Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I´m a Madrina!

This weekend really proved to me my integration into this little world I am living in. My absolute favorite person here, my 7-year-old best friend Madynley, asked me to be her godmother or madrina. So on Saturday a baptism was held for Madgy and her two younger sisters, MarĂ­a Angelica and Camila. It was in Loja, since the family of Fabricio (the father of the two youngest girls)is from Loja. We had the baptism in the afternoon, followed by a dance and dinner at their house. It was just lovely meeting both families and I really felt welcomed in their hearts and home.

Me with the little ones before the bautizo. Camila is on the left, a cousin Miriam in the middle and Angelica on the end. I had to get my hair did and was not too happy with the outcome...I looked like My Pretty Pony...and you all know how I feel about horses....

Camila, Angelica and Madgy after the ceremony. It´s common to have older children baptized here, not everyone baptizes at birth. It´s a big deal, people like to get really dressed up and have a party afterwards, so in a way most have to save up for a baptism.

Angelica during mass.

Me with my hijada (goddaughter) and her padrino, Fernando. He is Sindy´s (Madgy´s mom) brother.

Proud Papa Fabricio.

It was an amazing weekend. I had so much fun with them and it was beautiful to see this ceremony and the love this family has for each other.

While I´ve got the camera up and running, here are some photos from the medical brigade.

This is the center of the first town we stayed at, Valladolid.

Chris atop a house in the village Chito. The mornings there were so nice and cool...how I miss those.

Mountainside. These mountains were a lot bigger than where I live, it was really impressive seeing them almost like the Sierra mountains but with rainforest vegetation.

Coffee is the major crop in Zumba, as its warm but not too hot. (We only harvest cacao and bananas, it´s too hot for coffee where I live). All over the place you would see coffee laying out on the street, drying out in the sun.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Medical Brigadeering

Last year, Chris and I translated for a group of nurses and nurse practitioners who came to Zamora Chinchipe to ¨help heal¨ those underserved. It was a great experience, so when they called us to help them again, we jumped at the opportunity.

This year, however, we traveled all the way down to the provinces of Chinchipe and Palanda, right along the Peruvian border. We were excited because these are two places we both had never been to before, yet had wanted to see for some time. The capital of Chinchipe is the town of Zumba, where there is a hospital and army base. The only way to get to these towns was by going through Loja, and then south through our province of Zamora Chinchipe...where the roads are absolutely horrible.

We met up with a group of about 15 nurses and nurse practitioners from the state of Washington (and one nurse practitioner from Canada). Everyone squished into the back of a cattle truck, situated with benches and we prayed for a safe and fast journey. It took us about 6 hours to get to our first destination, with the potholes being the size of small ponds and curves comparable to a saucy latina dancer, we managed to get there with ¨sore bums¨(as the Canadaian kept saying).

It was a beautiful town, Valladolid. The priest greeted us, gave us lunch, and then split us up as some were staying in town and the rest had to go to a town out in the campo. Yours truly was part of that group (since I know how this place works....whatever that is supposed to mean). So we hopped back in to the cattle truck and bumped our way for TWO HOURS to a town so far removed, I still don´t understand how or why people live there. It was so incredibly far, but it had the most beautiful scenery I have seen while in Ecuador. This part is actually part of the Andes range, where I live I am part of the Condor range. So the mountains are a lot larger, almost like Loja, but with rainforest on them. Absolutely spectacular. Landslides are also a big issue, some of the roads being blocked for months at a time during rainy season (this town, Porvenir del Carmen, was blocked in for six months last year...)

We made it to the one town, and we jumped right into work. Half way through, Chris had to sit out because he was battling strep throat and could barely talk. But we saw a lot of extremely poor people, many of whom had not seen a doctor in years.

At 10 we had to leave, it was just so late and we were all exhausted from the journey. Got to be around 1 am.

Then we ventured off to other smaller communities the next day, going to Palanda in the afternoon. We generally saw about 30 to 70 patients (that was my high) in a day. That is just nurse and translator. Over the whole week we saw about 1700 people between the 17 of us.

Palanda was cute, very typical Ecuadorian town. Chris and I noticed that they all look exactly the same...no joke. One group went out to a community and got stuck in a mudslide on the way back, so they had to portage all the duffle bags of medicine over the landslide.

After Palanda, we opted for a bus ride to Zumba, which was about 4 hours. Zumba was very similar to Zamora, hilly, pretty houses, fairly developed. In the morning we were woken to the church bells and army men singing during their morning run.

