La Cruz

WELL…lets just say that the wedding was a total bust. I´m not sure if it is the diarrhea (sorry guys…), outrageous fatigue, inability to eat without stomach cramping to follow, or the 3 other volunteers with parasites, but I´m pretty sure i´m not very healthy. I did go to Cuzco, and did make an appearance for Mass, but other than that I spent the entire day and night in bed. Blast.


Never fear family and friends. I remain in good spirits and feel generally alright as long as I am not eating. Nobody has anything too serious (giardia no más); volunteers joke and swap horror stories and generally accept that life here involves a worm or two. I´ve been painstakingly careful and there simply isn’t anything else I can do. I just give thanks for the anti-wormie drugs that relatively wealthy people have ample access to. I´m headed to the doctors tomorrow. Stay tuned! But enough of that…


Today we hiked up to the cross above Urubamba, which was beautiful. My cure for any homesickness or culture shock is to sit in the temple. Its odd, beautiful in gaudy kind of way, and the only place that I can find quiet in town. No whistling, barking, honking…nothing.


At any rate, what I really wanted to say was that there are more pictures posted. Also, thanks to my brilliant father who informed of the glaringly obvious ¨add captions¨ button, there are also captions on my pictures.

PLEASE do not worry about me! (my host family does so much worrying you need not bother) No several month trip to Perú would be complete without having to give a sample or two. it is just rather impossible to update anyone on my life without commenting on the poor quality of my health at the moment. all i want is your healthy vibes and maybe a story about how life is going on your side of the planet! (where ever it is that you may be). I love you all.

and props to my mom who pulled a fabulous april´s fools day joke on me from across the hemispheres!  


Tuesday kicked off the national hepatitis B vaccine campaign. Every child between the ages of 2 and 19 in Perú is elegible to recieve 3 free doses of la vacuna. As it is with every health campaign, things are never as easy as they sound. Here is a small sample of the challenges to the vaccine campaign this year:

1) Trust Issues- Last year, the yellow fever vaccine campaign killed 3 children in Urubamba. ooopss…

2)  Parents are not expected to take their children to the clinics for the vaccines. Instead, doctors are expected to track down each and every kid. The campaign begins in the schools and later takes the form of door to door solicitations. oh and Hepatitis B Vaccines come in 3 doses. Which means 3 rounds of hide and seek. They expect to be finished with the campaign in November.

Monday I helped with the education component of the campaign. Making posters and giving talks in classrooms about why Hepatitis sucks (in Perú it is fatal), how it is spread (easily), and why recieving the vaccine is an important opportunity (it usually costs more than $100 and is rarely available in rural areas). Most importantly the message was this: ¨Don´t miss school tomorrow you little twirps because otherwise i´m going to have to come to your house and find you.¨

Tuesday we started the campaign, and if only i had words to describe the utter chaos that ensued. Here is a typical classroom experience: We enter. The kids scream and grab their arms as if they are dying. Many book it for the door. We start. The kids form a large mob around whoever is recieving the vaccine. The kid is supposed to tell me his name, address, age, and birthday. Names here are rediculouly long and unfamiliar to me, and addresses are inevitably Quetua words with clicks, clacks, and several silent letters. We make it through. The vaccine is given, the kids cheer, the doctor tries halfheartedly to dispearse the mob, and we start again.

There are no white walls, lollipops, or bandaids. there is no privacy, no comforting of children who are upset, and no attempt to curb the rioting of the student population. There are only vaccines and more vaccines. Then we start again in a new classroom.

So that was Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Also, the English teacher at the school found me and convinced me to come back each day after the vaccine campaign to teach English classes. Mostly this involved a question and answer period…Do you have a boyfriend, what is your mothers name, what is your favorite food, where do you live, do you like Perú? By the end they would abandon English and rapid fire questions at me in Spanish. I would answer in English and translate to Spanish. I felt quite bilingual.

Thursday there was a black out in Urubamba. no electricity. no one knows why. Friday I taught art classes to 6th and 7th graders. I am often taken aback by what I would consider to be an enormous lack of creativity in the Peruvian culture. Its VERY different than elementary schools in Issaquah. thats FOR sure.

More later. off to a wedding today in Cuzco. all my love.

