Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Health Clinic

As promised:

"How I went to a Peruvian hospital because I thought my arm was broken"

Following the gypsy incident, my body decided to quit me. By the time I woke up the next morning my hip was weirdly immobile, my scapula felt suspiciously like it was trying to evacuate my body, and I had leg bruises out of a Rorschach test. But these things lasted a day or so -- too short for bragging rights or to consider myself a Purple Heart Veteran of the Gypsy Wars. 

However, what didn't go away was a sharp pain in my wrist every time I flexed it and put weight on it. Most of the time my wrist was fine and I'd forget that I shouldn't use that arm; then I'd lean on it and someone would stab my median nerve with a tiny fork. After several days, I became moderately concerned that perhaps I had fractured one of the carpal bones. Or I was gypsy cursed... and considering I'd already been shaman cursed, I didn't think my body could take another round.  The only thing to do was to go to the clinic. 

I told my boss that I would probably need to go to the doctor's office after work that day. 
Boss: Why? What's wrong?
Aly: Well, I think I broke something in my hand. 
Boss: What? How?
Aly: know those gypsies I was obsessed with...?

Yes, I always find a way to be the classy one.

Having notified my boss that I am in fact an idiot, I was free to go to the clinic that afternoon. Which was a pretty daunting task considering I was proud when I used Spanish to successfully buy a pack of gum. A friend wrote up a note in Spanish for me, explaining my pain and what had happened. I was prepared to go alone and just thrust the paper at everyone within sight until I eventually got fixed, but this seemed inefficient. Thankfully, some people agreed to go with me and help translate/give moral support. You two were, and still are, my heroes for this. :) 

After work, we all went into the clinic and started standing in lines. We get shuffled around a lot; first to one line to pay, then to another line to say what is wrong with me, and then finally back to the first line for a reason I never understood. But the lines were short and the process didn't really take that long. The only incident that really slowed us down was the fact that we didn't know our address. I had never seen a street sign in that area, and we didn't get mail delivered so I'm not entirely sure we had an address. Anyway, the conversation went much like this:

Lady: Address?
Me: No
Lady: Where do you live?
Me: .....its difficult
Lady: No, I really need an address for this form. Where do you live.
Me: It is by the gas station.
Lady: ......
Me: The blue gas station.

I guess we could have used "lives across the street from the house with really loud monkey" instead, but I feel like this would have made her judge us even more. Anyway, after the forms were filled out, we go to a side hall and wait for a doctor.  After maybe 10 minutes, he greets us and we go into his office. After examining me, he orders x-rays and we are sent to stand in yet another line. 

The x-ray line was also quick and I soon found myself in a large room with a really nice, if very stressed, little man. He sticks my arm on a table, puts an protective apron on himself and leaves the room. If I had known Spanish, I probably would have asked him why I did not get a protective apron. But meh, I figured I have no plans to use my ovaries anyway, so who cares if they get a little fried? 

Within ten minutes I have a sweet x-ray of my arm (and maybe cancer). I take said x-ray back to the doctor and he begins to look it over. He rolls up a newspaper, makes a telescope-thing for himself, and uses this to focus on certain parts of the x-ray. While waving the paper telescope around he says, "I am a pirate doctor." Well, I thought,he certainly is very qualified to fix my arm. 


Turn out, even pirates couldn't fix my arm. I had a hematoma around my carpal bones, so blood was basically just pooling up in there. It wasn't dangerous, just uncomfortable, and he told me I'd be ok in 4-6 weeks. He wrote a prescription for pain killers and sent me on my way. Sure enough, about 4 weeks later my hand felt better. And the whole clinic trip was surprisingly easy and quick. Thanks, Pirate Doctor! 

Two doctor consultations and prescription: 30 soles ($10)
X-ray: 15 soles ($5).
Payment for fortune telling: 3 soles ($1)
Total price of gypsy adventure: 48 soles ($16) 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Emo kids, found in every species.

Sorry I put the last post up without actually trying to edit it. New drinking game - take a shot for every time I switched tenses.

To make amends, I give you the saddest dog in the world.

