Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Mini Update

This isn't the blog post I would like it to be, but it is all I have the energy for.

Every morning I wake up at 6:30 and get to the subcentro by 8.  From about 9 to 12 or 1 every day, we do rural community visits- this could be anything from visiting people with disabilities to vaccinating dogs against rabies.  It usually involves a lot of walking, sometimes on steep dirt paths.  I really like it, especially going way out to the communities that are further away from the subcentro and town.  It isn't because I have a big bleeding heart or because I feel like I am actually helping, but because I like walking and way out there every day is something different.

Then I return to the subcentro, get some lunch, and generally have nothing to do.  Sometimes I observe in the doctor's offices, sometimes I try to create my own activities.  Everything I do at the subcentro is up to me.  I choose what I want to do and do it, with almost zero supervision or support- this kind of bothers me- I feel like I need some guidance and that I am an intelligent person who only needs a small amount of direction to get going on a project.  I get that people don't have time to make up activities for me, but, for example, on my own initiative (and my own dime- they don't have funds for this type of activity), I created a super awesome bulletin board on healthy eating.  And I would be willing to do more, or plan activities for the club de adolocentes, or even clean/organize something.  I just don't know what needs to be done and I need to persistently ask before getting answers.  I've been learning a lot about how much I don't assert my own needs during this internship.  A doctor is not going to talk to me unless I barge in and ask my question.  (It isn't really barging, outside of my new host family house, boundaries are less distant here, but it feels like barging, and it is hard to talk to "important" people in bad Spanish.)  I'm working on it.  Being young and female (and Minnesotan?) in this world has given me a seriously warped sense of non-entitlement to the point that yesterday I purchased cookies and specifically asked for vanilla instead of strawberry, but when I was given the strawberry I left and ate them anyway.  What is with me these days?

It is especially hard to talk to important people in bad Spanish when you have lost your voice, and I have.  One of the many plusses of the subcentro is working in close contact with many doctors who really like me, so one examined me and gave me free medication. (The Subcentro always gives free medication- but you have to live in the service area to get free care.) The diagnosis was amigdalitis bacterial, which translates to tonsillitis.  I have literally never heard of anyone having tonsillitis in real life, and I feel more like I have a cold that just keeps hanging on.  I'm very respectful of the doctors professional opinion, but we don't do throat cultures in the subcentro, so there is just no way to know for sure. If I have a bacterial infection of any kind, my free azythromacin should knock it right out, but it does not appear that it is going to.  Maybe I have an allergy to Otavalo?

Anyway, with tonsillitis and all the walking and eight-hour days, (I work 30 hours per week, but I like to travel on Fridays) I always want to come home and sleep.  I feel bad that I am not adventuring or spending time with my family, but even homework is hard to complete.  I try not to be too hard on myself- I am doing a lot.  Plus, even though it is not all fun and games, I am working with Community Health Workers (here it is a brand new career called Técnicos en Atención Primaria) on the daily, and that is only my dream come true.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Just My Luck

Today, after our guides decided weather conditions were too bad for the planned parasailing adventure of the morning, I thought to myself, "I guess it is just not in the cards for me this weekend..."

And then I promptly mentally slapped myself back to reality.  It seems in this country you have developed an overly high standard for an excellent weekend.  Dude, you had ice cream yesterday.  Twice.  In the United States would be like the best weekend of the month!  You are in a truck, on a mountain, with new friends, seeing a famous lake you read about in a book.  Not to mention it is a gorgeous day, and the family of a coworker has taken you in just for the heck of it to show you a good time.  Of course it is in the cards for you!

So yes, I did have a bit of bad luck this weekend, consisting of three major issues:
1) My travel buddy got the amazing opportunity to go on a weeklong trip with her host bro because she doesn't have to work at her internship this week.  And, as thrilled as I was for her- and I am, how cool of an opportunity!- I was a bit disappointed to cancel my travel plans and have nothing to do.
2) Someone squished my camera on the buseta, rendering the screen and therefore the camera (because for some reason they did not also put a little eye window on Kodak EasyShares all the way back in 2007) useless.
3) And then I didn't get to go parasailing and probably will not be able to because all my weekends have been filled and I am guessing there is no parasailing in Cuenca.

