Friday, December 17, 2010

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Nine

As usual I will quote the text and then comment on it.

I dragged myself out of bed to discover that my voice had become a whisper. It was my turn to say the morning prayer and I happily passed the honor to Dr. Jim who eloquently filled the bill. I have no trouble with public speaking, but for some reason I find it hard to speak to God in front of an audience.

There is a little bit of a disconnect here. Initially it looks like Lynn has bowed out of doing the morning prayer because she is losing her voice; but then she says it is because she finds it hard to lead a public prayer. Considering Lynn’s difficulty with religion she has expressed many times during these travelogues, this is not surprising. It does not come naturally to many and for a woman who told us 2 days ago she had not attended a church in years, it would be quite hard. As for Dr. Jim, if you guessed this is the first time he has been mentioned, you would be right.

The day was cool and windy, but the line outside the church was long and welcoming. We went to work without the usual bumbling about, having now created a system that took advantage of everyone's skills.

And now for a description of what that system is:

Docs and Spanish-English translators went straight to their stations. Runners guided patients through triage to the waiting areas and placed their papers in a docket on the wall. Quechua translators went from one clinic space to another, on call- and seemed to appear exactly when we needed them.

Do you notice the difference between the set up at the La Fuente clinic and what I presume is their setup for the second day at Iglesia Evangelica Peruana (Consistorio Cusco)? Quechua translators. At La Fuente clinic, Lynn was running about trying to find people to volunteer to be Quechua translators. At Iglesia Evangelica Peruana, they are already there.

Downstairs, the pharmacy- in a constant state of motion - received prescriptions and carefully prepared packages for patients who went to Integrated Health before receiving their meds. Integrated Health is a classroom of sorts where patients learn how to deal with their personal concerns, how parasites are transferred and how to stop the cycle, how to strengthen one's back to prevent strain, healthy ways to eat, child care, birth control and psychiatric help.

Oh, it’s called Integrated Health now. Back on Day Six, Lynn called it a "charla". Like on Day 6, Lynn said they talked about back care, parasites, nutrition and infant health care, plus the 2 psychiatrists. New for this time is birth control. Missing this time is the discussion about their faith. Later on in this entry, we will find out why.

I wondered at first how our two psychiatrists would handle emotional concerns when we were there for such a short time. The answer was soon evident. Alcoholism, thoughts of suicide, spousal abuse and endless poverty were things people wanted, needed to talk about. It didn't take long for Drs. Jim and Paul to find themselves quite busy.

For the obvious comparison. Dr. Pam Bradford was called “Dr.” only once on Day 6 and never since and the other female doctors did not get that title from Lynn. Jim and Paul are a different story. Jim has been “Dr.”ed all 3 times he was mentioned and Paul the one time he was mentioned.

Pam and I spent a long time with two young women who really needed to talk. Both had chronic illnesses and I saw for the first time how devastating this can be to people who would normally be enjoying their youth, their friends and their education.

The first time? It’s hard to believe that Lynn Johnston, who suffered with her dystonia for 10 years, would say this. Of course, for those of us who doubt whether or not Lynn Johnston actually had dystonia, this comment is not a surprise.

Both felt left out, worthless, betrayed by their bodies. They wanted a cure or a way out! Suggesting antidepressants wasn't enough. Pam sent them to see the professionals downstairs and arrangements were made for them to have follow up care.

Lynn doesn’t say what these chronic illnesses were, and it is possible she didn’t know. I wonder if they really did say that they wanted the doctor to cure them or kill them, as Lynn implies.

Most of the patients Pam and I saw were women - and one I will always remember is the beautiful young mother who, after her appointment, agreed to show us how she wrapped her baby so that he could be carried on her back. So many women carry their babies this way and it amazed me to see how they maneuvered around corners, or in and out of buses and cars without bumping the infant's head or feet. They are so intimately aware of the size and position of their bundle that accidents don't seem to happen. Her baby boy was a beauty and sound asleep when she began to unwrap him. He awoke as she showed us the shape and size of the shawl. She told us where to buy the same shawl and said that she would now have to show us the "awake" way of wrapping. She placed him in the richly coloured fabric, turned the edges this way and that, bent over and slung the little one over her shoulder all in one fluid movement. He was suddenly peeking over her shoulder, his dark eyes shining and eager to go. Pam and I were as enchanted with the lesson as we were with her and we wished we didn't have to hustle to the next patient and let her go.

Lynn expresses regret about letting the woman go because:

a. She told Lynn where to buy then same shawl she had, and Lynn wanted her to take her shopping.
b. She wants to learn how to wrap a baby in preparation for getting grandchildren from Kate.
c. She is excited about having a patient who isn’t depressed and looks beautiful.
d. She knows her next story about a mother and a baby is not going to be as happy.

This day went by more quickly than the last. Now a cohesive unit, we took apart in short order the clinic we had so neatly put together, packed the bags and were preparing to leave when something stopped us all. Near the side entrance to the church, a small and earnest group had formed a semicircle around a young mother of three. She was perhaps 25. She had two little girls and a newborn. The baby, 7 days old, lay on the bench beside her. It had not been fed. It was thin, listless, quiet. One of the nurses was explaining to the mother that she had to feed her baby or it would die. The translator had tired of waiting for the nurse and was admonishing the woman saying, "Do you want to be responsible for your baby's death? Don't you want to save this baby?"

This is a little confusing here. The translator is waiting for a nurse, when a nurse is already there explaining to the mother basically the same thing the translator is saying. The mother is near the side entrance to the church and has a group around her after they have taken apart the clinic. Is she there to be treated and got there late? Is she just a person who happens to be sitting on a bench near the church who is being admonished by the translator? Lynn has none of these details.

The woman's eyes were open, but she looked at nothing. Her eyes were without expression; completely blank... Her body was still rounded from having given birth, but her breasts were flat, her face gaunt and colourless. Her other daughters, ages perhaps 4 and 7, were being hugged by two of the volunteers. They watched but also with little expression. It was as if they were deaf to all that was going on around them. The nurses became frantic. The baby's condition was grave. Any decision involving the baby would have to be taken away from the mother. The baby would go to the hospital where it would have a feeding tube, where it would get treatment and hopefully survive.

More confusion for me. Why are the nurses frantic? Haven’t they been dealing with sick kids and babies for 4 days now? After all that, why are they losing their composure now? Don’t they have access to the pediatrician who has been working with Liuba? Don’t they have access to the doctors in the Integrated Health who have been teaching child health? Don’t they have the Cusco hospital just down the road? Why would any decision involving the baby mean taking the baby away from the child? Mothers don’t get to go to Peruvian hospitals with their kids? Why do the volunteers have to hug the other daughters? If the baby’s condition is grave and they are afraid it is going to die, then what makes them think the baby is in a condition where it can take food from its mother? As you can see in the text coming up, Lynn doesn’t stick around to find out what happened or what the actual situation is.

Liuba and I continued to help pack up the pharmacy and carry the supplies outside. We could do nothing and the fewer people in the area, the better. Outside at the bus, Liu was distraught. The scene we had just witnessed had been awful. It occurred to me that we had seen so many women left with children they had to raise alone, with no money and no support and this one had just given up. What was there to celebrate in this new birth? More responsibility, more need, more hunger. What I saw in her eyes was beyond desperation. She had lost the will to care.

