I got to have a little break today. I woke up to be ready at 7am, but Richard told me that he’d had a problem finding a motorbike for us to rent for my time here. For the first two days (Saturday and Sunday) we were renting his sister’s little motor scooter. Let’s just say it didn’t handle the bumpy dirt/clay roads as well as we would have liked. My bum is sore just thinking about it.
As for renting a more dirt-bike motorbike? The guys Richard could find wanted S130/day ($47) to rent the bike! And that didn’t include fuel. So Richard, knowing he was going to buy a motorbike in the next few weeks or so anyway, took the morning to go and buy it! So, long story short, I got to go back to sleep until 10:30am when I woke up and did some work and reading until around 1:30pm. AND I get to rent a motorbike for only S35/day ($13) including fuel.
So we ran around town, collected a half dozen or so data points around town, and ran a few errands. Richard needed to sign various pieces of paper and buy a new helmet, and I needed to go to LAN to change my flight from Pto Maldonado to Lima.
Why do I need to change my flight from Pto Maldonado to Lima? Well I needed to move it up a few days so that I can meet with the wonderful people at the U.S. Navy Medical Research Center in Lima, to tell them about my research in case we can do some data sharing. So instead of flying from Pto Maldonado on the afternoon of June 21, catching my flight from Lima to Houston the night of June 21, and Houston to Birmingham in the early morning of June 22, I’m going to go from Pto Maldonado on June 18, hang out in Lima for a few days and then catch my flight out of Lima the night of June 21.
So Monday afternoon I spent an hour waiting in the LAN office to change my flight. It is a tidy and elegant office, which is surprising, given the amount of dirt and ugly concrete that lies just outside the door. I spent my time watching the cleaning woman, as she wiped the walls (not really cleaning them, just spreading around the filmy dirt that seems to accumulate in humid climates), and mopping the floor (which just got dusty again when another person walked in… well, except for the security guard, who smiled at the cleaning woman and wiped his feet every time he came back inside).
My timing was perfect, as when it was my turn to see an agent, I got the one girl of the three who spoke English. It was a very fast process, only 5 minutes or so, to change the ticket. Now, those of you who have changed domestic plane tickets in the US can attest, the change is usually accompanied by a quite painful change fee of $50 to $100. My fee for changing this flight? A whopping $7.43. Yes, that’s right. Seven dollars and forty three cents. That’s it. I was still kind of in shock about the cost when I made it back to the chair that Richard was sitting in and he asked me why. I explained to him the punitive nature of the change fees in the US. We really do have way too much wealth in the US.
Also seen around town on Monday? TWO parades! I caught a glimpse of the first one through the glass doors at LAN – lots of 6-ish year olds walking in a little human chain. The boys were on the left side of the street, dressed as alligators in various shades of green ranging from lime green to the day-glo yellow-green. The girls were on the right hand side of the street, dressed as butterflies in equally varying shades of pinks and oranges.
The second parade was an anti-smoking parade, consisting of many 14 to 17 year olds. Oh, and one VERY drunk man. “Esta borracho!”, a little girl standing next to me told me. I know enough Spanish to know that one. (He’s drunk!). She went on to explain to me (as best I could understand) that this man is always like this at community events, including all of the footbol games. Ahh the town drunk. Besides his amazing dancing and yelling inane things, want to know the best part? Well the parade had come to a stop, as all parades do at one point or another, and the man was standing in front of a group of older kids, maybe 16 year olds. He walked over to them, held out his Cusquena beer, and opened it – I thought he was offering it to the boy – but then he poured a little out on the concrete and took a sip himself. Yup – the town drunk poured one out for his fallen homies. The little girl and I giggled at him for a bit. Esta borracho, indeed.
I’d like to take a moment to address a small problem with the education of small children in the US. I think one of the biggest myths we’re teaching children as they learn to read, is that roosters are nature’s alarm clock, cock-a-doodle-do-ing as the sun comes up. This is complete crap. Those little bastards crow at all hours of the day. Three am, 10 AM, 4 PM, 9 PM, midnight. If we taught small children that roosters are constantly and irritatingly noisy, maybe one of them would grow up inspired to breed a non-crowing rooster. We put a man on the moon, conquered smallpox, have genetically engineered giant chickens and built robots for nearly everything imaginable. Can’t we do something about these damn birds that keep me awake all the time?