And to myself I say, boo-hoo.  Therefore, this post is about what an AMAZING weekend I had anyway, and just how lucky I am.

1) How cute is it that my coworker called my host sister (they are friends) to invite me to spend the weekend adventuring with her daughters just upon hearing of my predicament???
2) I ate a fish.  Like one that was fried with scales and eyes and everything.  And yes they laughed at me because I didn't like it THAT much, but I still ate it, almost all of it, by myself.
3) I went to my first ever Ecuadorian party that was just of young people.  The daughters are on a rock climbing team, and their trainer had a little dinner grill out.  It was a strange dynamic because he is 33 and acted like one of them, but otherwise it felt like when I hang out with my friends in college, and I really missed that atmosphere.  It is lots less common here because people live with their parents until they are married and also for me because I do not have Ecuadorian family members my age, so it is hard to meet people my age.
4) At this grill out, I ate a hot dog.  Well, two.  I actually missed hot dogs.  Also popcorn and mate.  Popcorn and mate deserve their own celebratory blog post, practically.
5) Ice cream count of the weekend- three.  Due to generosity, I only paid for one.
These are Ibarra's famous ice creams. They put the ingredients (just sugar, fruit, and egg whites) in a big copper pan and spin it around until it freezes. It is delicious and special to the region.

6) I watched my first horror movie.  Yes, first.  Ever.  (I may have been avoiding them on purpose...) And then I went to bed in a strange house with strange noises and slept like a baby.
7) I got to see the most beautiful view of Ibarra- and the famous Yahuarcocha, which translates to "Lake of Blood." This is where the Caranquis fought off the takeover of the Incas (and lost quite badly).  They say that the body count was over 30,000, and the lake turned red with blood. Today it was just a pretty lake, though.


8) I saw the coolest environmentally friendly house ever- one of their relatives built it himself, bit by bit.  It was built directly out of items in the environment, part of the plumbing system uses rainwater, and it definitely has a lookout on top where you can chill in a hammock.

9) There they set up a little discoteca for us because they know how much I like to dance.  Everyone was a bit embarrassed movin' it to reggaton at 3pm, but really every weekend needs a bit of bachata, so I'm happy about that.
10) I made Ecuadorian friends my age- lots of them, considering the nieces and nephews of my coworker also came along.  They are super nice people and hopefully we will hang out again before I head back to the U.S.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Un Día en San Pablo

Sooo maybe some of you, like my mother, are wondering what I'm actually doing all day at this mysterious internship of mine. So in order to show you, and to not have to complete a different field journal tonight, I am going to take you through today (not a typical day, just today) living in Otavalo and working in San Pablo.

