Friday, July 6, 2012

In Stitches On Lake Titicaca :(

I began my trip to Puno by visiting a farm on the outside of town, eating some edible clay on some potatoes (not for me), looking at some Alpacas, and watching Soul Surfer at the hotel. Once my friends arrived, we set out for Lake Titicaca where we visiting three islands. I was excited since I had never been there and my mother has been talking about a clay model of the Lake she constructed for a projects fair in the 60s ever since I can remember.

Our first stop were the floating islands of Euros. I was not so sure about them. They were constructed by piling a few layers of reeds over some floating sod and didn't really seem that stable. They also didn't seem incredible authentic. As soon as we arrived, the islanders whipped out some looms and started weaving (I think they had just been sitting around before we got there). When our guide began describing how they also ate the reeds they made their islands out of to prevent goiters (which I didn't know were that common) and as a good source of iodine, on cue one of the women jumped up and began chomping away. I got the disturbing feeling that I had stumbled on to some sort of zoo for humans and it made me pretty uncomfortable. 

I then noticed that our boat had pulled away. Our guide told us that to get to the next island, if we wanted, we could buy a ticket for a ride on the traditional read boat. I was confused as to what our option would be if we decided that we were not interested in the traditional reed boat. Swimming? 

However, before our departure we were told we must buy something from the islanders. We were assigned to the islanders in groups of two. They immediately began crying at us to buy their crafts (which honestly were not that good). While the crying made me feel even more uncomfortable than the reed chomping, the not very good crafts were also pretty expensive. I settled for two necklaces and then hightailed it to the reed boat. 

Once we boarded the boat the women of the island came to sing us a good bye song. I can only presume that "Row Row Row Your Boat" is also a traditional song of the Euros Island. They then followed it with an "Hasta La Vist Baby". I was left sorta wondering how they were watching Arnold Schwartzenegger movies from the 90s on the floating islands. Maybe there was a floating island wreck center? I was left unsure how I would enjoy the rest of Lake Titicaca.

However, once we arrived at the next island. I was pleasantly surprised. The islanders were far more laid back. Instead of crying at us they told us that they had some hats. We could buy them or not buy them. I was so impressed by their sales technique that I bought one. I was also cold. 

We were each assigned to a host family who took us to their homes and fed us boiled potatoes and friend cheese by candlelight. My group had to use a combination of our 8th grade Spanish and mime in order to make dinner conversation (I think the miming may have been more successful). They then dressed us up in some native clothes and then took us to the town hall where they pulled us around in a circle while some teenagers played the pan flute. After my friends and I bought a beer our host families sat down and started looking incredible bored. However, the island we were on had no electricity and seemingly few choices of leisure activities so I thought it was possible that they might just always look like that. How many hats can a person really get excited about knitting?

We then returned to the house where it was time for bed. I, however, was unable to sleep very well. This was because after settling in to bed wearing my hat and fluffy alpaca sweater I realized I had to pee. Since the thought of going outside in the cold, dark night to use the outhouse armed only with a flashlight was nothing short of awful, I decided to hold it. ALL NIGHT LONG. Luckily, for my roommates, David and Mayumi, I was unaware that our room came equipped with several bedpans. It could have turned into a Bridesmaid situation and possible put a damper on the rest of our trip.

The next morning it was time to head back to the boat. I am not sure if it was my lack of sleep or my natural clumsiness, but on the way I stepped in a ditch (while talking of course) and fell on a rock. When I took a look at it on the boat, it looked sorta bad and deep. However, since I was in the middle of Lake Titicaca there was not much I could do besides clean the cut with a baby wipe, dab some anti-bacterial ointment on it, and throw a band aid on it. I then tried to enjoy the scenery.

The problem was that I inherited a touch of White Coat Syndrome, an irrational fear of doctors and health problems, from my mother. When she goes to the doctors she usually breaks out into a cold sweat and her blood pressure spikes to heart attack levels (My mother's White Coat Syndrome has actually improved since she has become pals with her doctor. She might be one of the few ladies charming enough to make friends with someone while profusely sweating and wearing only a johnny). My symptoms are more mental. I just become convinced that the doctor has very, very terrible news for me. Luckily, I am usually pretty healthy (yes, I am knocking on wood right now) so my condition does not show itself very often. 

