was a really good day. We started out kind of lazy like in the morning, packed up our stuff and ate breakfast. Since we were in the dorm room with 10 other people it was a little awkward trying to get packed up, they were all still sleeping at 11! We just woke them up at that point, it was a little ridiculous. We checked out and then went on a walking tour of the city. It was outlined in our travel guide. The walk was a little boring at times, not really all that much to see, but we passed through some markets and festivals that were interesting. There was one that looked like a women’s rights rally. We got a little lost at one point, which turned out to be an awesome thing when we encountered this cool little ice cream café, La Rosa Emporium. They had rose flavored ice cream! It was amazing. I splurged on a triple, honey, rose and blackberry. Oh. My. Gosh. It was like eating summer (thanks for the analogy, mom). After our long afternoon walk we went back to my hostal and soaked our feet in the pool for awhile. Splashed by some cute little kids and inconsiderate Germans. Germans…Then we went on our wine quest, and that about sums it all up!

When I got to my hostal last night after dinner there was some confusion. They had apparently double booked the bed, and it took a while to sort it all out. I did end up with a bed, and met a nice girl from Germany. She let me use her cell phone for an alarm clock, which was really sweet. Monica had the alarm clock! I got up before the alarm even, I think I was really nervous about missing my flight, and was ready to go at 5 am!

New Word of the Day: chaleco salvavidas (life vest)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Catching Up

Hola chicos!
I´m going to attempt to catch everyone up on what I´ve been up to lately. I have all my journal entries written out by hand, so now it´s just about snatching the time at the computer to get them up. I´m currently in Santiago at the Luz Azul hostal, which has one computer for about 20 guests. It gets a little competitive at times. So, here is the first installment of journal entries, from Nov. 5th....

November 5, 2008
We´re on our Machu Picchu hike. Using the Inka Jungle Trail company, they´ve been good so far. We stayed in a hotel right next door tio their office, so we have a pretty easy commute. It´s not a great hotel, but it was relatively cheap. Our room is freezing though! We arrived at the Cusco airport at around 7 am, found the hotel (Well, ¨found¨is probably not the right word. We forget the name of the travel agency, so we had to use a computer in the airport to find the name and adress, get a taxi to got there, then luckily there was a hotel nextdoor.) and just crashed for a few hours. Spent yesterday wandering through Cusco. Got some gifts, including some Pisco for dad. Hope it´s good, cause I´m gonna have it on my back for the next 2 weeks. Cusco is beautiful, very cool buildings, clean, feels safe. Kind of looks like Quito actually, with the old buildings and the mountains all around. There are people everywhere advertising massages and restaurants. It´s a tad annoying actually. We had good lomo (beef) sandwhiches today for lunch, with free pisco sours. Nothing wrong with that.

Today started with a 4 hour bus ride. It was beautiful, but pretty misty. Hard to see all the mountains, though what you could see was amazing. The bus played a very disturbing movie about child soldiers in Mexico. Why do they play these things on public buses? I just don´t understand. But they also gave us breakfast and coffee, so not too bad I guess. At one point we were stopped for about 30 minutes by a landslide on the road. Very reassuring. We passed several more later in the day. After the bus was a 20 some mile bike ride. It was really fun, but took a lot of concentration! It was kind of a dangerous road, with lots of holes and rocks. And cars coming very quickly. Apparently another tourist was hit by a car, but luckily he was okay. Hard to really appreciate the beauty of the scenery when you´re concentrating on not falling off a cliff or getting creamed. And it was really bumpy, my butt was seriously sore for days. I had a flat tire, but there was a truck from the agency following us and they changed it for me really quickly. We were the only tour group to make it the whole way by bike, most gave up and took a bus part of the way. Amateurs....:) We made it the whole way, muddy and sore. Our guide, a 17 year old named Johan, gave us all tshirts with teh company logo to celebrate.

Tomorrow is 14 miles of hiking up a mountain in the jungle. We´ll see how that goes. We were supposed to do a cable car, but Johan said it was too dangerous cause a friend of his died on it last year. I´m glad we´re not taking that. Our travelling companions are really nice, there´s a couple from the UK and a couple from the southern US. Good people, really fun. We´re staying in a total dive tonight, but it´s all part of the experience. There are puppies here.

P.S. I am covered in tiny little bites from somewhere. More insect repellent needed.

New Word of the Day: repellente (bug repellent)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Crazy Times

Hi all!
Just wanted to write quick and let you know that I hadn´t abandoned the blog. It´s just been so crazy the last week! I´ll write a quick synopsis, and I promise I´ll post all the fun details later. Okay, so since the last time I wrote...
·We left Huanchaco and headed south to Lima on a long bus ride through the desert. It was very desert like.
·Spent the night in Lima at an overpriced hostal, but had some AWESOME icecream. Took a 5 am flight to Cusco.
·Spent a day bumming in Cusco; it´s really pretty.
·Started on our 4 day hike to Machu Picchu through the jungle. Oh my gosh. It was so amazing, the mountains and everything are so gorgeous. It was a really difficult hike for me at times, but I did it, the straight up the mountain parts and everything.
·Played with a monkey and a capiso.
·Started a 4 am hike yesterday morning straight up Machu Picchu, explored the ruins and climbed from Machu Picchu to the top of Waynupicchu (that´s probably spelled wrong), a mountain with a gorgeous view of Machu Picchu´s ruins. It was incredible, totally worth the ridiculous hike and my sprained ankle. I´ll post some pictures when I have access to my laptop again.
·Took a train back to Cusco

Now we´re back in Cusco for the day, heading tonight on a night bus to Lake Titicaca. And from there, to Chile! I only have 9 days left in South America, gotta make ´em count!

New Word of the Day: huacusi (quechua for ¨let´s go!¨)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Surfing and Partying Peru Style

Hey there everyone. Today is our last day in Huanchaco, which is sad because it´s been amazing here. I think Monica and I have both really loved it, it´s such a pretty place to be. And everyone´s been really nice, it feels safe, good food...just a great combination all around. Yesterday we went surfing. The day before we met some guy who showed us a good place to eat and was really friendly and said that if we wanted surf lessons we should come to his surf school sometime. So we went yesterday, and Juan Carlos and his friend Diego took us out to surf. I was really bad at it. But I did manage to stand up a few times, which was my goal. I promptly fell down every time, but I stood up, and that´s what counts. There were some pretty big waves, I feel a little sore today. But the instructors were really good and kept track of us. It was a little difficult to concentrate on what I was doing and try to understand the instructions in Spanish, but I guess I did okay. One time I got conked in the head by another guy´s board during a particularly big wave, so I had a good headache for awhile yesterday afternoon. It was worth it. We wore wet suits in the water, which was really nice because the water was freeeeeezing. By the end our feet were kind of numb. But it was the first time we´d been in the water since arriving at the coast, and you can´t go to the beach and not get in the water. Psha.

