A disgruntled librarian packs it up and leaves fabulous New York City behind,
going on random adventures through South America,
while simultaneously promoting literacy
and spreading the love of the written word.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

biking buenos aires OR the escape from the beehive

i've been busy as a bee in a beehive.  this is truer than you think since everything i do is set to the background noise of those god-damned vuvuzela horns from the world cup.  anyway, i've actually gotten several writing jobs through this website called elance, writing eBooks and authoring blogs and whatnot.  so i have been spending a lot of time working from home. and during this time my beloved bolshevik has been quite busy watching futbol matches ... three a day!

anyhoo, i may have mentioned that i am a member of the south american explorers club.  needing to get out of the house and away from the sound of a million vuvuzelas, i decided to join them on a bike ride through buenos aires.

taking this bike ride has really inspired me to buy a used bike once we move into our "grown up" apartment.  turns out there are lots of bike lanes around the city.

before i describe the ride, please excuse the fact that i will most likely not use the correct names for any of these sites, and that all information given may or may not be factual.  i should be a tour guide!

we rode through palermo park and stopped at the top of a little bridge overlooking this famous large metal flower.  the flower opens its petals in the morning and then closes them at night.  kinda cool.


then we rode plaza san martin, where they are showing every game of the world cup, projected onto a large screen.  more about that later.  plaza san martin has this lovely statue (shown above) honoring one of the founding fathers of buenos aires.  sadly i forget his name.  maybe san martin?

then we rode through reconquista, which seems to be a combination of irish bars and financial looking buildings.  then we continued on to plaza de mayo:


 having been to buenos aires before, i had actually already visited many of these sights.  so i was very excited when we went through puerto maderno and onto the nature preserve, which i hadn't seen yet.  it was very beautiful, and it had that kind of central park type feeling to it where you feel as though you have escaped the city into another world.


 then we stopped by the river.  yes, this huge body of water is actually a river.  apparently, it is the widest river in the world, and separates buenos aires from uruguay.
 we went back through puerto maderno to take a look at the swinging bridge.  this bridge actually swings open to let ships go by. 
 then we ventured into dangerous "la boca"... oooh, dangerous.  apparently la boca is considered a bad neighborhood, but so far i think it's pretty cool.  i love a colorfully painted house.  and it is home to the bolshevik's favorite local futbol team, the boca juniors.
 the famous caminito ... birthplace of the argentine tango.


 and then as it began to get dark, our lovely bike tour came to an end.  i have to say, there's nothing quite like biking as a means of getting to see a city.  i have a new understanding of how the different neighborhoods of buenos aires are connected.  and of course i have a newfound desire to go buy a bike.
 the end.

Monday, June 14, 2010

guia T ... it's not stupid it's just different

when i was living in london, going to university and all that, i had to take this course called British Life and Culture in which we learned about how those crazy foreign brits lived. and during one lecture our professor explained that sometimes differences in culture may seem odd or even "stupid," but that they were in fact just "different."  profound.  really.

one time i was out to eat with a bunch of southerners at a restaurant that served ethnic food, i don't know maybe portuguese?  anyway, at this particular place they served all the food together on one large platter, kind of like how they do it at ethiopian restaurants.  and this one barbie-doll type girl was terribly offended, finding the whole thing to be quite awful, and she went on and on about how stupid the restaurant was.  then, a kind young southern gentleman (not unlike kenneth from 30 rock) told her, "remember what our teacher said, it's not stupid it's just different." 

and with that i introduce to you the Guia T ... oh how different it is.  it makes this look clear and logical.

here in buenos aires, there is a subway system called the Subte which is owned and operated by a company called metrovias.  the subte works well enough, but most of the trains go to the city center, leaving very few trains to connect other parts of the city together.  but, there are millions of buses running all sorts of routes through the city.  everywhere you look there are buses.  so, being a new yorker and all, i figure that it can't be that hard to learn this bus system.  surely, all i need is a map.  right?  wrong!

it turns out that every bus route is owned and operated by a separate company, and these companies have not gotten their act together to make one cohesive map.  instead they have what is called the Guia T.  the Guia T is a 192 page book which breaks the entire city up into sections and lists which buses run in each section.  fine.  i prefer a map, but whatevs.  i should be able to handle this. 

here's how it works:
1.  you look up the street you want to leave from using the index, then you find the corresponding grid on one of the 36 maps listed in the book.  check!
2.  when you find your grid, look at the adjacent page to see a list of buses that serve that grid.  check!

but wait!  how do i know where these buses stop?  each grid is typically 5 streets by 5 streets.  how will i know which street each bus is on?  answer:  you don't!  you just have to walk around an area of about 25 square blocks hoping to find the right bus going in the right direction.
moving on!

okay, so i don't know where each bus leaves from ... how do i find out where the bus is going to?  answer:  you can't!

