July 11, 2009

Peru, Week 3: “Yes, we shared a cadaver”

[SH note: some team members had to leave because of sexual harrassment. The part I wrote then has been removed from this 7-years-post-facto entry.]

Wednesday we woke up at the new usual time (6.45 for breakfast at 7) only to find out that the professors were all gone because they had to take him back to Arequipa, so we had the morning off. When they got back, they said we all needed a break and there wasn´t time to go to the field anyway, so we took a field trip (haha) to a winery and a pisco distillery. The winery had been there since the 1600s, and the owner was a descendant of the original vintners. The big chumbas, the 1200-liter pottery jars for storage, were all from the early 1800s. Unfortunately there were lots of wasps nesting in the roof and the professors, after a few glasses of wine, stopped translating for us and just started having a conversation with the owner, so I went outside to the non-wasp area. I did have some pisco at the next place though (although apparently they weren’t expecting us and we just kind of showed up and asked for a tour). We all had lots of pisco (except the komvi driver) and some of us (Iris, Agusto, and me) climbed inside one of the chumbas. We were back in time for dinner, had a bonfire, and everybody was happy. jar

Except that on Tuesday I had sprained my toe climbing out of bed, was made to lie in bed all day and not go to the field, it really hurt (and still really hurts) and I was worried about whether they’d let me go out on Thursday. It started off just being really swollen, but now the whole outer half of my foot is bruised greenish with little purple streaks around the toe itself. I can really only wear flip-flops; sneakers are a stretch and I still can’t put on my hiking boots.

However, the job  was doing this week didn’t require much walking – I had to climb up a small hill and stand there pushing buttons. This involved the use of an adorable and very expensive machine called a total station (more info and picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_station) which basically shoots a laser beam at a reflector on a stick to calculate distance and angle. This information then s plugged into a computer where it makes a virtual map of the site with X and Y coordinates; it contains the information for the Z coordinate (altitude) but first it needs to go through Autocad. Hans, another UCLA professor and apparently a “dorky gadget genius” and the most wonderful person, was supposed to be here doing all this, but he was unable to leave the country. So instead there’s Ben, who had about two days of training with Hans and a list of instructions that begins with “Set up the instrument in a convenient place” and concludes with “Put the  instrument back in its box and store in a safe place” – again, it’s very expensive. I learned a lot about total station mapping, but mostly I just stood there and listened to my iPod. The day I wasn’t there, the visiting professor (Chris the conservator) did the mapping, and then on Thursday we did a three-person effort with Ben writing points on his preliminary map, Chris holding the stick, and me shooting points. We also got to use walkie talkies. (Also, when the instrument tries to find the reflector it makes a cute noise like Wall-E.) Friday we spent the morning in the field and left in the afternoon. A couple of people climbed the big mountain behind the site and verified – with pictures – that we’re sort of digging in the wrong place and that al the cool stuff is up there. Ben is now convinced that it’s a Wari site based on the awesome face-neck jar Agusto found and the domestic architecture.


Last night we went out to a place called Zig Zag, owned by the crepe people; they called their menu “Alpandina” – a mixture of the best foods of the Alps and the Andes. I had a potato-quinoa gnocchi with pesto and some delicious fries. Itze had smoked ostrich slices. It was really good. We also realized that we were an incredibly multicultural group and that I was the only white person (Veena is Indian, Itze and Iris are Mexican, and Sylvia is Chinese). I don’t think that has ever happened to me before. We also heard there were plans to go to a concert/party with Diego from the country club, but after rushing back from Zig Zag and waiting around, we realized we either had been left behind or forgotten entirely (Ben’s fault, of course), so we hung around here. I also had a massage with  woman who hd the warmest hands ever – 1 hour for $10, so I’ll definitely have another next week. Today we’re going back to the fruit market.


In terms of reading, I got a good start on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” on Tuesday. I found out that the original Swedish title is “Men Who Hate Women”, and now I’m quite confused as there is only one minor character who could be considered a misogynist. I think the English title is catchier. Additionally, our hotel has been invaded by the Germans. We think this is because they have six weeks paid leave per year and like to take “adventure vacations”. I overheard some Scandinavians at breakfast, but they were involved in a conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt to ask where they were from or if they had any insights into my book.


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