After the surfing our profs bought some beer and we sat around for awhile chatting. They invited us to Juan Carlos´s birthday party that evening. It was Monica´s birthday too yesterday, so we figured we´d go check out the Peruvian party scene. They told us it started at 8 (which they joked was Peruvian time, so really show up at 9 or 10). Headed there around 9:30 after a great seafood supper and Pisco sour at La Barca restaurant. We got about a block away and realized that there weren´t many people there, so we were going to go home when we ran into a different guy we´d met on the beach. He was with a friend and they invited us to his house to make Pisco Sours and wait for awhile until the b-day party got swinging. Sine there were the two of us (and I had my mace!) we figured it would be okay to hang out with them for awhile. Randomness. The friend who´s apartment we went to was an artist, I really liked his work. I´d seen pieces different places in Huanchaco earlier, they´re really colorful and vibrant. Wished I had more than my backpack with me, I would have bought something. Anyway, so they showed us how to make Pisco Sours (and apparently the Pisco in Peru is very different and superior to the crappy Chilean Pisco). It was a bottle of Pisco, 6-7 squeezed little limes, an egg white, 3 big spoons of sugar, and a tray of ice all in the blender. They were really good. And our beach friend showed us some magic tricks and card tricks for an hour or so till we headed to the party. The party itself was really interesting; it was Juan Carlos and his family, a bunch of his friends, and actually quite a few gringos. Maybe 40 people total. Everyone in the family made a little speech at one point in the evening, and there was chocolate cake. The main focus of the evening was dancing. Oh my goodness, I´ve never danced that much in one go before. And it was good dancing, not just crappy rap stuff. They were salsa-ing it up. I love to salsa, it´s such a fun dance. Some of the guys were really good, and everyone was really patient in explaining the steps. Monica even got up and tried a few dances. The family was very hospitable, and kept offering beer. I wasn´t sure how to handle it, cause I didn´t really want beer but I didn´t want to insult them by refusing, cause I tried that a few times and they seemed hurt and asked why I didn´t want any. So I would just accept a glass then pass it on to whoever I was dancing with. Worked pretty well. There werent many girls who were salsa dancing, so I got passed around quite a bit, it was a good workout. We left at 3 am, and the party was definitely still going strong! It made me wish that we danced more at American parties, cause that was just a lot of fun.

Today we slept in a little, and in a while we´re heading to some Incan ruins near here. We have to go into Trujillo as well to buy our tickets for the night bus tonight to Lima. We´ll spend tomorrow in Lima, then fly early the next morning to Cusco. I´m really excited for our Machu Picchu trek!

New Word of the Day: ola (wave)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Beach Bum

Friday, October 31, 2008
Happy Halloween! I´m here in the awesome beachside town of Huanchaca. It´s kind of rainy here, which is unfortunate. We were going to try and surf today, but too cold. So we just walked along the beach instead, met some nice people, got our feet wet, all that good stuff. I bought a purse from a little market. It´s pretty cool. I also washed some clothes, cause I was running dangerously low on underwear. That could have been bad. Monica and I split an Inca Kola, a soda that kind of tastes like yellow bubble gum and is only made in Peru. I wasn´t such a big fan. What else...Oh, we played with the turtle in our hostal´s courtyard. Fed him a banana. Our hostal is really nice, $5 a night, internet, really cute. And it´s right on the beach, like open the door and there it is. It´s really nice, it´s fun to sit and just be on the beach. Kind of a relaxing few days and it´s so nice to not be on a bus! Tomorrow we´re gonna try the surfing thing again, hope for better weather.

New Word of the Day: disfraz (Halloween costume)

Thursday, October 31, 2008
We´ve now left Chiclayo, Peru. Stayed in Hotel Residential, which was an okay place to stay. Nice and clean and friendly. There was a barking dog and a bell going off at a ridiculously early hour of the morning. But it was nice. We split the room with our Ausie friend, so it was pretty cheap. There wasn´t anything to do in Chiclayo, it was kind of a disappointment. The beach was a lot further away than I thought. Bummer.

Tuesday Monica and I bummed around Cuenca some more. We looked for a hat museum, but got too lost and couldn´t find it. It was a little embarassing. It was fun to just walk around, though. Left Cuenca in the afternoon for Loja. They played all four Rambo movies on the bus. In Spanish. Luckily it´s not exactly a complicated plot line, so it wasn´t too hard to follow. There was a guy who introduced himself to us by saying he was from Columbia but not to worry, he wasn´t a terrorist. Ohhhkayyy. Stayed in the Loja bus stop for a few hours until 11 pm when our bus headed to Piura. While we were in the bus station we were interviewed by a bunch of Ecuadorians taking English classes, which was interesting. Also met a nice guy from Israel. The bus ride wasn´t too bad from Piura, I slept so it can´t have been too bad. The border crossing took forever, but went off without a hitch. Had to show my passport at three differnt stations, a little annoying but good spanish practice. We crossed at about 3 am, I wondered what it would have been like during the day. Got into Piura at around 7 am then hopped another bus to Chiclayo with an Australian friend Johno. Slept on that bus too, but I did manage to see that most of the land we were passing was desert. I didn´t know that northern Peru was a desert, there´s really nothing there. There were people who wandered on and off selling their wonder drugs. We finally got to Chiclayo Wednesday morning and went to a hotel our taxi recommended. Walked to the Plaza de las Armas and found a place for lunch. Not great. And that pretty much sums up my travels over the last few days!

New Word of the Day: peregrino (pilgrim)

Monday, October 27, 2008

On the Road

Hello all from Cuenca! Here´s my journal entries for the last few days:

Saturday, October 25th
Took the bus from Quito to Riobamba, about 4 hours. Beautiful scenery, very farmlandy. Saw some of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, two big mountains. It was a little foggy, so we didn´t get a clear view though. Chimborazo is apparently the highest point from the center of the earth, thanks to the earth´s equitorial bulge. Went through some town where seriously every building was a heladeria, ice cream store. Thought of you, mom. Made some PB&J sandwhiches on the bus, delicious. When we got to Riobamba we wandered around, got a snack and bought our train tickets for the Nariz del Diablo train ride. Also reserved some seat cushions from a guy. That´s just the way it goes. There were lots and lots of clothing stores in Riobamba, but no restaurants! Took us forever to find a place to have supper. The cafe we went to was pretty good, if a little pricey. We stayed at the Hostal Oasis, which was gorgeous. And they had a dog. There was a stained glass door to our room, and the walls were stone. Coolness. And even hot water in the shower. We had to get up at 5 am to catch our train, so it was an early night. Fell asleep watching some movie with Reese Witherspoon.

Monday, October 27th

We´re now in Cuenca at El Hostal Cafecito (little coffee). $6 a night, pretty nice. THere´s a pretty nice restaurant and cafe inside, had a wonderful omlette for breakfast. Yesterday on teh train we met up with a big group of people all going to Cuenca, so we have some new Dutch and German friends. No Americans heading this way, don´t know why that is. Anyway, the trainride was very cool, if a little longer than we expected. Saw lots of farmland and indigenous people. There were sheep on the tops of busses! Totally made my day to see that. We rode on top of the train, which was a little chilly at times but very cool. The worst part was when it started raining, but that was only the last hour or so. The train derailed twice, the first time took them 2 hours to fix. Nice little naptime, on the top of a train in the gorgeous mountains. As we were going along in the train kids would run out to wave, we all threw candy for them, it was fun. They were kind of weird about it though, didn´t eat it or hold it, but shoved it right into a pocket. Some of them took it pretty seriously. We stopped in two towns for potty and food breaks. I ate a banana empanada, which was good but a little squishy. Our final stop was a station in literally the middle of nowhere, where the indigenous people were having a little party for us. Apparently it was the start of their plans to improve the station, and make it more appealing to tourists; restaurants, shops, museums, all that good stuff. Right now it is literally just a place for a train to stop. They fed us for free, which was nice. Got to the town with the buses to Cuenca at around 5 pm. True to Ecuadorian time, it was about 4 hours late. We rode in the back of some guys truck to the main road, then walked to where we needed to wait for the bus, then waited for about an hour. There was a big group of us at that point, so I felt pretty safe about standing on teh side of the highway at night. Slept on the busride, so it must not have been too bad. Today Monica and I wandered around Cuenca, seeing all the beautiful buildings. It really is very pretty here, very old and colonial looking. There was a flower market and a big produce market that were fun to walk through, and then we shopped for some spanish books. I got a sherlock holmes one, so now I get to try and read it! In Spanish! We had a womnderful $1 lunch, with really good lentil soup. Yummy. Seriously, huge awesome meal for 1 buck. Doesn´t get better than that. Tomorrow we´re headed to Loja and from there to Piura, Peru. So last day in Ecuador for awhile.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Leaving Quito