3. find the street you are traveling to using the index, and then find its corresponding grid one of the maps.
4.  once you have found it, you look at the adjacent page and see what buses service that area.

are any of the buses that service your destination the same as the ones that service your area of departure?  i hope so, because if not you're kinda fucked!

5.  flip through the maps in a sort of bus matching game and hope that you can find a bus not too far from your departure point that is also listed on a grid sort of near where you are going.

however, at no time or place is there a list of bus stops or picture of the bus route.  not even at the bus stops!  and don't forget that you'll need to plan for extra time to aimlessly walk around a 5x5 block grid hoping to find a bus stop.

the other day i miraculously figured out that the 34 has a stop about 7 minutes from my house and goes directly to the park.  cool.  i'm on it.  after asking a lot of people in the street for help, i was able to finally find the bus stop and board a bus.  crazy!

when i tried to get home, i walked down the street where the 34 was running back towards my house, but there were no bus stops.  buses were flying past me not stopping and there were no bus stop signs in sight.  was i on an express route?  then after many many blocks of walking, i finally found a 34 stop.  and lo and behold after only a few minutes a 34 came driving down the street.  and then it drove right past me.  hmmm, was i supposed to signal to the bus?  was i not standing on the corner expectantly enough?  then a few minutes later another 34 came and i waved my hands like a maniac.  and again the bus zoomed right past me.  defeated, i walked a couple miles back to my house. 

later i asked an argentinian about this and she explained that often the bus stop signs are no longer at the stops and you just have to know where the bus stops are.  "how would anyone know where the stop is?" i asked her.  "oh," she said, "just ask around."

she went on to explain that the buses are supposed to stop if you wave at them, but if they are running behind schedule then they can choose not to pick you up.  "is there a schedule?" i asked, hoping that maybe dream against dream, that there was a posted schedule and maybe even a nice map of routes.  "oh no," she said, "there's no official schedule.  it's just if the driver feels they're running late."  ah, of course.  bus drivers have their own personal goals of how quickly they want to drive the bus route.  much like runners in training for a marathon.  no need for an official schedule. 

and that, dear blog readers, is why i have been walking everywhere.

buenos aires: everyone shall have ice cream, and everyone shall have a maid

it's been quite a journey, dear blog readers, but we finally made it to buenos aires!  (la paz was rather boring and unworthy of a blog post)  you're probably asking yourself, "self, were miss dewey d and her bolshevik greeted with a parade to welcome them to argentina?"  well, dear blog readers, the answer is yes.  (if by parade you mean upbeat political protest). 

anyway, as soon as we arrived we hit the ground running (after a day of napping), and began the search for an apartment.  who needs to find a job first?  we need to live somewhere, no? 

it seems that in buenos aires there is a huge number of furnished apartments that are rented out on a weekly/monthly basis, so that was a bit of good news.  and the rent prices cover all utilities, including electricity, internet (usually wifi), cable, local phone ... some apartments even come with a cell phone that you just need to add money to.  what luxury!  nyc could learn a thing or two from buenos aires landlords.

apartments here also seem to include maid service.  at first, being the members of the proletariat that we are, we looked down upon this.  surely we don't need maid service.  we will gladly pay less money and clean the apartment ourselves.  but this turned out to be an impossibility.  even the cheapest apartments come with weekly maid service.  at one point the bolshevik asked a prospective landlord if the apartment came with a maid, and the landlord looked at us as though we had asked something really obvious like "does the apartment a door?"  si, claro!  of course there is a maid!

now apartment hunting is hard work, so often we had to stop at freddo between viewings.  it's a rough life, dear blog readers.   for those of you who have never been to Bs As, freddo offers a variety of delicious fresh ice cream flavors, and typically you get two flavors per cone.  the bolshevik and i have decided that not only will we make it our mission to try every flavor available, but we will also rank the flavors and try to determine what the best flavor combinations are.  in the week that we have been in buenos aires, we have already had freddo 4 times. we're off to a strong start.  

in the first weekend we looked at about 10 apartments.  we found a rather tiny place in a very nice neighborhood, and decided to set up shop there.  it's a loft of sorts, with one small room with a kitchen, table and chairs, and bathroom on the bottom floor, then a spiral staircase to a bedroom above.  there isn't much room, but there's a cozy charm to it and it's super cheap. 

we have already found our "it" apartment (more details to come), but we don't move in until mid-july.  but do not fret dear blog readers, because both apartments come with maid service.  phew!