It is one month and 3 days since i left for Perú. in case anyone is counting…

Tuesday and Wednesday I hiked back into Challacochac and Chumpani, the remote communities that are more or less isolated from the rest of rapidly urbanizing Perù.

the first day began with the same hike in at 4000 m elevation to the house of the Prometoro (each community has a ¨health boss¨or Prometoro. this doesn´t necessarily indicate any type of formal education or knowledge of health) I´ve described at length the community in past blogs so i´ll skip the scene-setting save these descriptive words: mud, smoke, can´t-understand-anything-because-they-only-speak-Quechua. We did a charla for community members about the importance of hand washing and washing fruits and vegetables in order to prevent parasites. They already HAVE parasites…but you know, for the future. 

We all practiced washing our hands in the river together. I spent the night on the mud floor of the Prometoro´s house with the cuy (Guinea pigs).

Day 2 we hiked another hour or so to Chupani to repeat the health chats with the neighboring community. (they can´t share health campaigns because of some political feud that requires Community A to deny the existence of Community B regardless of their similarly impoverished and isolated existence…ohhh public health)

Again, the major themes were hand washing, appropriate places to relieve yourself, and the importance of washing fruits and vegetables before eating them. (Please note by fruits and vegetables i really mean potatoes. that it all they eat. that, and trout. no más.) We gave a second talk in the schoolroom about brushing your teeth (pointless seeing as none of the children have toothbrushes…i´m frustrated can you tell?)

Following our presentations we stopped respectfully at 3 houses for 3 meals of MASSIVE amounts of potatoes in various forms and mashed trout. It is frustrating to me that you can not simply explain that öh i already ate lunch at your neighbors house and i think i´m going to be ill. no thank you.¨ That would be rude. Instead, you must eat more.

The combo of too much mashed trout, too many potatoes, too much sun, and a little too much cultural immersion for two days had me feeling pretty sick. I hiked out of those Andean slopes in record time and kissed my sweet carpeted floor when i returned to Urubamba.

Wow. Public Health in Perú. If you are curious about why it is necessary to teach adults how to wash their hands, mind where they go to the bathroom, or about the importance of bathing (ever, not even regularly mind you)…so am i. if i could speak Quechua I would ask. All I know, from observation alone, is that they do none of those things habitually. I´ve heard a large number of speculative reasons (ranging from its too cold to its because they dont care about their children only about potatoes.) The barriers are unending, the lack of education is outrageous, and the quality of life among the poor of Perú is absolutely unimaginable until you are here. and even here it is easy not to see…this is public health in Perú.  

The obgyn docs at the health campaign we did in Lares gave well over 100 free PAP tests to rural women. Guess how many returned a week later for their results and medications? 3…why? because the medicines are not only for the infected women but for the men as well (to prevent repeat infection obviously.) The medicine requires abstaining from alcohol, and the women don´t want to tell their husbands they cant drink. SO they dont come get their results. THIS is public health in Perú. At this point it is largely ineffective and quite possibly a waste of time and resources.  

Preferential Treatment for the Poor. It mean continuing to research how health campaigns can be more culturally competent, it means going door to door with results and medicines when nobody shows up.  It means not giving up just because it isn´t easy. THIS is Public health in Perú and I am thankful to be a part of it.

Since my return to Urubamba from the communities I have happily enjoyed a more tranquile Peruvian lifestyle. Thursday most of the volunteers went to Cuzco with our beloved Spanish teachers to say farewell in style to many of the volunteers who are done at the end of the month. We had ceviche (raw fish ¨cooked¨in lime. Think Peruvian sushi, its fabulous) went to a bookstore, went for coffee, and cruised around.

On the bus ride home we staged a friendly international competition. The Peruvians on the bus sang their national anthem (beautifully), the Canadians sang theirs (in 2 languages mind you) and those from the USA sadly could not remember all of the words to the Star Spangled Banner. We substituted with a rousing version of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which was only somewhat made up for our tragic defeat. All in good fun, it was a great day.

Friday I taught a 3rd and 4th graders about the parts of a cell. (in Spanish mind you). We made cells (plastic bags) filled with núcleos (marble), retículo endoplasmatica (string), Aparato de Golgi (almond) etc. etc. I loved it. i hope they did to! I have never in my life seen more adorable children in one place than i have in Urubamba. there must be something in the water (besides giardia of course).