6:00am- Some mysterious neighbor's roosters start crowing.  I haven't enough sleep, or maybe I'm used to them, so I don't hear them.
6:15am- My alarm goes off-I hit snooze, giving myself a lecture on how I actually have to shower this morning.
6:30am- I actually wake up, take a shower and head down to breakfast.
7:10am- Breakfast is on the table, like it always is.  It is a cup of hot water with a plate over it so it stays hot, a glass of juice of a mystery fruit- it is always the same fruit, but I still don't know what it is, kiwi (so much better than the usual papaya), and bread.  I always hope it will be eggs.  It is almost never eggs.
7:25am- I leave the house to go to the bus stop.  It is a short walk, but to get there I have to cross two busy roads.  Since crosswalks mean nothing in this country and pedestrians do not have the right of way, I'm getting pretty darn good at judging when is an appropriate time to enter traffic, and when is definitely not.
7:30-something am- I hop on the "buseta" which is a little bus that says "escolar" on the side of it- it takes a group of people to San Pablo every day for the same price as the regular bus with fewer stops.
8am- I arrive at SCS San Pablo and greet the street dogs that have made this place their home.  I put my stuff down and wait around for people who are late to get here.
8:15am- I watch Dr. Chavez, the person in charge of the subcentro, give a talk to all the patients lined up outside about how they should call ahead to get an appointment.  This doesn't usually happen, so I wonder why he is just telling this group.  I think, good luck with that one.  He also reminds everyone of the large campaign going on this Saturday where the provincial government is giving an educative talk about uterine cancer and those women who attend will be eligible for free PAP smears, free treatment if needed, and lab results much faster than usual.
8:30am- I help out in giving the people who called ahead "turnos," which is the closest it gets to an appointment here.
9:15am- One of the doctors, Dr. Gloria, is asked to make a house call.  While we usually go to the community every morning to do school screenings or check on the elderly, pregnant women who didn't come to their checkups, or those with disabilities, a house call is unusual.  We visit a woman who has some form of bone cancer who has gotten sick on top of this.  She lives in an elaborate, brightly-painted house with her extended family not too far from the subcentro.  Her son-in-law brings us to her in their car, and I watch the doctor give her a checkup.  She seems to just have something viral, but she is prescribed pain medicine and nebulizers.  The family brings us juice and bread as we visit.  I can't help but compare this visit to the visits we pay to the elderly in Topo, a rural and mostly indigenous community.  There, many elderly are abandoned and receive no family care at all- some cannot hear or speak or can barely walk.  Not twenty minutes away lives a woman who could be just like them- socioeconomic status is the only thing that separates them, and I don't have to look back to my experiences in the US to find disparity.
10:20am- We arrive back to the subcentro. The doctors are already in their appointments and I do not want to interrupt.  I have observed enough pre and post consult for my entire life, so I sit down at a little desk and do some planning of my final term paper on my experiences here.
11:40am- When I get sick of that/ observing in the post-consult a bit, I go to see if Adrianna needs help- she's the auxiliary who runs the front desk- she doesn't, but she shows me the room that is supposed to be for the nutritionist, which the subcentro doesn't have right now.  Instead, this is where they do TB control.  I look through a book on sputum tests that they have done on suspected cases and read a flipbook on drug-resistant TB.
12:15am- Dr. Lorena, the other doctor completing her one obligatory year of rural rotation, has been asked to do a presentation about drugs at the police academy down the street.  I go with her to observe yet another facet of community health promotion the subcentro does.  The visit is interesting because I get to re-experience 10th grade health class in Spanish but also because I do not think I have ever been in a room with that many men my age before.  I know that women can be police officers, but do they have to go to a different school or something?  We are invited to eat with the instructors, so we have a great meal, and then head back to the subcentro.
2pm- I catch Dr. Arotingo (He introduced himself to me as Jose, but everyone always calls him Dr. Arotingo.) on the way into an appointment and ask him if I can observe.  Dr. Arotingo is probably my favorite doctor at the subcentro.  He is also a student, already a general practitioner, but doing his specialization in family medicine.  He specifically invited me to observe his appointments, and he is very good with his patients.  Plus, his family medicine specialty calls for looking at the whole patient- including their family structure and household relations, which is basically social work and a bit of mental health work.  He also always tries to speak English with me, and even though his accent is hilarious, he knows a lot.  Today, one of his patients is more comfortable speaking in Kichwa than Spanish, so they do the appointment in Kichwa.  Dr. Arotingo is indigenous and the only doctor at the subcentro that speaks Kichwa.  I think understanding and being understood is SO important to the medical encounter, and I am happy we have at least one Kichwa-speaking doctor for our significant indigenous population
3:40pm- I leave the consultorio to try to find the club de adultos mayores (Senior club), but I learn that all of them decided not to have club today because we had a surprise activity yesterday.  Since I have worked way over my hours this week, I decide to leave a little early and go walking to find some food to feed the "new dog of the subcentro."  She is the sweetest thing I've ever seen and she is afraid of everything.  She is also very obedient, which makes me think she maybe had owners.  The subcentro already has two dogs, and we feed them and they come with us on our journeys.  This dog has recently, very tentatively, joined them, so when they got fed today, she got nothing.  Logically, I know that it is futile and counterproductive to feed the street dogs, but I decided I'd rather be the kind of person that feeds the street dogs than that doesn't, so I buy my new friend two rolls (couldn't find meat), and head for the bus.
4:45pm- The 4:30 bus never comes, so I spend 25 minutes at the bus stop. Luckily it is beautiful and the most important item on my agenda for tonight is going to get (yet another) $3 manicure with my host sister.  Oh yeah, and just a bit of work finding a faculty mentor for my summer research program, deciding how I'm going to write my term paper, and planning the trips I'll be taking for the just a little bit over a month I have left here.