Friday, June 11, 2010

bolivians love bolsheviks SO much they want to keep them in their border patrol office forever and ever

all good things must come to an end, and so it came that we eventually reached our last day in peru.  although i thoroughly enjoyed my time there, as it is a truly beautiful country filled with interesting culture, i was excited to be on our way to buenos aires.  mostly because i wanted to eat a cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato without fear of illness.  so we hopped on a bus to la paz, bolivia.  why bolivia, you ask?  because apparently they have really cheap flights to buenos aires.  but only on fridays.

our itinerary was as follows:
1.  board bus
2.  cross over border into bolivia
3.  have 90 minutes of free time in copacabana (sing it with me!)
4.  continue on to la paz
5.  fly to buenos aires 36 hours later

ah, but nothing is ever that easy, is it dear blog readers.

first, while we were in the south american explorers club office in cusco, we saw that the entry rules had changed for US citizens to enter bolivia.  instead of being free, it would cost $135 american.  this is what is called a "reciprocity visa," which means that the bolivian government has decided to charge US citizens the amount that the US charges them to enter our country.  anyway, we would also need passport sized pictures, a completed visa form, proof of yellow fever vaccination, proof of place to stay in bolivia, and copy of travel itinerary showing pre-purcharsed departure from bolivia.  ok.  we could do all that, but it kinda sucked since we would only be in bolivia for 2 days.

as we boarded the bus in puno, we went to an atm and took out enough american money for both the bolshevik and i to get our visas.  and each of us had about $5 or $10 to spare.  on the bus, the driver explained that we would be going through a checkpoint to leave peru.  then we would be going through a seperate checkpoint to enter bolivia.  after that we go to copacabana, where we would need to pay 1 boliviano each to enter the town, dollars or peruvian soles would not be accepted.

we stopped in a little town before the checkpoint where we were told that we could exchange money.  i try to exchange my $5 (leaving me with $140 to pay my $135 visa), but the woman behind the counter would not except it because it has a small tear in the corner.  this is an ongoing problem we had.  people in south america do not like money with little tears or creases or marks on it.  you know, used money.  i guess we should all just use our money once and then throw it away and buy new money.  so i wound up changing one of my $20s, thinking i would just pay my visa mostly in dollars and then pay the rest in bolivianos.  

around this time the bolshevik got to thinking that maybe we should get some extra cash.  so he went to a nearby bank, only to find that the atm was boarded-up old wild west style.

at the peruvian checkpoint, we were told that we had overstayed our alloted time in peru.  say what?  apparently, instead of getting the 90 days allowed for US tourists (and listed on all peruvian government websites, as well as in all guidebooks) we were only given 30 days.  we were 9 days over.

the bolshevik and i were then carted over the opposite end of the counter, where they bring bad people.  everyone on our bus went through the line with no problem, and there we were being punished in the corner. 

the man behind the counter told us, in spanish, that we must pay a dollar a day overage fees.  fine, between the two of us we would have just enough money to get our bolivian visas.  the bolshevik tried to pay for the two of us, while the man repeatedly said "nueve.  nueve."  which if you don't understand spanish, means "nine."  then he wrote down the numeral "9" and pointed at it repeatedly.  yes, nine, we got it.  please move on.

there was much back and forth between us since we could not understand why he wouldn't take our $18 and be done with it.  then eventually, he wrote the number "19" and said "diez y nueve!"  ok, so it was $19 each.  but why write the number 9 and point to it, if you want 19?

for $38, we finally got out of there. we were a bit frazzled as to what to do at the bolivian border since now we were a little short for our visas, and of course there was no ATM in sight.

note: the bolshevik has dual-citizenship, so we were thinking that if they would allow him into bolivia on his irish passport (which would be free) then we would be all set.

the bolivian border patrol was housed in a one-room building with two desks.  at the first desk i gave in my paperwork and passport and paid my $135.  i was then told i had to get a photocopy of my passport.  when i asked where, they pointed outside to a small bodega where i paid a man a dollar to photocopy my passport.  then when i returned, i was ushered to the second desk where a man stamped my passport.  (this is a two-person job, of course) 

after my passport was stamped he told me i needed to photocopy the stamped part, as well as the passport picture, which i had already photocopied for the man at desk #1 and had not changed in any way.  so then i went back to the bodega to pay another dollar for two more copies of my passport.  which leads me to wonder why the bolivian border patrol doesn't have their own photocopier if they love copies so much.

