Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Last Week in San Pablo

Because I really don't want to transfer my field journal from this week to my computer, I'm attempting to make it a fun activity and turn it into a blog post.  Luckily, this past week was actually super interesting, so sharing it with the world makes sense!

Monday, May 5- Today, the Técnicos de Atención Primaria de Salud (TAPS- I'm doing my monografía on their community health worker program) had a quiz, so none of the doctors or nurses wanted to go to the community.  Home visits only happen with the TAPS because they know the communities and help save time in actually finding the house or in giving instructions in Kichwa to those who do not know Spanish.  When the TAPS aren't around and people go to the community, it is to go to schools to do eye checks or vaccinate.  I interviewed the TAPS that were not taking their quiz on vital signs (it was oral and two at a time) for my project and waited around for something to do until it was time to lunch and leave, and then I'm pretty sure I slept a lot because I travelled over the weekend and that always exhausts me.

Tuesday, May 6- Sadly, this was my final day with the TAPS, as they have classes Wed-Fri.  Lots of people left to the community- I believe some decided to go and vaccinate for the campaign against influenza.  I chose to visit the community with the obstetrician- my favorite community, where I always seem to end up, Topo, which is also where I thought the puppy I was looking for might be.  We left late in the morning because Dr. Chavez called all the TAPS in for a reunion, but after that, I had my first chocos ever and we were on our way.  We ended up walking a ton and only seeing two patients- it is always this way- the houses way out there are spread out, there is no transportation, and our patients work or are not at home.  I do like walking, though when it rained, that was less fun.  By the time we were done, it was 2pm and I wanted to look for the street puppy I wished to adopt, so we did for a bit.  Not having found her and having missed the bus, Silvia, one of the TAPS, and I hitchhiked back to the subcentro.  Well, it is a bit different than hitchiking because the community knows us as working in the subcentro, but still.  Not having been killed, raped, or kidnapped from my first hitchiking experience, I went and ate some well-earned salchipapas and returned to the subcentro to finish all of my TAPS interviews.
First chochos as I can def eat street food now- so delicious!

Chochos were good fuel for walking through Topo.  We did a lot of walking to get to this gorgeous view- think 30 minutes of pure, pathless hill.

Coca cola and salchipapas at the Heladeria Bamby- because I am living in the 1950s.

Promise it is more delicious than it looks.

Wednesday, May 7-  Today I joined in the campaña de las Americas- a vaccination campaign against the flu and walked around Araque- a community just outside of San Pablo offering vaccines to the people.  It came to my attention that the digitization of vaccination records needs to happen stat out here because most people cannot remember if they have been vaccinated/ have lost the card that is their vaccination records.  Internet, and Internet on phones is common here, so my ideal way of doing this would be to create an online vaccination record that could be accessed through a phone or tablet and mobilized in the field.  Considering the subcentro has like two computers, this probably won't happen anytime soon, but the second they start digitizing records, vaccinations should get first priority.  I stayed in the subcentro all day today, and attended a 3pm meeting about how clinical histories are being filled out incorrectly and in a hurry- the first 3pm meeting we had ever had.  It is a much better time to have a meeting than 8am, because mornings are when everyone arrives to the subcentro.  I also had my last meeting with the Club de Adolocentes.  They planned a field trip and then gave me the most adorable "despedida" of kind words ever.
These are the clinical histories in the subcentro- digitization would be so helpful.

Thursday, May 8- Today was the campaña de las Americas again, this time around San Pablo proper.  It rained on and off and the roads are being rebuilt (really, the fact is more that they destroyed all of the roads simultaneously and may or may not be rebuilding them), so the streets were mostly rivers.  The campaña de las Americas is specifically for children under five, people with chronic illnesses, and people over 65 years of age.  Not finding too many of these, we mostly ate chochos and got a lot of nos.  The people here are also afraid of the vaccine and say it produces the flu in them and can be really really brusque when offered.  Then again, I might not feel super comfortable about taking a vaccine I wasn't really sure about from a stranger (in uniform, but still) in the middle of the street either.  We returned to the subcentro by lunchtime, as is usual for when we go out to the community.  Everyone was really sad I hadn't yet found my street puppy, so Adrianna, my friend and the auxiliary nurse helped me and one of the interns sneak off and search for a couple hours.  (Technically, I didn't have to sneak off, as I had completed my hours, but still...) We didn't find her, but we did get drenched in the rain.  You know, on the positive side. I returned, intending to go home, but the Club de Adultos Mayores was having a fiesta for Mother's Day with delicious sandwiches.  There was music and dancing, and Antony, the hospital leader's seven-year-old-son would not let me sit down.  So we danced around like lunatics, I had a blast, and I forgave him for that one time he stuck a booger on my arm.

Friday, May 9-  My last day at the subcentro came way faster than I could have ever imagined it to.  I got to spend the day in my favorite community again, vaccinating for the campaign.  This day was much more effective because we communicated with the community ahead of time through the community president, as well as while we were there with a bullhorn, and the people came to us, rather than us to them.  Being that they live so far away, they also really likely hadn't been vaccinated, which made remembering easy.  Plus, the subcentro had officially decided to start vaccinating all adults because there is a requirement to finish the quantity of vaccine that had been sent, and we really do not have a large enough elderly population to do so just vaccinating those over 65.  The day flew, and was gorgeous in the morning.  We also crashed a Mother's Day party down the hill at a daycare and vaccinated everyone there in the rain.  Happy Mother's Day!  I got back to the subcentro, said a very sad goodbye to the salchipapas lady, waited around for my supervisor to grade me, gathered my papers, said my last "chao"s, and took a final bus ride away from San Pablo.  I'm really going to miss that place, but hopefully I'll meet the staff again one day, as I've told them all to come to the states a zillion times, and I know I will be back here before I know it.  Plus, we are friends on facebook, which obviously means we are friends forever.
Vaccinating in Topo

Mother's Day Party Crashers!

