jueves, 2 de abril de 2009

The End of Chapter 1

The final week of Health Care Volunteer Vacations wrapped up with a group of med students from the University of Utah. They were the most fun, laid-back group of future doctors I could imagine, and I really enjoyed getting to know them. We worked in five communities above the town of Gualsaqui, still part of the canton of Quichinche but at least an hour away in the back of a truck that definitely wouldn´t pass emissions standards. We usually arrived at around 9:30 or 10 am, set up shop, and with the exception of one rainy day saw around 50 patients. Everyone rotated roles in running the clinic every day, and three of the med students would perform a preliminary consultation before running their diagnosis by one of the doctors. This provided a great way for the students to get the hands on experience they´d been hoping for and allowed us to see more patients. We still hope that next time more doctors will come, so that we can serve all of the patients that show up, and also so the non-doctor volunteers always have enough to do.

While patients were waiting to see the doctor, we would give public health talks about nutrition, family planning, sanitation and hygiene. In Achupallas, several of the middle aged women directed us to their teenaged children to talk about using condoms, which was a priceless scene.

Huayraspungo was the most distant community, way up in the mountains (and clouds) above Gualsaqui. These two women are wearing the traditional "anako" skirt worn by all indigenous women around Otavalo.

Dr. Rosado, originally from Puerto Rico, was one of the providers who brought the group of med students here. He was telling those of us riding in the first truck to look at the big mudslide blocking our way. We waited 30 minutes for it to be cleared away--a typical morning en route to a clinic.

Corey, one of the med students, spoke excellent Spanish from his two years of volunteer work with Hispanic communities in Fresno, CA. Here he is giving a public health talk to a captive audience sheltered in the back of one of our trucks.

On the way down from one of our clinics, we stopped to see a spectacular view of Laguna Cuicocha (Guinea Pig Lake in Kichwa).

My fabulous coworkers Kent, Anna and Dana.

The one downside of all the work running the clinics was that I wasn´t getting to see much of my host family. This all changed in April, when I suddenly had a lot more free time on my hands. I teach English for about 2 hours a day Monday-Thursday in the local elementary school, which has been a blast so far. I have Kindergarden through 4th grade one day a week each, and 5th and 6th grade three days a week since they need more preparation for colegio (high school). I try to keep the classes as fun as possible, with games, art and singing. I´ll be teaching there until mid-June, when school ends and I start teaching summer school for high schoolers.

When I´m at home, I try to help with chores like shelling beans, husking corn, sweeping and washing dishes. This also provides a great opportunity to chat with my family and learn about their world. They treat me just like a member of the family, with some exceptions like getting served food before everyone else and laughed at for the amount of time I spend reading or brushing my teeth, and I´m happy living with them. We always share some good laughs, especially over the antics of Condor, my 9 year-old brother, and the running joke that anyone of us who arrives at the house at night was out "mociando", which literally translates to having a romantic affair. Somehow it never gets old.

Blanca, the younger sister of my brother Alberto´s wife, came to live with us so she could help her sister care for her newborn baby.

Estela, my 23 year-old sister, is training to be a chef at Universidad Tecnica del Norte in Ibarra.

A beautiful sunset over Imbabura volcano from my house.

The animals have the run of the house until someone sees, then they get a sharp reprimand.

Moment of Zen: How fast was he running when he hit the wall?

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