meanwhile, the bolshevik was being detained by the border patrol.  say what?!  yeah, they would not accept his irish passport since it did not have an exit stamp from peru.  and when he tried to pay for his visa, they would not let him combine dollars with bolivianos.  take note, dear blog readers, if you find yourself at the border trying to enter bolivia, they do not accept bolivian money.  only US dollars.

i rushed over to assist, and ultimately we figured out that the only way to free the bolshevik was for me to go to the nearest ATM without him, which was a 15 minute drive away.  so i returned onto the bus, sans bolshevik, and entered the town of copacabana. 

at the bank i was told i could not take out american dollars, i could only take out bolivanos and then exchange them for dollars.  what is the difference, you ask?  a small fee.  so i took out 900 bolivianos and then exchanged about half of it, leaving me with more than enough american dollars to spring the bolshevik, and enough bolivianos for whatever other ridiculous fees we would incur next.

15 minute cab ride back to the bolivian border.

triumphantly, i entered the border patrol office to liberate my man.  i sashayed over to desk #1, the bolshevik at my side, and we handed the man $140 in crisp twenties. the man began to sort through the bills making two small piles -now, keep in mind that half of this money was from an ATM in peru, and half of it came straight from a bolivian bank-  the man pushed one pile back towards us, and told us that it was in unacceptable condition.  thereby leaving us without enough money.  again. 

i went through the bills and a few of them had a faint pink ink on the edges, which i have seen before and believe is some sort of authentication marking from the bank.  these bolivian bank-authenticated bills were not good enough for the border police. 

around this time the bolshevik had a little outburst and was told to go sit down.  take note, dear blog readers, the bolivian border patrol do not like little outbursts.

then i took out all the money i had, american and bolivian and fanned it out on the table.  i explained that all this money had been given to me by the bank and was real currency.  i then took out all 5 credit cards that i was carrying with me at the time, and fanned them out as well.  i then explained, in bad spanish, that i had $135 in dollars, as well as what was equivalent to $135 in bolivianos, and that he could take whatever he wanted.

he then, reluctantly, counted out $140 of the fresh crisp bills from the bank, giving me $5 change (which i accepted!) and then he ushered us over to desk #2.

and of course, at desk #2, the bolshevik was told that he needed to make a 2nd set of copies of his passport.  when we went next door to the bodega, the nice man there had decided to close up shop and go on a well-deserved siesta.  really?  i asked a nearby elderly woman if she knew where a photocopy machine was, and she helpfully pointed to peru. 

what happens at the bolivian border if people need to make copies then?

i'll tell you, dear blog readers, i had to pay a bolivian border guard to walk the 300 feet over to peru so that he could make copies of the bolshevik's newly stamped passport at the peruvian border office.  yeah, that's how they do things.

eventually the border guard returned with the necessary copies and the bolshevik was finally freed.   then we rode off in a cab to cobacabana where we arrived just in time to get back on our bus for the final hours of our journey.  but do not fret dear blog readers, because we can always go back to bolivia ... we have 5 year visas now.

the end.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

there's a house on the island in the reeds on the lake

i won't lie to you dear blog readers, the town of puno is rather boring.  yup, it's true.  but the one interesting thing to do there is take a boat tour of lake titicaca (please hold your inappropriate laughter).  one option is to actually stay with a native family overnight in their houses without heat or proper bathrooms.  but after our misadventures in cusco, we decided that a day trip was best for our failing health.

so we went to Uros first, which is a series of about 50 or so floating reed islands.  these islands are actually man-made out of reeds.  crazy.  apparently, when the spanish invaded 500 years ago, a group of several hundred puno inhabitants took to the lake and hid out on their boats for a while.  eventually they figured out a patented method of making islands out of the lake's reeds and they've been living there ever since.

dear blog readers, you may be asking yourself, "self, how is this possible?"