This will probably be my last entry from Quito. I leave on Saturday for a whirlwind three week tour of Peru, Chili and Argentina. Here´s our tentative itinerary:
Saturday: Head to Riobamba.
Sunday: Devil´s Nose train ride, then bus to Cuenca
Monday: Day in Cuenca
Tuesay: Bus to Loja, then from Loja across the border to Piura, Peru
Wednesday: Bus to Mankora
Thursday: Day in Mankora
Friday-Monday: Slowly making our way south to Lima
Tuesday: Flight from Lima to Cusco
And after that who knows!
We´re hoping to do a 3 or 4 day trek of Machu Picchu, then Lake Titicaca, then Chili. No idea what to do in Chili, but I´m sure we´ll find something. Our last stop will be Mendoza, Argentina, for some time in the vineyards. Then I fly back to Quito from Santiago on the 17th, and back to the States on the 19th. Woo, lots of things to do in not very much time!

Last night I went to a futbol game. La Liga vs. El Nacional. Both Ecuaodor teams, and I´m not really sure what league or if they were professional or what. It was really fun, people are pretty crazy at those games! People were climbing the fences, throwing toilet paper on the field, lighting fireworks in the was pretty cool to watch the crowd, not even the game! And the game got a little out of hand at times too, one goalie was thrown out for sucker punching a player. Good stuff. After the game one drunken man asked to have his picture taken with me. I think cause I was blond.

My time in the clinic this week has been really good. I´ve been following Dra. Alvear, and she´s just wonderful. Very helpful and explains things really well. Saw a woman with really crazy sores all over her body (doctors had no idea what it was), a man with bad heart stuff going on who she sent to the emergency room, a really cute little old man who wanted to be checked out before travelling to Israel, and some middle aged women who needed breast and uterine ultrasounds. I got to be a translater for one woman from Canada, which was fun. And I got to see all the ultrasounds done, which I´d never seen before. I think I may have insulted the radiologist doing the tests, because I didn´t know that she was a doctor and at one point the translation patient asked me what the woman´s job title was, and when I said I wasn´t really sure, the doctor stuttered in English "I am Doctor", and didn´t look too happy. Whoops. Today is my last day of clinic. Ever. Well, hopefully not ever ever, but ever for awhile.

Overall my clinic experience has been great in Ecuador. I´ve gotten to see a lot of things that I don´t think I would have been allowed to see in the States, and I even got to give that shot once, which I sure wouldn´t have been allowed to do. Most of the doctors have been really helpful and wanted me to learn something. I´ve been pretty amazed at how easy it has been to do my interviews. A lot of the doctors didn´t even care about my questions, just said yeah, yeah, sure.

Thanks everyone who´s been reading this for the last two months, I really appreciate it. I´ll definitely keep you all up on what I´m up to for the next few weeks, hopefully I´ll be able to stop into internet cafes periodically. Chao amigos, hasta luego!

New Word of the Day: muestra (sample, as in urine)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just chillin in Quito

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Well hello there all. Sorry it’s been awhile since the last entry, it just seems like there hasn’t been time to sit down and write. Don’t know why, cause now that I think about it I haven’t really done that much this last week, but that’s the way it goes I guess. This last week I was at a public health center called Carcelen Bajo (not to be confused with Carcelen Alto which I visited a while back). It’s a tiny little center; 2 doctors, a dentist, and obstetriz and a nurse. The doc I was with was very nice, gave me a stethoscope to use and taught me how to listen to heart and lung sounds. She was a family practitioner, so we mainly saw coughing little kids. There were a few exceptions, including a few people who needed health certificates signed for school and work, and an older woman with really awful looking varicose veins. The doctor was pretty efficient, and washed her hands between sick babies, which was something I’d yet to see. One morning while I was there I got to see a TB lecture that one of the staff was putting on in the waiting room. Pretty cool. The clinic is really crowded around 8 and 11, because those are the sign up times for morning and afternoon appointments. It’s definitely first come first serve, and there were always a lot of people, especially for the morning appointments. Then the center would gradually clear until about 11, when they’d start lining up again. It was really interesting to see.

One day after clinic I stopped at a big mall that my bus passed. It was pretty schnazzy inside, and things were about the same price as in the US. I was a little disappointed. It was nice to just relax and do something not medical or Spanish though. Although I think I must have just screamed “American with money” because the clerks were annoyingly attentive, following me around the entire store asking if they could help me find what I was looking for.

Tuesday was our medical meeting with Dra. Alvear. We had presentations from two of the students on Leichomiasis (honestly, I don’t know if that’s spelled right, and I have no dictionary) and hospital caused infections. They were really interesting presentations. Leichomiasis is a mosquito born parasitic infection that causes these big gaping sores, especially on extremities and faces (places that mosquitoes can bite you). The pics of it are really pretty gruesome, sometimes it can eat away a person’s whole ear or nose. It’s another one of those lovely things to worry about when you live in a tropical climate, although here in Quito (and elsewhere in the mountains) the altitude is too high for mosquitoes.

On Wednesday our group went to Crepes and Waffles and then to a movie. I love Crepes and Waffles. The movie we saw was “Control Total” (Eagle Eye in English, don’t know why they didn’t translate it directly. Maybe Eagle Eye doesn’t mean anything in Spanish). It was funny to watch the subtitles. Things like, “see you later bonehead” were simply translated to “adios”. Good stuff. Oh, before the movie we had some extra time, so we chilled at a sports bar in the same mall. There was a world cup game going on, though I don’t remember who Ecuador was playing. I had a blackberry screwdriver, which was wonderful. And so pretty. That’s definitely a drink idea to bring home.

What else…Thursday we had a cultural meeting at the language school, and planned out a lot of activities for the coming week. We’re going to a town near here called Papallacta on Friday, it’s supposed to have amazing hot springs. And massages. I think it’ll be a good time. And then there are all the activities I’ve already done here, like the mitad del mundo and the basilica. I’m going to skip out on a bunch of those, no need to do all the touristy cheesy things twice.

Friday I went back to Cochapamba to finish up my interviews there. Since I was only there for a day that week, I only got 5 interviews in. It was quite the adventure finding the place. None of the information from the program had an address for the center. The doctor normally picks students up at a corner near where we all live. So I had to just ask a taxi driver if he knew where it was. He said he did, which was a bold faced lie. We got to the general neighborhood, then he had to pull up and ask random people on the street if they knew where it was. The meter running the whole time. After about 30 minutes we finally found it, and luckily I had just enough money to pay the man and have a quarter left over for the bus home. (I know how to get home on the buses from just about anywhere, just not the other way around!) It ended up all right, and I got all the interviews done. Some of the women were very uninterested though and didn’t want to do more than give a “yes” or “no”, more than I’ve encountered before. Don’t know why that was.

This weekend I’ve been chilling here in Quito. It was a great decision on my part, because on Friday night I got sick. Seriously, I think I’ve been sick for most of this trip with one thing or the other. This time (luckily?) it wasn’t gastrointestinal issues, but a pretty good cold. I think all the little kids with “el gripe” I’ve been seeing over the last few weeks are to blame. So I’ve been relaxing here in bed all weekend. Read some books, watched some movies, drank some tea…it was a pretty good weekend considering. This morning I braved the outside world to go to an artisan market in a nearby park. Bought some fun stuff for presents, but then had to come back and take a nap. How pathetic is that? The prices there definitely weren’t as good as in Otavalo, I think I got swindled a few times. But then I always feel bad arguing with some kid over a dollar. Being here has definitely given me more appreciation for my life.

