Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Vomitorium a.k.a. Pasto Ruri

First of all, I would like to tell you that, yes, the title is "The Vomitorium." Jeff came up with it after I told him the story below. Those of you with weak stomachs may want to skip down to my other post from today. Actually, if you read them in order, it would probably be better in general.

So, this gets to the other bit of craziness of the weekend. I had been intensely searching out interviews, when I found out that Pasto Ruri (or Pastoruri) has been re-opened. Yay!! This is great news for me, because I want to get people's opinions about glaciers, so going with them to see glaciers is the perfect opportunity, right? Yeah.... sure.

On the way up, everyone I asked said that I should ask them after they saw the glacier. That way, they could give me better opinions. That made sense to me, so I just concentrated on not getting bus sick and trying to make friends with these people so that they would feel more comfortable with me later. Not sure it worked. So, we made several random stops to go potty, see water bubbling in the plains, take pictures with llamas in sunglasses, and take pictures of this crazy native plant that is about 12 meters high and has a 100 year life cycle. It was strange, but cool. The guide talked quite a bit about the importance of all of these things, so I guess I got to learn something.

Anyways, we finally made it up to Pasto Ruri, and we had a bit of a hike to the top. It was like 2-3 kilometers up, but parts were pretty steep. Anyways, it meant that EVERYONE was really, really cranky on the way up and once I was there. I actually filmed a mini-riot when someone tried to cut in front of this line to get pictures in the big ice cave. I went and got my picture in the little ice cave instead because those people were crazy!!! OK, not EVERYONE was mean at the top. People my age were pretty nice, so they are the ones who took all of the pictures of me. However, anyone over thirty was such a jerk. Plus, no one, not even the nice people would let me interview them. No one felt like they had enough time with the hike up and down to waste any of it with the stupid gringa. I guess I understand. They altitude was pretty rough on the people from Lima.

Look out, the really grody part is coming soon! I felt fine up and down the glacier. I actually felt much better running around outside than I did on the bus beforehand. I got kind of giddy, probably a little from the lack of oxygen, so I made some funny videos up at the glacier. However, I probably won't post them because important people read this blog now!! :) I did post a couple of them at the bottom, though. They're not particularly amusing now, but they saved me as everyone kept denying my desire for interviews. Instead of being mad or hurt, I just laughed and took pictures and videos of myself. I was feeling great. The other people at Pasto Ruri, and on my bus, were not so lucky.

**Vomit alert! Vomit alert!** Everyone threw up at the top of the glacier, on the way down from the glacier, by the bus station, by the food stands, by their cars, on their cars.... EVERYWHERE!!! I may have just missed it on the way up, and I only noticed someone throwing up right as I started going down from the top. However, after I saw that first person, I kept seeing vomit. Vomit was everywhere!!! People would just turn a little as they were walking down and then they'd hurl. Projectile vomiting, exorcist style, too. So, it was like playing a very disgusting video game on the walk down. Like Frogger, except it was me trying to get down the road without getting hit by the vomit. All right, it wasn't quite THAT bad, but there was a lot of vomiting going on. Plus, I think some of it was a chain reaction. If you feel sick and then see someone else throwing up, you have no choice anymore. It certainly became a chain reaction later....

So, I was wondering if some sort of food poisoning was going on and decided that I didn't want to eat any of the food from the vendors. However, one lady had popcorn, so I got a little bag of that. I've never heard of popcorn causing a vomiting epidemic before, so I thought I would be safe. However, the vomiting did not end when the trail ended. I caught a whole group throwing up outside the food stands. Then, I decided to head for the bus because all of those people had seemed reasonably healthy on the way up, maybe my gag reflex would settle down if I could get away from the vomiting for a minute. Well, our bus was parked by the bathrooms. The vomiting was never ending. I was annoyed that my bathroom experience cost the same as the lady who didn't make it to the stall. I was so much cleaner!! I left the bathroom to get on the bus, when I noticed the bus smelled funny. I was worried I knew why when I guy went running from the back to get out the door just in time for his own vomit experience. Well, that set everyone on the bus off. No less than 8 people on our bus joined the epidemic. EIGHT!!! Out of about 30. Luckily, five of them actually made it off the bus to vomit. Of the remaining three, one had a bag and one made it out the window. The eighth person, a woman from Lima, not so lucky. Or rather, the rest of us were not so lucky. And these were just the numbers I was counting!! The insanity had started before I got there!!! Plus, I didn't count anyone who had not gotten on the bus first. You couldn't even look out the window while we waited for everyone to get on the bus because everyone outside was throwing up, too. I actually tried to just stare out the window towards the part of the parking lot that only had 3 cars in it, but then I saw these kids fighting or something in the backseat of the car. However, the one in the middle was actually just trying to push his brother out of the way so he could blow chunks out the door. It was green, and I'm pretty sure he got some on his brother. Needless to say, I was trying my best to quiet my gag reflex a bit. I opened the window when the smell got too bad, even though the girl next to me was acting all cold. I just didn't care at that point. Plus, I hoped the fresh air would do the vomiters some good.

Once we left Pasto Ruri, things got a bit better. Most of the vomiting happened while we were waiting for the people to come back down from the mountain. The last group, from Lima, was only an hour and a half late. This meant that we didn't really stop long in Catac for out "lunch" at 6:30. Some people had placed a pre-order, so they got to eat, but the rest of us didn't. I didn't care, at that point, I just wanted to get away from the barfing. However, while I enjoyed the fresh air, I did get two interviews with people who were not feeling sick. So, that was a plus.

So, I am sure you are all wondering, what caused Pasto Ruri to become the Vomitorium of Doom?? I don't know that I can give you a definite answer. However, I think I can give you a very educated guess. After a while, I thought it might be the elevation plus the fact that all of these people were only here for the weekend. They came up 5000 meters in a very short time and then hiked up to the glacier. That's gotta be tough. However, here comes the very educated part, Jeff explained that the night before I went was the biggest party night in Huaraz. All of those people came up to 3100 meters and went out until 3 or 5 in the morning, with a lot to drink, and then went up to 5000 with their hangovers. I think that is a good explanation for a lot of what went on. There were some little kids barfing, but part of that could have been that EVERYONE was barfing. Some people may have been just affected by the altitude, but I'm pretty sure the rest were right in line with Jeff's theory. However, I would like to say a few things about the vomiters. None of them respected the altitude at all. That's for sure. The only thing that turned my stomach was all of them. Also, other people that had acclimatized, even a little bit, were doing much better. One of the people vomiting had only come to Huaraz the afternoon before from Lima. Sea level to 5000 meters in less than 24 hours. Smart. I would also like to say that pretty much everyone throwing up was from Lima, specifically. I'm sure some were from Trujillo or Arequipa, but the majority were from Lima. Everyone who threw up on our bus was from Lima. All eight of them. I think four of them were also in a group together, too. Bleh. So, I guess I learned a lot about people from Lima...