Chris and I got to go with a group of nurses to these three towns, Chito, Chonta and Chorro. It was a lot of fun. These places were also really far away, so we saw a ton of people in each place. The local governments took care of us; giving us food and a place to lay our sleeping bags.

We did see a number of interesting cases, such as epilepsy, a weird case of warts, dengue, malnutrition, STDs. However, the majority just suffered from bone/joint aches, headaches, and a need for parasite medication. Chris and I could tell what they were wanting before they even sat down.

It was a lot of fun though. I learned so much from these nurses and their expertise. Almost all of them had been on at least one mission before, so they were cool to talk to about that. The Canadian nurse had worked many years in Inuit communities, so we talked about that and compared the Inuits to Shuar.

I had a great time. They tipped us in Easy Mac and Snickers bars, not to mention anything they didn´t want to take home. It was great to get out of Yantzaza for a little while and see something new. Zumba was an incredible place, we were saying they should put volunteers down there. It´s far, but absolutely gorgeous and the people down there need the help more than others.

We finished off the week in Vilcabamba, as it is our buddy, Andy´s, last week in Ecuador. He goes back next week. It´s hard to believe his service is over already...but what is harder to believe is that ours will be over in less than five months!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Guayzimi: My Spa of Zamora Chinchipe

FINALLY fiestas are over. Someone said to me yesterday, no wonder our country is poor--all we do is party. That couldn´t be truer. It´s not always a bad thing...they just need to do it in moderation.

Anyway, after a really nice baile Friday night, I decided to decompress in Guayzimi, Chris´s site.

Guayzimi is two hours away, at the end of the line where after that, all communities can only be reached by boat. It´s a sleepy town, one where you can lay in the middle of the road and wait for a car, or moto, all day before having to get up.

But I love going there.

There are a number of reasons. Some don´t like it because it´s so far. But I find that it´s incredibly relaxing, I feel so rejuvenated after going.

Chris still lives with a family, but esentially has his own wing to their house. When I got there, Chris was making some delicious pressure-cooked meat, and chatting it up with his two host sisters. Maria and Mercy are great. They always seem to perk up when I am there, Chris says. The female influence is a nice change for them. We gossip, they´ll braid my hair or do my nails.

We dined deliciously, Chris being one of the best cooks I know here. Being well fed always makes me feel better.

We took a nice walk to the river in the afternoon. We couldn´t swim in it because there is a large amount of Mercury they dump from the mining. So we just strolled and slowly baked in the hot, Amazon sun. I did get a bitchin´ flip flop tan. One of my most impressive to date.

Getting back to the house, we showered and cleaned up. I was seriously sweating non-stop on Saturday...so much sol. Chris has this awesome shower, though. His host family noticed how tall he is, so they extended his shower and now the water basically falls from the ceiling...it´s awesome. The tallest shower I´ve seen in Ecuador.

The family then invited us to dinner, which is always a treat. I love eating with them, because I never realized this before, but I love family dinners. We always eat as a family in my house, and I always took for granted that family time together. We talk, joke around. They asked me about my trip to the States. They are just a really good family...super buena gente. That also rejuvenates me.

We got to watch the coverage of the Chile earthquake. I can´t believe it happened...so much bigger than Haiti too. They sent us warnings on our cell phones to stay away from the beaches for big waves were coming. That shouldn´t be a problem for me. However, it got me and Chris talking about how we would hold up if there was an earthquake here in Ecuador. He could get out, but my cement bunker would be probably the unsafest. I would be fine if there was an atomic bomb and I would be safe from the aftermath, but an earthquake...I don´t think so. Oh well, let´s cross our fingers that nothing like that happens.

Mario is always a treat too. Mario is 10 and the little baby of the family. He´s one of the funniest kids I´ve seen. He is either incredibly smart or incredibly not. But still, he´s always entertaining. When Chris and Mario get together, it´s even funnier. Watching them jump rope had me rolling on the ground.

The weather in Guayzimi is also incredible. The nights and mornings are so fresquito...its awesome. It´s so smothering in Yantzaza, but in Guayzimi, it´s just refreshing I love it.

Well we finished our weekend with a great chicken lunch and then I hopped on the bus home. Chris and I have been through so much together, it´s great to have him so close to me to enjoy each other´s company and each other´s communities. Our lives are going to be so different in a mere five months, but we will always have these moments to look back on.