Well, that’s all I have to report for now. For not having done much I sure had a lot to say. I would post this blog today, but the internet is down at the café near my house. And I didn’t feel like braving the rain (we’re definitely moving into the rainy season here; every afternoon and evening without fail) to seek out another place. It is now exactly one month until I return to the States, time really has flown. Hope everyone is having an awesome time up north!

New Word of the Day: rondador (Ecuadorian version of the pan pipe)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Ate a Larva. In the Juggle. Booyah.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I have returned from the jungle. It was really an adventure. There were piranhas and alligators involved. Seriously. Now that I’ve drawn you in…I suppose I’ll start at the beginning.

We left Thursday afternoon from the big bus stop in Quito. It was about a 6 hour bus ride to Tena, our first destination. Tena is kind of on the edge of the jungle. It’s definitely hot and steamy and bug filled, but not really in the wild. No monkeys, what kind of jungle is that? Stayed in a nice hostal run by some guy from Germany. There were definitely cockroaches, I’m hoping that I didn’t bring back any friends in my bag. Rode in the back of a big yellow taxi truck to get across town to the hostal. By the time we got there it was time for bed. On Friday we were picked up by our tour company and changed into swimsuits and big rubber boots (barn boots!) for our waterfall trek. Let me tell you, the combination of a swimsuit and big rubber boots is pretty darn cool. And so comfortable for hiking… Before heading out, one of our guides, a shaman, painted all of our faces with some kind of fruit that warded off mosquitos. The hike was beautiful, everything was so green! We were quite literally hiking through the waterfalls, and had to climb up some pretty intense wet slippery slopes. There were ropes at some points, otherwise it would have been impossible. Oh, and the best part! At one waterefall climb, we had to climb into a waist high pool to get to a rope. Our guide goes in, then tells us all to be careful, cause there’s an anaconda in the pool. A freakin anaconda! But it was okay; apparently it was a little one. We all QUICKLY made it through, no incidents. The walk back down the mountain we had climbed up was a little bit rough, not because it was a hard walk, but because we were all really wet and wearing floppy barn boots. Ate some fish at a house along the road, then went to a natural pool to swim in. It was amazing. The pool was underneath a waterfall, and really deep. We jumped off rocks into the water and slid down a cascade-ish part. We had to be careful, cause a little further down river were some rapids and then a BIG river, which wouldn’t have been fun. But it was really nice to just swim and relax on big rocks after our 5 hour hike. Later that night we showered, went to a local bar for cokes/beers, and got on an overnight bus for Limoncocha. It was a 8 hour ride, but we all slept.

Got to Limoncocha to start our real jungle adventure around 7 am. We took a 30 minute canoe ride across a big lake to get to our camp. There are a few families that live outside of the main town, preferring the savage beauty of the jungle, and our cabins were at one of those family’s clearings. There were five buildings; 2 houses for the family (I think about 10 people all together, though some of the kids were in the town going to school), a big cabin for the tourists, a bathroom (with real toilets and a shower, quite a surprise), and a smokehouse. We had breakfast (eggs and white bread with jam) to gain strength for our jungle trek, then headed out. We had to do the barn boot things again, because there really are bugs that can kill you (or at least hurt a lot). Big ants, tarantulas, and apparently many others. The hike was interesting; the shaman showed us lots of medicinal plants. The best one was “Pene del Diablo”, literally “The Devil’s Penis”. It is a tree that moves every season by putting out new roots. The part that shows above the ground really does look like lots of red penises. Apparently the juice from the roots is good for cuts. There were lots of pretty flowers. And one HUGE tree that is sacred. I could definitely see why it was sacred, it was so amazing. What else...well, after the hike we had a little bit of a break, then went piranha fishing. We split up into two groups, cause the canoes weren’t big enough for all of us to be in one, and paddled out into the lake. It was a little scary- the guide warned us to be careful not to fall in, cause the piranhas were quick. Not to mention the alligators and anacondas. (I asked when we first got in the canoe whether there were anacondas in the water, and he looked at me like I was an idiot. Yes, yes there are, apparently.) The canoes when full only sat about 4 inches above the water, and my job while the others rowed was to scoop water out of the bottom with a plastic cup. The fishing strategy was pretty cool: put a piece of raw meat on a hook, then beat the water for a few seconds with your pole (to simulate some thrashing animal), then jerk your pole back out of the water. Apparently the piranhas are really quick and just take little bites, so you have to be fast. I caught two. It was a proud moment for me. The guide caught 7. Showoff. He was sitting behind me though, and every time he caught one he jerked his pole forward and I got hit in the head by a slimy pissed off flesh eating fish. Good times. Monica got bitten by one flashing around in the bottom of the canoe, so she has a good story. On the canoe ride back we saw monkeys! Real monkeys! I have no idea what kind they were, weren’t close enough to really see them well. Small and black. I think it was the same kind that the little boy at the camp had for a pet. For supper we ate our catch, it was actually pretty good.

Our last outdoorsy activity of the day was an alligator hunt. Got into a big canoe (thank goodness, we would have refused to go in the dinky things we used to piranha hunt in) and headed into the dark. We were very, very successful. The guides were pretty fearless, reckless might be a better word, and got way too close to the first alligator. He was very upset. We were informed that they’re a little testy this time of year because they have babies. When we finally started to move away, the back of the boat swung closer to the gator and he charged. It was so fast, I didn’t even realize that he’d jumped. He didn’t get onto the boat or anything, but it gave all of us in the back a scare. The guys in the front didn’t notice though, and so they repeated it with the second gator. We were very vocal that it was so not okay to be that close to the gators (we could have reached out and touched him), but we still got close the second time, and again he charged. This time he did get onto the very back of the boat, and the guide hit him with a paddle to get him off. It damaged the motor a little, we kind of limped around the lake for the rest of the ride back. Soooo….it was quite an adventure! We had a camp fire, and the guides started telling stories, but we were all so exhausted that we didn’t last long before just falling asleep around the fire. I felt really bad, cause I wanted to hear the stories, but I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open. They gave us some of that cinnamon alcohol drink, which didn’t help the sleepy thing either! We had mosquito nets around our beds, which was a wonderful thing.

Next morning we got up early to search for monkeys. Didn’t find any. But it was a really pretty ride, lots of cool birds. After breakfast (more eggs and white bread), I got the shaman to tell us some stories. I learned the creation legend of the Quichua living there along the lake: a long time ago all the elements of nature combined to form a man that was half fish and half man. Eventually that creature came out of the lake onto shore and became the first man. Cool! He also told me about a tribe that lives deep in the jungle, 5-6 hours away, that is cannibalistic. Apparently they killed some missionaries not too long ago. What else…oh, there are apparently some racial issues between the mestizos (the majority of the population in Ecuador, part Spanish part Indigenous) and the indigenous people. The mestizo run travel agencies won’t hire the natives because they “aren’t educated and don’t have experience”, and so the indigenous people won’t let those agencies onto their land. We chose our agency because it is run by the indigenous people, and the money goes to their community. Interesting side note. The family where we were staying was getting ready for a wedding in the community, apparently every cooks huge amounts off food weeks ahead of time to take to the party, which lasts for days. The only meats served are fish, alligator, and anaconda. The bride doesn’t sleep for days before the wedding because she is working to prepare all the food. That’s definitely a custom that I will not be bringing home with me! We got to sample a drink they were preparing from yucca. The women chew up the plant and spit it into a big bucket, to get it to ferment faster. Yummy.