Lynn’s description goes to the eyes for the 3rd time now. The mother’s eyes are without expression, the mother’s children’s eyes watch with little expression, and the mother’s eyes are beyond desperation. My guess is that Liuba is not reacting to the mother’s eyes, but the really sick-looking baby. That’s what would get me upset. It’s not too surprising Lynn’s focus is on the mother who was left alone, because that is her own experience; however this does not mean her concern is not real. According to this website for the Mantay Shelter in Cusco, “In Peru, one in four mothers is under the age of 18.” That is a very high percentage compared to the 5.4% in the United States, 3.1% in the United Kingdom and 2.8% in Canada; but small compared to Niger, where the percentage of women who had given birth before 18 is 53%. Now we see why Lynn added birth control to her list.

The small, cluttered shops passed by under the windows of the bus, now recognized - a landmark here, a sign there. We were becoming familiar with the way back to the hotel and glad to retreat to our rooms, wash up, and reassemble downstairs. After dinner, we again went through the events of the day. A tally was made of the number of patients we had seen, how much medication had been given out. We were low now on certain antibiotics, arthritis meds and nose spray.

I can understand antibiotic and arthritis medication, but nose spray? Lynn has not really mentioned anything nose-related about Cusco.

We still had plenty of eye drops, cough medications cortisone shots and antacids.

In an unusual moment, Lynn seems to have run out of commas. You will notice that for a person who has a cold, Lynn’s use of those supplies will not affect the MMI medical stores.

Some supplies could be replenished from a storehouse maintained by MMI in Peru, but was there time to get it? For those of us who were simply there to help, it was an easy few days of work. The organizers however were constantly busy, handling everything from dietary preferences to the loss of a passport to the recuperation of medical supplies. We were constantly amazed by their efficiency and consistent good humor.

In other words, Lynn is not concerned in the slightest about the low medical supplies or how to get them, because she is not an organizer. In fact, she describes herself now as “simply there to help”, and those easy few days of work, and has stopped talking about that hard translation stuff.

Those of us 45 and older usually went to bed around 9, but the younger people sang, talked or went off into town for some fun. Even the evenings were routine - and it took less than a week to make us all a bit "predictable".

"Predictable" for someone who goes to bed at the first opportunity.

As I waited for the cold medication to ease my stuffed head into sleep, I thought about how close we'd all become and how quickly we'd be leaving. Tomorrow, the last clinic.

Lynn talks about the closeness and yet, she mentions so few names. Compare this travelogue for Day 9 to the ones in the first few days in Lima, where her attitude towards naming people seems very different. If I were to go from Lynn’s description of the people working, I would get the impression that they are almost all women except for Dr. Pam Bradford’s husband and the 2 psychiatrists. Looking at the picture of the people on the bus, I get a very different impression about the ratio of men to women on this trip. I have the feeling Lynn only really talked to the over-45, female crowd, and there are not many of those on this bus.

Tomorrow, the last clinic.

Looking at the Medical Ministries International website, I realize what is going on here. The bulk of the mission trips are shown to last 14 days and so when Lynn said she was on a 10-day mission, I presumed she meant that 4 of the days of the mission were involved in travel and the setup, while the other 10 were on the mission. There are some missions that are 7 days only and this appears to be the type of one Lynn is working – probably 5 days of clinic, 1 day to start and 1 day to stop. Add to that a few days of vacationing in Lima, and you have Lynn’s 10 days.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Eight

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it.

Our next location was in an old Catholic church not far from the center of Cuzco.

For some reason, on Day 8, Lynn has chosen not to relate the events of the morning and moved straight into the description of the project. Why do I have the feeling Lynn slept late, missed breakfast and the MMI hymn sing? You might ask Lynn why did they move locations when they had that nice La Fuente clinic? Well, my guess is that since the La Fuente clinic was in San Jerónimo, Cusco, Peru which is on the far east side of the city and the center of Cusco is about 6 miles to the west; the move is to get medical aid to people on the other side of Cusco. As you can see from the sign in the picture, this old Catholic church is Iglesia Evangelica Peruana (Consistorio Cusco), and compared to a lot of churches in Cusco, it’s not that old. Doing an internet search for it, I found this video on YouTube. There were actually quite a few videos on YouTube featuring events in the church.

The courtyard was filled with waiting people who eagerly greeted us with hugs and handshakes. After carrying the supplies inside, we formed an assembly and sang the hymn that everyone seems to know: "Alabare" meaning "I shall praise". It's a pretty tune. With harmony, echoes and clapping, it always begins our day.

Another YouTube video of this song, just in case you want to sing along with Lynn.

There was plenty of space. Doctors had curtained areas upstairs, with small tables set up for examinations and another for supplies. Long benches ran alongside the outer wall for waiting patients, and at the end of the hallway were two private spaces for optometry and pediatrics.

As you may recollect from 2 days ago, optometry and pediatrics were the activities most closely located to Lynn in the La Fuente clinic.

Pharmacy was downstairs in an alcove next to the main floor and patients there could wait comfortably in the pews. It reminded me of a clinic we had in Arequipa where they had arranged all the spaces for us - putting the dentists next to the confessional, which seemed fitting to me!

Arequipa is a reference to Lynn’s 2008 trip to Peru with Medical Missions International. Looking at their website list of projects coming up, it does include Medical-Dental-Surgical for Arequipa. In 2008, fresh from her divorce from Dr. Rod Johnston, DDS, I am sure this joke is meant to indicate that a dentist should have something to confess. Without that context, I am not sure what to make of this confessional/dentistry joke. I am also not sure where the dentists are. Lynn mentioned not having to move their equipment into the Clinic a few days ago, but there is still mention of them on this trip since then.

The only problem here was the stairwell. Many people were elderly and a couple were in wheelchairs, so other arrangements would have to be made. The watchword "flexibility" meant there was always a way!

Doctors coming down the stairs is my guess for "flexibility". Since Lynn is not labelling her pictures, the doctor in picture #3 appears to be Erin A. Hannagan. The doctor in picture #4 appears to be Pamela Bradford.

By now, we were starting to bring some of our personal belongings to the clinics, knowing we would find the right person for the right gift. An elderly woman who had no electricity in her apartment complained of falling over things in the night. I gave her my wind-up flashlight and showed her how to use it. Another couldn't see. I had a pair of reading glasses which were well received. A dear woman, wearing the only clothes she had, accepted the gift of my burgundy and turquoise sweater and another took my flip-flops which were new, had sparkles on them and fit perfectly.

Finding the facilities are good and unable to be used a translator, Lynn has now started handing away things she happened to be carrying with her, claiming that these are gifts brought especially to be given away.

Good shoes are a luxury that few can afford in this part of town. A woman whose job was to carry heavy bundles up and down the hillsides wore broken "penny loafers" which already looked to be second hand. Pam told her she had to have new shoes. She looked at us respectfully, but her expression said "How can I buy new shoes when I can't even buy food?" I asked how much a good pair of shoes would cost. "60 soles" she said.

60 Peruvian Nuevo Sol converts to $21.25 dollars USD.

We gave her 60 soles and I made her promise she would buy shoes for herself. When she promised, I made her promise again.

As if that second promise is going to have any more effect than the first promise, aside from Lynn's indication that she doesn't trust the woman. Notice the use of the subjects here. I (Lynn) asks how much the shoes cost, but we (Lynn and Pam, or maybe just Pam) gives the money.

The problem with not going straight to the store and buying the shoes with her was that she might be tempted to take the money home. Being beaten for spending money on yourself when you could have given it to an abusive husband is always a possibility. We hoped she would buy the shoes.

I would think the problem would be that she would spend it on food, since she said food was her highest priority. Instead of worrying about that, Lynn goes off on a tirade which seems to assume that poor Peruvian women must have abusive husbands (otherwise they wouldn’t be poor?). She seems to be ignoring the situation with the 50-year-old man just yesterday, where he said he abandoned his family because of his drinking problem.