My head always hits the pillow hard when I finally get back in my bed in Otavalo, but I'm pretty happy about that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Song lyric Some Days: Study Abroad Edition- Mariah Translates

So, I still need to give you a deeper look at my new job and my new family... but today I'm feeling lazy.

And how very, very applicable that is to the theme I have chosen instead.  You see, a coworker drove me home from work today, and he put in a CD that included "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars.  Since it was one of the first songs in English I'd heard in a long time (my other host parents weren't so hip and with it), I started musing about what it would be like if I were asked to translate.  Tonight, after dinner, surprise, surprise, my host sister put on the song and asked me what it meant- I only translated the chorus, but here is an imagined version- translated as best as I would be able to on the spot and without a dictionary (I promise, I used nothing, which is why it is sometimes terrible) and back-translated literally for maximum comedic effect for those who don't speak Spanish.  (Mariah translates- because google translate is so five minutes ago.)

"The Lazy Song"- Original Lyrics

Today I don't feel like doing anything
I just wanna lay in my bed
Don't feel like picking up my phone
So leave a message at the tone
'Cause today I swear I'm not doing anything.

I'm gonna kick my feet up
Then stare at the fan
Turn the TV on, throw my hand in my pants
Nobody's gonna tell me I can't

I'll be lounging on the couch,
Just chillin' in my snuggie
Click to MTV, so they can teach me how to dougie
'Cause in my castle I'm the freaking man

Oh, yes I said it
I said it
I said it 'cause I can

I said it.
I said it.
I said it because I can.


Tomorrow I'll wake up, do some P90X
Meet a really nice girl, have some really nice sex
And she's gonna scream out: 'This is Great' (Oh my God, this is great!)

I might mess around, and get my college degree
I bet my old man will be so proud of me
But sorry pops, you'll just have to wait


No, I ain't gonna comb my hair
'Cause I ain't going anywhere
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no
I'll just strut in my birthday suit
And let everything hang loose
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah


Hoy no quiero hacer nada.
Solo quiero descansar en mi cama.
No quiero contestar mi telefono.
Entonces puedes dejar un mensaje.
Hoy te prometo que no voy a hacer nada.

Voy a poner mis pies arriba.
Y mirar la cosa- no se como se dice- que se usa para hacer viento cuando hace calor?
Prender la tele, y- poner mi mano en mis pantalones...?
Nadie puede decirme que no puedo.

Voy a descansar en la sofa
En mi snuggie- ustedes saben que es un snuggie?
Voy a mirar MTV para que ellos puedan enseñarme como bailar el "dougie"
Porque en mi castillo soy el hombre más importante

Yo lo dije
lo dije
Lo dije porque puedo

Mañana voy a despertarme, hacer ejercicios P90X
Conocer una chica muy simpatica, y tener relaciones sexuales buenas...?
Y ella va a gritar: "Esto es lo mejor!"
... siento incomoda...

Tal vez voy a terminar la universidad
Creo que esto haría mi papi sentir muy orgulloso
Pero lo siento, papa, simplemente tienes que esperar

No voy a cepillar mi pelo
Porque no voy a irme a nigun lugar
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no
Solo voy a andar desnudo puedo traducir esto
Si, si, si, si, si, si, si, si, si, si


Today I do not want to do anything.
I only want to rest in my bed.
I do not want to answer my telephone.
So you can leave a message.
Today I promise you that I will not do anything.

I am going to put my feet up.
And watch the thing- I don't know how to say it- that they use to make wind when it is hot?
Turn on the TV, and... put my hand in my (multiple pairs of) pants?
No one can tell me that I cannot.

I will rest on the couch
In my snuggie- do you guys know what a snuggie is?
I am going to watch MTV in order that they can teach me how to dance the dougie.
Because in my castle I am the most important man.

I said it.
I said it.
I said it because I can.

Tomorrow I am going to wake up, do exercises P90X
Meet a very nice girl and have good sexual relations...?
And she is going to shout: "This is the best!"
... I feel uncomfortable...

Maybe I will finish the university
I think this would make my papi feel very proud
But sorry, papa, simply you have to wait

I am not going to comb my hair
Because I am not going to go to any place
No, etc
I am only going to walk around naked
...I can't translate that...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What. Just. Happened?