I ate a larva. Several actually. There was a gigantic larva called “chundakuro” which is apparently good for whatever ails you. They fried some up, and then steamed some others in a leaf. I liked the fried ones, crispy and juicy like a piece of fat from a steak. The steamed one was a little too chewy for my liking.

Well, that was basically my trip. Spent all afternoon and night on Sunday traveling back to Quito. Sorry that this entry was so long, there was a lot of activity crammed into those 3 days! It was an amazing experience, totally worth the bugs and the humidity! I don’t have time right now, but check back soon for some pictures!

New Word of the Day: chicha (the alcoholic yucca drink)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I stood on a corner for an hour this morning. Just chillin. The doctor from Cochapamba was going to pick up me and another student, Monica, at this street corner close to our homes. But she never showed. It was pretty cute, Monica’s host mom, this cute little old lady, walked with her to the corner and waited with us for almost the whole time. We ended up calling the medical director of the program, and she just told us to come to her clinic for the morning instead. It turned out to be a pretty productive morning; we saw lots of patients at Centro de Medicina Familiar Vozandes La Y. (Super long name!) There was a woman with some tumors in her uterus. She and the doctor discussed where to go for the operation that would be the least expensive but still close. Apparently uterine and cervical cancer are very common here. Then a little girl with a cold. Super cute. And the last two patients were a mother and daughter, 90 and 52 years old. The older lady was there for a general checkup, and the doctor gave her some pills to improve her memory. The younger woman was also there for a checkup, and the doctor ordered a lot of tests for her because of a family history of medical problems. It was sad, the younger woman was having a really hard time caring for her mother on her own. The doctor told her she needed to hire a nurse for one day a week, because she needed a break. I wonder if people have more problems caring for their parents here, since there aren’t nursing home type places or social security payments or medicare (or is it Medicaid for the elderly, I can’t remember), or anything to help out the elderly. The clinic itself was pretty posh. The doc said it was the premiere family care clinic in Quito. There were computers in every office, nice looking equipment, everything was very clean…quite the difference from the public clinics I’ve been in thus far. If I were sick, I would definitely go there. The doc told us that in Ecuador they have to practice very “human” medicine, because a lot of time people can’t afford to have laboratory tests done. So a diagnosis has to be made solely from what the patients tells the doctor about their life, symptoms, history, etc., meaning that doctors and patients have to have a more personal, open relationship. Interesting. And I finally found out what the word they use for the yellow antispectic I’ve been pouring is; it’s not sabon as I thought, but savlon. That’s been bugging me for weeks.

So my day at clinic was a lot shorter than I expected. I’m a little worried, because now I only get one day at the Cochapamba clinic. I need to do my interviews! Hopefully I can work it out with that doc to come back another day if tomorrow isn’t enough time. I have Spanish class in a few hours, only a few days left of my pre-paid lessons. Oh, and the exciting news of the day is that I found a travel buddy! Monica is also staying in South America for almost a month after the program and was looking for someone to bum around with. Yay! I feel so much better knowing that I don’t have to travel by myself. We’re going to make our plans tomorrow on the 8 hour bus ride to the jungle. There is talk of hitting up Peru and maybe Argentina. How cool is that?

P.S. I was in the DN (the Daily Nebraskan, our school newsletter) on Oct. 8th! There was a whole little paragraph about me being here. I’m waiting for the fan mail to start.

New Word of the Day: pomas (butt cheeks)

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Went Swimming in a Waterfall

Well, I’m back from Banos. I really like that town, it’s very quiet and pretty. Beautiful mountains. I posted some pictures from my bike ride to the waterfall, it was so gorgeous. And the ride was so much easier this time. Either I’ve gotten into better shape (doubtful) or the last time I just had difficulty because of the altitude. This time around we went a little further, to a waterfall where we could swim. It was so pretty, and we all just jumped into this pool at the base of a little waterfall and had a good time. There were some random guys taking pictures of us, which was kind of funny. I’d never swam in a waterfall before, and I’d definitely recommend it. We went to the hot springs after our day of physical activity, and they were so HOT this time! Almost too much to bear. The nice thing was that it was pretty deserted, so there was plenty of space. Apparently everyone else was smarter than we were and didn’t want to scald themselves. It did feel really nice to just relax in hot water though. On Sunday a few of us went rafting. It was a pretty easy river, not too challenging. It was mostly floating down the river and getting pushed in occasionally by our fun loving guide. There was a convoy of four rafts, and we played games with each other. At one point we kidnapped a girl from another raft. Pretty silly. We jumped off some big rocks into the river too, crazy! It was beautiful on the river, definitely a great day. Our raft’s team name was Giardia, cause we were pretty sure that’s what we were going to get from taking in some of the river water. We didn’t get back to the hostal until late afternoon, then grabbed some food and headed home. Did have time to check out a really cool little market right behind the hostal, the food looked so good, but there was no time to do anything but buy a few bananas. Sad day.

I was supposed to be going to a public clinic near here called Cochabamba today for rotations, but the doc is sick or on vacation or something, so I’m headed back to La Maternidad today and tomorrow. Third times the charm! It’s kind of a bummer, cause I was only going to get four days at Cochabamba (since we’re leaving for the jungle Thursday night), and now I’ll only get 2. Grr. But hopefully there’ll still be time to do my interviewing.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. It was a great weekend, a good group bonding experience, and now I suppose it’s back to work. Only 3 weeks left of rotations, time has flown by!

New Word of the Day: casco (helmet)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Taxi Drivers and Cookies

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hi everyone! I´m heading to Baños in an hour, should be a good time. Think I´m going to get a massage there this time around, they´re supposed to be pretty good. Today was my last day at CEMOPLAF. Sad day, it was such a good experience. Today there was this adorable little boy that I played with for a while, totally made my day. And I even got all of my interviews done there, which was quite the endeavor. The clinic director didn´t initially give me permission to talk to the patients because she didn´t like that my questions implicated the quality of care CEMOPLAF provided. Olguita was really really nice and convinced the director to let me do the questions, which was amazing. The women at CEMOPLAF were younger on average than I´ve seen at the other clinics, and a lot of them were there solely to get contraceptives for the first time. As part of my survey I ask women if they´re using any kind of family planning, and today quite a few said no. I asked them afterwards why they weren´t using it, and all of them said it was because their husbands didn´t want them to. There were a few women getting birth control and just not telling their partners. How sad.

What else...Well, the quest for a reasonably priced trip to the Galapagos continues. Thought I had one lined up but it fell through. Drat. I think I´m just going to keep checking and hope that some good last minute deals pop up.

Last night our group had our welcome supper. Went to a Canadian themed buffet that was really really good. I ate so much. They even had calamari, which was probably some of the best I´ve ever had. And flan, so my happiness was pretty much complete. The day was genereally pretty crazy beforehand though. It´s a good story...(imagine that there is faraway music starting and the picture is fading out). I got a notice on Wednesday that I had a package to pick up at the post office. So after clinic on Thursday I decided to take a taxi to the office, cause I didn´t know where it was and I was in a rush (only 1.5 hours till my class, but you´d think that would be enough time to run to the post office...). My taxi driver was a very inappropriate 60 something man, who at one point told me that nights here are really cold, and he should probably come over and warm up my bed for me. Wow. Seriously. Wow. It was one of the most interesting taxi rides I´ve ever had, and I spent most of it trying to decide if he really was saying what I thought he was, or if my Spanish was just way worse than I thought. Sadly, I think I understood everything correctly. So anyway, get to the post office finally and escape the lude comments. I head on in, and wait in line. Then I pay $1. Why? I have no idea. Then I wait in another line, for a man who then takes me into the package room, finds my package and cuts it open to inspect the contents. Then I wait in another line. Why? I have no idea. A woman tells me I need to pay $9. Why? I tell her that I don´t have that much on me, I didn´t expect to have to pay that much. Okay, Okay, she says, $5.77, but that´s as low as she can go. Seriously, I was haggling over prices in a national post office. I still didn´t have it, so I had to run home and get more money. Grr. Returned 30 minutes later to wait again in line to pay the 5.77. The woman gave me a form, which I took to another line. The man there tells me I have to go make a copy of the form. So I run down the street to a copy place. Then I wait in another line with a stack of forms, sign a book, and FINALLY get my package. Only 2 hours later. It was so ridiculous! I did meet a nice guy from the states while I was waiting, peace corp volunteer in a nearby town. Anyway, the suspense definitely was getting to me, I really wanted to open my package!, but I had to go to class and then dinner, and only got to open it at 9 pm yesterday. Thanks so much Laura, you´re the best! The kids really loved the crayons and paper you sent, it thoroughly distracted them from their homework. I´m taking the oreos to Baños, good bus snack.