The day was filled and went by quickly. After we had seen our last patients, Liuba and I went into the village to look for a mochila (a backpack) and were told we would find one at the Paraiso Mall. The Paraiso was about 4 blocks from the church and was a walk I'll never forget!

I can’t find a Paraiso Mall on the Google Maps, but I did find a Turismo Paraiso S A, which is more than 4 blocks from the church, but reasonably close. I can’t expect Lynn to really know distances.

Small street-side shops, windows open to the wind, offered everything from freshly butchered animal parts to layers of just-plucked chickens, their yellow feet protruding from counters and sills, piled into neat, fleshy rows. Quechua ladies in their wide layered skirts, white top hats and long, black braids walked arm in arm with their friends, gossiping and laughing behind gnarled brown hands. Children played on the sidewalks, lovers quarreled, boys peed on the walls of the buildings while cat-calling to chums who ducked into and out of the traffic.

No description is complete without pee.

A warehouse receiving a delivery was open. A truck blocked half the road and men were throwing sacks of grain to others inside, oblivious of the pedestrians who waited for the right moment between flying packages to dodge past. Dogs ambled undisturbed from streets and alleyways looking for anything edible and folks hawking breads, corn and candy on sticks happily obliged. A boy with a handcart pushed a load of pumpkins. Ladies selling fresh chicha held plastic glasses out to passers by and everywhere, traffic and dust and people made this a constantly changing spectacle - and I wanted to remember everything I saw!

Looking at the picture that goes with this description, I see some street vendors hawking stuffed animal souvenirs, a Claro cellular phone place, a key shop, and a very neat-looking bricked sidewalk. Too bad Lynn didn’t get a picture of the place she talked about.

Unlike the tourist shops, the Paraiso Mall catered to everyone.

So maybe this is not Turismo Paraiso.

There were the usual rows of stalls and vendors, but their wares ranged from hi tech video equipment to plastic pails, beauty aids, bikes and baking. It was a social place for friends to gather and chat. Little kids seemed to be everywhere: on shoulders, in slings and in carriages. Young women held out plates of flan and rice with dark red sauce for us to sample, but the chance of something not agreeing with our North American guts held us back. It was a busy place - and less than half the clients seemed in the mood to buy!

Especially those American clients afraid to eat. Of course, flan and rice with a dark red sauce doesn’t sound very appetizing to me. I think of flan as a dessert. Lynn is now 3 paragraphs into a description about shopping.

The mochila vendor was eager to do business and soon Liuba was sporting a new Nike knock-off bag with zippered pockets and space for a water bottle. A back pack is such a useful thing on these trips; you almost live out of it. Every foray away from the hotel requires you to take toilet paper, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, a sweater, fresh water and, of course - a camera. A regular purse will hardly do the trick!

Let’s not forget flashlights, reading glasses and flip-flops.

Toilet paper is a commodity rarely found in the average establishment. Likewise, the toilet seat is a rare and coveted adornment, thus allowing one to be creative during private moments and mindful as well that Peruvian plumbing is finicky at best.

Lynn has this description and yet, we have not had an actual mention of the facilities in La Fuente or in Iglesia Evangelica Peruana. It’s hard to say if Lynn is speaking generically or from actual experience. We do know that this is not the case in her hotel.

During the day, November weather in Cuzco is warm and comfortable, but a chill settles in before sundown and by nightfall, it's quite cold. Layering is the best way to dress and wearing the same thing every day soon becomes fashionable.

Again about the weather. You would think that a person accustomed to living in Corbeil, could stand a little coldness, especially when it isn’t that cold compared to Corbeil. I expect the real difference is that in Corbeil, Lynn probably rarely ventures outside. This website shows the average temperatures in Cusco, which are shockingly similar all year long. November is the second warmest month of the year behind October with the average low at 6.1 °C and 43 °F.

Dinner in the basement of the hotel was a ritual we all looked forward to. This evening was our "talent night". MMI (Medical Missions International) has always had a talent night.

I can’t find anything about this on-line. I can only presume that no one aside from Lynn has chosen to write about it.

This is saved until such time that we have all become well acquainted and the ones prone to theatrics have been outed and pressed to perform. Some need no coaxing. I volunteered to tell a couple of stories and was waiting to do so when the Mariachi band arrived.

Lynn’s talent is story-telling? Who would have known? As for the mariachi band, my initial reaction was “mariachis in Peru?” However, it was not difficult to find yet another YouTube video, so I stand corrected.

There was a birthday to celebrate first and this was part of the surprise.

And the person who had the birthday was...? Somehow I have the feeling this is just another indication that Lynn is not bonding with the other MMI folks.

The band played for a long time. Dancing began and a sing-song and more music filled the night. I had begun to lose my voice during the day and it was gone by the time La Bamba was shaking the walls for a second time. I felt cold and clammy, excused myself from the table and gratefully slipped away to my heavily blanketed bed.

By mentioning "La Bamba" for a second time, Lynn is trying to show that she was there for a long time, waiting for a chance to tell her stories. However, if someone invited (paid for) a mariachi band to show up, there doesn't seem like there was any plan on "talent night" for there to actually be a "talent night". We know from Lynn's travelogue to Thailand, she does not like these crowded and noisy situations.

"gratefully slipped away" is the giveaway that Lynn used her feeling cold and clammy as an excuse to leave what was an uncomfortable situation for her. My guess is that Lynn blames the chill in the air for her sickness, since she has once again mentioned a cold bed. As to whether Lynn was actually getting a cold, that is difficult to tell.

Now, I have to tell you that being with a group of doctors and a travelling pharmacy is a very good thing. Whatever ails you can be dealt with quickly, sans appointment, and the necessary pharmaceuticals are handed to you in a bag. I had been given something to clear my head and help me sleep. It was good stuff, whatever it was, and I drifted off despite the band, the dogs and the machine shop next door. It was a perfect ending to a very interesting day, and I looked forward to what the morrow would bring.

So the perfect ending to the day consists of not being able to tell your stories, getting sick and then getting the right drugs to knock you out? That sounds like Lynn’s work on the last few years of For Better or For Worse. Of course, knowing Lynn, we have not heard the last of this cold.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Seven

As usual I will list the text and comment on it.

Up at 6:00 again and feeling a cold coming on, Liu and I dressed and made our way down to the dining room.

Lynn has mentioned this cold 3 days in row. I have the feeling she wouldn’t be saying this every day if there wasn’t some kind of payoff to it, but we don’t reach it today.

By day three we had begun to settle into groups - sitting at the same tables and lining up for the buffet at the same time. Funny how this happens. Humans like to be organized!

Lining up for the buffet at the same time is not that mysterious. When is the food? That’s when you go. However, sitting at the same tables may have more to do with friendships and cliques establishing within the group.

Breakfast was fried eggs piled high on a platter, flat buns that opened like pita, bananas, cereal, liquid yogurt and juice. We all ate well, since lunch would be small and wolfed down - when possible.

I was unable to find a Peruvian bread that was a “flat bun that opened like a pita”. Sorry.

The people who came to the Mennonite clinic (la Fuente- "The Fountain") were for the most part healthy and well dressed.

At last a name, here is a website for it.

The ones in real need had badly worn clothing and looked malnourished. The clothes these folks wear is often all that they have. In a way, I resented seeing people who had regular check ups. There's no discrimination of course - it's first come, first served- and serious cases had priority. But, we were there to provide for those who had few resources and really needed the help.

Actually this is the Mission of Medical Ministries International from their website:

MMI is an opportunity to serve Jesus Christ by providing spiritual and physical health care in this world of need.