I wonder if this is the kind of anecdote I'm allowed to use in my thesis...?

Anyways, after I got back, I changed my vomit-smelling clothes and went out to dinner with Jeff, Adam, and Adam's lady friend, Erin. I found that I couldn't eat much (surprise, surprise) despite not having much more than a banana and some popcorn all day. I took my sandwich home, though. Then, it was supposed to be our big night of partying. However, after two days of interviewing and hiking, I was super exhausted. I went to Vagamundo with the three of them, but between not knowing anyone they were talking about, not knowing the 85 million people they ran into that they knew, and having the Spanish part of my brain turn off a couple hours before, I could not get myself to wake up. So, I headed out pretty quickly, much to my disappointment. I spend a lot of hours here feeling lonely, so why couldn't I wake up for this perfect opportunity to speak to people in person about non-glacial stuff and use English??!!?! I have no idea. It was probably partly induced by the Day of Vomit's exhaustion, partly weakness from not being able to eat much all day. If only I could stop being shy long enough to open up and be equally as interesting as everyone else, I would probably be and have more fun. Well, what are you going to do?? Instead, I will entertain myself with blogs and eBay!! Well, as long as I have internet...

Anyways, here are some non-vomit pictures and a video (I tried uploading 2, but blogger is just not having it today, so I will try to upload the other one later...) that I took on the trip to the Vomitorium, I mean, Pasto Ruri!!!

My educational picture with the llamas in sunglasses. They were cute, but sooooo bored with the whole process. Behind us is the gaseous water, but that really wasn't as cool.
This is me at the base of the hike. Look at the altitude!!! Look at the altitude!! I made it to 5000 m!!!!!
I looked over the blog and have been shocked at the lack of rock out faces in the past few weeks. So, what better place to rock out than a glacier! That's totally rock out worthy!!
I am in an ice cave in the glacier. People kept breaking off the icicles like the one I am standing next to. I don't know why, but some people were eating them. They were really dirty, so I thought it was gross...

Ice, Ice, Baby...

Hello everybody!

I am writing to you after some utter craziness. There was so much craziness, that I will actually be splitting this into 2 blog posts. One, because I have a couple of awesome titles. Two, because I have too many pictures/videos to upload in one. Three, because there was too much craziness.

So, the Fiestas de Patrias time period is when everyone has time off work and takes a vacation. For people from Lima (and other places, but mostly Lima), this means they come to Huaraz and the surrounding areas to take a breather and become one with nature. Sounds like fun, right?? Well, maybe for people from Lima!! For me, it has meant that I am trying to get all of my interviews in, which is good for my research, but the process has been stressful. A lot of people do not want to be interviewed on their vacation, and they have been rather vocal about it.

I think I am at the point in my trip where I am just whiny. However, when you read the blog post that I write after this, maybe you will understand the whine a bit more. It's been stressful, ok? Anyways, I wanted to write about one of the tours that I went on this weekend to Llaca (pronounced "yaca"). I didn't really know what I was getting myself into, but it was kind of a lot of hiking. However, after many hours of hiking, people went ICE CLIMBING. I suppose I could have, but I didn't know what that would be about when I signed up, and I just didn't feel like paying the 100 soles to do something that I didn't really know about, so I didn't do it. However, it meant that we hiked up to this glacier, which was cool, and then over moraines and stuff until we got to this sheer ice wall. Then people tried to climb it. Very few succeeded. I was happy because the people that succeeded were also the people who let me interview them. The others obviously have problems with being whiny and cranky, like me. They whined that they didn't want to be interviewed and then whined to be let down from halfway (or less!) up this ice wall. Interesting, huh? Anyways, here are some pictures of the whole experience!!

This is the glacier on the mountains. Pretty, huh? We climbed along all those loose stones on the left. Yes, it was dangerous. Many of them were not super secure, so you'd step and then lose your balance. I sort of twisted my ankle, but my awesome hiking boots saved me from any real damage. It was just a little sore in the ankle muscle area the next day and today. But barely at all!! The blisters, however, are another story... Don't worry, Mom! You know I can handle both of my feet being completely blistered over from my Cross-country days!!

So, this is pretty cool. It's the end of the glacier!! There are some ice chunks further on, and that iced-over lake has a lot of chunks floating in it, but really, this is the end!! However, even cooler, compare the two pictures here!! A big chunk of the glacier fell off while we were there. I was at the wrong angle to video tape it (I do have a short video of the aftermath, but it doesn't translate well). However, I do have these before and after pictures, so you can see what was going on. De-glaciation in action, folks! Well, actually, chunks breaking off is a normal phenomenon anytime. However, I was there for this one!
This is after we were walking on the glacier for a while. I am top on rock and dust covered ice, but I am also in a mini-ice cave under the wall everyone is going to try to climb later. It was pretty crazy and also surprisingly warm!! I had my winter coat, hat, and gloves, but I was really warm from the hike and the strong sun!!
Oh, no! Mah tongue ith thuck!!

I thought I should add in a picture of ice climbing, so you could see what I mean. It's pretty crazy. This is one of the only people from Lima who made it to the top. Incidentally, he was also one of two to give me an interview...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Indiana Jonesette and the Raiders of the Lost Glaciers

Hey Everyone!!

So, after many, many days of tough work with little reward, I decided to take a bit of a break this afternoon. Instead of being rejected by Peruvians, I decided to make a little compilation of photos into a movie. Those of you who know my background know that my love of Indiana Jones runs deep. In fact, the Indiana Jonesette series created by Kristy Barry and myself ranks high in the list of all time best productions, at least for me, using the Wright family video camera. So, what better anthem to serve as a background to this Peruvian adventure (especially considering the location of the most recent episode in the real Indiana Jones saga!!) than the theme of themes... Enjoy!!

Well, that about says it all. Now, all I have left to do is get a video of Jeff Bury in his Indiana Jones hat saying, "Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?"