Alright, that´s about all I´ve got. I´ll post some pics when I get back from Baños, I have lots now of cute little kids. Thanks for reading!

New Word of the Day: wawa (kid, in Quichua)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not really too much to report since my last update. I have a little bit of a cold, I suppose that’s something new. All that time with coughing children has finally caught up with me apparently. Speaking of coughing children, I am loving working at my clinic this week. It’s a CEMOPLAF clinic, which is a private clinic that mainly focuses on reproductive health and family planning, but also offers other services to subsidize costs. I’m following a pediatrician there. Her name is Olga, and true to Ecuadorian style (everything gets ita/ito added to the end here…) people call her “Olgita”. Classic. The kids there are so adorable. There have been lots with “el gripe” (colds), a little boy with pneumonia, a few kids with chicken pox, and one unexplained case of vomiting. Oh, and my personal favorite, a 2 month old boy with uneven legs who the doctor thought might have hip dysplasia. I got to see what the exam they do for that looks like, which was pretty cool. It was so weird to be on the other side of a hip dysplasia discussion. Tomorrow Olga is going to let me do the height and weight measurements for all the kiddies. I’m pretty pumped. It’s so hard to think in metric, though!

Other than the awesome time at the clinic, not much is new. I’ve been looking into trips to the Galapagos. Pretty pricey, but it’s one of those once in a lifetime opportunity things I suppose, and while I’m here I figure I can’t pass it up. The other travel option is Machu Picchu in Peru. Such a tough call! But I figured that the natural wonder wins out. Machu Picchu probably has a better chance of lasting in the long haul. This weekend I’m heading back to Banos with the new group. I think this time I’m going to do white water rafting and a massage, just to mix it up a little. And the next weekend is a jungle trip! I’m so excited! We’re actually going into hard core jungle, where you have to use a machete to cut through the forest and everything. Apparently there will be piranha fishing. How cool!

New Word of the Day: recoger (to pick up)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One Month Down

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Well, the first month here is almost up. All the other students are getting ready to go home, and a new batch arrives on Saturday. It’s kind of sad that everyone is leaving, I really like all my friends here! Especially my roomies, Anu and Melissa, we’ve had a lot of fun together. Tonight we had another movie and hot cocoa night, watched a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Another 1.50 movie purchase. The best part was looking at how impractical the operating room and hospital situations were, now that we’ve all actually spent some times in some. And we kept laughing that all the people were wearing gloves all the time…SO not like the Ecuadorian hospitals. Good stuff. I really feel like the last four weeks have gone by quickly, although right now it seems like another four will be longer. Looking back, I’m not really sure if my Spanish has gotten much better. I think I pick up on more of what people are saying, but I’m not even sure of that. I’m definitely good enough to travel and work here, since I’ve survived so far, but that’s mainly because everyone is no nice about trying to understand me/get me to understand them.

Today Anu, me and a random German medical student Anu met went to a few art museums in the Eastern part of the city. They were dedicated to Ecuador’s most famous artist, Guayasamin. He has lots of very dark and creepy paintings about various atrocities in human history. They were very cool, but pretty depressing really. One of the museums also had a large collection of pre-Columbian and Colonial art. That was really interesting, there was some really great pottery! And lots of crosses.
Yesterday was a trip to the Mitad del Mundo, the center of the world. I stood on the equator. Actually, I stood on what people thought the equator was when it was first calculated a few hundred years ago, which is actually about 200 meters off from the really equator, but it was close enough. I was actually in the same hemisphere as you guys for awhile! It was a pretty touristy place, lots of shops, but it was fun.

Research continues as normal. Did all my interviews at La Maternidad today, since this week is pretty hectic and I didn’t know whether I’d have time later. At La Maternidad there are a few other med students, Ecuadorian, who are rotating through at the same time as me. It’s nice to get to know them a little, and to have other people around who are clueless too. Most of the women I’ve seen in the emergency room there have urinary tract infections or sudden bleeding. There was one woman today who was 38 weeks pregnant and hadn’t told her husband, who I gathered was in Columbia working somewhere. That was kind of sad, she was crying and I didn’t really understand what was going on. Since a lot of the patients at LM are low income, and typically have little/no pre-natal care and poor nutrition, the women typically have high risk pregnancies. Lots of c-sections and abortions. I feel really lucky to be able to see all of this first hand.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. The next few days are pretty crazy, what with everyone leaving, but I have a nice relaxing weekend coming up. Woohoo! And, very exciting here, there is an election on Sunday. They’re voting on a new constitution. It’s very controversial because it gives more power to the president, and legalizes same sex unions and abortions. Big deal! Also, I learned that voting here is mandatory. If you don’t vote you’re denied things like bank loans and employment. I’ll let you know how the election goes, thanks for reading!

New Word of the Day: cubiertos (silverware)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Well, I am the only student in the house now. Said goodbye to Anu and Melissa this morning, and most of the other gringos last night. Just a few left today. It’s kind of sad to see everyone go. But a new roomie should be showing up today, so there’s that to look forward to.

So how to describe what I’ve been up to the last few days…It’s been a little crazy! We’ll start with my trip to the top of the basilica on Thursday. It’s a huge, beautiful building that looks really old but was really build in the 1920’s. The cool thing is that you can climb all the way to the top. Like ALL the way to the top. No railings, nothing to keep you from just climbing out on ledges (except the fear of a big big fall). Anu affectionately referred to the stairs to the tower as “the rickety ladders of death”. I think it was all the roofing experience this summer, but those ladders totally didn’t phase me; at least they weren’t going to blow off the building. The view from the top was gorgeous, and it was so cool to do something that would never be possible in the states (oh, the lawsuits). Wandered around the downtown area that afternoon after the climbing, saw lots of gorgeous buildings. Bought some face lotion made by cloistered monks. There was a lot of political campaigning going on in the streets, with the election tomorrow and everything. We avoided the bigger groups, cause foreigners can be arrested for attending political demonstrations here. That just would not have been fun. On that note, in the whole country it is illegal to buy or sell alcohol (started Thursday night!) so that everyone is sober for election day.

Thursday night the group participated in an Ecuadorian tradition called Chivas. Oh my. I can’t even describe it. It’s basically a party bus, open on the sides and all colorfully painted. There was a band on the roof! So cool! We basically rode around the city in this bus, blowing whistles and drinking an alcoholic beverage that was really cinnamony and anisy. (Yes, I made those words up.) It was pretty good, but really sweet. There was a dance contest in one of the squares. At this point there’d been a lot of the liquor flowing, so it was pretty entertaining. Afterwards we went and got some pizza before hitting the dance scene. The salsateca was pretty full (everyone getting their partying done before the prohibition), and we couldn’t really dance. Did do a shot of “fire water”- wow…

Yesterday was a pretty lazy day all around. Ate lunch at Crepes y Waffles, my new favorite restaurant. I really wish they had them in the states. Got two cups with the crepes y waffles logo, it made my day. Then Melissa and I came back and watched a Mexican film “La Mujer de mi Hermano”, with no subtitles. We did pretty well understanding it I think, we were pretty proud. Weird movie though. I also cut Melissa’s hair. Seriously, this is the second time I’ve cut someone’s hair while I’ve been here, I think I should just start a little business. New fall back plan if the med school thing doesn’t work out. At night we all got together for one last fiesta before everyone heads home. When a bunch of med and pre-med students get together, the conversations are pretty interesting. Talked about prolapses and hemorrhoids for a good hour.