Click for even bigger sadness.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


People sometimes ask me what made me become an archaeologist. I tell them "I'd love to answer that question, but I am too busy frolicking with gypsies." 


Last summer I spent an extended period of time in Ayacucho, Peru. For those of you have been there, you know it is a pretty quiet place. The restaurants can be hit-or-miss, and the nightlife certainly could pump it up a notch. But occasionally something amazing will happen there. Some would even say that magical things occur.

For instance, one morning on our way to work we that noticed a group of multi-colored tents had sprung up in a field near our house. With their Alladin-turned-hipster vibe, the tents were certainly out of the oridinary for Ayacucho. The next morning we spotted even more tents - like a colony of happy mushrooms popping up in the night. We were intrigued, but at first did not manage to see who was putting up these tents. Finally, we saw a blond child running around the field

Now, if there is something you don't see in Peru, it is blond children. Most foreigners in Peru are college-age backpackers without children, and Ayacucho is an out of the way destination even for most backpackers. It appeared unlikely that this kid was some wayward tourist's small child. Who the hell were these people?

We began to investigate. Or, we began to stalk. We walked slowly by the field, observing. We tried to casually watch the group when they were in the market. We were creepers, and all of our creeping soon pointed us to one irrefutable conclusion -- these were gypsies. Real life gypsies with bangles and scarves and tents stuffed with pillows and rugs. They were awesome and living right by our house!

I wanted to meet them. Badly- really, really badly. Our whole team was interested in the gypsies, but I think my fascination went well beyond what was healthy. I HAD to meet them. I talked about nothing but the gypsies for days. Whenever we passed the camp of tents, I would wistfully whisper "gypsies...", as if I were calling to them. Calling to join them, calling to learn their gypsy secrets. In my mind they were not gypsies, they were THE gypsies. The obsession grew and grew until a real danger existed that I would start having fits if I did not meet a gypsy. 

So one night a couple of us ventured to the field. It was dark and bonfires were burning in the field, as were candles inside the tents -- all of which gave the scene a magical feel. This sense of mystery only fed my hysteria. As we walked up a woman appeared, called to us, and offered to read our fortune. Like sheep (llamas might actually be more appropriate here) we followed her voice. Before we realized what had happened the gypsy wind had us! 

You might be thinking that following strange gypsy women into a field of tents in the middle of the night is not be the best idea.  Yea, well, I don't like the best ideas. 

We followed her into the dark gypsy labyrinth, and soon find out that they are actually Yugoslavian! I am not sure how they came from Yugoslavia to Peru, because I am positive that riding in airplanes is not allowed in the gypsy codes. Perhaps they came by boat? Or maybe some of those tents also acted as hot air balloons? No idea; I'm afraid it will always remain a mystery. But one thing was clear - these were obviously the most legitimate of gypsies. 
The woman wanted us to go into her tent to have our fortune read. I ,of course, go first because I am overly excited. I'm about to go into the magical gypsy tent and learn their secrets and this is the best day ever!!

Sadly, in my excitement I didn't see her step over the tent's rope. I trip and fall HARD face-first into the field. I actually don't remember falling; all I remember is feeling the cold ground on my face and wondering why my arm hurt. After realizing I was on the ground, I just laid there awhile and tried to figure out if all my limbs were reasonably functioning. But the longer I stayed on the ground the more my body started to throb. The only thing that hurt more than my body? My ego. 
Bu am I the type of person who will let throbbing arms and tattered pride keep my from enjoying gypsy secrets? Hell no! 

I collected myself, got reasonably brushed off, and was finally able to continue into the tent to sit on the floor by the woman. She had me pull out some playing cards, and she began to read my fortune. One look at my cards and she goes, " are the wild one." She cackled while looking me straight in the face - oh crap she CAN see into my soul.

She then proceeded to tell me a fortune filled with deceit, vindictive friends, and heartbreak. But you know, she totally glossed over the death-by-tent possibility. She offered to help me change the future, if I pay her even more money. 

Meh, I decided I'd take my chances. The future can't be any worse than her damn tent. 