As you can see, despite the trials and tribulations everyone encounters while here, I have had an amazing time in Peru thus far!! I'm really glad that I took the afternoon to remind myself of all the fun times. I hope you are all having an equally amazing summer!!! We're getting close to the 3 weeks left mark!! I will see you all very, very soon where I will bombard you with even more pictures!! Love you, miss you!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I fought the law, and the law won...

I thought I would start the post off with a bang... me riding a llama!! Well, I not so much rode the llama, but I sat on it to take a picture and the llama moved a little... That's riding a llama, right? Yes. So, that was super fun. However, I had a very large mix of good and bad up at Llanganuco, where I was doing extreme interviews!! I did a lot of interviews the first day, which was good because not so many the second day. I got escorted from the park because I did not have a permission slip from the National Park Office. Now, the funny thing is that our whole research team actually does have permission from INRENA. I explained that to the guy that we're actually working with INRENA on the project, but he refused to listen. I got put in this little office while he made phone calls and all told, from the moment he first started talking to me to my oh-so-dignified expulsion from the lake area, I would say he wasted about an hour of everybody's time. The funny thing is that I think if he had actually called his supervisor and discussed everything I told him to mention. I told him my name and that I was from Ohio State. I gave him Bryan and Jeff's name. I should have dropped the big Marco Zapata's name, but I was not sure if he would rescue me or be mad that I involved him. I am part of the group, but I am not sure that he likes what I am doing. That and his accent is just a bit off for my poor deaf ears, so I am always struggling to understand him, which to him means I do not speak Spanish. However, when he called his supervisor, he refused to mention my name or any of the others, only calling me "la gringa," and repeating over and over that I did not have permission. I calmly said that I did have permission, just not a written slip, but he REFUSED to say it to his supervisor. BLEH.

So, as I sat in the little room, wondering if I was going to be arrested for something so incredibly stupid, I tried to be as polite as possible. If you are nice to them, they should be nice to you, right? Looking back, however, I think if I had gone more Peruvian style, it might have been more appropriate. If I had just refused to comply and freaked out, become a totally rude bitch, it probably would have gone better for me. However, I was worried about getting arrested... Which, honestly, never would have happened, but my imagination was running wild.

Well, anyways, today is a day of dealing with nasty, little, power-tripping bureaucrats to get that statistics book and my permission slip. Ugh. Also, my banana is orange. (I know, such a non sequitur, but I opened it, and there was this orange thing that tastes funny...) However, once I get that permission slip, I can go up to Llanganuco again one of the days this weekend and finish my interviews there. Although, part of me wonders if I should spatially diversify my sample more... However, there is not good spot to find tourists in Chavin. There is a waterfall location that could be ok, but I don't know and I don't want to make assumptions while most of the tourists are already here!! Well, that is actually probably more than any of you care about, but it is on my mind...

Anyways! Here is a video of me getting dropped off at the top of this mountain, forever and a day away from the lake. I kept telling the guy that I wanted to interview tourists, but he kept saying that there were no tourists at the lake then (probably right), but there was a really good view (very much right) up just a little bit higher (very much wrong...). I don't know it at the time of the video, but I had 2.5 hours of walking until I got to the entrance to the first lake. I also ended up with 8 bug bites, stepping in cow poo, getting a LOT of dust in my eyes from all the wind, and smelling kinda bad all before I saw my first tourist for an interview... As you can imagine, I was not very happy. However, at this point, I do not yet know about what's to come, so it's still pretty positive.

Fun, right? Whooo!!! This next video was taken 15 minutes later, still very positive!! It's a bit silly, but self explanatory. Enjoy!!

Now, there are 2 more videos in this series. I thought it would be cool to have more video diary kinds of things going on. However, one of them is just me whistling as I go down the path. I thought it was really fun at the time, but now, it's not so cool. The last one is after 2 hours of walking and still not being close to the entrance I needed to get to. It is a desperate plea for help that actually hit a little too close to home. It includes the desperately asked question, "Why is that nothing can ever go as planned here?" Little did I know that question would have a whole new meaning after the next day there... However, even if I never really almost got arrested, that's the story I'm going to use to build up my rep. :)

Anyways, I love you all and miss you TONS!!! Please feel free to post comments. I really like reading people's reactions/thoughts to everything.

Ps. I was amused by all three of today's iGoogle quotes of the day:

There is no reciprocity. Men love women, women love children, children love hamsters.
- Alice Thomas Ellis
That which has always been accepted by everyone, everywhere, is almost certain to be false.
- Paul Valery
A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the word you first thought of.
- Burt Bacharach

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm an expert!!!

My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what's really going on to be scared.
- PJ Plauger

I guess that would make all of the Peru team (all 18+ of us) experts on climate change...

Actually, that is a bit depressing. Well, what can you do?

Anyways, not much to report here. I have been transcribing my recorded interviews for my entire life up to this point. It means that I am taking frequent breaks from the rewind-play combination on the computer. Somehow it seems that a car horn honks every time someone says something important... Granted, car horns honk just about every 5 seconds or more frequently, but it's always when I don't really know what the person was saying right then. When I have an exact quote in my head... crystal clear recording. Maybe it's me.

Anyways, my breaks are dangerous. How, you may ask, can breaks be dangerous?? Well, I don't want to take too long of a break, so I've been trying to avoid games. For the same reason, I don't want to go walk around or do something unless it's time for a big break. So, I cruise the internet. However, YouTube has been having issues, so my usual route of distraction has been out. So, I check my e-mail, which has really only been junk mail mostly. Rarely do I have more than 1 interesting e-mail on my breaks. Wikipedia is fun, but sometimes I can't find anything interesting or it's all information I know and I want details. So, I've returned to my bad habit.... eBay. Now, I like deals, so I rarely spend much, but you'd think I would want to be there when the shipments come in, but no. I am content to know they're there.

Don't get me wrong, most of this stuff includes things that I had planned on buying eventually. For example, the Star Wars trilogy. It has been bugging me for a while that I didn't own it. Episodes 1-3, whatever, I can live without, but the CLASSIC trilogy is a staple of every good movie collection. I went so far as to preview some here, but honestly, for Star Wars, I want quality movies. So, I decided to pay the big bucks. However, Amazon was charging a bit more than I wanted, so I returned to my old friend, eBay. Of course, once you open the dam, it's much harder to close it. Luckily, I'm mostly buying presents. I found a book here that my brother would LOVE, so I bought that for him. I had been thinking about getting something for my mom and there was a good deal, so I got that also. (Since that includes 2 of my staple readers, I'm not going to say what each of those things ARE.) However, other things are frivolous. Just silly little things that I saw while browsing and decided would be fun to have. For example, I found 3 t-shirts for 99 cents, including a superman shirt that's just like my old one. I loved that shirt until the seams fell apart after 5 years of constant use. So, hurray, right?? Well, I think so. I have no idea what Sandip is going to think when he starts getting a mountain of boxes on the front stoop...