Today I went to Cuzco again with the host family of a fellow voluntaria. We went ¨black market¨hopping, ate various and mysterious foods, and generally had a great time.

A Peruvian described their perception of life in the USA to me as being ¨straight¨,  like an arrow. More rules, supermarkets with aisles, set prices, cleaner. Less chaos. Nothing about Perú is straight. The analogy really works for me. Sometimes i get tired of the more curvy Peruvian life, and sometimes I cant get enough of it. Sometimes i´m frustrated and sometimes I want to stay forever. Chocolate usually helps. they have the most wicked candy here.

Es la vida they say, this is life.   

Joey, one of my best friends from college,  should be showing up in Urubamba in a couple of weeks. We have plans to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and explore Perú for a few weeks after my internship is finished. I am looking forward more and more to a familiar face!

If you haven´t read Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder please check it out.

tata for now. thanks for all the notes and encouragement. i love you all!! ciao for now, allegría

ps- i am pretty sure i am bubonic plague-free for those of you that are wondering.  i´ll keep you posted on any armpit swelling or frothing at the mouth should that occur.

The last 6 days have whirlwinded past (i have happily abandoned any interest in proper english). I feel like a broken record- but every time i blink its been another week.

so THIS week…

Wednesday I hit up the Yanahuara Colegio Ortodontología campaign. if you dislike dentists in the US (as I strongly do) you aint seen nothing. thats all i care to discuss about that.

I spent the afternoon hiking around the campos of Urubamba and fell very much in love with this little town. there are incan ruins scrambled across the fields, and little surprises around every corner. I have made friends with one of the Peruvian interns at the clinic and have thoroughly enjoyed getting a closer look at Urubamba.

Wednesday night I took the night bus to Puno with Lisa, Lauren, and Emily. We showed up at 4am, and after an increasingly annoying confrontation with a fast-talking machismo drunk by the name of Edgar, abandoned any prior sense of ¨having a clue¨and consented to letting him string us along. sometimes you just have to go with the flow. to this day i cant really decide what his problem was, but besides wasting 4 hours of our time, making us late for the tour and missing the boat, failing to provide food, and the disappearance of 20 soles each, all is well.  

Lake Titicaca is most gorgeous. We floated around the islands made of reeds, hiked to Patchatata for sunset (an ancient pre-incan temple) and stayed the night with a family on the island. The next day i hiked across the island of Taquile, had fresh seared trout, and practiced my pathetic Quetua, my reward being several toothless grins along the way. i cant even imagine how ridiculous i must sound. but i love trying anyways.

Friday night Lisa and I took the night bus again to Arequipa. While other Peruvian towns, like Cuzco, seem more interested in their Incan ancestry, the Arequipeños fully embrace their spanish conquistadors. we visted beautiful convents, saw the Incan mummy Sarita, ate great food (the best ive had in Peru), took hot showers (the ONLY i´ve had in Peru), went to the Benediction and processional at the Plaza of Armas on Saturday, and indulged in a very eery Starbucks-ish type coffee treat that sent me on a sugar high like I have never experienced. There is sufficient evidence to prove that where the Catholic church chooses to put its dinero, wealth and prosperity will follow. striking and a bit unsettling to me.

Last night we took the night bus back to Cuzco. here is where my ultra-cheap-skate-save a-sole attitude turned around and kicked me in the shins. If I were the complaining type, which i try not to be, here is what i might have complained about…

1) The more than 50 flea bites i now possess

2) The very foul smell of something that used to be alive and now is dead, rotting under my seat. (undetermined)

3) The 2 hour delay caused by the cops. i have no idea what happened or what was resolved. we simply stopped for 2 hours.

4) The fact that the full bus stopped to continuously let people on. more and more and more all throughout the night. A Peruvian woman who I very strongly believe may have gone to the bathroom in her skirt, sat on my lap for the wee hours of the morning. Everyone who passed slammed their hand into my face for stability. always a pleasure to help out…

5) and then someone tried to steal my backpack. straight off my lap. it was insulting.

13 hours later we happily returned to Urubamba. more pictures are posted at the same link from the previous blog. if anyone (dad, jiggs…) knows how to add captions to the pictures on snapfish i would love to do so.

love love love, allegra

Check out pictures at

sorry for the low tech linkage. i suppose my geek status has been revoked?

