A Week in Review

Trip Start Jun 01, 2013
Trip End Jan 15, 2014

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Flag of Peru  , Puno Region,
Monday, June 17, 2013

This week´s entry will be a grab-bag of various experiences, observations, stories and reflections. One of the things that I thought would be most noteworthy at the time, has since faded into the rushing current of new and stimulating experiences, but alas I believe it's still blog worthy. I am still living right outside of Parque Pino, where there happens to be a university. In my last entry, I casually mentioned a protest I came upon one night. That next night the same group of protesters turned into an agitated mob, equip with fire crackers, signs and most importantly great contempt and disdain for the officials who were running for President of the University. Apparently, corruption is rampant in many of the Universities of Peru, and often university elections elicit more social demonstration and protests than the actual government elections. Needless to say, I was kept awake most of the night by the irate and impassioned screams of the protesters, and the equally furious retorts from the police. At one point I popped my head out of the window to shoot some "footage" and got a face full of tear gas. Not cool.

The next two days were quite cold and rainy, even for Puno standards. Although when the storm finally passed, it left behind a beautiful rainbow (and for about 5 minutes, a double rainbow).    

Friday was a very special and exciting day because it was the inauguration of the Club de la Salud in both Laykakota and Bellavista. It was so nice to see teams that I am just starting to get to know put forth such a unified effort to make the event perfect and unforgettable. I've been fortunate to have worked with a few very cohesive teams over the years, but this group is definitely in a league of its own.   
 Teams from each focal center fastidiously prepared the festivities until late Thursday night by decorating, arranging furniture, reviewing Friday´s  agenda and packing goodie bags. During the festivities on Friday morning, a film on making healthy lunches for kids was screened, goodie bags were distributed to the first socias to sign up for the Club de la Salud and a poignant speaker correlated her victory over cervical cancer to the screenings and primary prevention she received from Pro Mujer years ago. After all of the presentations and speeches, the socias were invited to meet the new doctor and tour the renovated medical facilities, including the mobile clinic. Women saw the ultrasound machine, the dental facilities and were able to get acquainted with Dr. Carlos and the supporting medical staff. The inauguration was such a hit that it made its way into two newspapers (and counting).  http://www.losandes.com.pe/Sociedad/20130613/72304.html http://www.losandes.com.pe/Sociedad/20130614/72336.html 

I spent Saturday leisurely strolling around Puno, a city I have up until now, primarily known through the plastic windows of moto taxis. I walked down to Lake Titicaca, bought some alpaca essentials to see me through these next cold months, and lost myself in the craziness of the Saturday market on Avenida del Sol. As with most sprawling Latin American markets, you can find essentially anything imaginable. For instance, on one corner I was offered an amphibian tincture to keep my prostate healthy and strong. I responded that my prostate is currently in tip-top shape, but that I would like to photograph him in case I ever need a magic prostate tincture. He kindly obliged. 

In my wanderings, I finally found a store that sells nuts, dried fruits etc in bulk. In a fit of sheer jubilation and inspiration, I put together a trail mix of dried cherries, almonds, chocolate covered peanuts, and pretzel sticks. Watch out Trader Joes, you ain´t got nothing on my specialty mix!

Here's an interesting Puno observation: it seems as though if a group of people are eating together, once the meal is over, they all thank each other in a very formal way (even if it was an informal meal). I first noticed this when I was dining with a coworker for lunch. We both finished eating and just as we were getting up to pay, she says "thank you." My first thought was "oh sh*t, was it somehow agreed that I would pay for lunch?!" but then as we ambled up to the cashier she took out her wallet and we both paid our respective bills. Since then I have become less nervous when someone thanks me for a meal. 

On Sunday, I spent the day with Sra. Irma and her family. It was Father's Day so we feasted on rabbit and potatoes and salad. Interestingly, even though she has a lovely new oven in her kitchen, we hiked to the communal clay oven to have the rabbits cooked because apparently the flavor is completely different. I told her that in America people don't typically give much consideration the apparatus that cooks their meal, and she looked at me as if we were utter barbarians who wouldn't know good taste if it bit us in the you-know-what.  While the rabbit was cooking, we walked to the cemetery to place flowers on her parents' graves in honor of the holiday. It was quite a festive scene; lots of families had gathered to rejoice together with their loved ones who were no longer living. The rows were ablaze with fresh bouquets and trinkets. On our walk back, I was introduced to my new favorite obsession: tuna. This fruit looks identical to a prickly pear and also grows on cacti, but I have  a feeling is a different variation because if we had something this delicious in America, I would totally be the first to know about it.  

I just got back from having a delicious Puno-style pizza. I was initially struck by the sheer number of pizzerias here in Puno, and expecting a some complicated story about how Italian immigrants or cultural preferences, I asked my boss for an explanation. He promptly explained that there are a lot of cows around Puno, hence a lot of milk, hence a lot of cheese, hence a lot of pizza. I guess some things are simpler than we think.  

So I know I promised a "day-in-the-life-of" and an exposé on the health system here in Peru, but somehow they didn't make the final cut of my train-of-thought entry. I promise I'll cover them eventually. Thank you all for accompanying!    
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maggie seligman on

What a fascinating journal of days/nights, Laura. The photos and your descriptions make it all come alive, as trite as that might sound. I doubt I will try the prostrate potion, having an aversion to snakes, but in the old west they didn't refer to traveling medicine men as selling snake oil for nothing. I wonder if they got the idea from their contact with the native populations, which would have included people from Mexico and parts south. An interesting cultural connection, perhaps. The double rainbow was gorgeous-- You are both literally and almost figuratively on top of the world.

Abba on

I found your blog to be totally fascinating. It made me feel like I was living in Puno. Maybe you should have a double major - Public Health and Writing.
Keep it up.

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