Monday, January 26, 2015

The altitude and weather

     Our 3rd floor apartment is at 11,057ft elevation, by my GPS.  This is over 2 miles high.  The air is most definitely thinner here.  Before we arrived, we were advised to hydrate as much as possible, and to take altitude sickness pills, both of which we did.  The result was a relatively easy adjustment to the thin air, with relatively little discomfort.  Hna Johnson has made the easier adjustment than I, though we suspect her first few days of growly stomach was a result of altitude, rather than any food, as we both ate the same.
     It is much easier to get "winded".  This is not noticeable so much when we are walking on the level, but there is not much of that in Cusco.  Walking uphill back from the church, or carrying groceries up a couple stories of stairs from the store to our apartment, its very quickly noticeable that there's not as much oxygen to inhale.  When we return in a year, we'll have really great lungs.
     The only thing that is still unusual about the altitude is that:  as long as I'm active and doing anything - walking, talking, I am fine.  When I am absolutely still, as in reading or trying to grab a little rest, after about a minute, I will be short of breath, and have to take a couple big breaths to compensate.  The first night, I was a little scared, as I thought I would go to sleep and not wake up, but I'm actually sleeping very well.  I guess that my normal breathing at Utah elevation just isn't adequate at this high elevation.  I have talked to several missionaries, seniors as well as youngsters, who experience the same sensation, and they say it doesn't really go away.  During sleep, I'm just fine, I guess my body needs less oxygen in that state.  Hna Johnson is not affected by this - she is just fine, which is probably exemplary of her good health - and she can really walk too.  Each day we walk 2 - 4 miles and the exercise is really doing us good.

     There are two seasons in Cusco:  rainy/cool and not-so-rainy/even cooler.  Right now we are on the last months of the rainy/cool season, which will go til about March.  The days are nice, in the low 60's, and the nights cool off into the 40's.  The days are partly cloudy, with the chance of rain about 40 percent.  We have had some really heavy rains at night, but the days are usually good, we've never been caught in a downpour, though we have gotten rained on a couple of times, and Hna J usually has her umbrella with us just in case.  It's never really hot, except when you're in the direct sun, and then it can feel quite hot.  We're so high that there is little ozone to block the UV rays, and its easy to get a sunburn, as we have seen on several of the elders who neglect sunblock.  When you see my hat in the photos, it's not a fashion accessory, it really serves to keep the sun off my face.  As an example, we went to church in a little branch in Pitumarca last Sunday (more about that adventure later), and the Priesthood Meeting was held outdoors, in the direct sun.  The Peruvians are dark-skinned and they can take it, but without my hat, I would have been lobstered.  Hna Johnson was helping in the Primary, which was indoors in a cement room, and while I was getting toasted, she was cold, just 30 feet away.  There is no such thing as central heat or A/C anywhere in the country.
     We knew about the weather before we came, but being here and actually experiencing it is something else altogether.  It's all part of the adventure.

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