Apparently the Easter Bunny does not visit Peruvian children my friends…nor does ¨rabbit of holy sunday who brings candy to children¨translate easily. yeesh. I´m knee deep in holy week here in Urubamba, and totally digging it!

Monday evening the Plaza de Armas was transformed- street vendors selling all sorts of special pastries and mobs of people gathering. At 7ish the processional began, with a several hours of a call and response type interactive parade that wound around the narrow streets of Urubamba. There were candles and flowers and hundreds of people.  leading the processional was an enormous (and, i imagine, extremely heavy) crucifix on a lit up float carried by several young men. At 9 oclock was the Benediction. Hundreds of people turned to at least a thousand if not more. There was a lot of kneeling in the streets and sirens galore. it was certainly unlike any Easter i´ve ever experienced (although most of mine have been spent in a kayak somewhere in the Pacific Ocean to be sure)

Seeing as anyone who is anyone was in the plaza on Monday, I got to meet my Peruvian extended family. Assuming that I did not speak Spanish (which is not to say that i DO, only that I speak more than one might expect) they asked 2 questions of my host mama. (Who answered for me. I was in no way invited to be part of this conversation, being held in front of me and CLEARLY about me)

1) Does she have a boyfriend?

2) Does she eat all the food you give her?

I am proud to say that i passed with flying colors. For bonus points I was able to recite the Lord´s Prayer in English.

I am loving my clinical work in Yanahuara. There is a Peruvian intern-soon-to-be-doctor that is working at the clinic, and he lets me tag along with him to various communities. Today I ate soup with Quetua speaking peasants on the side of the road, took the blood pressure of a mother while a freshly skinned cow hung no less than a foot above my head, and laughed until i almost died while swapping english for spanish lessons on the rainy, steep, and long hike between each woman´s house. I serve as an excellent distraction to young patients with injuries i found, one three year old didn´t blink an eye the entire time she had stitches inserted- clearly too fascinated by my blond hair to care much about the pain. another kid simply pointed at me, burst out in tears, and cried ¨momma LOOK!¨.

Tomorrow I am hoping to help out at the dentist campaign at a local school. These doctors do an incredible job of finding the patients where they are. I am inspired and impressed by their incredible dedication, determination, and skill under less than easy conditions.   

Wednesday 3 other volunteers and I are leaving for a 5 day trip down to the Puno, Arequipa, Lake Titicaca region. I have quite the cold going on right now, headache, runny nose etc. send me any health vibes you have tucked away!

Pictures have been uploaded and are coming soon! ciao, allegra

and the saga continues…

There was brilliant sun on Saturday for the first time in awhile. The weather here puts Seattle to shame, changing violently with no particular pattern, from scorching sun to torrents of rain, with plenty of lightening and thunder. Saturday, however, there was sun all day. Perfectly timed- the 4 new volunteers set off on a tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas:

The ruins at Ollaytantambot were incredible. The holy temple of the sun was carefully sculpted, over more than 100 years, to prove the true valor and worth of a less-than-royal man who wanted to marry a princess. (of course, they were all dead far before the temple was near completed. Best for all considering the fact that the immense temples were technically never finished because of the arrival of the Spanish). Saqsayhuaman, overlooking Cuzco, the Incan Capital of South America, is the temple built for spiritual knowing (and sacrifices). At night El Cristo Blanco illuminates the modern city of Cuzco, built up and around the ancient cobblestones of the Incas.

We spent the night Saturday in Cuzco. Being born and raised at sea level, Cuzco is a bit rough for me. (Being more than 2x as high as Colorado). I was happy to leave on Sunday for the ruins and market at Pisac.

Exploring ruins takes some time and patience. They are, of course, large piles of rocks. And for my first time in Peru I saw ¨real life¨ tourists. (Myself and the other volunteers of course consider ourselves to be well above ¨tourist¨category…ha) Battling crowds, sun, and the spanish language, I did find myself quite moved by the ruins. The original channels, dug by the Incas themselves (or at least the slaves of the Incas) still run with water from the glacier that looms above. Throughout the temples are dual waterfalls, representing the Incan idea of ying and yang. The rock walls are perfectly symetrical, perfectly sanded, and perfectly locked together with a mortar made from llama and cuy fur. In some places each rock probably weights close to a ton. To this day archaeologists can not fully explain how these huge temples came to be.