It sounds like it is a good thing the organization has no discrimination, because a Lynn Johnston-run group would probably refuse health care to people who were not wearing rags.

I think Liuba, working with Erin in pediatrics, saw the majority of people seriously in need. Young mothers trying to raise children alone have a lot of trouble - as they do everywhere - and again, sometimes just telling their story to another woman was as soothing and as important as headache pills. Erin was also able to connect these women with a network of social workers in the area through MMI.

This is the old case of the deserving poor and the undeserving poor I have run into time and time again in my own life in dealing with the homeless in the United States. The vast majority of the homeless are men. If you are a single mom with kids, everyone wants to help you. If you are homeless man, it is the exact opposite, and these are often the people who are most seriously in need. I can’t really blame Lynn on this one. Many people have the exact same perception, until they work with people in need. However, as I said yesterday, someone in MMI wisely put Liuba working with the kids and not Lynn. Better that a well-dressed adult be scorned by Lynn than some kid.

The cast of characters we saw was so interesting! It appeared to Pam and I that many of the older Quechua women must sleep in their inner garments (the outer garments kept fresh to wear during the day) because in order to get to their chest and back with a stethoscope, you had to peel them like an onion!!! I think seven layers of undergarments was the record.

At 11,150 feet, if you sleep outside with your alpaca, you probably don’t change to sleepwear all that often.

These dear ladies allowed us to pull up their clothing with a good deal of humor. They were soft spoken, appreciative and eager to comply. The family members who came with them to help with translation fit nicely into our confined space and we marveled at our efficiency despite the conditions.

It’s good Lynn is doing something aside from standing around and judging her patients. It’s pretty clear from the line about translation that she is not doing any of that.

Bloomers, underskirts, overskirts and aprons made a tiny little lady look huge and I remembered from past visits watching them out in the fields with their alpaca, like ornate lampshades drifting through the grass!

Lots of clothes make you look like an ornate lampshade. Good to know.

A gentleman who had a problem resulting from riding a bicycle with a small, hard seat was relieved to hear he was not suffering from a serious ailment. He was also happy to know he could keep his delivery job - he just had to get something more comfortable to sit on!

A funny story. Need more of these.

We were unable to do thorough physical exams, so Pam was concerned about having to prescribe broad-spectrum treatments for vaginal infections and the like. We could do blood and urine testing and some patients happily brought us jars of urine they'd prepared at home. If we did need a specimen, it would have to be "fresh", but Pam would accept the jar anyway, so as not to offend the patient. Sometimes, a patient was given a cup, told to give a sample, and didn't come back! This was always interesting and made for the occasional "blip" in the lineup.

And a story about urine. Lynn always has to have these. She thinks they are funny, at least.

In the tiny space next to us Pam's husband Norman- also a physician - was seeing patients as well. One in particular was in bad shape. A young woman of about 25 had an infected wisdom tooth, resulting in a huge swelling in her neck and throat. If not treated immediately, she could have serious breathing difficulties. People have died from this, so it was important to get her onto the right antibiotic immediately and refer her to the hospital in Cuzco. Making this happen required the help of the people who ran the clinic and the MMI staff as well. Expenses could be covered for serious cases, which was a relief for everyone.

Since Peru has universal health care, I expect the real issue is here is the follow-up care for a woman with a prescription written by someone in a clinic, who is only there for a week, when no one at the hospital made the diagnosis necessary to write the prescription. The prescription would have to be justified probably to the clinic staff who are there all the time and not for just a week.

Liuba and I went for a walk at lunch.

I guess Lynn had more time for lunch than she thought.

The local market was a block away and as we meandered past the vendors, we recognized people we had seen earlier in the clinic. Piles of yellow pumpkins, open bags full of grains, pale coloured corn with huge kernels boiling in open pots are a local treat. Large, flat loaves of bread piled like small tires smelled delicious. We wished we could try everything, but had been warned not to eat anything not prepared for us and definitely not to drink the water. Local water was so likely to cause a problem, we were warned to keep our mouths closed in the shower!

Now Lynn remembers the issue with not getting enough clean water to drink, but not in time to point it out in yesterday’s travelogue. I am not sure how food in boiling water is going to be a problem, but it’s nice to know that Lynn is taking the warning seriously for a change.

The market people are hard workers. Those who came to us from the market had calloused hands, aching backs and arthritic hands. They had problems sitting and standing and everything in between.


I stopped trying to "bargain" with them after awhile, knowing how hard it is for them to earn a living. Giving them a bit extra is easy for those of us who can afford to travel to their country... and it means so much to them!

I suppose this is an improvement for Lynn who normally considers the bargoon to be the primary reason for going to foreign countries. Of course, Lynn just finished saying how she wasn’t going to buy any food, so I suppose this means she has decided to move into shopping for non-food items. It must have been a pretty long lunch.

Back at the clinic, Pam had just taken a man of about 50 into her "office". He too had work related woes, but the thing most affecting his health was his drinking. I mentioned the drink "chicha" which is made from corn. The red chicha is non alcoholic, the yellow chicha is.

I can’t find anything to confirm this. Most websites say that chica is a soft drink.

All over Peru, yellow chicha is responsible for poor health and broken relationships. More men than women suffer from alcoholism, though we did have a few ladies smile, blush and confess to liking their chicha!

Lynn can relate and you can tell there is no condemnation there.

Pam asked this man if he felt guilty. He told us he had left his wife and children, had lost his job - and was lost himself. All of this played a role in his physical health. Pam asked if he would like to pray. "God won't listen to me" he said "because I drink chicha". He was afraid he was already ostracized from heaven. Pam comforted him by saying that God understood. People make mistakes. She told him he was loved and still a child of God. He suddenly went down on his knees in front of her and cried as she prayed for him and his family. Even she was unprepared for his open surge of emotion and we both hoped he would soon find some way to get his life back on track.

Here you get to see Lynn’s gender bias in full bloom. She has sympathy for the single moms and all that business yesterday about women just needing to tell someone their troubles. A man does the same thing and it takes Lynn by surprise. Pam is doing the regret, repentance and reconciliation and she would have to be gratified that it seems like it worked for this man.

Understand that I have not attended a church service in years! I have had my own thoughts and feelings. I do believe in God - I believe we are here for a reason - perhaps to learn through adversity to be better people! I believe in giving back. I believe in the power of positive thinking. Here was an example of faith and religion doing what it is supposed to do; comfort, support and heal.

Ah, religion by Lynn. Look at all those pop culture buzz phrases. I think back to Lynn’s interview with Tom Heintjes on the subject:

Tom Heintjes: Are you religious?
Lynn Johnston: I don’t like organized religion where people tell me I have to follow a certain dogma. I don’t like other people interpreting Scriptures for me. I like to interpret them for myself. Not that I feel that I’m the only one who can, but I just feel . . . let’s put it another way. Only a couple of times have I ever been to church and felt enlightened by it.

Lynn prefers to interpret for herself and it shows she has little background or understanding of religion and its purpose. When confronted by this 50-year-old man’s reaction, the first thing she talks about is a personal defense of her own choice to intentionally separate herself from something that can bring a man to his knees. Maybe there is something to this religion stuff after all.

We arrived back at the hotel with all the supplies, prepared to set up in a different location the next day. The young Doctor who had set up "le Fuente" joined us. He had made a remarkable dream come true. He and his wife were providing help where it was badly needed and his children were growing up in a most interesting environment. It had been another exhausting, but memorable day.

That’s “La Fuente” Lynn. You got it right the first time you mentioned it, unless this is some kind of Spanish joke I don’t get. The doctor’s name from the website is Eduardo Astete Mendosa, and there are some nice pictures there of him, his wife and the staff, but not his kids.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Six

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it.