Well, anyways, I should get back to my transcribing. Actually, I should go find somewhere quieter to get back to transcribing. I was sick of everyone in the hostel thinking that I was sleeping until noon when I stayed in my room typing up interviews all morning. (I've been avoiding breakfast in favor of all of the yummy goodies I received in my care packages from my parents and Sandip. There's really only so much bread I can eat in the morning before craving other things.) However, Sra. Francesca has been an absolute doll about everything, so I want her good opinion. She actually called the Office of Statistics for me and talked to the boss to get a copy of a book for me. She's like my little Peruvian grandmother. Takes care of me when I'm sick and beats up the bad guys when they give the gringa trouble. However, sometimes it's easier to just wake up and start typing before I get too restless. Plus, the radio is UP at the California Cafe today, so I can't hear as well. Well, I'll figure out somewhere to go. I may even take a long break and get some tourist agency interviews. I typed up a whole Manifesto of what I want to get done during my stay, and I'm worried it's a bit ambitious if I don't get a move on.

To transcribe or not to transcribe, that is the question.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Taking care of business...

Hey guys!!

I have been getting some serious work done down here in the Southern Hemisphere, but that means that I definitely don't have as much to write about. Well, I could give you all a preliminary analysis of my data, but where's the fun in that? (actually, it's pretty cool, but I am jealously guarding it for my thesis... and feeling like this is probably one of those geeky things that only I think is exciting. So, I'm just sparing you guys!) However, I would like to describe the process for you. I am either waiting at prime tourist locations to pounce on people for interviews or I'm waiting at the bus stop for equal amounts of pouncing as people get back from the bus (this usually means I'm out there between 6:30 and 8:30 at night (7:30-9:30 your time!), so that's why I can't answer the phone after work). Tomorrow or Wednesday, I will be staying the night in a tourist town and getting some serious interviews done at Llanganuco. It should be fun.

Anyways, I have 22 interviews now!! (Gasps of amazement! Thunderous applause!) However, I feel like I definitely need more, with more diversity of participants. Plus, I want to interview more guides and tourist agencies and people from INRENA, if I can. I want to build up a happy, robust set of data that can then be used to be the thesis of the century. Yeah, ok, I'm just hoping to pass without anyone telling me that I have no idea what I'm talking about. :) But, honestly, aren't we all??

One misconception that I want to clear up once and for all is that I am eating really well here. I enjoy the food and only rarely get sick from it. I have a plethora of options, but it's just not always the same food that I could get at home. Plus, I had been planning the "Columbus food sucks" rant for a while. I really, honestly miss East Lansing food, but that is not a unique Peru experience. I pretty much always miss EL food, just ask my grad school friends!! They hear about it constantly and were then stuck eating Penn Station or Panera with me because I couldn't stomach the rest of it. (Not entirely true, there are some OK options. But you can't get the best meal of your life for under $5, which is a staple of every EL restaurant.) So, anyways, before all of my family freaks out with remembrances of the 97 lb child that I was in India, I just want to say: I am eating very well and I am not getting really sick from my food. However, if anyone wants to airmail a cooler with a pickle in it, I will happily provide my address and the necessary funds for the transaction. :)

So, I was thinking that although I don't have too many fun and exciting pictures from this week, I definitely have some older ones that I never posted. So, here is a quick splash from my first month in Peru!!
This picture cost a ton of money!! I had agreed to take a picture with the old lady on the left and her lamb. I knew it would cost a couple soles, but whatever, I was in Cusco for the first time. It was OK. Next thing I know, I had two more women, their babies and the girl who took the picture. The handed me the lamb and asked for the camera (a flash went through my head that the women could be blocking me while the girl ran away with the camera, but it was out of my hands at that point.). So, I thought, maybe a sole each. So, after the picture, I had 2 one sol coins or a five sole. Well, a five sole would be 1 and a little bit each, and I though that was generous, considering the whole process took about 30 seconds (including all those people running in from nowhere). However, the women who ran into the picture were pissed because they were from another family and they couldn't share the coin. I was surrounded by angry Incan women yelling at me in Spanish (with some Quechua mixed in). To stem the tide, I ended up digging through my pockets and finding one more 5 sole coin because the first woman who took the original coin had already gone after her next victim. You know, I loved the history and beauty of Cusco the most as a city, but I hated feeling like the minnow surrounded by sharks. Everyone always wanted something there, and that got old very quickly...
This is Sandip and I in Lima with some pre-Incan ruins that we went to with Bryan and Chris. Although I feel this picture makes me look short, it isn't a bad "hey, look, we're in Peru together" picture. Plus, I've got my MSU representation!! Go State!! (Yeah, I hate to say it, but I have very little loyalty to Ohio State... especially the athletic department. I think I'm too used to rooting for the underdog (think football), plus I've learned that I bleed green and white... figuratively. Please nobody ask me what blood disease I have.)
I'm not entirely sure that I am allowed to post this picture, so if it suddenly disappears from the blog, you'll know why. However, I have been bummed since the "Meet the team!" post that I did not have a really good picture of Bryan Mark, my advisor from OSU (ok, for Bryan, I will say, "Go Bucks!" but it only gets one exclamation mark.. ). But, when I looked through my pictures from Lima, here it was, an opportunity to post Bryan AND the Pacific Ocean. It was too good to miss. Plus, I love that he's being goofy. I am definitely less terrified of professors these days!!
So, in Lima, there is this park with fountains. Every night they have light shows where the fountains go crazy. Think the Detroit airport fountain times a bazillion. This is the park where all the conquistadors used to come and hang out (sans fountains). However, it is now a park of the people!! I don't have pictures of all of the fountains, but there were a lot of really cool ones.
This is another fountain in the park. It's a fun pyramid, if you couldn't tell. However, there are about 25 fountains that you can't see here. Plus, there is this amazing show with music and lights and craziness. I tried uploading a video of it, but the video is too long for the internet I have here. However, I would like to point out that amid the classical music, they also through in a Backstreet Boys song... "I want it that way." It was hilarious, and I loved it. It reminded me of the good ol' days of middle school.
This fountain was really cool because you could walk through it without getting wet!! There were other participatory fountains, as well, but they usually involved being a bit damp afterwards. One of them was really cool, but Sandip was too slow on the shutter to catch me playing in it. There were about 5 rings of water sheets with many water jets in between and the goal it to get to the middle and back out with a minimum of wetness. However, the jets are all random, so the minimum wetness is tricky. I am proud to say that I ran through with only my knees down getting wet from a surprise fountain I didn't see. However, that was the second time having soaking wet legs/feet that day (Bryan wasn't the only one playing in the ocean, and I didn't want to roll my pants up that far...). The next day was the day that my fever came back from my flu, with chills, aches and a sore throat accompanying it. So, I guess I learned my lesson. The next time I run through fountains, I will make sure I'm 100% healthy beforehand.