Sunday we hit up the famous Pisac artisan market, where i tried my hand at bartering. HAHA. I have, of course, NO idea whether or not i got completely taken, but i did get myself a hand made alpaca sweater for 30 soles ($10). since i bought it the temperature has not dropped under 75 degrees.

I watched some of the other tourists in the market, mostly from the US i´m sorry to say, yelling loudly in English at the Queteua speaking vendors, and snapping pictures in their faces without paying the .50 that the people asked for in return. As a result of years of such ¨globalization¨as they politely call it here, instead of andean music, the ocerana players rattle out Beatles tunes, and prices are quoted in US dollars. One of the more popular catch phrases is ¨you Uniiited stattes- bush is father of bush after clinton. you like hillary obama.¨ or something along those lines…

time for spanish class. brushing up on the differences between por y para and other such glamorous topics. best to you all. i love you each! besos, ciao- allegra  

This week has flown by so fast I can hardly believe it! Here is a quick recap of my week. Im sure it that will absolutely fall flat in any attempt to do it justice, but i´ll do my best!

Sunday began with my first encounter with the Peruvian orientation towards time, which is, to say, that they are not necessarily oriented towards time in a similar way as I. 

Here is an intercultural mind teaser… how does one remain polite and pleasant after a 3:45 am wakeup call and no busdriver until 7:30? ohh the daily challenges of live on this side of the equator…!

The health campaign in Lamay, once we finally got there , was incredible. After a 5 minute crash course in the finer methodologies of pharmaceuticals, Jill and I took on the immense challenge of filling prescriptions and describing treatment regimes to more than 300 indigenous Peruvians. (who of course speak Quechua, not spanish.) it was…intense. After 8 hours of running a fully integrated health campaign (meaning triage, obgyn, dentist, lab testing for parasites and anemia, general medicine, and pharmacy) the municipality of Lamay treated the ProPeru volunteers to a soak in the medicinal thermal pools. We ended up back in Urubamba, after being stopped and paying the ¨impuesto¨(tax.bribe. you pick) to the police, by 11 pm.

Monday began with another crash course regarding intercultural orientations towards time. I slept for 2.5 hours and then found a taxi, with a friend Becky, at 3:30 am (again…) to Yanhaura, Peru. Surprise! nobody at El Centro De Salud was even awake! charming. Nobody chose to arrive until…7!! yowsa. i officially award myself the most patient person in the world award. (humble, i know) I am proud to say that I did not let one complaint slip from my lips the entire 2 days. i will, however, never attend another 4:00 am meeting in Peru.

In a truck designed for 4, the 8 of us drove on cobblestone roads for 2 hours. When we were decidedly in the middle of Peruvian nowhere, we piled out and began to hike. A man from the community we were going to visit and his 5 year old son rode in the back of the truck for 2 hours. turns out the 5 year old had been sitting on top of a toxic scorpion for the entire ride. no biggie. no eyelashes were batted (except mine of course). The hike was gorgeous and for the morning the weather cooperated nicely. I saw at least a million llamas, my first in Peru.

I am struggling to find words to describe the rest of the experience.  The community is spread out over several miles, and from one hut you can not necessarily see any other hut. We first stopped at my hiking companion´s godson´s hut. After narrowly avoiding death by mauling (i never was a dog person) we were graciously welcomed into the hut. Huts here are made of grass and mud. They are incredibly dark inside, the mud walls covered in scars from the dense cooking smoke that fills the tiny room. there are alpaca furs on rocks that serve as chairs, and cuy (guinea pigs) that run free across the dirt floors, waiting for their turn to be eaten. There are also chickens, dogs, cats, and babies everywhere. We were served boiled potatoes and something that resembles a Peruvian spam in a can. i was in an some sort of intercultural shock type trance, so it wasn´t so bad. Plus i couldn´t breathe because of the dense smoke and dust inside.

We continued in this manner, visiting house to house, eating potatoes and drinking mysterious beverages. 2 hours after reaching the community we arrived at the one room schoolhouse. An interesting sidenote- until 5 months ago there had never been a school in this community. For this reason all of the women and children are illiterate and unable to write even their own names. A new teacher came to the town 5 months ago and so sometimes the kids have class.  