well, some nice ladies of the island explained to us the process.
1.  find a huge lake (preferably at a very high altitude above sea level) 
2.  make large blocks out of the roots of reeds (much like when you pull a plant out of a pot and all the roots and soil are clumped together)
3.  using rope and wooden stakes, bind together root blocks so that they are 6 feet in depth
4.  cover in 3 feet of freshly cut reeds
5.  find desirable location and anchor island
6.  add more reeds monthly
7.  tada!!! (jazz hands)

let me tell you dear blog readers, these were a crafty people.  i was a bit jealous.  they made everything out of reeds: boats, houses, look-out towers, festive decorations.  one island had even created a little "cuy island" where they were raising guinea pigs and rabbits.  this is quite brilliant because you can just put them on a little island where they'll be out of the way, and then drag the island in when necessary (aka slaughter time). 

now, one may question the quality of life on these islands.  but when i looked inside one of the houses i saw it was equipped with one of those old school 3-CD changer dual cassette deck stereos that were so popular in the mid-1990s.  at first i assumed that it ran on batteries.  but then i saw a solar panel.  that's right SOLAR PANELS!  these people live in reed huts, but even they have mastered solar power technology.

this leads which me to wonder why it is that we cannot get our act together in the US to utilize solar power.  reed huts ... with solar power.  wrap your mind around that.



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

can you tell me how to get, how to get to lake titicaca?

when planning our route in peru, we decided that we wanted to take a long train ride.  we had heard that peru had beautiful train lines.  and really, shouldn't we all be traveling by train more often?  many people we encountered said that they were venturing to puno via bus, but we had heard horror stories of rickety old buses going up and down windy mountain roads for endless hours.  so that is how we wound up on an infinitely more expensive 8 hour train ride from cusco to puno.  and let me tell you dear blog readers ... it was awesome.

we boarded the train at about 8 am, where we were seated at a small table (with table cloth & small vase of flowers) along with big cushy armchairs.  as the train left cusco, we passed all sorts of sites, including a strange area where people seemed to have a large variety of wooden furniture for sale set up right next to the tracks.  (wooden furniture row?)


soon it was announced that there would be a "fashion show" in the last car.  ooooh, fashion show!  the front half of the car was a bar, with more cushy armchairs, and the back half of the car was all windows with a long bench where you can sit and get a 360 degree view of the scenery.  nice!  so we planted ourselves in the back by the windows and watched while the "models" showed off a variety of scarves and peruvian style knit hats and gloves.  i guess when you're in cold mountain towns this is what high fashion is.

there was some debate between the bolshevik and i as to the level of professionalism of these models.  for instance, are they really models at all?  or maybe they are just a collection of the more attractive Peru Rail employees who usually answer the phones but on certain days they get to ride the "fashion train?"  i then pondered the possibilities of becoming a "train model" myself.  surely i can meet their standards of excellence, no?

after the fashion show, we were entertained with live peruvian music.  i tell you, i love live peruvian music.  it's quite common to see performances in the fancier restaurants: men in ponchos with guitars and drums and all sizes of pan pipes.  one time i went to dinner without the bolshevik and of course i wound up buying a CD of one of the local bands performing.  i am a sucker that way.

anyhoo, nonstop fun on this train!  at one point we made a little stop at a small mountain town where locals tried to sell us handicrafts.  the bolshevik and i were distracted by a large field of llamas.

we went over to take pictures, and soon a little local boy came up to us and said, "you give me a dollar?"  now, this kid has a lot to learn from the merchant children of cusco.  did he have any finger puppets?  no.  did he liken me to any celebrities or first ladies?  no.  sorry kid, i'm not just giving out money for kicks here! 

back on the train we were served lunch, which included a soup, entree, glass of wine, and a small torte for dessert.

as the day went on there was a second round of peruvian music.  we watched as we passed by mountains and rivers and other majestic nature.  in the late afternoon we were served tea and little finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off.  all of this was included in the price of our ticket, which although expensive by peruvian standards, was probably of a similar cost to an 8-hour train ride on amtrak.

this leads me to wonder about the suck-fest which is amtrak:  why is amtrak so expensive when there are never any llamas included? ponder that dear blog readers, ponder that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

the dark side of cusco

we have been to many places dear blog readers, many fabulous places: belize, costa rica, honduras, mexico, etc.  and we have never had any problems.  (well, except for in belize when it was SO hot it actually made me feel ill, and then later i was poisoned by one of their 13 varieties of poisonous trees.  but these were minor problems!)

anyway, when we were in lima we ate like kings. the food was fantastic and super cheap.  even when we went to divey-looking whole-in-the-wall places the food was very high-quality.