I have no idea what to do with myself. It’s kind of nice to have nothing to do. Might go to a mall with the girls who don’t leave till tonight. And I suppose I should work on entering my data and all that. Work, pshaw. My program here is now half over, time has kind of flown by. No time at home till I’ll be heading home.

New Word of the Day: aguardiente (fire water)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Boobies and Ballenas

Monday, September 22, 2008

Well, I’m back safe and sound from Isla de la Plata. It was quite the adventure getting there, let me tell you. My friend Melissa was going to meet me part way in a town called Chone, but it didn’t work out. So I headed out on my own for the 12 hour bus ride. After a few hours the bus broke down, we had to wait an hour or so for the mechanic we stopped at to fix it. No big deal, got to see a nice little Andean town. The bus kept rolling rolling rolling… until we got to a town called Jipijapa, a few hours from my final stop, Puerto Lopez. A woman from the bus company got on and informed me that the bus was not going to Puerto Lopez, there’d been a change of plans. And there wouldn’t be another bus that evening. Perfect… There was going to be a car going to Puerto Lopez, but it was an hour away. Over 2 and a half hours later the car shows up, it’s 11:00 pm at this point, and we set out. In the rain. On the twisty dark bumpy road. I wasn’t comfortable with traveling at night, but there was no other option as there was nowhere for me to stay in Jipijapa. For awhile the driver thought that a truck behind us was going to try to rob us or something, that was a little freaky, but it was a false alarm. Got to Puerto Lopez after midnight, and the hostal I’d reserved was all locked up. Luckily I rang the doorbell enough to wake up the manager and she let me in. So, the moral of the story is….traveling alone in Ecuador sucks. I have to seriously re-evaluate my post-program travel plans, cause that was just not fun.

Enough about that. It really sounds worse in writing than it actually was, so nobody worry, please. It was a good adventure. The hostal in Puerto Lopez was pretty cool. Lots of hammocks around and some gorgeous flowers. I shared a room with some nice guys from Germany- I was a little jealous because they spoke wonderful English as well as Spanish. The beds had mosquito netting on them, never seen that in person before. I had to start taking my malaria medicine, and there were definitely mosquitoes around.

Got up early Saturday morning for a tour of Isla de la Plata. It was a combined whale watching/island walking/snorkeling tour. There were 8 other tourists, mostly from Europe. It was kind of an interesting group, really nice people. About an hour and a half boar ride to the island, and we did actually see whales! So cool. There were 3 (maybe 4, it was hard to tell since they were always moving). At one point they were only 15-20 meters from the boat. It was really fun to see them just pop up out of the water. Once on the island we walked about 2 miles to see the birds. Mostly boobies. They were everywhere, and totally unafraid of us. We got within feet of them. I really liked the blue footed boobies, they were really cute. A lot of them were nesting, and were feeling a little territorial. We had to step around them on the paths, they looked pretty serious. Apparently they can live to be 15 years old, and most often die from the salmon they hunt whacking them in the head or the eye. Who would have guessed? And their feet are blue because of something in the salmon. There was another kind of boobie, didn’t catch their name, with lots of chicks already hatched. The chicks looked like little piles of pillow stuffing. The saddest thing was seeing vultures just waiting for the mothers to leave so they could pounce on the babies. That’s nature I guess. The island wasn’t what I expected, they said it was a dry forest. At the moment it is all dry, there are even cactuses, but apparently during the rainy season it looks quite different. Snorkeling was also very cool. There were so many fish! Wish I could have taken pictures of them. Afterwards the ride back was a little chilly, but we saw the whales again. On the beach when we got back there were dozens of little kids who wanted to wash our feet. For supper I had some awesome shrimp, then read in a hammock till bedtime. It was a really good day. And the bus ride on Sunday was much better, even got into Quito at a reasonable hour. All of my things were soaked and my backpack smelled something awful, though! Everything has been drying out all day.

Well, there’s the story of my weekend. I posted some pictures below, lots of ‘em! Catch you all later!

New Word of the Day: ballena (whale)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cuyed by a Shaman

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I can buy movies here for 1.50. They´re totally just burned DVD´s, but seriously, any movie for 1.50. Even ones that aren´t out in the states yet. I am so excited. Almost better than finding out that there are bakeries here on almost every corner. Last night my roomie and I had a movie night. This started with an adventure down our street to see if any movie stores were open. Found one. We wanted to watch ¨Becoming Jane¨, but we didn´t know what it was called in Spanish....or who was in it...or really what the plot was. But we triumphed, and eventually managed to explain enough to the poor confused clerk to get her to recognize it. We then decided that no movie night is complete without hot chocolate. Long story short, it is harder here to find cocoa than you would think, but it is so good! A lot less sweet and more cocoey. Yummy. Our movie worked perfectly for an hour, and just at the crucial, romanticly climatic part it started skipping and generally freaking out. It was pretty rough, not gonna lie. We think we finally saw enough to figure out what happened, in 20 second intervals.

Anyway, enough of my movie story. This week I was working at another public clinic in the north of Quito, called Carcelen Alto. Not to be confused with Carcelen Bajo, which ïs apparently much worse. The woman I worked with was a midwife, and explained to me that she had a 3 year degree in obstetrics. Sounds kind of like a nurse practitioner degree here, with the certified nurse midwife concentration. She was very nice, and explained the procedures she did to me. Mainly papsmears. I looked in a lot of vaginas this week. There were mostly women with STI´s and a few young pregnant women who needed routine exams and educational materials. It was interesting to listen to the explanations for things like why you shouldn´t smoke while you´re pregnant in spanish. I also got to hold some really cute babies while mom´s were being examined- at one point I was holding a baby (who I believe was trying to pull my ear off to examine it closer), shining a penlight for themidwife so she could perform the papsmear, all the while trying to observe what she was doing and comprehend her combined descriptions and instructions for where to shine the light. It was a big moment for me. I also completed 8 more interviews at the clinic (two more to go), one with an elderly indigenous woman. She was so much fun to talk to, but I had to really work to get her to answer my specific questions. She really liked talking to me, and would very easily get off topic.

Tomorrow is the shaman trip, salsa lessons, and ¨tapas y vinos¨. Gonna be another busy day!

New Word of the Day: papanicolau (pap smear)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hola amigos!
I want to start out by thanking everyone who takes the time out of their busy day to read my blog and see what I´m up to. I really appreciate it! And here´s a shout out to Grandma, happy birthday on Saturday! I hope you have a great day!

