Why hello, it’s been awhile.
Much has passed, but it wasn’t until now that I’ve had time for written reflection. *sigh* Here’s a few updates:
We survived Inti Raymi… by missing it.
- After barely escaping the human insanity at the Cusco firework show, we learned our lesson about the lack of crowd control in developing countries. So, for this holiday, we witnessed a little of the street ceremonies for the “Festival of the Sun," relaxed, and then trekked uphill to skirt the edges of the giant after-party at an area called Sacsayhuaman. The problem was, by the time we made it up to the cliffside overlooking Cusco, the party was almost over. As we walked up the road toward the festival’s grounds, we were pushing against the current. Every Cusqueñan and his brother were streaming down the hillside, and us, the gringos, were the dumb foreigners wandering toward the ending event. We had missed the main ceremony with the sun god priest, and instead found grass trampled by left-over celebrations. Volleyballs and soccers were flying everywhere, random performances were nearing a close, and dark clouds threatened with rain. We marveled at the aftermath of Cusco’s equivalent to a Fourth of July field day, played a little bit of volleyball, and then joined the exit river along with the rest of the city. “Better luck next year?" I joked.
All of us interns have started volunteering at The Meeting Place.
- When I attended church for the first time in Cusco I met a fellow American, here studying Spanish for one month. Despite the brief time of our friendship, she and I were able to bond over our faith and its context in a different country. One awesome opportunity that arose from it was the ability to work at a little cafe in Cusco.
- Nestled in the touristy plaza of San Blas, The Meeting Place is a coffeeshop run by an American missionary family. It’s known for its waffles and milkshakes, and provides a culinary reprieve for tourists tired of Peruvian cuisine. What I love about The Meeting Place is that gives all its profits to two community development projects in Cusco, and is run almost entirely by volunteers. I am now a volunteer at the cute cafe on my days off. It has been a blast learning how to be a barista, taking orders from people from around the world, and concocting “grasshoppers" (mint cookie milkshakes) for customers… and all for a good cause.
With the end of June, came the end of enrollment for the Alma Sana Study.
- We’ve hit July, and are now entering the second phase of the study. During June, we talked with over 400 moms in two clinics, explained to them the vaccine-reminder bracelets, and recruited around 100 into our study to test whether or not the little band would remind them of future immunization appointments. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Cusco for 6 weeks now, and that we are moving deeper into the research. This month we will still be in the clinics, but instead of asking moms to join, will be seeing if the participating moms return with their babies on time with the help of the bracelet.
In the midst of all this, the clinic I work in has been experiencing paro madness.
- An unexpected (yet expected) roadblock to our research has been the confusing stoppage of service at the government health clinics. At my clinic alone, there has been four days of “strike"- meaning no attention to patients. And it’s so random. My intern partner and I will grab the bus early in the morning, to find the Centro de Salud’s blue doors closed. Why? The answer is unclear. Some say the health workers are demanding higher pay, while today it seems it was simply a regulatory inefficiency, since the clinic was behind on submitting paperwork. Whatever the reason, encountering the “paro" sign has been bittersweet. While it means a day off of work, it also means more and more moms, children, and other civilians are delayed in receiving treatment. Even worse, when the clinic reopens after a “paro," the place is chaos as the offices are overwhelmed with the stacked up appointments. At one point, another intern mentioned that when the clinic was accepting some scheduled patients and turning away walk-ins, a far-advanced pregnant woman walked in, saying her baby was no longer moving… and yet, in the madness of the place, the nurses were giving her little attention as to how to receive proper treatment. I guess witnessing these gaps in care is part of seeing the harsh reality of global health.
On a positive note, I visited Machu Picchu. It’s a wonder of the world. #NBD
By the way, I took this photo!