We were all out of bed and downstairs in the "dining room" by 6:30 AM.

By use of quotes, Lynn takes another shot at the hotel, with a dining room that is not really a dining room. Slowly, but surely, Lynn moves closer to agreeing with the taxi cab driver’s assessment of the hotel.

Morning prayer and some songs from the MMI hymnbook began the day and we were on the bus by 8. Our first session was set up in a tidy little Mennonite clinic, not far from the church we had attended on Sunday. The supplies had been sent on a separate bus and we all pitched in to carry everything inside.

Already this is not like those trips we are used to with Lynn and Rod and bunch of tents set up in some wilderness. This is a pre-established clinic and it appears the Mennonites must do this kind of mission year-round.

This time there were no dentists, so we were spared from having to load and unload the heavy chairs and other equipment they'd need.

“This time there were no dentists” is a statement which implies that there were other times when there were dentists. And yet, this is the first day of this, so clearly Lynn is writing this after having done the whole trip and is not bothering to maintain any sense that this is a day-by-day journal. That aside, this is a confusing statement. If they are operating in a clinic, then why couldn’t they unload the dental equipment one time and be done with it until they were finished? What are the dentists doing?

Already a long line up of patients was there to welcome us at the entrance.

If they didn’t leave for the area until 8 am, then this is not very much of a surprise.

It was a clear day. A brief rainfall in the evening had made the grass moist and green. Kids tumbled about in the small courtyard as volunteers put up tent shelters and rows of chairs. For some patients, a check up and a referral would be an all day process. Many of the ladies there wore traditional garments; multi layered skirts, several sweaters and blouses and knee high woolen socks. Tall white hats and long braids, often tied together at the bottom or finished with long tassels of black wool, made them stand out from the crowd.

Lynn is very descriptive and in the picture you can see there are a few women dressed this way, while the majority are not.

These were Quechua and spoke little Spanish.

For Quechua in Cuzco, I found this information from this website:

Quechua had already expanded across wide ranges of the central Andes long even before the Incas, who were just one among many groups who already spoke forms of Quechua across much of Peru. Quechua arrived at Cuzco and was influenced by languages like Aymara. This fact explains that the Cuzco variety was not the more spread. In similar way, a diverse group of dialects appeared meanwhile the Inca Empire ruled and imposed Quechua.

It was important to find translators who could speak to them and translate for us, so that we could then translate the Spanish into English for the doctors. We soon found several young women, nurses and volunteers who still spoke this ancient language and were eager to help.

“still spoke this ancient language”. Oh, Lynn, you do not disappoint. You are right about it being ancient, but “still spoke” implies this is a dying language. Not so. From this website:

Quechua has official language status in Peru. In Peru, a quarter of the population speaks Quechua, and about a third of the Quechua speakers speak no Spanish.

I can’t believe Medical Ministries International really walked into Cuzco without being prepared to deal with ¼ of the population. I find the idea of Lynn Johnston running about trying to find people to translate Quechua into Spanish for her very amusing. Ultimately, you find that Lynn will not mention these Quechua translators again in this day's writeup.

Inside the neat little clinic, I was paired up with Dr. Pam Bradford from Maryland.

You can see a picture of her here. Her specialty is Internal Medicine.

She and her husband, Norman, were given a small room, divided into two by a set of hospital screens.

Dr. Norman Bradford from Maryland. His specialty is Anesthesiology

We would have about 4'x5' of space each. Plastic bags were being applied to an adjoining window to create some privacy and to darken a room that the optometrist would work in. The staff had given us an examining table and Pam was pleased to see that we had a sink with running water.

I presume by this reference to a staff, Lynn means the staff of the clinic.

In the hall outside our room, two other cubicles had been created with pipes and curtains. Examining tables had been set up there, too. It was a clean and very well organized space, even if it was tiny! Down the hall was a room for pharmacy, to the left of the pharmacy was a long bench for waiting patients and around the corner to the left again, was triage where patients would be lead first to have their weight and blood pressure taken and their charts prepared.

All past tense as if someone else set all this stuff up before they arrived.

It took some time to set ourselves up. The first day is always a fluster of where to put things, how to arrange the flow of patients and which volunteer is best suited to what job. By 10:00 am, we had a system and by noon, we were a team!

2 hours to get there and set up. 2 hours to get a system and become a team. After all this, and Lynn has failed to mention one single thing that she has done.

Liuba had been assigned to Erin Hannigan, a young (and very pretty) pediatrician.

That probably Erin A. Hannagan, M.D. You can see her picture in this website and she does appear to be pretty. Too bad, Dr. Pam Bradford. I am sure if Lynn thought you were pretty, she would have mentioned it. However, the important message is that someone had the wisdom not to assign Lynn to someone dealing with kids.

Their space was in one of the administration buildings across the courtyard from us. Many complexes and private homes are arranged like this, around a central square or rectangular garden which serves as a living or gathering space. The building is hidden by a high wall. The outer doors then open to reveal a courtyard around which the residence is formed. The rooms all open to face the garden in the center; a tiny replica of the public square downtown. We saw this in Pompeii, so this ancient, Latin- style of architecture remains popular today.

So Lynn is saying that the Mennonites occupy a clinic where the architecture is Latin because it is similar to something she saw in the ruins of Pompeii. Pompeii is 1st century Italy. Cuzco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire in the 13th century. That's really a popular style if it carried from Italy to the Incans after 12 centuries.

Liuba's and Erin's space was next to Nora Porter, also from Maryland. Nora, a family physician, spoke fluent Spanish so she was on her own for most of the time, calling on Liuba only when someone's speech was too difficult to decipher!

I can’t find a Dr. Nora Porter from Maryland. However, I did find a website with this Dr. Nora Porter, in St. Louis who has this on her resume:

She has also worked as a volunteer physician for several organizations in Haiti, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Thailand.

There is also a Dr. Nora Porter who practices family practice in Pennsylvania, but I have a feeling that Dr. Nora Porter from St. Louis is the one. I would go on about Lynn getting the place wrong, but if Dr. Nora Porter is really from St. Louis, that explains the whole thing. Lynn thinks, "She's from St. Louis, Missouri. But wait, Missouri? Isn't that actually in Kansas? Oh, I am getting confused again. I'll just say she's from Maryland like Pam is."

Liu was in her element with the children, but her memories of growing up in Russia with little to eat and hand-me-down clothing would come back to haunt her time and again. It was hard for her at first to separate herself from the families who were in dire need, but her experience made her all the more compassionate, kind and understanding. I soon heard her laughing and teasing the little ones while she did the translation.

What? Is she saying Liuba was in tears when she was translating before she was able to separate herself from these families and her own personal history with poverty?

We all established an easy pace, wanting to be as thorough with examinations as possible and still see as many people as we could. Pam and I were a compatible pair. I loved her gentle, understanding style and so respected her abilities.

This statement is loaded with Lynn's patented "read between the lines". While Liuba was described as a translator, Lynn does not mention doing that. Lynn’s respect for Pam’s abilities is based on her “style” and not on what she was actually doing for the patients. Instead of saying she loved working with Pam, she calls her “compatible”.

Patients in these areas tend to suffer from the same things. Hard work and carrying heavy loads on poorly supported feet cause backaches, calluses and sore legs. Dry air - filled with sand the consistency of talcum powder - irritates eyes and throats. Vendors in the streets get up at 5 and work until sundown. Construction workers and farmers work without the proper equipment or adequate food. Women abandoned with children complain of headaches they can't stand and this is often from stress. Just telling another woman about her difficult life was what they needed more than anything.

