Cusco: Zoo Pics & Horseback Riding

While he was being a nice llama...
Love this mural
Beautiful scenery while horseback riding
My horse & the guide
Pronounced "sexy woman"

The beaut
Top of the mountain

Headed to lake Titicaca this tonight!


Cusco: The Adventure Continues

Tópico has been quite adventurous lately, and thanks to Ryan (the other volunteer there with me), I decided to stick it out a bit longer (it´s acutally their version of the emergency room). Good thing I did too. Last week Marilou had exams so Señora Julia stepped in. She´s a great teacher and let´s me do a lot of things. I´ve done quite a few curaciones by myself (which is cleaning and re-bandaging wounds). I´ve prepared a few shots, and watched a lady have dried blood clot sqeezed out of a wound in her head... quite a sight. She comes back in a few times a week, so I´ve gotten to know her pretty well.

Last Thursday night a group from the house went out for the first time. We met at the Plaza and hit up a few different bars and dance clubs. The people from the bars are so aggressive because they want you to come in that they grab you and shove free drink tickets at you. Lauren said she felt like a celebrity with everyone squeezing in around us and trying to yank us every which way. The free drinks consist of rum and coke... not my favorite. We also went to a bar called Indigo where a few house people smoked hookah and we grabbed a beer. Ryan lost his house key at some point in the night, so speaking a bit of Spanish I went with him to help look. He was convinced he wouldn´t find it, but I prayed to Saint Anthony. After 25 minutes of searching and retracing our steps, we went to the last of the bars we had been in and I asked the bartender. Voila, his key! It was pretty great. Stayed out dancing until about 2:30 and then woke up for bungee jumping the next morning.

Taylor (21, Canada), Lauren, Emily, and I went. What an experience... This small cable car took me up 122m (4th highest bungee in the world), and I had to jump out. Lauren went first and hugged the guy in the cable car & told him to give her parents a hug if she didn´t make it. Taylor second, me third, and Emily last. When I was up there, he counted down <> and I jumped. We were suspended by our ankles, and that first fall was unreal. The world went completely silent and it was as if I was falling in slow motion and could see mountains all around me. I eventually reached the end of the cord and snapped back up... that hurt a bit. Whip lash... Covered my head on the next upswing so the cord couldn´t wrap around my neck, and by the thrid bounce my arms were spread and I felt like I was flying. It was completely exhilarating, and I´ve never felt quite that way before. Eventually I was hanging upside down by my ankles and it was super frightening because if felt as if I was slipping out of the ankle harness... before I could freak out too much, I was lowered to the ground & the guys grabbed me and helped me to a mat. Woof. Quite intense. Got back home, headed to placement, and then packed up my stuff for Machu Picchu.

Ryan, Emily, Annie, Lauren, Rikesh, Megan, Jesse & I all went and met Katherine (32, California). Four Canadians, three Americans and the lone Brit. We had to live out of a backpack for the weekend, which was another adventure. Took the bus to Ollantaytambo and then the train to Aguas Calientes, which is the town just outside Machu Picchu. Got there mid-morning on Saturday & spent the rest of the day getting some lunch and hitting up the hot springs. We met Monse (49, Canada) and Marta (39, Chicago) for a nice dinner. Three courses for 54.50 soles. SO delicious. I got tomato soup with parmasean, pineapple chicken, and apple pie. We were so full that none of us could finish, but it was so good.

The next morning we woke up at 4:45 to get in line for the buses. Rikesh, Ryan, and Lauren woke up extra early to get in line to climb Wauynu Picchu (the famous mountain you see in all the pictures of Machu Picchu; only 400 people a day are aloud to climb it). They got cut in line by some Spaniards and missed it by TEN people... so they were quite sad, but it ment we would all be hiking together, which was a blessing. We toured the ruins for two hours and I encountered my first llama! So exciting. The ruins are indescribable and the history that surrounds the place is fascinating. We dropped our bags, grabbed some snacks & then began our hike up Machu Picchu mountain. It was rough & I was hopped up on Dayquil on account of not feeling well, but with the encouragement and push of everyone, I made it. The climb was steep and extensive, constant lunging and climbing steep stairs that the Incas themselves made. I don´t know but standing on the top of that mountain with peaks surrounding us all around was one of the best things I´ve ever expereinced. I think it was that hike that made us all a family. We laughed, we sweat, we pushed each other, we took in this beautiful adventure all together. It was great. The pictures don´t do the views an ounce of justice, but it is nice to help remember and share.

We hiked back down & I took a good half an hour to just sit on the ruins and look out at the scenery with tears in my eyes. Unreal. Soon the time came to catch the bus back to Aguas Calientes and eventually the train back home. Having only eaten snacks all day, we all felt a bit sick, but eventually made it home & I got to video chat with Mom, Dad & Cass (Hunter too), which was special because it was Mother´s Day. Also got to chat with Griffin, which was nice. Wish he was here!

