I went to Machu Picchu via Cusco with Erin Morgan (a friend who’s now a 2nd year resident at my residency program, In His Image), Konika Wright (an American and the wife of Nolan, who’s physical therapist at Diospi), and Luz (the Peruvian general practitioner—she’s in her interim year during which they work in a rural hospital before applying for residency programs).
Machu Pichhu is a 25 minute bus ride up a 1,500 meter altitude change from the touristy town of Agua Calientes. We spent a night and part of two days in Agua Calientes, and half a day at Machu Picchu. They’re so beautiful because they’re on the east (ie Amazon) side of the Andes mountains---so it was junglely and just a little bit humid and about 70-80 degrees. Machu Picchu was pretty because when we first got up the mountain at 6:30 am, the surrounding mountains were covered in clouds. But as the morning wore on the clouds burned off and displayed the awe-inspiring surrounding mountains and peaks. I know that what makes Machu Picchu so famous is the fact that they were about to cut and shape the stones so perfectly and get them to the top of the mountain without modern technology----but as the pictures I posted on facebook reveal, I think the view was the most beautiful part of the whole trip.
After we got back from our trip we planned to be in Cusco for Sunday, which ended up being a mistake. Cusco is evidently very Catholic, so the month of February and evidently at least part of the March is the “month of the Youth.” Kids, adolescents and even 20 year-olds throw water balloons at each other all month (guys vs girls). But this Sunday was a million times worse. You couldn’t walk through any of the plazas without getting drenched and covered in foam. From talking to the Peruvians it sounds like Cusco and Lima are worse than the other cities because they have less respect for those not wanting to participate. Also its common for them to cover innocent passerby’s with shoe polish and colored paints.
Lent started today. I’m not Catholic, but Jessica Skidmore got me in the habit of “giving something up” for Lent. I participated last year with the intent of not ever picking back up the bad habit. This year I’m participation again. After getting pretty angry and frustrated last week and weekend at the Peruvians I decided I needed to give up my spirit of Vindication/need for seeking out my own “justice.” It started with one of my poor Quechan patients (The 25 yo girl I’d diagnosed with mixed Type1/type 2 diabetes a month ago) presenting with severe left eye pain, near blindness in that eye, and a fixed dilated pupil—very concerning for acute glaucoma, which is a medical emergency in the USA. Our ophthalmologist just went on a 6 month furlough so I spent all afternoon trying to get her a same day appointment with one of the ophthalmologists in Cusco, but failed miserably. Finally, with Dr. Martina’s help I sent her to Abancy hospital that has 2 optho on call at all times.
There’s two classes in Peru: the very rich and the very poor. And the very rich consistently screw over the very poor. I got frustrated again during the weekend because you can’t trust Peruvians. They don’t even trust each other. They all look at any money you hand them very closely to make sure there’s no tears and its not counterfeit. When I bought our Machu Picchu packet there were all other of details I was later caught off guard by. For instance, we arrived at Hydraelectrica (a city just before Agua Calientes) after a 9+ hour car ride and told that we had to walk 2.5 miles to Agua Calientes carrying all our stuff. If the lady who sold us the package had said anything about walking (with I had no memory of), she must have not mentioned the 2.5 hour walk with luggage part of it, but that’s not something you miss very easily. So my second frustration wasn’t just that they exploit their own poor, but that they even exploit those who come to help their poor.
I was talking to Dr. Martina this week. She says the problem is that there’s so much bureaucracy in Peru. And a lot like the Pharisees they care more about their rules than they do about their people. Unicef (a well known international relief agency) sent the hospital a crate of Hepatitis B vaccines. The Peruvian government held the crate up so long in customs that all the vaccines spoiled at the expense of the lives of their people (Hep B is super common here in Peru and many people are dying from it).
So rather than letting myself get madder and madder at the Peruvians, for Lent I’m letting God right these wrongs and I’ll heed the Lord’s words, “If they ask you to walk one mile, walk two. If they sue you and take your jacket, give them your coat. Do this so that you’ll look different from the rest of the world who is nice to those they love and who are nice to them first.” (my paraphrase).
Please pray for Dr. Klaus. He’s in Lima right now trying to get a crate through customs that contains materials and things needed for the inauguration of the new Diospi school in the next week. Also pray that my 25 year patient doesn’t lose her vision.