typically we would get these "tourist menus" which is kind of like a prix fixe deal where you get to pick an appetizer (soup, small potato dish, or ceviche) then you get to pick an entree, usually a grilled fish or chicken, served with potatoes and rice.  sometimes you'd even get a little glass of fruit punch and a strange but tasty gelatinous dessert.  all for the bargain price of about $3-$5 american dollars per person.  not bad!

but things changed when we got to cusco.  now, there are several problems stacked up against us gringos in cusco.  first, due to the high altitude and lack of oxygen, people actually digest at about half the speed as normal.  so if you eat a big meal, it stays with you for quite some time. second, and probably more important, cusco has several bacterias and parasites that the locals are immune to, but visitors are not.  we were told that if we stayed away from lettuce, tomatoes, all uncooked vegetables, thin-skinned fruits, raw fish (no ceviche!  so sad!), and of course tap water, that we would be fine.

week one, coming off of lima, we ate at one dodgy place thinking peru was a land of fantastic cheap food.  but unlike lima, this dodgy places was just ... well ... dodgy.   but we followed the rules!  no raw veggies, nada.  we were even brushing our teeth with bottled water.  but within a few days my beloved bolshevik fell ill.

he was a little annoyed that he was sick and i wasn't, considering my propensity for illness.  but he went to this little clinic known for treating tourists, got lab work done, was given some meds, and in a couple of days he was fine.

what was interesting though, was at this point, he and i had eaten the same food.  so why wasn't i sick?  the doctor explained that anything, ANYTHING, could make you sick.  a waiter doesn't wash their hands and then they touch the edge of your plate and touch your food and then you have a parasite.  or a fly lands on your food, spreading the local bacteria to you.  scary stuff.

so the following week, 2 days before we are about to head to macchupicchu, i get sick.  now, the bolshevik had waited a few days before going to the doctor, but i went immediately, knowing i needed to get some meds in me if i was going to recover in time for the inca trail.  again, we go to the clinic, get blood work done, they give me some meds, and by the next day i was notably better.

so by this time we think we're in the clear, right?  we've both gotten sick, now we are super careful about everything we eat, only eating at "expensive" restaurants, everything should be fine.  but then the week after the inca trail, the bolshevik falls ill again.  this time considerably worse than the first time.  so again we go to the clinic, and they say that he has a different infection than last time.  they give him the meds, and again within about a day or so he is feeling much better.

but now we are both kind of terrified.  how many different infections can we get?  we were in cusco for over 4 weeks, that's a lot of time to sample the local bacteria.

then, wouldn't you know it, about half a week later i wake up in the middle of the night vomiting profusely.  i try to sleep it off, but at about 5 am the bolshevik gets me into a cab to the clinic.

it is my theory that as time went on, each sickness was worse than the last.  by the time i got to the clinic i was in a lot of pain.  but they were so good to me!  they saw me immediately and gave me a pain killer shot (i will not tell you were they injected me dear blog readers).  and they even gave me my own room with a bed and a flat screen tv!  i laid down for several hours, had lots of tests taken.  at one point a nice older woman brought me tea and toast, and then seeing the bolshevik sleeping on the little couch next to me, brought him tea and toast as well.

eventually the doctor comes in and tells me i have "the most serious parasite" in cusco.  we debate for a while if i need to stay in the clinic overnight (which at this point would be over 24 hours in the clinic since we got there so early).  but then he agrees to release me into the bolshevik's custody to go back to the hotel.  but not before prescribing me the following medicinal assualt:
1 pain killer (3 x per day for 5 days)
1 parasite killer (3 x per day for 5 days)
2 antiobiotics (1 2x per day for 3 days, 1 2x per day for 5 days)
2 large bottles of electrolytes (in disgusting "anis" flavor.  gross)

given how ill i was, i was amazed that i felt so much better the next day.  tired, but much much better.  which leads me to believe that although the peruvians have some serious bacteria/parasite problems, they at least possess super fast-acting drugs to combat them.

so we spent our last week in peru terrified of eating (but loving food!  it's so unfair!)  at one point we took a little cooking class, which came free with our spanish classes, and i refused to add lettuce to my dish.  i think i insulted the teacher who continually told me, in spanish, that the lettuce was clean and that she washed it herself.  but then i was thinking, unless you wash the lettuce in piping hot boiling water that will sear off all bacterias and parasites, leaving the lettuce a wilted soggy disgrace, i'm not going near it.  i told her, in spanish, that i believed that she had cleaned the lettuce, but that i had fear.  FEAR!

and now i am just counting down to when we will be in buenos aires and i can eat a big salad.  mmmmm, baby spinach.