Anyways, I hope you've enjoyed this little recap of previous trip experiences. I'm sure I will be taking more pictures soon. If not, I can go back to ranting about food or maybe even get mushy by telling you all how much I miss my home, family, Sandip, kitties, etc. (not necessarily in that order... you know the kitties are first!!! Just kidding!!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Working for the man every night and day!

So, I am deep into my own work these days, which is both cool and terrifying. While I helped out with samples and went on hikes, I was not ultimately responsible for anything that happened. Yes, I tried my hardest. When a syringe fell in the river and was getting sucked downstream, I ran down the bank and almost dove into the river trying to reach it (I failed because the mossy bank started to give way, so I had to back up, but I was soaked up to my elbow... That's gotta count for something.) However, it wasn't MY work, so it wasn't my fault if it failed miserably. What I'm doing now, totally is my fault if it fails... Pleasant feeling. By the way, although I did not capture the syringe, they had another one, so it was OK.

So, what have I been up to these past few days? Well, I interviewed some travel agencies to get a feel for where tourists to Huaraz were headed. After about 5 of those, I realized that there are 2 main destinations: Llanganuco and Chavin. I signed up for a tour of each to get started on my interviews. Little did I know, the tour guides talk just about 90% of the time... So, I think I'm going to have to rethink that plan. However, it was a good experience to get to know the area and what people are here to see. I had been under the impression that everyone came here to see glaciers (which is definitely more the case when the park with easy to get to glacier is open...), but now that the park is closed, people are seeing the countryside, lakes, and archaeological ruins. Most people were actually weirded out that I was asking them about glaciers... Oy.

The tours themselves were interesting though. When I wasn't feeling sick to my stomach with the car swerving across the road to avoid potholes, I liked looking at the countryside. The tour guides had a lot of interesting things to say, also. They want to make the trips more interesting, as well. The lake trip is not that exciting. You go, you see the lake, whoopdi do. However, they stop for ice cream, see a church, visit a pottery, stop for lunch, the works. So, that's kind of fun. It does mean, though, that there is NO time for interviews.

However, on the Llanganuco trip, there was one site that was almost disturbing in the tourist nature of it all: Campo Santo. This is the sight of the old town of Yungay that was destroyed in an avalanche in the 70's. We walked over top of everyone's houses, workplaces, and, of course, their dead bodies. They were buried under 13 meters of rubble, but still. We also got to see some of the damage sitting on the top. There was a bus fused to a car with an extra truck chassy sticking through the middle. They were all rusted and mangled. It was disturbing. However, even more than the tourist-ness of this ruined town, I was seriously bothered by the way people were treating it. Everyone was making jokes about what we should do if we felt the earth shake. One couple (who had been making out the ENTIRE trip... seriously, no one had any idea what they looked like when their faces weren't stuck together) sat down on the rock where they were displaying the mangled vehicles and kept right on playing tonsil hockey. I'm not saying they kissed every once in a while, they were intensely into the moment and it was LOUD. Not only did they ruin everyone's pictures, they were totally not respecting the place.

One more thing that bothered me about Campo Santo, which will probably offend everyone with my cavalier treatment of it, was the Jesus statue. Now, don't get me wrong, who doesn't love the big JC? (heehee... that's gonna get to people, either because they don't love him or because I called him the big JC) However, while everything around the statue was destroyed, they found the statue with a minimum of cracks in it, and they are now displaying the original. It's a nice enough story, but it gets.... interesting. Because this statue was saved from the wreckage, practically untouched, it just proves the holiness of God, right? This is what the tour guide wanted to point out. What I wanted to point out, but refrained, is that 72,000 people died that day. Entire towns and communities were destroyed forever, with no hope of escape. They had 7 minutes to flee 25 hectares of ice and snow moving at 350 km an hour. Even people who ran were killed. If God was concerned about protecting something, I just don't think it would have been a statue of himself. Now, I am not disputing religion at this point. Anyone can believe anything they want. I'm not even stating what I believe. What I am stating is that the statue was saved because of the fact that it was in a protected courtyard and made of concrete or something. Anyways, sorry if that offends anyone. Although I enjoy the look of consternation on my parents' faces when I say something outrageous, I can't see anyone's face when they read this, thus, it's just not as fun. However, it really bothered me, so I wanted to get it off my chest.

And now some pictures for your viewing pleasure!

Hey, look, Mom!! It's a llama!! Can I keep him??? Although, at this point, I should probably be asking Sandip... However, he won't let me get a puppy, I doubt he'd feel any better about a llama.
This is the lake at Llanganuco. It's super pretty, but super cold. However, the lake has healing powers. We were attacked by bugs, and the bites were swelling up all nasty and huge. The guide said to put some of the water on them, and they immediately felt better. The next day, they were gone!! Weird, huh??
This is the infamous Jesus statue in the cemetery that they rebuilt. Each level houses memorials to people in the avalanche and other coffins and tombs that they recovered from the town. It's not a bad sentiment, but.... it really bugs me. Moving on...
Hey! It's me in my Inca Kola shirt!!! I'm in front of a mountain. I don't remember which one, but I do know that it's the hardest one to climb in the Cordillera Blanca. It's very steep and some of that ice falls down. Muy Peligroso.
This is Querococha. I massacred the spelling, but it's super pretty. This was at about 4500 meters or so. It was nice getting up that high on a bus.... Anyways, I have a new record: 4929, according to the GPS Sarah F. and I had on a water sample day. Not sure if that's right, but we're going with it. Soooo close to over 5000. Hopefully I can make it over later in the trip!!