I didn't have too much time to be sad because I had to work on my term paper and get myself ready- I was going dancing with my friends in Ibarra!  I hopped on the bus by myself- easy as pie now, and when we arrived I ate pizza with the girls.  They made fun of my choice of Neapolitan, saying people here only go out to pizza for the meat, and then we got ourselves all ready to go out.  We danced the night away, of course.

Saturday, May 10- I was up bright and early to meet my friend from Norway I met two weekends ago in Quilotoa in the Otavalo market.  It rained the entire morning, but we still had fun.  I'm so glad I met Kristine and we got to see each other again.

I made a last-minute decision to go see my Ibarra friends again, as I hadn't wanted to leave my extra adoptive family.  So we got together again Saturday night, and first stopped at the hair salon to get me a red streak- I'm such a rebel.  (But actually I figured that as I'm about to be a senior and hopefully someday enter the professional world, the crazy hair window of opportunity is closing fast.  I'm very calculated about my rebellious moves.)  We ate salchipapas- I swear to you I am so unhealthy here- and decided to go dancing again.  You don't have to ask me twice!  It was really sad to leave them Sunday morning, but by afternoon I was home to my Quito family again, and I can't tell you how overjoyed I am to be living there.
About to get really rebellious.

At least it isn't a tattoo, Mom.

Well, I gotta go- I have some serious term paper writing to do.  But this was technically productive procrastination.  It also might be my last blog post before I am in the States again.  I hope you'll stay along for the ride because I hope to do some post-Ecuador reflection- I have so much to say about my time here!  See your lovely faces in person soon!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Riding in the car with Strangers

On January 6th of this year, I made a list of fourteen potential goals for Ecuador.

"Learn to trust others/ believe people are good." -- That was number three.

I came to the right place.

Ecuador is one big trust exercise, and it is no place for old anxieties.  Living in a country where you know no one and cannot drive pretty much guarantees riding in the car with strangers, for example, and that involves a lot of trust.  That they are safe drivers and that they are not going to kidnap you, for example.  Oh, and backseat seatbelts aren't really a thing here.  So almost constantly, I am riding in the car with strangers, often without a seatbelt.  I have progressed from doing this nervously to just getting in the car- so here are some highlights of times I rode in the car with strangers, and how it has helped me learn to trust.

1) In the taxi on the way back from the airport.  In every taxi actually, but this one is when I was sitting on a little jump seat in the middle of the taxi bus with my fellow program participants and I was intensely preoccupied over my seat belt.  Like I really wanted one and I was terrified of what would happen without one.  Oh how times have changed.

Public health/service announcement- you actually should worry about your seatbelt.  Srsly.  But like, sometimes there aren't any.  And then you have to assume the Jesus on the dash is going to protect you from Quito traffic because there really ain't anything else you can do.

2) Being picked up from CIMAS by my host family- and riding home in the neighbor's car because of pico y placa.

3) Almost right away, I went to a birthday party.  My host sister, who I just met that day, drove me.  I distinctly remember thinking- "I am riding in the car with a stranger without a seat belt."  In that moment, many weeks ago, this blog post was born.  After that, my host niece and nephew sang "Libre Soy" Frozen a million times.  Why worry?  Libre soy!

4) Carnaval- from being driven to the coast by Katrina's family to that one time a dude who was a friend of the family friend we were staying with offered to take us to the discoteca and I rode in the bed of the pickup.

5) Waiting for the bus one day to work, probably my first week, two of my coworkers passed by, honked and told me to get in. I did.

6) A traveling musician who may or may not been friends with one of the auxiliary nurses (possibly a stranger to everyone in the car) brought us to a community celebration for work that he wasn't even heading to.  Later, he saw me waiting for the bus and offered to take me to Otavalo, but I declined because I was alone and I'm not stupid.

7) During my weekend in Ibarra, the daughter of the coworker that invited me picked us up from the bus station- she looked about 16, but was actually 23 and a fine driver.  Also in Ibarra- her uncle and father took turns driving this ridiculous basically bus-van filled with all the cousins in this family, once while literally drinking a beer (that they were sharing with the whole van).  I was obviously freaked out by this, but I couldn't exactly jump ship from the people who had invited me over.  Luckily, my coworker (the sister/ wife of this duo) told them to stop.

8) For Easter weekend, I met a doctor who just got back from vacation who lived in Quito.  She was returning the same day I was and offered me a ride, so instead of taking the taxi or the bus, I took a one and a half hour drive with a stranger- for free.  We didn't even run out of things to talk about, which, at this point in my Ecuador time, was my biggest worry.

9) In Quito, I went out with my cousin and I figured it would be safer to come back with him than to take a taxi.  He wasn't exactly a stranger, but it was still an interesting ride- he got lost and of course I don't know where I am going...  He also sat at every red with me as cars went around.  I thought that was very nice of him, as traffic signals are really treated as more of a suggestion here, and I know he thinks so too.

10) The San Pablo police took us out to one of our rural communities one day so that we did not have to catch an infrequent bus and then walk a lot.  I found myself in the bed of a pickup again, sitting on a thermos of anti-rabies vaccines and appreciating the mountains. Talk about strangers- I never even saw the faces of the people who drove me.

I'm sure in my last 2.5ish weeks here (AHHHHH I'm not leaving.  No.  I'm not.) I will continue to take risks, learn, possibly use the subjunctive correctly in conversation, and ride in the car with strangers.  As for goal number three?  I'm making it there, through little things every day.