'Hospital de Cusco' letters at the entrance of Hospital Regional
Forget all you knew as true, and be ready to learn it all over again. This is the valuable lesson I've learned today, a day that started not so well and ended in great internal growth and warm feelings.
On Friday night I went to bed feeling feverish and with a runny nose. I spent all night blowing my nose and woke up still feverish. I took paracetamol, had a small breakfast and went back to bed for the rest of my Saturday.
I even skipped dinner both on Friday and on Saturday, something rather rare in me that also weakened me. After a day in bed yesterday, and waking up still feverish today, and still with some green phlegm I decided that it'd been enough and I needed to see a doctor. Easier said than done as I had no idea where to go. I made to the taxi station where I asked the driver for what I thought was the nearest hospital (one I'd found on Google maps).
As I aproached Hospital Regional, I started having a feeling that this had been a bad idea. The hospital looked old, worn off and half in ruins. Almost like the hospitals I'd seen on tv on developing countries where health care was a struggle (I must say I really know nothing about how good or bad healthcare is here in comparison to other countries in the world, so another one to take for the 'silly tourist').
As I walked in, and saw the state of the interior (along with the fact that there were no other European looking people around) I started to feel very unconfortable and unsafe. Something in my mind was just telling me I couldn't be sure if the instruments were going to be clean enough, or the doctors savvy enough, or what would happen if I was asked to stay to be monitored... This was just not a place I'd feel comfortable being treated at.
For someone who's always vouched for public healthcare, who believes in being integrated and trying to blend in with the cultures I've visited, this was a hard hit to take, but I just couldn't stay. I felt like a tourist for the first time in a very long time. Someone who comes in to see only the pretty things and then leave, keeping in their minds the image of the beautiful postcard looking place they'd just been to.
I really don't like tourists. I've disliked this group of people I considered closed minded for a very long time. Yet here I was looking for a place that held 'tourist standards'. After calling my travel insurance and confirming I was ok to be attended at a private facility, I headed to the private hospital across the road from Hospital General.
The visit with the GP would cost me 100 soles (about €26.50) and for another s/100 they've even run some blood tests for me. Treatment was quick and professional as I'd have expected and a fever that had been worrying me turned out to be an amigdalities that will be cured in a couple of days with the help of some antibiotics. I even met some great Americans there and had a great chat about their lives here in Pisaq.
At midday, I left the hospital to grab some lunch while I waited for the analytics to come back and confirm the initial diagnose, and as I sat down at this nearby 'pollería' and told my mom about my experience, a tear came down my cheek. How lucky was I; To come from a place where healthcare is free, of very high standards and for all; To be able to afford the 'rich people' hospital here so I could receive treatment at a place where I felt safe; And then even more lucky to be able to be here, experimenting this shocking reality and appreciate my luck a hundred times over.
I took a taxi to the hospital, but on my way back I decided to jump on my first bus since I've been here. A 'colectivo' they're called. The way those are run is short from crazy, but sitting there surrounded by Peruvians with my antibiotics and assurance of a prompt recovery I felt blessed. I'd experienced what it meant to be lost in this city, and in that, I found myself again.
There are things here that one could never think of in Europe such as not feeling safe going to the doctor, or not being able to dispose of toilet paper on the toilet as it blocks the pipeline system, that hot water may only be available for a few hours (if any), or that houses can still be made of patches of wood and mud. It's a reality that shocks your system, but today's experience in this city of over 400,000 inhabitants humbled me to levels I couldn't expect. And for that I'm thankful; for being able to be here having this experience and specially to them for letting me in their home to discover life as a Cusqueña, or better yet, a tourist who really can't hide, yet is welcome everywhere.
I am so excited to keep discovering more about Cusco and Peru, but it took a day like today to learn that to truly enjoy it, one needs to be able to forget everything we knew as true and be ready to learn it all over again, as in with that we'll see with an open heart the beauty of its gents and its culture, rather than with the closed eyes of fear of the unkown.
I, the tourist, in front of the Inca walls surrounding the Convento de Santa Catalina (calle Loreto)