The clinic was a success.  We handed out medicines for parasites, infections, malnutrition, and inflammation. We weighed babies and begged young mothers to consider an injection of birth control. (One 16 year old girl had 3 children and was pregnant).  I played with the kids and picked up a few Quechua words (Noka Sutyiki Allegra, iman sutyiki?) It is a language filled with clicks and hisses. The kids would whisper to each other, as if i could hear them, and to be completely honest Quechua sounds quite terrifying when whispered.

I passed out some Issaquah Salmon Days pins in exchange for Quechua lessons and photographs. I couldn´t stop staring at the kids as they proudly paraded around the school house with ¨Spawn Just Spawn!¨ Salmon Days pins on their traditional ponchos and bowlers hats. it was my weird contribution to globalization i suppose.

We hiked back in the pitch black, stopping by huts for fresh trout and more potatoes on the way. By the time i got home, 18 hours after i had left, i was so completely covered in filth, mud, and animal poop, that i hardly recognized myself. My host family had a lot of questions (clearly), but spanish had completely escaped my mind because of sheer exhaustion. I sat at the kitchen table and laughed so hard i cried. I am happy to say that my spanish has returned.

So…that was Monday. The rest of the week passed more casually. Wednesday I went with the doctor to visit the houses of pregnant women who had missed their checkups. If I had words to describe the intense poverty of rural peru i would use them. i do not. Suffice it to say there are odors, illnesses, and living conditions that I had simply never imagined could exist.

In sharp contrast, a cable television was just installed in my bedroom here. Wealth looks different here. It is not clean, shiny, or large. In Peru, to be wealthy is to have electricity and running water (cold, and unclean, but running). It is to have enough food to eat, even if it is simply bread, rice, and tea. The extreme luxuries of television, Internet, and phone service are for the immensely wealthy. It is strange to live among such extreme wealth and still have it appear to be poverty in my eyes.

 Today I taught a 3rd grade class, in Spanish, for an hour, about responsibility and self esteem. I am feeling quite accomplished.  Next week I am teaching environmental science. if anyone knows of low budget, easy, science experiments- feel free to throw them my way!

I will wrap up this novel for now! This weekend I am going on a tour of the Sacred Valley, to see ruins, famous Spanish churches, salt mines, and famous artisan craft markets. I am excited for a vacation!

Buen Dia de las Mujeres!

Contrary to what I you may imagine, it is never ever quiet here in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. there is a permanent chorus of barking (or perhaps dying) dogs, mototaxis horns, and radios. The radio comes on at 5 am and goes off after midnight. Last night at dinner we talked about music. They asked my favorite band, and I came up with Simon and Garfunkle. After a short pause and a few blank stares Enrique garbled ¨GarFunkLee¨ (imagine the accents on the capital letters). He then, after much rummaging, produced a ¨Best of Simon and Garfunkle¨CD to my absolute delight. We listened to 59th Street (Feelin Groovy), Homeword Bound, el Sonido de Silencio, and on and on at dinner. He then produced the rest of his North American music collection: Diana Ross, Barry White, Sting, The Beatles. Sometimes the world is a very small and familiar place.

I explained that my ¨camp name¨used to  be Penny Lane. My host papa now calls me Penny. I am unsure of whether or not he understands the context clearly, but i think its pretty hilarious.

Today the health crew headed to Lamay, Peru. I boarded a very crowded combi with puppets (muppets in Spanish. haha), hand drawn posters about the importance of PAP tests (papnicolaus), and absolutely no CLUE what to expect. In Lamay, Peruvian women from communities scattered across the Andes had walked several hours for a free PAP. Most spoke Quechua and not Spanish, but the puppet shows were a hit, and the women listened intently about the importance of returning for their results and medications. ProPeru apparently has never had a PAP Test return negative. the infection rate is appalling.

The highlight of the day for me was the womens soccer match that happened in the plaza. Women in full traditional garb had come from many many miles and rural communities, to play against each other. With no shoes, or maybe flip flops, and sometimes babies in bolsas on their backs, they played a very aggressive and entertaining game. i left covered in confetti and cheared by the celebration of Dia de la Mujer (international womens day). pictures to come!