Anyways, TTFN: tata for now!! The wonderful thing about Tiggers are Tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made out of rubber. Their bottoms are made out of springs. They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun ,fun. But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is I'm the only one.... I'm the only one!!! Love you, miss you!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Expedition of Filth

Today was probably the most disgusting day I've had in a long time. Why? Because Sarah F. and I went on an expedition of filth.

She needed to get a water sample from the river that runs through Huaraz. I agreed to go with her, since I have become a water sampling master. That and I don't think she had anyone else to go with. So.... we were off. We bought some stuff before we went and then headed downhill towards the river. However, it was pretty hard to gain access. Everyone was blocking us off. We did, however, watch as women used pipes sucking water up directly to wash their clothes. We also got to smell the river as we wandered through dusty streets and over bridges looking over the murky waters below.

It was the smelliest, nastiest, dirtiest river ever. Not true, actually. In fact, not even the dirtiest river I've seen.... India took care of that. Which is AWFUL. Nasty. Gross. Images say more...
Sarah sampling at the bottom of the trash hill/river bank.... By the way, this was right before she noticed the dead pig in the water and almost fell in because she was gagging...

Red muck being poured directly into the river....

These girls were washing their clothes and themselves directly across the river from Sarah and the dead pig....

Needless to say, I feel dirty and yucky and sort of like vomiting all day.... However, other nice things happened, so that's good. But I will always remember my expedition of filth with disgust and horror....

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Pickle, a pickle, My Kingdom for a Pickle…

Well, if you can’t tell from the title, food cravings have set in full force. I would pay a good 30 soles for a crisp, juicy Wanigan pickle. 20 more soles for a nice Styrofoam soup bowl of Intermission Deli pickles- an even 50 if you throw in a nice veggie sandwich with all the fixin’s. For a while, I was simply craving pickles in general. This is a holdover from the exceptionally bad pickles available in Columbus. My standards have lowered in the past year. However, at this point, I have my specific cravings, only able to be satisfied with the high standards of Bay City’s finest. Actually, I could probably get away with a Peanut Barrel pickle, courtesy of East Lansing, but there is no Ohio pickle that could do the job.

Actually, as long as we’re discussing these things, Columbus, OH, in general, sucks in terms of food. Sure, you can satisfy the chain cravings- Panera, Cosi, etc., but they just don’t have the cool, delicious local specialties. Now, Bay City, MI really only does the deli better than anywhere else. Yes, I realize that Los Cuatro Amigos is pretty good, Tommy V’s has some nice pasta, and all those other Bay City places are nice. However, I have lived in the Mecca of local restaurants: East Lansing, MI.

I realize that this doesn’t make sense. Columbus is much bigger and has a great local restaurant scene, according to sources. However, East Lansing does really good food from all over the world at amazing prices. I think I have already passed the peak of my culinary experiences in college. Even when I’m not being subjected to the same food every day like I am here, I dream of the wonders of East Lansing cuisine. I think I would burst into tears and find religion if someone showed up at my door with a guacamole tostada with a side of chips and salsa from El Azteco right now. I would cloister myself and dedicate my life to God if it meant that I could have El Azteco, Lou and Harry’s, Peanut Barrel, Flat’s, Thai Kitchen, Georgio's, Peking Express, and Caruso’s whenever I wanted them. I would also probably be very fat.

It’s funny, since I’ve been here, I never crave things that I can make myself at home. I don’t think I’m a bad cook. In Columbus, I like my fajitas, salsas, green bean casseroles, soups, salads, and fake meat specialties. (Sandip claims to like most of them, too….) In fact, I really enjoy cooking and am always a little disappointed when we have people over and they don’t eat my food. Every time we’ve had people in from out of town, they’ve wanted to help cook, which is sweet. But, I’m always sort of sad that they wouldn’t rather see what kind of food I might make for them. Because I like my food and I like to cook. However, I CRAVE that mystical haven of deliciousness that is East Lansing, plus the deli-riffic amazingness of Bay City. I dream about them at night and wake up with my tummy growling. I come close to tears with every bad meal I’ve ever consumed, knowing that I could have had something so much better, if only I’d decided to stay in Michigan.

It may seem melodramatic, but it’s the truth. I don’t know why I don’t crave homemade food. Perhaps it is a remnant from childhood (I told you all that hash was terrible, Mom!). I don’t think either of my parents really LIKES to cook. They’re not terrible at it. My dad has made this odd concoction called Nofakejake that is sort of a crowd pleaser… J Just kidding, Dad! We’ll have to try it out with fake meat one of these days!! My mom can open a can of German Potato Salad with the best of ‘em! (Actually, I could go for some meat-less German Potato Salad… ) However, cooking for them always seemed like a stressful experience (probably because I am such a picky eater) and why not just eat out instead? Bay City food is pretty good. If nothing else, the fast food selection is pretty choice. The Chinese food is something that makes the crave list sometimes. So, I think I am pre-disposed towards preferring restaurant food. Especially for guests and special occasions!! My brother and I used to get excited when one of my mom’s business associates would come into town because it meant pizza and “real pop.” (Pop with caffeine… yes, I continue to have that problem) Sometimes, it’d mean Chinese food. However, in my family, you could not have a guest over and not get them “nice food,” which meant eating out on the town. If you were eating homemade food, it was either a holiday (and justified taking a long time to cook some ridiculous meal including turkey or ham, which also meant that everyone was bringing something. Potlucks were their own special occasion and should count separately.) or you were telling them that they just weren’t as important as other people. During sleep-overs, I would eat dinner at the other little girls’ houses and would be secretly offended that their mom was cooking. When they ate at MY house, we usually had pizza.

Of course, my addiction to eating out is probably causing all of my fabulous health problems. I’ve also grown up to appreciate a home cooked meal. In fact, the best food I’ve had in Peru has come from the little abuelita at Mi Casa that cooked for me when I was sick. She was utterly sweet and gave me flashbacks to my own Grandma Florie when I was a little girl. I got to stay in bed, and she made me food and took me to the doctor. I suppose this would be the time to admit that I miss my friends and family much more than I miss the food. Hunger passes, but love is forever. Not that I wouldn’t like to have both. Tell you what, in August, we can all meet at El Azteco and I can have the best of all worlds. Especially if my parents bring some Bay City pickles.

Love you, Miss you. Have a pickle in remembrance of your homesick little Sarah.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lock Down in Huaraz

So, I know I just posted, but all that stuff was from camping. So, I'm writing from the California Cafe in Huaraz, Peru, with the big metal door pulled down in front. A national strike is stirring up trouble in Huaraz. All of the workers want everything to be shut down, so I guess there's a risk of rocks being thrown at any businesses that are working. People are parading through the streets chanting and waving signs, and apparently... throwing rocks.