So, on to what everyone has been waiting trip to the shaman! The clinic we went to is in Otavalo, and is very unique because it combines western and indigenous medicine. So there was a gynecologist, a pediatrician, a lab AND a herbal healer, a shaman, and a midwife. Very cool. We got to observe treatment of three patients. There were two small children who had contracted ¨bad aire¨- in spanish it is ¨mal aire", and is the cause for sickness in little children. When they are scared or startled, the bad aire can enter them and make them sick. A lot of babies here wear red bracelets that are supposed to ward off the bad aire. Also, fun trivia fact ¨mal aire¨is the origin for the word malaria. The other patient was an older woman with leg pain. For the little children, the healers rubbed lots of oil all over their heads and bodies (it was an interesting mix of treaditions, because the shaman made a cross on the forehead of the child and later prayed to a statue of Jesus with the child in her arms) then used an egg to remove the bad energy. She shook it all over the kid´s body, then cracked it open to see what was wrong. She also used rocks, rubbing them all over the child´s stomach. Also picked up the child and gently shook her, while saying ¨choom, choom¨. I think she was trying to literally force the bad energy out. Pretty cool. The older woman didn´t get the rocks or the egg, but she had what looked like a wonderful full body massage.

And then it was my turn...first, I had to take my shirt off. The shaman explained to me that it was because the cuy (guinea pig) was dirty. We watched her pick the cuy from the pen, which was a little sad. That little cuy was going to have a bad day. Then, with me in my bra and the rest of the group taking pictures, the shaman proceeded to shake the cuy all over me. She focused especially on my stomach and chest, apparently that´s where problems happen...? After about 5 minutes the cuy started squeaking, then peed. It was dead, we figured it was probably bleeding and swelling in its brain from all the shaking. The shaman then skinned it (Dad, it was a lot like when we used to watch you skin rabbits) and read the organs. She said that in the future I would have intestinal problems. Also, my chest had a lot of heat. The belief there is that all illnesses are due to either cold or hot sources, and are treated with something of the opposite origin. Apparently, many indigenous people always want to know whether to take their medication with hot or cold water, because that´s just as important as the medication itself. My prescription was to drink some juice from a local fruit called tomate de arbol. I did have some at lunch, so hopefully that´s all good now. Otherwise, she said I was in perfect health. I was a little disappointed that she didn´t catch onto my hip problem or the three kidney thing. But maybe the treatment will impart general healing and fix the hip anyway.

Did a little more shopping afterwards in the market and headed home. Actually had a seat this time on the bus, which was AWESOME. Got back just in time to make it to our salsa lesson, where I learned some new moves. Alex, I´ll try my best to remember so I can pass them along! It´s really easy to be the girl, you just go where the guy puts you while keeping up the same back and forth step. After salsa we went to a restaurant called ¨Tapas y Vino¨, where we (appropriately) had unlimited tapas and vino (wine). Tapas is a spanish tradition, it´s basically like appetizers you eat late at night for a meal. They were so delicious. I have new recipe ideas for our Christmas Eve appetizer tradition! And the wine was good too, though I can´t actually remember what it was...

Had my last day at Carcelen. More pap smears. Good times. Tomorrow morning I am headed for Chone, a town on the coast, to visit a girl in the program who is living there for a week to study rural medicine. Think we´re going to go to Isla de la Plata, the so called ¨Poor man´s Galapagos¨. I´m really excited, cause I definitely want to see all of the amazing island animals, and there may be whale watching opportunities! I wanted to post pictures today, but didn´t have them downloaded from my camera yet. So on Monday or Tuesday look for photos of the coast and the shaman experience!

New Word of the Day: ama de casa (house wife)


Here´s the larva I ate. These were the steamed version, which wasn´t my favorite. The bear is just there for style.

My piranha.

My piranha.
This is the flesh eating fish I caught and ate. It´s a vicious circle all right.

I just really like this picture.

I just really like this picture.
There was just this one random red lead in this plant, and it looked so cool!

El Pene del Diablo

El Pene del Diablo
Here it is (I know you were all curious), the Devil´s Penis root. Enough said.

My Jungle Pants.

My Jungle Pants.
This is my super awesome jungle hiking outfit. Rubber boots, striped blue hippy pants, and yellow floral tshirt. I felt kind of at home trudging around in those boots.

The Cocodilo!

The Cocodilo!
This is one of the crocodiles/alligators (we´re not quite sure which one it is, there is some confusion...) we saw from our canoe.

Our Cabin.

Our Cabin.
Here´s our cabana in the jungle. It was all divided up into little rooms, kind of cute. In a bug infested way.

The jungle.

The jungle.
Here´s the view from our canoe on the ride across the lake to our camp. It was so gorgeous!!

I have an arrow on my head.

I have an arrow on my head.
This is me being painted by the shaman before our jungle hike. The ¨paint¨ was from the little green fruits in his hand.


Here´s me doing my thing at Cochapamba. It´s pretty exciting, I know...

Me and my sweet helmet.

Me and my sweet helmet.
I felt so sexy in this bike helmet. Seriously.

In Baños

In Baños
This is the view from my bikeride in Baños this weekend. Isn´t it just gorgeous? Best bike ride ever.

Hip Dysplasia Check

Hip Dysplasia Check
This is Olguita doing a hip dysplasia check on a little boy.

Cutey Pie!

Cutey Pie!
This is my little amigo at CEMOPLAF. We played with blocks. It was a good time. In this pic he´s being weighed.


Here is some of the girl on the Chivas Bus. The drink Melissa is holding in the front is an alcoholic beverage that tastes like cinnamon. Yummy.

Rickety ladder of death.

Rickety ladder of death.
This in mi amiga Anu climbing the rickety ladder of death to the top of the Basilica.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Oh. My. Gosh.
These are the deserts we had at Crepes and Waffles. SOOOOOO delicious. Mine was the carmally one right in the front. That´s right, I know you´re jealous.

On the Ecuator

On the Ecuator
Here I am on the ecuator, the mitad del mundo. Woohoo!

Ahoy maties!

Ahoy maties!
These are the whales we saw from the boat to Isla de la Plata! I have no idea what kind they are! I must do more research and get back to you! But they were so cool!

Yes, I know I have crazy hair...

Yes, I know I have crazy hair...
This is me on the island. It was windy, okay? Geesh, some people. By the way, there´s a legend that the island has buried treasure somewhere. I didn´t find it. Sad day.


These are the famous blue footed boobies. They were pretty funny to watch, they really waddle! So many boobies in such a short time...

More boobies!

More boobies!
This is a different species of boobie. No blue feet. I think it´s called that Nazka Boobie in English, which so isn´t as fun as blue footed boobie. Maybe orange pointed boobie? Just a suggestion.

The Shaman

The Shaman
Here is the shaman doing her thing with the cuy. Sorry I´m in my bra for you all to see, couldn´t be helped. And its a nice bra.

Shaman Take 2

Shaman Take 2
Same idea, just from the back. She was really shaking the cuy all over! And doesn´t she have a really cool bracelet?

The Diagnosis

The Diagnosis
This is the shaman cutting open the dead cuy to read its body. I was kind of amazed that she just squatted down on the floor, didn´t even use a table. She´s got mad skills. Oh, and since it was a health center, she put everything into little red biohazard bags.

Pouring the Antiseptic

Pouring the Antiseptic
Oh yeah, me in my prime. This was for one of those ladies with a leg ulcer. She was very cute. I know you can´t tell from that part of her foot in the picture, but you´ll have to take my word for it.

Meeting the Minister

Meeting the Minister
This is me and my fellow student Carrie with the Minister of Health at a public health center. How cool is that? We´re practically celebrities.

The Hat!

The Hat!
This is my sweet new indigenous style hat, bought it in the Otavalo market. Also bought the scarf and filled up that was a good shopping day!

The Market

The Market
This doesn't do the market justice, there are so many people and colors!

El Grupo

El Grupo
All the students at a hill overlooking the city

My Artistic Endeavor

My Artistic Endeavor
Took this from the window while the taxi driver was stuck but still trying. Oh taxi drivers....

View of the City

View of the City
This place is huge! Seriously. And very long. With pretty mountains.

La Virgen

La Virgen
She´s supposed to protect Quito from the apocalypse. Quite the lady.