After the laundry list of things, Lynn works her way around to the thing she was doing, i.e. listening to someone else complain about their hard life. And is that better or worse than getting medical treatment? Why yes it is. They needed it more than anything. By her own affirmation, Lynn is better than the doctor. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about Lynn's relationship with Pam.

At first, when Pam asked if a patient wished to pray, I felt uneasy. I knew my medical terminology, but religious phrases were embarrassingly foreign to me.

Here you go Lynn, “Shall we pray” in Spanish is “vamos a orar”. This is very odd for Lynn to say. Doesn’t she know this is Medical Ministries International? I thought she had worked for them before. If not, the hymnbook and praying should have been a giveaway. Of course, this is a woman who thought prayer and prairie were related and that was in English.

Pam would hold the patients' hands, bow her head and ask God to take the pain away. "Heal your daughter's aching muscles, calm the pain in her head, give her rest from all her duties and make her husband realize that he must support his children. Let her know that she is loved and cared for and that you are listening..." Words like this don't come from the Bible. They come from the heart.

Actually, Lynn, all those ideas (giving rest, calming pain, fathers supporting children, being loved and cared for, etc.) are in the Bible, believe it or not.

What Pam would say could not be given as advice or in conversation. We were, after all, strangers; foreigners. But, her comforting acknowledgement and sage advice, if given in a prayer, was gratefully accepted and would last far beyond the small bottles of meds we could give her.

I like this idea. You can say things in prayer with someone that you would never say to them in person. I can imagine Lynn praying, "Oh God. I pray that she will take a bath because she stinks so bad, not that I would ever tell her that in advice or in conversation."

I soon became part of an intimate trio; Pam holding the patients' hands, my hands on Pam's and the patients' shoulders. I wanted to be a translator, but this was a private exchange beyond words, beyond borders, beyond looks and lives, possessions and beliefs. It was an experience I can't even begin to explain, which is rare for a talker like me!!

Lynn has had a good experience witnessing someone else ministering to someone else and apparently does little else. “I wanted to be a translator” says it all.

Outside our little cube, patients were waiting patiently for their names to be called. "Runners" would put their charts into the docket on the wall, then lead patients to the next station after their appointment. Treatment continued with a "charla".

Charla = Conversation / Chat En = In Español just so you know. It is not the name of a medical practice, which is what the next text would lead you to believe:

This is an opportunity for nurses, therapists and ministers to help people understand how parasites and other diseases are transmitted and how to avoid them. Plastic models showed how the back works and how lifting in certain positions can put too much stress on the spine. Exercises to improve back and leg strength were demonstrated. People could learn about nutrition and infant health, and there were two psychiatrists as well who would talk to people about their lives, their fears and their faith. Fear is a serious problem- for everyone. In a country where services which house and protect the elderly are either too expensive or non-existent, the fear of having a terrible disease or a chronic ailment is constant. In a modern city in 2010, it's hard to believe that such services are so underfunded. Even hardy young people fear a health problem, as work cannot stop because of an aching back. Somebody has to feed the family and pay the bills.

Although Lynn is slamming the Peruvian health care system, the Health care system in Peru is universal, and financed by government though a system of national health insurance. In fact, this website shows that Cuzco has 1 public hospital and 7 private hospitals. In fact, after reading Lynn's description, I enjoyed this story talking about how Peruvian health care shames the USA health care system.

On the first day, Pam and I saw more women than men. This meant that we dealt with a lot of intimate problems and one in particular made us laugh for the rest of the week. Our patient was a woman of about 50, well into menopause and trying to cope with the crazy ups and downs of hormone change. One of her concerns was that she peed when she laughed. Pam smiled and said there was an exercise she could do to strengthen the muscle that controls the opening of the bladder. "The next time you urinate" she said, "stop before you're finished and hold on for the count of ten. This exercise can be done anywhere, once you know how to do it, and you should do it at least 10 times a day.". Even though Pam made it clear that you didn't have to run to a washroom, the lady was confused. "Look" I said. "you practice on the toilet, but you can do the exercise anywhere! Nobody has to know what you're doing- you just do it. For example," I went on, "you can do it on the bus!" I held an invisible stanchion and lifted my eyebrows as if counting to ten. "You can do it in the kitchen!" I whisked invisible eggs and grimaced up to ten. "You can do it while you're buying groceries!" I pretended I had a bag of grocs and was paying the cashier as I flexed my privates secretly. Both Pam and the patient laughed until they cried. This is the kind of audience a comic adores....and is far too encouraging.

This comment is far too easy. This is the kind of audience Lynn adores…audiences that love pee jokes.

We saw the dear Quechua ladies who complained of varicose veins. Their stockings, held up with strong elastics formed ligatures behind their knees and we asked the local nurses to find a solution if they could.

What? The stocking elastics form ligatures and this causes varicose veins says Dr. Lynn. This article on varicose veins suggests different sources: Pregnance, prolonged standing, obesity, straining, or trauma to the leg. Maybe Lynn means that the stockings fall into the "trauma to the leg" category.

They complained of aching backs, arthritis and dizziness. Pam listened and administered without letting on that she had seen and heard the same story from almost every patient.

What is Lynn suggesting here? It is a trial to the doctor to have a series of patients with the same symptoms?

One of the things everyone seemed to overlook was their need for water. In a climate as dry as this, Pam recommended at least 8 tall glasses a day; something we hear often enough as well. It's amazing what happens to your body if you don't get enough water.

Lynn. You take getting clean water for granted in Canada. It’s not as easy in Peru.

There weren't enough otoscopes to go around, so the few we had were in great demand. Blood pressure instruments break with the change in altitude, so we needed those as well and the one little knee-knocking hammer made the rounds, too making us a lot more aware of what was going on in the other operatories around us. It was clear to everyone that bringing all your tools with you was a good thing to do!

Well, Lynn. It sounds like the tool you needed was a Spanish – English dictionary, so you could look up the word “pray” in Spanish.

Around 4 in the afternoon, the line was halted and we were able to able to clean up and head for the hotel. Little was said on the bus. We were all more tired than we realized, having worked non stop all day with just a short lunch break in which to catch your breath.

Basically 10 am to 4 pm for patients. That's not a lot of time.

Liuba decided to try and use the miserable hotel computer and I crashed on the bed in our room.

Another slam to the hotel about its computer (as if Lynn would actually use such a thing).

I was starting to catch a cold and hoped it wouldn't tie me down at all.

Lynn suffers. Oh how she suffers.

Dinner began with grace and after we had all been fed, we dissected the day's events. Everyone had a story to tell about an unforgettable patient or a system we could try. Good suggestions and good laughs always followed dinner and after dinner, bed felt wonderful - cold mattress and all.

Another hotel slam. I guess Lynn must have a heated mattress up in Corbeil. I don’t think I have ever been in a hotel that had anything but unheated mattresses.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Five

As usual, I will quote the text and comment on it.

Sunday morning. We gathered in the basement of the hotel for greetings, prayers and breakfast. All of the suitcases we had brought full of medicines, clothing, toys and medical supplies were stacked at the back of the room, ready to be emptied and organized.

Looking at the Medical Ministries International website, I see they have an expectation that the medical professionals coming will be bringing in their own supplies

Surgery and clinic supplies, equipment and non-expired medicines are carried by participants to specific projects, or shipped (at the donor's tax-deductible expense) to our warehouses.

The first order of the day was to attend a church service at the Mennonite church on the other side of town. There are many Mennonite families living in Peru and from what I could see, their presence is much appreciated. Churches, clinics, schools and other services are maintained through volunteerism and donations.