We're all fine, though. We had a fun night last nigh at the Xtreme bar, playing fuseball and Jenga. Today is more of a data consolidation than anything else because nothing is working. You can't even leave the city in a car because the roads are blocked off. The buses aren't running. Everyone else is freaking out a bit because they want to go to Lima so they can go home. However, I'm totally here forever, so wheeee for me.

I am, however, getting work done. Interviewing and data collection- whooo!!! It's been fun. I think I'm better at this sort of data collection than the field collection that involves camping in below freezing weather. Especially with whatever I'm allergic to. I'm not the kind of girl that enjoys pottying in a hole. I'm not sure there is a kind of girl like that....

Anyways, we're on lock down in Huaraz. I'm totally enjoying myself and getting work done. Yesterday was exciting because I was at the Office of Statistics gathering some information when the parade of angry strikers went by. I got yanked down away from the window by the guy I was interviewing so that the workers wouldn't throw rocks through the window at an open business.... It was crazy! They shut the lights off and locked the door. craziness.

It'll be sad to see everyone go this week because then I'll be here alone. However, it'll be nice to have my own room for a while.... I think Kyung feels the same. We definitely don't have the same sleep schedules. However, I will miss having someone to giggle with at night. It'll be more sad than happy. Anyways, love you all!!! Wish me luck as we ride out the strike!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Meet the team!

So, now that I've had a nice long camping experience with everyone, I have some good pictures of some of my fellow adventurers. Here is a small sample of the team....
This is Jeff Bury, who I secretly think is a mountain goat, along with his student, Adam. He's a wicked climber and also has the Indiana Jones hat... He's posing in front of the big pretty mountain whose base we climbed to. Jeff and I will be hanging out quite a bit more in the coming month.
While we had four OSU people, we had to O-H-I-O it up!!! Look at the scenery, though... Holy wow!!
When we woke up in the mornings, my water was frozen solid and the tent was covered with frost. It was darn cold!!
Kyung In, the baddest mama of them all, has been my roommate for the whole trip. She got to wake up to my beautifully swollen face in the tent...
This is Sarah 1, also known as Fortner. I've linked to her blog on the sidebar: Crampons and Cornfields. She is a water sampling fiend who has given me quite a bit of good advice about altitude.
These two characters are from McGill University. The girl on the left is Sara 2, also known as Foxy Knoxy. She speaks fluent French and has many secret conversations with the Frenchman on the right, Michelle. The McGill crew has a wicked sense of humor and keep the rest of us laughing.
This is the Erin Brockivich moment where everyone is sampling this secret water diversion system that everyone kept telling us wasn't working but it actually was. The redhead on the left is Adam, the other mountain goat working with Jeff Bury. Jeff McKenzie (also from McGill) is in the middle with the big stick and Sara Knox is on the right.

Getting my hands dirty...

Hello again, everyone!

I am writing post-camping trip with the team. Actually, everyone else will still be out through tonight, but my face swelled up, so I came back one night early. Don't worry, it's mostly back to the right size/shape, but I have no idea what happened. It was definitely some form of allergic reaction, but I'm not sure to what. It also made the lip-shrimp swelling look harmless... Anyways, I'm doing fine now, but I'm convinced I actually need to go get that fancy allergy testing done. However, before I turned into Will Smith in Hitch, I had a really great time with everyone!!

This is a video from about 4625 m. That is the elevation of the lake, and I went a bit higher than that!! I would say that I got up to almost 4700 meters. That's super high!! The hike there was incredibly steep and long. I never appreciated how exhausting walking could be. However, it was totally worth it!! Absolutely amazing scenery!! Plus, I got to know some of my fellow researchers better!!

I keep trying to upload some pictures of the team, but I seem to be having trouble. Maybe later!! Ciao!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The blog from the beginning....

Hey, I have a working computer now, so I thought I would post that first blog I wrote in Lima and Cusco. Enjoy!

Los perros tristes....

Cusco, the capital of the Incan empire, la gran ciudad por las turistas, the big Kahuna of South America, is now housing the uber famous Sarah Wright, everyone’s favorite blogger. No, I don’t care about run-on sentences. They can be their own special thing, too. Anyways, I’m here for the next couple weeks (más o menos), doing the tourist thing and taking intensive Spanish classes so I don’t look quite so much like an idiot during the research portion of the trip.

I desperately need these Spanish classes, too. I tell ya, it’s one thing to know that seca means dry when you’re writing a vocabulary answer in the climate section of a Spanish class. It’s a whole ‘nother ball game when someone brings it up out of nowhere, with no previous context. I was talking about how pretty the mountains were with my taxi driver, who spoke no English, when all of a sudden he comes out of left field with all sorts of stuff. I am not a good improv person in Spanish, I’ve decided. You tell me to act like a dog playing chess in English, no problem! But answering out of the blue stuff in Spanish- no dice. So anyways, I will learn how to respond better and I will just hire a translator for the rest. Personally, I feel like that would make my research more valid, but my advisers think that it would be better for me to do them myself. Bleh. I agree, but I am an incompetent fool, who though speaking Spanish twice a week (which got reduced to once a week, but that was totally not my fault!!) would help me be able to converse once I got here.

Anyways, Gaby is coming to Cusco tomorrow!!! Hurray!!! Me encanta Gaby!!! She’s bringing her friend Alex, also. Hurray for Alex! (?) Hmmm, so my outlet that the computer is plugged into keeps losing power. (I’m typing this on my computer and then I’m going to upload it at the internet café next door. Then I’m getting a pizza!! I know, it’s not so much Peruvian, but it’s next door… That and it seems every time I turn a corner I get lost. So, I figure I should stay within visibility of my hostel. Especially since it got dark at 6 tonight!! Can you believe it?? It’s because we are in a valley. However, it freaked me out as I got lost for the 8th time today.

So, one thing about Cusco is all of these dogs (perros) running around. They had a bunch everywhere in Lima, but they seemed better fed. However, here, there are very dirty, hungry looking stray dogs everywhere. It breaks my heart. I wanted to pet this adorable little thing that was hanging outside the hostel, but everyone freaked out. Apparently petting stray dogs is a stupid idea here, as well. However, they all seem to be the friendliest little things. They really do have the puppy dog eyes, big and hungry. It looks like a Humane Society commercial. I tried to give one a cracker, but I scared him and he ran away.

