ER: Farm Animal Edition

I seem to say this phrase at least once a day: “Life never gets old in Peru.” Something is always happening that is interesting, different or captivating. I had committed to making an appearance at a going away party last Friday, but other than that it promised to be a relatively uneventful, quiet and relaxed night hanging out with the Peruvian guy I’m dating, Marc.

Mother and child

A goat roots around for something to eat at the feet of the mother and child posing for my picture!

Instead, the night took an abrupt and rather fascinating turn when a mutual friend called Marc to ask for his help – one of his young chickens was badly hurt. We rushed out of the house and I assumed we’d be taking the animal to the vet a couple corners down from my house. It didn’t dawn on me what was intended until we stopped in one of the many little shops along the way and Marc purchased black thread, a scissor and a set of needles. The next stop was the Botica (pharmacy), where an anti-inflammatory usually intended for human consumption was purchased. Marc spoke to the woman and asked what dose he would give to an injured chicken – while I couldn’t understand all of the Spanish, the conversation occurred between them in a manner that suggested this was a perfectly normal topic and that the discussion wasn’t at all out of the ordinary. As I live in a relatively rural area where farms and roaming livestock are a stone’s throw away, this begins to make sense*. I try to imagine the same conversation taking place in a US pharmacy and can only wonder what kind of look I’d get from the pharmacist.

Lamb

I somehow managed to catch the attention of the lamb I was sitting next to for just a moment before it returned to looking for bits of food on the market floor. Despite seeing how cute they are in person, they still remain my favorite food.

So we arrived at our friends’ and I could feel the blood draining from my face as I walked into the yard at even the idea of being in close proximity to a seriously injured animal. This was noticed with laughter and the comment of “tienes miedo” (roughly – you have fear/you are fearful). Yes, indeed – word was that its chest and stomach were ripped open and I steeled myself to look at the injury full on – I mean, my American friend killed the duck we had on our Thanksgiving celebration a few weeks before. The least I could do was woman up and really look. I mean, I’m in Peru. We settled on the couch, the operation to take place on the coffee table. I took a good look at the injury, felt slightly whoozy and think that any blood that remained really left my face at that point. I never knew one could actually feel the sensation of being as white as a sheet.

sheep dance

A dancer participating in competitive folk dances costumed as a sheep.

Regardless, I was in much better shape than the chicken and my curiosity mostly began to overcome lightheaded wilting. Our friends tied the feet and held the animal down while Marc prepared needle and thread. The injury was positioned to expose the stomach (Which I had to ask about – “Que es eso?” – “What is this?” with a point of the finger!) so it could be stitched up first. After this Marc closed up the outside wound. The chicken was obviously in a large amount of pain and this was somewhat difficult to watch. During this time a more detached part of my brain marveled that 1) I never thought I’d miss a party to attend an operation on a chicken and 2) I never thought I’d admire/swoon over a guy because he demonstrates prowess in sewing up farm animals.

As far as I know, the chicken was in good shape the next day. Unfortunately I left for a visit to Florida two days later and haven’t heard anything about its condition since. I highly regret not having had any sort of picture taking capability to record the incident but it was the last thing I was thinking about as we rushed out the door. It also seems there is a general lack of chicken photos in my collection despite my constant delight at walking into yards they roam.

*A somewhat related side note: In teaching the usage of “can” and “can’t” to my Basic 1 English students I aimed to pose culturally relevant questions, one of which was “Can your mother grow corn?” – the most popular crop in the Sacred Valley. All eight students answered “Yes, my mother can grow corn”, an answer which might be met with some humor and disbelief in the U.S. To them, it was a completely serious question and answer, reminding me of how much more I have to learn about my new home.

Grande Araña, EEK!!

Despite being an avowed arachnaphobe I’ve lived a relatively sheltered life in the New York suburbs. I have only witnessed the likes of tarantulas or wolf spiders in the glass cases of a tame place like Petco or the local zoo.

