BAJA! BAJA! BAJA! (Stop!)
SUBE! SUBE! SUBE! (Hop on!)
I scrambled onto the rickety bus labeled Saylla Huaso, only to be shoved into a dense pool of people. Every seat was taken, and every inch of floor and ceiling filled with humans, all holding fast to the interior’s railing as the vehicle rushed away from the curb. As I swayed with the bus’ sea of standing passengers, I gripped onto my purse, lost in thought. It was an early weekday morning, and another intern and I were headed to the clinic for work.
The combi bus commute never fails to be interesting. Every time it feels like we’re trying to beat the record for clowns packed in a car, and every time I enjoy seeing the stream of Peruvian faces—each face with a different story, soul, and purpose for the day.
In the beginning all of us interns took taxi cabs together, splitting the tab and traveling as a pack of six. Gradually, each of us transitioned to using Cusco’s haphazard bus system, which consists of random private buses with fun names (i.e. Batman) and a common route. Instead of paying 1 sole (when splitting) to 5 soles for a cab, each of us pay 50 centimos for a combi ride, equivalent to about 20 U.S. cents. Cheap, right?
But cheap rides come with consequences. In the madness of a packed combi, human nature is not at its finest. On one of my morning commutes, I was squeezed in a combi’s crowd when a man leaped on board and crammed himself next to me. I was preoccupied with maintaining a minuscule of personal space (a futile effort I must admit) and not stepping on others toes… before noticing that the same man left at the next stop. That’s odd, I thought. Once the crowd died down a little, my fellow intern reappeared, and I realized she was giving me a look of concern.
“Dani, you should close your bag.”
“What? Oh, that’s weird, because I know I closed it before we got on…”
I looked down at my purse, and saw the zipper wide open. My iPhone was gone.
During the packed conditions, I was so focused on surviving the squeeze that, unwisely, I didn’t watch my bag. And so my precious little Apple device was probably kidnapped by the man who rode for one stop.
This was a complete, complete bummer, mainly because I use my iPhone as a camera. That’s right, all the photos I take are with my iPhone, and not a fancy DSLR (I dearly wish I had one).
So, that explains the recent absence of photos on this blog feed. The phone kidnapping occurred this past Tuesday, and now I must resort to using my ancient digital camera with a sluggish shutter speed and conspicuous red exterior.
Oh well, it’s a part of living abroad, right? #losing
In other news, I had a positive cultural experience today at the clinic. Saturdays are usually pretty slow, with few patients wandering in. The other intern and I had shared the Alma Sana study with the total of 10 moms there, and were about to make our exit when a nurse beckoned us to the clinic’s little auditorium, a room that before today I didn’t know existed.
We walked in, to see a priest and makeshift shrine on the stage. The clinic staff was about to have catholic mass.
I was pleasantly surprised. Although I didn’t know many of the benedictions and sayings (especially since they were in Spanish), the service was a neat time of unity for the medical personnel. The priest led us in prayer and also gave a brief sermon on having the peace and love of God while we work, as well as patience. This ultimately meant remembering to think of the patients’ health before our own.
Such an event could never happen in a public workplace in the U.S. On one hand, I felt it was incredible that the belief in God was so common and uniform that a government entity could be allowed to worship Him together. On the other hand, I was wondering how many workers actually took their faith seriously, and knew Jesus Christ as their Savior.
After the mass, we were handed torta (cake) and a cup of steaming ponche (a cinnamon, fruit drink). The snack was delicious. Once finished, again we prepared to leave. And again, a clinic worker stopped us.
(In Spanish) “Wait, there are going to be dances!”
At first I thought he said the word descansar, which means to rest.
I nodded my head, “Yes, yes it’s finally time to rest!” My thought path being it was finally the weekend.
“No, no, stay to watch danzas!”
The other intern and I looked at each other. We were so ready to go, but didn’t want to be rude.
In near unison, we said, “Why not?”
Returning to the auditorium, we were followed by none other than 8 mascots. Yep, Mickey, Minnie, Tigger, and other random creatures (including a guinea pig!) took the stage, and started dancing to a medley of songs: from salsa to gangnam style! Recall that the room was full of adults, and every single one of them LOVED it. I was both confused and delighted by the performance. By the end, the doctors and nurses were dancing with the mascots, and I was inevitably thrown in.
Despite the long hours of crying babies and stressful patient cases, in that moment all the staff, including me, was bursting with joy.