I’m also amazed at the many types of dogs running around Cusco. It’s not like India, where they all looked like they came from the same litter. The dogs here are everything from the big shaggy dog type (like the one Tim Allen turns into in that movie I didn’t see…) to Chihuahuas (these all seemed to have owners) to terrier type dogs. I mean, they’re all probably mutts, but these are the breeds they sort of look like. They have quite a few of the small, fluffy, white kind, but not always small. They’re just running around like they own the place. I just want to buy some dog food and feed them!! Too cute! Well, if my power outlet blew a fuse or something, I should get going. Who knows when I’ll be able to plug my laptop in!! Much love to you all!!! Buenos noches!!

That's the end of the old blog... Have a good one!! Love you, miss you!!

Sandip's New Best Friend...

Sarah Fortner took this picture of Sandip while I went to the doctor and got my nasty shots... You can tell he was really concerned about me....

Above Cusco...

Here are some pictures from the area above Cuzco.

Hurray for research! I would also like to point out that my belly is magnified by an absolutely massive money belt with all my credit cards, passport, money, receipts, etc!! I know, I know, I'm so vain. However, I was surprised at how it looked. Anyways, love you all!!

Have you ever noticed that I write the most when I have the least to say?

Well, hello again!

I am writing with little news, but lots of hope... I am starting to get better. Sort of. I'm still super super congested, but my headaches and body aches are subsiding. Hooray! Anyways, I'm hanging out. I think I will be meeting with Jeff Bury today, which is good!! But then I will have stuff to do, but I don't know if that's good or not... What a lazy little butthead I've turned out to be.

Anyways, it's been nice just hanging out. The other people seem really nice on the trip. I have been the lazy butthead who sleeps all day. However, they have been nice anyways, and I have more facebook friends! Hah... isn't that the way of the new world?? You know you're friends with someone once you're friends on facebook.

So, my big plans for today, besides meeting with Jeff Bury, is to take an afternoon shower. Yes, afternoon shower. You can't guarantee hot water around here, and there is NOTHING worse than taking a cold shower then stepping out into the icy cold morning/night air. So, I have become all about the afternoon showers here. Problem is, afternoon showers totally cut into any and all plans for the day. However, I just don't care. I will stay smelly until the afternoon. deal with it, folks!! At least this isn't a smelloblog.... :)

Ooooh, so my illegal movie fetish has rubbed off on the two undergrads from St. Rose. It's funny. They went out and had a Huaraz buying spree very similar to mine in Cuzco. However, I would like to point out that I still have the better selection. One of the other Sarah's is currently borrowing my copy of Sex and the City movie (that's right... still in theaters in the US, a fabulous DVD in Peru!). I also think mine are a bit better quality than theirs, but I don't want to rub it in. However, the ones here aren't so bad. So, if anyone has a hankering for something... let me know! Get hanged for the lamb as well as the sheep.... That's something Bryan was saying before. Not sure about my "hanged" versus "hung" grammar, but it doesn't look bad.

Well, like I said, not much to report, but maybe I should try to call Jeff Bury to set up our meeting. He's a nice guy. I'm excited/terrified about this project. However, cliff jumping and all that... Anyways, I'm off to do fabulous things/eat a second breakfast because we've all become a bit more like hobbits since being here. LOVE YOU!!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Flu, the Phelgm, and the freedom...

Hi guys,

I am currently hanging out in bed in Huaraz. I've had the flu for a bit over a week now, and I'm missing out on a fabulous trip to a 4700m pass that is supposed to be ridiculously beautiful. It's very, very lame. I actually got up at 6 and got completely ready to go, packed lunch for Sandip and I, ate breakfast, and everything, but I was still feeling pretty crummy. I told one of the other professors (apparently there's a group from some university in Albany, NY also...), and she said, "well, you're definitely not going, right?" I think part of it was self-preservation from the flu that wouldn't quit, but she and one of the million other Sarah's explained that going up that high would be hard on a healthy person's body. However, with someone who has had the flu for over a week... devastating. That doesn't mean I like it, though. However, they said I could probably go there on my own sometime in the ages I have here. But everyone's there. Only 3 people are actually doing any work, but everyone went. This will probably yet another thing that certain someone can hold over me in reasons to dislike me...

Anyways, I figured that if this stupid flu was actually going to interfere with "work," I should go to the doctor and get treated. So, I went with the daughter of the woman who runs my hostel because they're very sweet and didn't want me to go alone. It was pretty good actually. Unless someone was talking really fast, I understood the Spanish and the doctor assured me that I didn't have a throat infection (flashbacks of strep throat have been haunting me...) So, it really is just the flu, although he said I did have extreme congestion. He also prescribed me a mountain of medication. I have 3 shots (one a day for three days.... bleh) of an anti-flu medicine. I think it's anti-viral and anti-symptomatic... I dunno. I looked it up online and read about in Spanish (apparently, it's only a Latin American medicine). Either way, I feel better, so whatever. I also have pills and two types of effervescent drops to put in water. The one is really tasty, actually. I think they should market it as a soda... It could be the next Inca Kola!!

So, now I'm sitting in bed. I took a nice "hot" shower, and I've been watching some of the many DVDs I purchased on the black market ("Molina") in Cuzco. Well, I asked, and every person said they were legal copies of the movies, but seriously??? Anyways, they're fun, and it's been interesting to sneak some pretzels (the doctor said no food with any artificial preservatives in them... now I would normally follow the doctor's orders, but I grew up on pretzels when I was sick, so I'm sneaking them behind the grandmother type who is taking care of me.... utterly sweet lady, but no appreciation of the healing power of pretzels) I am, however, listening to the doctor and avoiding my first love: carbonated beverages. I've got my effervescent friends if I'm feeling down, and all the tea I can drink, which takes care of the caffeine headaches.

It's been sort of nice to just take it easy today and not have to be "on" for everyone because they're gone. However, I miss Sandip. He offered to stay here with me and entertain me, but I would be a horrible person if I accepted that offer. He loves stupid mountains, so I'm sure he's having a blast and talking too much. "When I went to Everest base camp...." Oh, what a big lug. I am going to miss him like nobody's business when he goes. Do I really have to do Master's research?? Couldn't I just pretend instead? I miss my little home with my little cats and the big lug. Well, time to head out before I get all emotional. I want to see if I can sneak a Snickers without getting in trouble... besides movie bliss is calling my name!!! Leave the poor, little, sick girl some love!!!