Eastern Mennonite Missions appears from this website to have made a project out of Cusco. In this website, it talks about the first bilingual school in Cusco started by the Mennonite Church.

This church was a small, tidy hall and open to all denominations. A group of young musicians was performing heartily and a congregation of perhaps 50 people was already in attendance, singing and clapping, swaying and holding their hands up high. I always enjoy services in Latin America. The hymns are melodious and uplifting. The sermons are personal, positive and often funny. People take part with heart and soul and you come away feeling refreshed, surrounded by people you'd love to get to know. At least that's my experience!

I cannot remember Lynn ever talking about church services so positively before. I guess I am haunted by her old interview with Tom Heintjes for Hogan’s Alley, where she said, “Church for me was always politics and lies.” Maybe she’s outgrown these sentiments.

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed a strange watery chicken soup and plans were made to sort through the supplies.

You will see it as we go along, but slowly Lynn is going to turn against the hotel she praised yesterday.

Having just one free day before the work began, some of the group decided to go and check out some ruins and asked us to wait until they got back. Liuba and I, having caught a cold and feeling sort of ruined ourselves, opted to go for a walk instead.

Lynn must really be feeling sick, if she misses an opportunity to do tourism things. Of course, she’s not so sick that she doesn’t go out for a walk, so it makes me wonder if she just isn't feeling that social with the other workers.

Cuzco is about 11000 ft above sea level.

11,150 feet according to this website, but Lynn is close enough. That is pretty high. The tallest mountain in Arizona is 12,633 feet.

We had been advised to take some pills before we arrived to help with altitude sickness, so we didn't feel woozy. What we did feel was tired and out of breath.

Well, Lynn, “tired and out of breath” are 2 of the major symptoms of altitude sickness. And that cold you have which might mean you have a headache, cough, or chest congestion; that could also be altitude sickness.

The sidewalks are crumbly and the traffic is fast, so you take your time when you're exploring...but still we had to stop to rest, feeling light headed and wondering why our legs felt so rubbery.

Dizziness or light-headedness and the inability to walk in a straight line, or to walk at all are also symptoms of altitude sickness.

I bought a warm Diet Coke at a confectionery. Refrigerators cost too much to run, so a cold one is a find!

Also, some in some countries, as a practice, they don’t cool their beverages.

Back at the hotel, they were opening the supplies.

So Lynn took a longer time with her walk than the others did looking at ruins.

I worked with the pharmacist, counting vitamin pills and putting them into small bags. I was not good at this. After failing to master the stick and the counting board, I moved to labeling and picking up empty cartons, bottles and bags.

I think Lynn is referring to a tally stick and counting board. Being familiar with Lynn’s organizational skills as demonstrated through her comic strip, I am not surprised that keeping track of pills and small bags would be beyond her. However, I would guess that it might have surprised the pharmacist. After that, it sounds like she was moved to the trash detail.

It looked like we had a lot of stuff, but there is so much need - no matter what you bring, it's never enough.

I suspect this is a statement that should have come after the supplies were all used up at the end of the mission. Coming at this stage of her mission, it makes little sense.

People were organizing toys and clothing on one side of the room and others were dividing supplies into pediatrics, optical and general practice. Everyone soon found his niche and before long, we had a rhythm going.

And that niche for Lynn is the trash.

The rest of the evening was spent getting to know each other better, and discussing the way our teams would work.

And yet, Lynn still has not mentioned anyone by name, even the pharmacist. She hasn’t even said what Liuba ended up doing. And now onto complaints about the hotel:

The hotel was far from soundproof and there was no heat. On each bed were two heavy, felted blankets and we needed both.

With the 11,150 feet elevation, I was expecting Cusco to be pretty cold. Oddly enough, this website shows the average temperatures in Cusco to be shockingly even, and probably the reason why they had no heat in the hotel, i.e. you don’t need it.

The bathroom though tidy and clean was attached to all the other bathrooms through a central ventilating system, so you could hear whatever was going on in biffs nearby.

While it’s not amazing that Lynn would write about the biffs, it is a little surprising it took her until day 5 to get to it.

Blowing noses, loud emissions, conversations, flushings and a few songs made toiletry interesting. I thought about Wikileaks as I bounced around a shower that was either cold or scalding hot, glad that there was some least until we knew which noise belonged to whom!

Wikileaks publishes submissions from anonymous news sources. The apparent comparison point here is that Lynn thinks of the hotel toilet noises the same way, since they also come from anonymous sources. Suddenly I have this feeling Lynn is going to be occupied during her mission work by trying to figure out which one of her coworkers makes which bathroom noise.

Outside, the proverbial roosters and sundry street dogs kept time with the mechanics in the shops next door and I was more than grateful to have earplugs

Usually the proverbial rooster is the one who crows in the morning and it not known for its rhythm. I guess this means Lynn was allowed to sleep late.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Four

As usual, I will quote the text and comment on it.

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Four

I had expected some of the other MMI folks to be at the Lima airport, but we were on our own.

Lynn came to Lima and spent the last 2 days being a tourist. For some reason, she has an expectation that other people will be doing the same thing. I had thought that she had stopped in Lima because Cuzco had no airport, and she had to take some other form of transportation to get there. Looking at the flights, if you were going to work in Cuzco, which is a 1 hour 15 minute flight from Lima, there is a good chance you would connect through Lima and then go straight to Cuzco. It’s just a guess, but perhaps most of the people working in Medical Ministries International would not stop off in Lima in order to be toured around for 2 days by a woman they had met by chance on a flight to Vancouver.

As we checked our bags, we were told that our plane had been delayed and we would be leaving several hours hence. This would have been fine if we hadn't noticed that there were constant flights to Cuzco, some leaving within minutes of each other.

This is an interesting question. Expedia shows me that the flights from Lima to Cuzco are all on LAN Peru airlines, and there are about 9 a day departing from 6 am to 1:35 pm. The 9:45 am and 9:50 am flights and 1:30 and 1:35 pm flights are within minutes of each other. Lynn has a point. You would think they would put her on another flight instead of making her wait, if they had the space.

We waited from 11 in the morning until well into the afternoon. The sun was going down as we landed.

The 1:35 pm flight is the last to leave and it arrives in Cuzco at 2:50 pm. This means that her plane would have to have departed after the last scheduled flight. I can't imagine going through this trouble, unless there were space issues on the flights.

We were more than ready to settle into the next hotel even though our taxi driver told us it was one of the worst ones in town!

Somehow I have the feeling this taxi driver gets a kickback from a different hotel.

The soil in this part of Peru is as red as the soil of Prince Edward Island. Here, cinderblock walls butt up to adobe. Tiny rectangular houses tumble up and over the hillsides. Some are finished, some partly done. A visual jumble of rebar, corrugated iron, cinder block, glass and stone seems to have formed on its own, creating the outskirt communities, and we wondered how real estate could be bought and sold with any kind of regulation!

To answer that question, I did an internet search on real estate in Cusco, Peru. I found this website without any trouble. Per Lynn’s description though, I see that a number of the Cusco real estate listings have an indication of “unfinished project” on them and have comments like “All property papers are complete and in accordance with government requirements, including construction permit.” It's nice to know that straight away, Lynn has presumed that the Peruvian and Cusco governments have no regulation for land management.

The Inka's Yllari Hotel is a modest 6 story building about 10 minutes by cab from the city center. Small auto repair shops on each side still bustled with activity in the dull blue glow of naked light bulbs. Some of the MMI volunteers were in the lobby and welcomed us warmly as we checked in. Our room was clean, nicely appointed and comfortable, despite the cab driver's comments - and the best accommodation I've had so far with MMI!