This story will be continued in the future, in a piece entitled: "How I went to a Peruvian hospital because I thought my arm was broken"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Celebration time

I am sorry for all the slow posting lately. I am busy trying to pick a grad school - one that will provide me with the best adventures, naturally.

Anyway, I am too busy celebrating to write. So I give you this picture of the world's largest wine vat (Heidelberg, Germany). I have been to this thing more than once. More than twice. Hell, more than three times.

This vat might be the most stable thing in my existence.

I've never been able to capture the entire thing in one shot. But the tiny person on top gives you an idea.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Best o' Peru

I know I haven't done a mega-list for a long time, even though I enjoy making them. I guess it is time to change this situation.

Best O' Peru

1. Best place to take a shower: Puno.

 Ok, so I haven't been to Puno (I know, I know). But every person who has gone there raves about how awesome their hot shower was. At first I was chalking it up to some magical bathroom, but everyone has stayed at different hotels. Therefore, I have to assume that there must be....something in the water.  Seriously though - if you spend extended time in Peru you will know how beautiful a hot shower can be. It is the stuff of legend. Go to Puno.

2. Best smelling street food: Anticuchos de corazón.

You all know I'm a vegetarian (admittedly not the best one), and this means I have a hard time eating beef.  It is the smell that gets to me; cooked hamburger smells repulsive and like DEATH. But that is not the case with these little sticks of wonder.  My first summer in Peru, I spent about a week wondering what delicious siren was tempting my nostrils. Eventually, someone pointed out the cow hearts on a stick. I balked; I just couldn't do it. Lame, I know. Maybe one day I will be able to get over my mental block and taste these, for oh how they beckon me. 

3. Best pizza topping: Peaches.

In Ayacucho you can go to Magia Negra and get a Hawaiian pizza, but made with peaches and ham. I have done truly bizarre things to get this awesome, awesome pizza (but those are stories for another day). Before you scoff, I'd like to point out that you probably eat pineapple on your pizza. And pineapple only tastes half as good as peaches.

4. Best ancient Peruvian civilization: NOT THE INCA.

Yes, they are everywhere and everyone wants to talk about them. But before you visit Peru,  you should familiarize yourself with the long history of the Andes -- the history before the Incas.  Check out the amazing ceramics of the Moche, the Chimu textiles at Chan Chan, the awesome site of Cerro Baul in Moquegua, or the terraces and roads of the Wari Empire. The Inca are cool, but it makes me sad that everyone focuses in on such a small aspect of Andean history.

5. Best place to have an uncomfortable race moment: Lima airport. 

Yes, it means something like "Black women hands." 

6. Best place to have the most spectacular view of your life. Machu Picchu.

I know I took best civilization away from them, but damn, the Incas built one hell of a place up there.  Machu Picchu is simply fantastic; it is so beautiful my mind is still not convinced it is real.

I was lucky enough to go on a day where it was rainy, which made the trip more awesome in three ways. First, rain kept a lot of the tourists away and allowed for pictures without clusters of random strangers. Second, the weather made the whole place more mysterious (we were literally inside the rain clouds, as the mountain is so tall), and as you walked around you had the feeling that the Inca was going to walk from around a corner and stare you down. Awesome. And finally, the rain made the workings of the incredible drainage and fountain system  visible- this alone was worth the trip. Check the weather before you go, rain will be your friend.  

7. Best Souvenir: Llama Hat.

Nothing says "I'm a classy yet practical woman" like llamas frolicking upon your forehead. Get one for everyone you love. 

8. Best parasite: Giardia!

Two years running. Let's just leave it at that.

9. Best street vendor: The Shoelace Man.

He is in Arequipa and wears what appears to be a coat of shoelaces. Actually, the giant shoelace outfit makes him look somewhat like a yeti -- a bright, disco yeti. Apparently he really hates being a yeti, because he walks around yelling in a very, very angry voice. I can only imagine he is saying something like "buy these, goddammit. They are HEAVY." 
Photo Credit: Lucy O'Doherty

10. Best unexpected use of Disney music: Garbage trucks.

 Peruvian garbage trucks play music when they are driving around. I suppose this is to let people know that they need to run out and drop their bags on the corner.