Tomorrow and Monday are 4 am departures to communities for more health campaigns. I am taking altitude pills to prepare for Monday, which will include a 2 hour drive and a 2 hour hike directly up the steep side of one of the Andean cliffs. The women there apparently are sometimes afraid of gringas (white women) because they believe they are there to steal their children. ProPeru is very privileged to work within this community because of the trust it has established. the only white women will be myself and Becky, the coordinator. the rest are Peruvian doctors. i am excited and a little bit nervous. (maybe a lot nervous). Sometimes the world is a very big and unfamiliar place.

i love you all and would love to hear what you are up to! I´m off to the Muse, a local bar, to celebrate Dia de Las Mujeres with the other wonderfully strong ladies of ProPeru! Cioa. allegra

Its been almost a week since i left for Peru. It seems like almost a year ago. My spanish is significantly improved, although the learning curve is rough (more on THAT later…), i have moved in with the most fantastic family, and today was my first day of work in the clinic. My first spanish class starts in an hour.

Dar la luz means, in spanish, to give birth. I thought it was a little familiar, but didnt remember what it meant until i had gloves and scrubs on, and was face to face with a very pregnant, very naked, Peruvian woman in stirrups. yeesh. Another clue may have been the word embarazada, which means pregnant. however, i had mistakenly assumed it meant embarrassed (and had widely and publicly used it as such since i arrived. ouch.).

Today, i was present, and involved, in the birth of an incredibly beautiful Peruvian baby boy. it was a very stoic event, in a government run clinic that has no running water. i rubbed her stomach to stimulate contractions, helped to dress the baby in its fist clothes, and carried the baby to his momma. to the best of my understanding it was a healthy baby and an easy delivery. i will dar gracias a los dios for the rest of my days that nothing bad happened because it was all i could do to keep my jaw closed. im going to have one heck of a game face when i get home!

On Sunday I moved into the house of Marisa, Enrique, Emna, and Carlos. They have a last name, but to tell you the truth, i cant understand what it is quite yet. im hoping to see it in print one of these days. They might have several. They are more than fabulous. Emna and her cousin Daniella took me on a walking tour of Urubamba my first afternoon. We saw the garden of the mother, the Virgen shrine, the plaza de armas, el mercado, and…once i was fully turned around they made me find my way home without any help. (Which i did FLAWLESSLY for those of you who doubt my navigation abilities…)

They feed me huge meals with lots of corn, papas fritas, avocados, papayas and mangos, rice, and chicken. Everything is fresh and local-meaning killed or picked that day and bought in the HUGE public market behind the house. the people from the communities come down from the mountains wednesday and sunday at which point the crowded daily market swells to overcapcity plus. its really impossible to describe and must be seen to believe. 

I have a huge room with my own bathroom. The majority of the house is actually outside, with a long outdoor staircase connecting rooms. The staircase ends on the roof, where i could sit for hours soaking in the 360 degree view of the Sacred Valley and the Andes, if only the sun didnt burn me so darn quick. i limit myself to 10 minutes.

I finally have a better idea of the way my time will be spent down here:

 Monday and Tuesday i will work in the community clinic (government run for women and children without insurance) Doing rounds, observing, and helping where i can in the emergency room, birthing center, and pharmacy.

Wednesday and Thursday are for research and prep. (For example, tomorrow is a lecture on parasitic infections and womens health in peru)

Friday I will teach health classes in the Urubamba primary school. They are going to give me a list of topics soon.

I will take Spanish classes monday through thursday. there is only one other girl in my class.  im hoping to learn a lot!

Saturday and Sunday are projects and health initiatives in the surrounding, more indigenous communities. The traveling initiative provides free Pap tests for cervical cancer, and urine tests for infection and parasite identification. I will operate the pharmacy, is what ive heard. More general initiatives will also include dental exams and a general doctor. It will be a great opportunity to see the smaller, more traditional communities that are difficult to see otherwise. Many (maybe even most) of the community members will speak Quechua (not spanish). At this point i can hardly imagine what these initiatives will be like. dont worry…ill tell you all about it!

One last note. My host-papa talks on the radio every morning for 5 minutes. his topic today was The Important of Smiling. We are a good match!

 If you have made it to the end of this post, congratulations. i love and miss you all (but in a good way!) Ciao- Allegra

and ps. Wikipedia is wrong. Urubamba is not Quechua for Valley of the Spiders. Its Quechua for Valley of the Worms. i laughed myself to sleep last night.