This is the Inka's Yllari Hotel website. The pictures of the interior make the hotel appear very nice indeed. The description on the website says it is 8 minutes from the airport and 5 minutes from the city center. Lynn is close enough. Even though she compliments the hotel, I find it amusing to notice that she was not as happy with her prior MMI arrangements.

The narrow lobby lead to heavy glass doors, out and onto a small patio. We were directed from there past a tiny kitchen down into the basement where tables and chairs had been arranged. A buffet dinner of chicken and rice, bananas and local breads was a treat after airport fare.

It’s so nice to see she isn’t concentrating on the beverage choices (or lack thereof). MMI has the word "Ministry" in it, so I expect they are not going to be serving a lot of alcohol for Lynn.

We introduced ourselves to the group of doctors, nurses, ministers, translators and others- some of whom I recognized from my last Mission in Peru. We were all glad to be settled and ready to work.

“recognized” is the word. If she knew their names, then we would get some of the usual Lynn Johnston name-dropping.

Introductions and "pep talk" over, we decided there was time to go into the city to look around. The bus we'd hired was waiting. We piled on and rode into Cuzco, chatting and getting our bearings despite dusty windows and the failing light outside.

The characteristic jumble of unfinished homes and modern buildings abruptly ends where original Inca walls still stand, forming the outer walls of the city. A mix of Spanish architecture and ancient, original stone foundations make the city center an historian's dream. "The Plaza des Armas" is characteristic of all South American towns.

All South American towns? Really Lynn? Every single town in South America.

Taken from the Spanish style, a large rectangular boulevard, often with fountains and a gazebo, is the centerpiece around which government buildings, churches, shops and military headquarters stand.

Just so the Spanish don’t get all the credit here, this is the history and back ground of Cusco’s Plaza de Armas taken from this website:

The Plaza de Armas was called ‘Huacaypata’ after its construction during the Inca Empire. The original plaza was twice the current size, and functioned as the cultural center of Inca life. Cuzco, which was the capital of the Inca Empire, was designed in the shape of a Puma to reflect their Inca animal mythology. Historians proclaim the plaza was intentionally built at the location of the heart of the Puma, in the center of the city. The location of the Plaza is no coincidence. The Plaza is used for most of the city’s events, gatherings, and festivals. Historians feel that the Plaza functioned as the cultural center, or "heart," of the Inca Empire. In 1532 Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro defeated the Inca Empire and took control of Cuzco, renaming the Plaza to "Plaza de Armas." The Spanish reduced the size of the Plaza by building two Churches, la Catedral and la Compañia. La Catedral was built where the palace of Inca Wirancocha once stood.

Now back to Lynn:

In Cuzco, these ornate and stately buildings, witness to hundreds of years of conflict and change, now house fine restaurants and tourist shops. We jumped out at the main entrance to the church, promising to be back at the bus in an hour. You can't see this place in an hour! Narrow streets lead to beautiful courtyards, ancient stone corridors take you up flights of hand hewn stairs into tiny neighborhoods where Inca walls amaze even the locals with their shape, size and engineering artistry.

Those hard-bitten and not-easily-amazed locals.

It was soon too dark to see. We let fatigue take over, joined our new friends on the church steps and waited for the bus "home". Interesting how "home" can be anywhere if you're happy!

I guess Lynn is indirectly saying she is happy. Of course, she is still doing mainly touristy kinds of things. Will her mood change once MMI puts her to work? Let's see what happens tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Lynn's Trip to Peru Part 3

As usual, I will quote the text and comment on it.

Liu and I spent the morning in the markets before meeting Nilda and Rosa for lunch.

Back to the markets for shopping and now she’s called Liu instead of Liuba. I think this is first time I have seen Lynn refer to her by this shorter term.

Ana Maria, a busy social worker, could not take another day off - so, in her borrowed car, Rosa drove us along the top of the ocean front escarpment to show us another view of Lima.

Ana Maria is the one with the car yesterday, so Lynn has to make a point that Rosa has to borrow a car and apparently has a lot more free time than working Ana Maria. I don't have a good feeling for what Nilda or Ana Maria do. Obviously Nilda has the finances to be able to travel to Vancouver, but neither woman seems to own a car.

New hotels and a modern sea-side shopping complex bordered a large, well manicured boulevard. Along the boardwalk, we ate freshly made ice cream, drank hot chocolate and watched kids play on big, colourful coin operated rides.

Lynn is probably talking about the Parque Salazar(Park Salazar). This website has this description and some pictures:

Named after the great Peruvian aviator Alfredo Salazar the park offers a stunning view over the Pacific Ocean. On clear days you can see the whole bay of Lima from Chorrillos and Barranco in the south to Callao with its islands in the north. Built into the cliffs is the famous ‘Centro Comercial Larcomar’. Larcomar is one of the modern shopping and entertainment centers in Lima. You will find exquisite clothes and shops for all kind of accessories, casual and sport clothing, lovely souvenir and arts and crafts shops, bookstores and the best cigars in town. Relax while having an excellent meal or snack in one of the restaurants, a good coffee or even an ice-cream or burger overlooking the beautiful bay. See the latest movies in one of the biggest cinema complexes in Miraflores, have fun at the bowling center or enjoy the theatrical performances at the theatre ‘La Plaza Isil’. Small kids will have fun with the coin-operated rides, bigger ones with arcade games. Since 2006 Larcomar houses as well an exhibition hall of the ‘Museo de Oro’ (Gold museum). The entrance is just next to the theatre. And for all night owls: nightclubs and discotheques invite you to an exciting evening and night. Parque Salazar is a beautiful starting point for a walk north to the many other parks along the ‘malecon’ of Miraflores.

It could have been anywhere, except for the endless desert beaches, precipitous grey cliffs and a dryness that makes your throat tighten and your eyes sting. I wouldn't spend so much time describing the delights of Lima were it not for the vast difference in living conditions we were to see later on.

In other words, Lynn is preparing for the fact she is going to do some kind of social commentary on the differences between living in Lima and living in Cuzco. She is usually terrible at writing about such things, so I can hardly wait for the Cuzco description.

That evening, Ana Maria joined us again and we were taken to another fine restaurant, known for its chicken - roasted over charcoal and spiced just right.

Trying to find this restaurant, all I found was that the Peruvian style of roasting chicken is considered to be a very common Peruvian food, oftentimes imported into Peruvian restaurants in the United States and Canada.

We had become connoisseurs of dark chicha - the fruity non-alcoholic corn drink - and ordered large glasses full.

As opposed to ordering small glass empty? Anyway, it’s nice to see that Lynn isn’t drinking the alcoholic form of chicha today as she did yesterday. However, I will note that even though Lynn talked about the roasted chicken, she still didn’t talk about eating it.

We toasted each other and said once again how much we three strangers had enjoyed our time together.

Yes, folks. Just like in the comic strip, Lynn does this in real life.

We promised to stay in touch. We exchanged gifts and addresses and warm, affectionate hugs before going back to the hotel to pack for our trip to Cuzco. Liuba and I talked again about our three hostesses and how much we would miss them.

Yes, Liuba is on her own with Lynn after this, so I am sure she missed those three.

Who'd have guessed that a chance encounter on a flight to BC would lead to such a wonderful relationship and two full days of fun!

And now going to Lynn’s favorite theme of fate, with her chance encounter. I suspect there was a lot less chance to that than Lynn is trying to put across. Nevertheless, it seems like the 3 ladies were pretty gracious to Lynn to tour her around Lima for the last 2 days.