Every truck and city has its own musical tastes. For example, Ayacucho appears to like patriotic sounds. Arequipa, on the other hand, digs the Disney tunes. I've heard the Little Mermaid theme and the Aladdin theme (the Ariel theme is actually really fitting - think about all the stuff she has in that movie. She needs a hoarder intervention).

I've even heard tales of Happy Hardcore Techno trucks (I really want to find this truck and have a flashmob rave around it).

So I leave you with this important life question: If you were a kickass garbage truck driver, what music would you play?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

O Hai Guys!

Ok, I have to admit I am curious about who reads this blog (oh ego, you be out of control). Some days I have 10 page views and I am pretty sure those are just from my cat. Other days I have 1,000...of course, those might also just be from my cat.

But after checking out my stats page, it seems a lot of people-who-are-not-my-cat read this thing. People from really awesome places! And since this is a travel blog, I thought it'd be fun to run some of the countries by you...

My top readers are: *drumroll*.....the US (predictable), Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, Malaysia, Portugal, Turkey, Sweden, and Norway.

Most of these places I haven't been to, which makes me terribly ashamed. Especially Canada! I mean, I've gone to Tahiti but yet I can't seem to make it up north to our awesome neighbors. But don't feel too bad, Canada; I went to Japan before I went to Mexico - and I lived mere hours from the border. I promise I will come visit you soon!

While these countries are the big hitters, I don't want to forget some of the cooler places you guys are reading from. Liiiiiiiiiiiike: Jamaica, Pakistan, Croatia, Bosnia, Chile and Russia.

That is incredible. The internet is magic!

Anyway, thanks for reading. You all are from the hundred places I have yet to go, so I hope you'll drop me a line with tips, recommendations, and high fives as I gear up to come visit.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Greyhound Story 4: Arizona Pride

The following takes places on a bus in Tennessee. By this point I was traveling fairly regularly on the Greyhound, and I found the entire experience an excellent time to catch up on all the sleep I wasn't getting in college.

But I soon realized that this particular trip was not going to be filled with glorious napping; the lady who sat next to me really wanted to talk. About anything and everything - paying no head to my headphones and sleepy glares. Her age was hard to estimate; she had one of those faces where the lines are manifestations of hardship, not years. Somewhere between 30 and 50 is where I'd put my guess, but who knows if that is even close. But she did have some pretty awesome bright red hair. 

She talked about her job (she restored marble statues, which turns out to be fascinating work), her convoluted love life (her refusal to marry her rich boyfriend because she was not 'in love with him') and why she got her butterfly tattoos (to remind her that you can always start over, and to never bring pain to her loved ones).  I know, you are probably thinking, "Seriously, how often do people tell you about their tattoo symbolism?" Not often enough, my friend, not often enough.

 Eventually in our rambling discussion she asked me where I was from. I mentioned my hometown, in Arizona. She immediately lights up and goes "Oh I know that place! I went to prison near there!" 
She then proceeds to tell me that the women in my town are crazy; those meth-heads are rough. 

Oh Arizona, what am I going to do with you? 

Tl:dr - Lady was cool and I'm glad I woke up to talk to her, but my town needs a better PR campaign.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I do all day

I know some of you have wanted a look at my job. As you should - archaeology is a fantastic career.

Luckily, my very talented friend Sebastian filmed some behind-the-scenes footage of lab work last year in Peru. Watch it; you'll gain a new appreciation for all the work (and fun) that goes into research projects!

P.S. Before watching this film I had no idea I sound THAT happy when I talk about teeth. Damn, I do love them.


A lot of these posts lately have had many words. Too many words not enough pictures! So here, have some pictures of Switzerland.

Lake Lucerne: we're boating to Mt. Pilatus

Haha, 14-year-old Aly is dorky. Oh wait...that never changed. 
Lucerne Bridge

And yea, sorry for the poor photo quality. This was back in the era of disposable cameras.