I checked my cut a few hours later. It was still bleeding. All I could think about this was this girl:

I was soon convinced that a Peruvian superbug was in the process of devouring my knee and probably my entire leg.

I knew I was being nutso, but that didn't stop me. I remembered a conversation I had with my best uncle (by marriage) who told be my entire family was completely irrational. At the time I had feigned confusion, but I knew exactly what I he was talking about. However, it is not entirely our fault. Almost all of our ancestors don't just hail from Ireland, but from the West of Ireland. In addition to being inhabited by people who believe in fairies and alcoholism, they also have the highest rate of schizophrenia in the WORLD (the Internet told me researchers blame the misery of colonial oppression, malnutrition, and old sperm {apparently a lot of guys did not get married until they were almost 50 because of property laws and old sperm gives you a much higher chance of making a crazy baby. Again, mom you were right about the dangers of bunk sperm}). This just can't be DNA that gives a person a talent for logic or reason. But I am afraid it is DNA that can make a person predisposed to something like White Coat Syndrome.

When I returned to the mainland 7 hours later and my knee was still bleeding I knew that I was going to have to go see a doctor. Luckily, we were traveling with a guide who was able to take me to the local tourist clinic.

When I went in to see the doctor she told me that the skin was muerte and I needed stitches. Not only had I never had stitches before, but I was not exactly thrilled that I would be getting them in Puno, Peru for the first time. It is a dusty and ramshackle town where more than an average amount of its people appear to be suffering from a variety of serious, serious medical problems. In addition to this, when my friends arrived and stepped off the bus, the first thing they saw was a pool of blood. Therefore, upon hearing my diagnosis translated to me by my guide I did what any grown woman and seasoned traveler would do. I cried. At first they were just big silent tears, but once the needle came out I added some whimpering that increased with volume each time the needle got closer. This is when they turned up the volume on the TV in the waiting room where my friend David was patiently waiting for me.

As I was trying to pull myself I looked over and saw a toaster over. All I could think was, what the hell is the toaster oven for??? Have I stumbled into some kind of tourist clinic ER/ tuna melt station? Just as I was trying to forget about the mysterious toaster oven I looked on the table that held all the doctor supplies and saw a bottle of Aqua Net. If there is a medical use for Aqua Net I surely couldn't come up with it. I tried to start reading the board filled with all of the post cards from all over the world thanking the doctors for their good medical help while they were traveling, but all I kept thinking was that the patients they had not helped successfully probably weren't around to write any postcards.

I could feel that the anaesthetic was starting to wear off a little bit on my knee and I was starting to feel the stitches a little more. However, since it is the needles that really get to me and I felt I had already reached my quotient for crying and whimpering for the day, I decided to just power through. In an effort to distract myself I started chit chatting with my guide. He began to tell me how his girlfriend had lost her eye as a child due to lack of health care in Peru and was about to loose the sight in her other one. Her last hope was to get on a list to be seen by a team of Colombian doctors volunteering in Lima. I found this story to be a great source of comfort.

After the stitches were finished my friend David treated me to a glass of red wine, like a true friend (antibiotic be damned!). I would love to say that after it was finished I became less crazy, but that would be a lie. I had nightmares for several nights. One of which was about me being unable to graduate from high school because the Burger King drive through was so slow I could never make it to class on time. This felt frightening Young Adult of me. 

I started feeling better yesterday because I was able to see an American doctor who took a look at my knee and didn't seem to think it was about to fall off. I guess I'm just an American American after all. One who likes doctors that have attended med schools I have heard of and who don't use their offices to make tasty sandwiches and fix their hair in between patients.

1 comment:

  1. Ooohh...nothing like a good tale of medical care abroad! I can't believe they had toaster ovens and Aqua Net in the room! Hope your knee heals soon! xx