October 5, 2012 by jiejie768
As I assume most of our readers know (as our readers, I believe, consist solely of our close family and friends), Wednesday marked my fourth touchdown in life — or my 28th birthday, whichever.
Meg and I had a pretty solid birthday celebration planned. It consisted of gifts, cake with the staff at the school and dinner out at one of the restaurants we’ve come to frequent here in Ayacucho. Unfortunately I also played host to some uninvited guests in the form of microbiotic intestinal invaders who I’d unknowingly brought along for the journey via an unwashed fruit or vegetable or perhaps an accidental ingestion of unboiled water somewhere along the way. Regardless the form of entry, they made it into my system and took up residence in a most unpleasant fashion. I’ll spare you the goriest of details, but suffice it to say I got plenty of reading done and had a temperature around 101.7.
Thus it was that, at around 1 p.m. or so on the 28th anniversary of Earth being blessed by me, I had to interrupt my schedule of moaning in bed and sprinting toward the bathroom — which by the way was devoid of running water (read: flushable toilets) due to a weeks-long rationing system brought on by a construction mishap last month — and hop into a cab headed for Ayacucho’s lone reliable medical clinic.
The cab was kindly ordered by Hilda, the woman who owns the school building and our current place of residence, who declared loudly to her less-than-concerned son that, “Of course he needs to go to the clinic; he has a fever and diarrhea!” As such, the trip from bedroom to cab was accompanied by several sympathetic looks and embarrassing well-wishes from the school’s staff and the handful of students who had arrived early.
The cab ride was, in and of itself, quite the adventure as our cabbie seemed utterly unconcerned by things such as speed limits or the fact that his brakes didn’t really work. We very nearly had a few other clinic-bound passengers as the driver narrowly missed no fewer than four pedestrians and two other vehicles en route to La Clinica Nazareno.
Upon arriving at the clinic we were greeted by Alejandro, Hilda’s husband who also was our bus driver during last week’s adventure in the country side. Alejandro, in addition to being an all-around good guy, is an exceptional person to have on your side in any kind of customer-service situation. He managed to get Meg and I (for the record only I was sick, Meg was just there to make sure I knew what the hell the doctor was saying to me) in front of a nurse within 10 minutes of arriving despite a fairly crowded waiting room.
After the nurse took a few vital measurements and basic information, we were introduced to Dr. Roberto Ayvar’s extremely enthusiastic young son … er, that is we were introduced to Dr. Roberto Ayvar, who apparently caught a few episodes of “Doogie Howser” on rerun during a break from school last year and decided he, too, could become a teenage doctor. Before I get too carried away, I need to say that Dr. Ayvar was very helpful, clearly knew what he was doing, and within 10 hours of my visit I already felt much, MUCH better than I did in the two days previous. But, for real, this guy was no older than 22, and he had full-on metal braces — upper and lower. It was hard not to be amused.
The Young-Dr.-Ayvar asked me a few awkward (or, necessary, either way) questions and quickly determined I most likely had a common case of traveler’s diarrhea and gave me an extremely painful, but exceptionally effective, antibiotic injection (not in the arm …). Then, just for fun (or safety’s sake, whatever) he asked for a blood and stool sample to be sure I didn’t have Typhoid Fever — or as I’ve always thought of it: The Oregon Trail’s silent killer. Again, I’ll try not to get to down and dirty here, but let’s just being handed a cup and sent to the bathroom was among the more daunting tasks I’ve ever been presented with.
Then, sample in hand (yup, got to carry that guy around for a good 20 minutes), I was directed upstairs to the laboratory. The samples (blood too, taken in the much-less-embarrassing traditional fashion) were analyzed pretty quickly, but unfortunately they came back at 3:06; the Young-Dr.-Ayvar apparently had Study Hall from 3:30-5:30 and was not going to be back to read my results and give me my prescriptions until 6. This information was not actually relayed to us in full until about 4, so after an hour so of sitting in uncomfortable chairs amid a hodgepodge of Peruvians in varying states of medical distress, we returned via taxi (a sane one this time) to school resigned to another trip downtown in a matter of hours.
Our return to the clinic was rather uneventful, and the young doctor gave me the welcome news that I was not, in fact, dying and would be right as rain within days by following a fairly simple course of antibiotics and maintaining a low-impact diet over the next week. Sure enough, Peruvian Doogie was right and by yesterday (Oct. 4) morning I felt good as new. Parasites be damned.
As far as the actual birthday stuff went, we had to postpone our dinner out and cake with the staff until next week, but I did get a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” (in English and Spanish) from the kids at the school. And, as the doctor said nothing of presents posing any intestinal danger, I also unwrapped three wonderful, locally-purchased presents from my loving (and devoted, given what she had to witness during all of this) wife: a wok in which I can stir-fry veggies, a leather wallet with regional artwork and a llama woven on the front, and a chess set featuring a racially inappropriate battle of Conquistadors versus Incas.
All in all, I wouldn’t say it was the kind of birthday I dreamed of, but it’s certainly not one I’ll forget anytime soon. I certainly can’t say that about my last birthday abroad: A much more enjoyable but considerably hazier 21st birthday spent in Cadiz, Spain.