So, if you have been paying attention on Facebook, you may have noticed that a lot is going on right now, and, as you probably caught only snippets, you may be wondering what just happened.  Don't worry, I am too.

In the past few weeks so many things have changed so significantly I'm not really processing all of it as real.  I want to do some significant blogging, but for now, just the key points of what happened the week between March 24 and April 1.

1) What feels like ages ago, but was really two Mondays ago, I had to make the hardest decision I have to date- how to spend my summer.  I was fortunate enough to be selected into two summer programs, the McNair Scholars Program at the University of Minnesota and the Public Health Summer Enrichment Program at the University of Michigan. I tell you this not to brag about how special I am, but to illustrate the agony of this day.  Headed to the rainforest at 10pm, having been accepted to the public health program just on Friday with a Monday decision deadline, taxiing around the city buying bus tickets and finalizing trip details, eating only bread because my host parents were unexpectedly called away, I was not having the most zen time.  I skyped with a friend, my parents, a representative from both programs, chatted on facebook with more friends, took breaks to fold laundry and think, visualized what I wanted my summer to look like, and even flipped a coin.  Up to the last moment, I wrote four emails- the email saying "Yes, I will be a part of the program" and the email saying "Thank you but I will not be participating" was fully composed for each.  In the end, I chose the McNair Scholars Program and I will be doing research this summer- still doing public health work, but closer to home, in a way that I hope will be more personalized and offer more long-term support than the other program.  I'll keep you updated.

2) And then I went to the Amazon.  After my tough decision day, we took the night bus landing in Coca, an oil-drilling town a couple hours from Lago Agrio, where we enter the rainforest.  We visited my friend Katrina's host relatives in Coca, then headed for a four day tour of Cuyabeno.  Honestly some of the best days I've had.  I will hopefully reflect on the rainforest soon, but here are a few pictures of some highlights.

Fishing for pirañas

Making friends with a tarantula that decided that the seating area was a cool place to hang

Making pan de yucca

The group motor canoeing the Cuyabeno River- motor canoe is how to get basically everywhere- and also see the animals

3)  After a surreal, beautiful, I-never-wanted-to-leave weekend without any electricity, much less Internet, it was time to pack my bags and say goodbye to my host family in Quito.  There wasn't any time at all to process this, as I got back Sunday and left early Monday morning.  These people are like my family by blood that i have known for years.  I am only comforted knowing I will see them again.

4)  And then I moved to Otavalo.  I met a new family, which consists so far of my host mom, two older host sisters, Belen and Fernanda, and the son of Fernanda, Pablito, who is four, as well as NINE poodles- their two dogs just had puppies! ADORABLE!  I also have a host dad, but he works far away and is only around on weekends.  Fernanda works at the Subcentro de Salud where I work, so we spend a lot of time together, and Pablito is absolutely adorable and SO excited that I am in their family.   Even though I miss my Quito family, I am excited to be here.

Mama poodle- Chispa- she is so sweet.

Mountain view from close to my house.

5) On Tuesday, I started work at Subcentro de Salud San Pablo.  It is the main health center for San Pablo and the surrounding rural communities.  I shadow the nurses and go with the doctors on rural visits.  I also am learning all about a program called Técnicos de Atención Primaria, which gives people from the community basic medical training.  It is like a more formal version of the Community Health Workers that I learned about in International Public Health.  I am super interested in community health, so this works perfectly for me.  I also get to be a part of the Teen Club and the Senior Club, each meet once a week at the Subcentro to do various activities.  So far I am really loving it.

The Subcentro has dogs- Toby

And Bobby.

This is where I work guys!

I am learning so much here- about taking advantage of every opportunity, about trying new things and remembering that to this day I am still learning (so what if you hate camping and the rainforest has spiders the size of your face- you want to see it? Live your dreams, you might love it) about being comfortable with uncertainty (which is everything here) and moving forward even in that uncertainty, about trusting strangers- not too much of course- and taking chances (two different families have opened their doors and their hearts to me, and so far, it has gone swimmingly) about myself- about what I can offer and how much I have left to learn.  It is cliche and sappy, but it is true, so I am saying it.  I am ever so grateful to be here, and for the moments where it does not seem real, where the decisions are too hard for one person alone, where I just need someone to listen, and so many more things, I am ever so grateful to have you guys!