A few weeks ago while walking along a dirt footpath outside of town with a friend I witnessed my first tarantula “in the wild.” I grabbed her, peeking from behind her shoulder and yelling a number of English expletives as it crossed our path, alerting anyone within a five mile radius to the presence of a hysterical gringa. I was in such a lather that I couldn’t put my finger on why it looked so strange until my friend called my attention to the wasp that was dragging the tarantula along. It was, in fact, immobile. When I got home I looked up what we saw and was morbidly fascinated and absolutely repulsed by what Wikipedia states happened next:

The female tarantula hawk captures, stings, and paralyzes the spider, then either drags her prey back into her own burrow or transports it to a specially prepared nest, where a single egg is laid on the spider’s body, and the entrance is covered. When the wasp larva hatches, it rips a small hole in the spider’s abdomen, then plunges into the spider’s belly and feeds voraciously, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep it fresh. After several weeks, the larva pupates. Finally, the wasp becomes an adult, and tears open the spider’s belly to get out. The wasp emerges from the nest to continue the life cycle.

Arco Iris

I think the above description now calls for a picture of a rainbow. It was a double rainbow, with another to the right of it. A beautiful rainy season day.

So. Despite the looming knowledge that huge spiders exist in Peru I’ve done my best to pretend otherwise. The spiders that congregate around the door to my house generally freak me out, but they tend to be New York suburban size. Until today.

I returned to the house this morning only to notice a spider the size of my fist (and from tortured research I’ve done in the past looked to be a wolf spider) on the top door frame. One of its legs was stuck in the door, and I can only imagine, in true trauma producing form, that I failed to see it when I left my house a half hour before and upon slamming the door prevented it from falling on my head. If it had indeed fallen on me I think I would have needed a year of therapy. Hoping the spider’s immobility indicated that it was dead (I was dimly aware of the lack of logic here – dead spiders don’t just appear out of nowhere and then continue to hang out on one’s door.) I carefully unlocked the door and then aimed a kick at it to see what would happen. The spider stirred, at which point I screamed and ran across the street. There were Peruanos walking towards me who looked utterly bewildered at this display. That had to be silly Gringa moment #3752.

I had things to do and I needed to get in the house, or get on with my day. The little courage I mustered in having convinced myself the spider was dead now gone, I camped across the street to watch the door swing on its hinges and see the thing stir occasionally. There was no way I was going to remedy this situation with such a creature lying in wait to eat my face. I had a friend on the phone, but I find that my ability to speak my broken Spanish is all but dashed in stressful situations – I finally managed to yell something like “*MUCHA ARANA EN LA PUERTA NO PUEDO IR A MI CASA!!” (I was trying to say – big spider on my door, I can’t go in my house!) and then send a frantic all-in-caps text “MUCHA ARANA NO ES CHISTOSO NECESITO AYUDARME” (BIG SPIDER, IT’S NOT FUNNY, I NEED HELP).

Finally after a panicked run through of people I might get to help me, (said friend was 40 minutes away – I WOULD HAVE WAITED if I needed to) I called my landlady. I must ponder for a moment the virtues of being friends with one’s landlady – and even though I know that to most people this would be utterly ridiculous, I simply could not deal with a spider the size of my fist. Luckily she was quite close and appeared around the corner in a matter of moments. To my satisfaction, she agreed with my estimation of it’s size – HUGE – and after an unsuccessful attempt to reach her partner, took off her shoe and battered the thing to death as I continued to cower against the wall across the street (yes, I checked for spiders first).

I am still utterly bewildered as to why the spider ended up on my door when there are so many in Urubamba to choose from. When I got home tonight there was a small spider running across the tiles – I suppose as a form of therapy, I took out my rage my stomping on it as hard as I could – only to miss, resulting in it frantically running up my shoe. More stomping to dislodge it ensued. This is exactly why I don’t go for the larger cousins myself….

* Mucho/Mucha actually means something like “a lot.” My friend declared he would come to my house and kill all the spiders for me, and while I thought this sweet I was confused as to what prompted this, until I realized I had been using “mucha” all along: a broken version of “muchas arañas” – a lot of spider.

Short Update

Aside

Given I haven’t been posting to the blog nearly as much as I’d like I’ll be using some of the different features that enable me to provide short updates. My general goal has been to post something once a week, but it’s been rather difficult to accomplish. In the meantime, look for shorter updates that indicate I’m generally alive! I do have a lot of different things in the works and I hope to get something out soon. At the moment I’m doing my best to recover from 3 weeks of cold/flu/food poisoning.