Monday I helped at the clinic early in the morning because Sña. Julia asked me for help. I got to do a lot that day, and every patient I saw helped reaffirm my decision about medicine. There was an emergency where a woman stopped breathing, so I got to see how the Peruvians handle a situation as such. After about 12:30 I had the day to myself, and I went with Jesse & Megan (couple) up to the Plaza for some good grub and then shopping at the market. Over the weekend I got two new roommates who are a bit high-maintenance, so I´m moving into Emily´s room today. The hobbit room under the stairs! We´re planning on going out tonight for a bit, which will be fun.

I tried to upload my pictures to my computer, and Moo the Macbook is officially full of memory. HA! So, I´ve used Emily´s laptop to share photos.


Cusco: Days 1 &2

Groggy after my flight from Miami to Lima. Arrived at 4:35am local time, had to go through immigration, collect my bags, & recheck in for my flight to Cusco. I met a young woman, Emily, who happened to be in front of me in line at the airport and we found out that we were doing the same program volunteering and would both be in the medical placement. She is 22 from San Diego and hopes to go to PA school and is headed to NYU for her master´s next fall. The flight from Lima to Cusco was beautiful. We flew just above the mountains and landed safely in the beautiful Cusco. Emily & I collected our luggage and walked outside to meet the person greeting us at the airport. Seven other volunteers were there as well & we hopped in a local van taxi where our luggage was chucked onto the roof and we squeezed very tightly.

We toured Maximo Nivel, the volunteer program here, immediately got some Mate de Coca tea (helps with altitude problems almost instantly), and headed off to our respective houses. Emily and I ended up in the same house, which was nice, along with two Canadians, Lauren (22) & Annie (21). We are staying in La Florida with about 15 other volunteers. The house staff cooks us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They make our beds every day, give us fresh towels, boil our water so it´s safe to drink, and are very friendly. Obviously, I´m totally roughing it... I didn´t feel too tired the first day, so I went to the market with my two roommates Briony (from Australia and who left yesterday), and Michelle (from Michigan, who has been here since February). After the market we went to lunch at Los Perros (a couch cafe/bar) where I ordered a delicious sandwich. Crunchy chicken, avocado, butter lettuce, tomato, and toasted sesame seeds (heavenly) for 16 soles (about $5). It hit the spot! I then walked with Lauren and Annie back to La Florida and finally took a nap at 16:00 for an hour and a half. Woke up for dinner and chatting with the housemates and watched a few episodes of The Office some other girls. I hit the hay by 21:40 and got a nice rest in. Woke up at 6:30 to be at Maximo Nivel by 7:15. Emily and I planned on taking a cab, but the line for taxis was about 20 people long, so we walked. It´s about a 20 minute walk, uphill, and I barely made it. We were a bit late for orientation, but that´s okay. Met a guy from London who is super proper, I love it. He´s 19 and here to teach English and he refers to college as "uni," which is awesome. I glanced up at the TV after orientation, with a cup of Coca in my hand and saw that Osama bin Laden died. Very interesting!

My project was a lot of fun. I helped a guy (EMT from Michigan, pre-med) buy scrubs at a medical supply store. They only had green scrubs in medium... so they're a bit tight on him... oh well! I was assigned to "Topico" meaning the topical department. I saw some pretty sweet open-wounds & saw a few shots of penicillin go in the butt. Most of the time, though, I helped unroll cotton to make cotton balls (made my nose itch like crazy) & cut up and fold layers of gauze. All the things we take for granted! I also was involved in a real life telenovela! Marilou (the lady that I was working with) saw her ex in the waiting room & she got all flustered and tried to hide. A few minutes later, we drew the curtain and the man knocked on the door asking for "Mari." She was hiding, of course. Hilarious! Oh, and one of the patient's asked me what Colorado is famous for making (or at least I thought), so I answered beer (like Coors). He was really asking what my favorite thing to eat from home was... and I answered beer. Whoops. There are bound to be a few things lost in translation, and that's okay.

All the volunteers in the house are super nice. It's about an even ratio between Canadians and Americans & the lone Brit. I'm quite enjoying all my adventures (including but not limited to trash pick up this morning where the trash man rang a bell up and down the entire street at 4am). More, of course, to come.

Here are some beautiful pictures from the last few days. I haven´t met any llamas yet (but a local did give me a run down on the differences between llamas, alpacas, and another word for the like, all the while trying to sell me a wooden llama for 30 soles or $10). My first purchases were of warm socks (it gets chilly at night), a water bottle holder, and llama bracelets!

 Gliding over the Andes.
 Snacks & coffee from Lima to Cusco.
 La Plaza
 One of the many markets.
 My first purchases (a total of about $4).
 View out my front & back windows