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get medical treatment totalmente gratis. The men in baseball caps on the bleachers and the women on the grass with their broad-rimmed hats and billowing skirtsthey all raised their hands in our favor. While the town meeting went on in Quechua and Spanish, Gabriela and I looked at each other. We had work to do. The next morning, we handed out plastic containers, carefully coded and labeled, and for those who could not read, we drew stickmen on the lids, big ones for the men, skirts and hats for the women, and tiny stick kids for the children. Somewhere around 600 hundred people lived in Huascahura. The houses, made of earthen blocks and tin roofs, usually had wooden doors that were latched shut. We knocked on them one by one noting the places where nobody answered in a speckled black logbook so that we would know to return. The women who answered sometimes spoke through a crack in the door, other times they invited us in for a meal. At one home, several hundred meters from the Plaza Mayor, we waited for the owner in a courtyard on a wooden bench. There Raj Mankad illustration by Mike Krone was a small cooking fire to my right, its smoke patterned by diffracted sunlight. The shadows from moya leaves danced when the wind blew, a parrot perched on a beam of the roof, the head of a sheep hung just above the door. The wind blew again, the shadows danced, the smoke billowed in the sunlight. And the wind blew again and again and again. The name of the state, Ayacucho, means “Place of the Dead” or “Land of the Corpses,” and if I were not a medical student carrying out a scientific study, I might have thought there were spirits out. Another home, toothbrushes tucked in the holes of broken bricks in the wall. Puzzle pieces and chicken feed littered the dirt floor, beaten into hard chunks by feet, hooves, and paws. Brittany Spears played on the radio. On the walls were pictures of the white cover girls for Pilsen and Cusquefia, the national beers. They wore bikinis that outlined their nipples and vulva, photoshopped pupils you could swim in. Next door was a house with hay piled on the roof, drying I suppose, and next to that the old drunks who yelled at us from their doorway, refuse strewn about their courtyard. In the afternoons I processed the feces collected in the mornings. So as to keep as few items as possible contaminated, I lined up samples, five or six corresponding tubes in a row, after record ing the numbers in the notebook. I wrote out the labels ahead of time to keep the marker clean. Then I opened up the first sample. Because there were no latrines in Huascahura, the samples I received were mixed with grass and dirt. In one sample, I discovered a small wild flower tucked in the feces. I stirred the feces with a small plastic rod until they were soft. With the same plastic stick, I scooped the softened fecal matter out and carefully placed it inside a small vial full of formal and other preservatives. Children peeped through the crack in the door of and watched me. I wore a mask to help with the stink, my hands wrapped in latex. Getting the feces through the small opening of the vial required patience and concentra tion. When my nose itched I never scratched for fear of rubbing some parasite borne in the fecal matter into my eyes. Ever watching, the children made sounds of delighted disgust when I pushed the mashed feces through the tops of the small vials. They laughed and giggled. What did they make of me? Did they have any idea of where I was from or why I was there? The adventurous ones crept up to my worktable, then shrunk back in fear. JULY 22, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7