Since last week

I feel like a ton has happened since I last wrote… probably because there are a million and one experiences packed into every day here.

On Friday, we did not simply have our normal training day. We actually split into three groups and we were able to visit 2 community health clinics and a “natural remedies” store. The purpose was to learn more about the healthcare system in Ecuador. Basically, what we learned is that although there are a ton of healthcare programs being implemented in Ecuador right now, about 40% of the population who needs it does not access them. This can be due to lack of knowledge about the programs, inability to access it, or lack of resources. So for instance, vaccines are free in Ecuador, and there is even some free healthcare. There are also tons of wellness programs for pregnant women and infants. But just because they exist does not mean that everyone can access them. Perhaps there is no health clinic in “Town A”. If there is no health clinic, there may be no one to inform them about these programs. That is one barrier. Let’s say however, that some women in the town do hear about the programs, but they must travel to a health clinic that may be an hour or two away. This is another barrier. Even if the women does have the money to take the public bus, and is able to miss an entire day of work in order to travel, there is no guarantee that she will be seen the first day she goes. In fact, the only people who probably will interact with the medical staff are those who start lining up around 4 or 5 am. This is due to a lack of resources. In a health center that serves thousands of people, there might only be 2 doctors and 3 nurses, with the doctors only working 4 hours a day and the nurses 6 hours a day, due to budget constraints. As you can see (and as we learned) healthcare here is a complicated issue that does not simply involve physical well being, but also social and economic aspects. However, from what I understand, it is continuing to improve a little bit at a time.

On Saturday, we met at 8am and boarded a bus to Puembo, a smaller town outside of Tumbaco. The goal was to practice some of the PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) tools. PACA tools are exercises that we will use to get to know the communities in our sites and help assess their needs. This can include asking people to draw a map of the community so you can observe what things are important to different groups of people, or interviewing people about their daily routines so that you know when everyone would be available for a meeting. On Saturday, my group was assigned to collect daily calendars of teenage boys in Puembo. I have to admit, I think we all felt a little awkward approaching people that we didn’t know, and I was nervous to use my Spanish with someone who was not a teacher or part of my host family. However, it went a lot better than I anticipated. We were able to interview four boys from ages 13-19, and learn about their daily routines. It was great practice. We also finally got our cell phones. Now THAT was an experience. The system here is a little confusing anyway because it is based on prepaid minutes, but you can only call certain companies, it is different to call a landline, promotional minutes expire quickly, etc. So when you combine that with the fact that you are communicating in a different language to people who want to sell you a more expensive phone because they assume you are a rich gringa, it can be a bit of a process. It all worked out of course; I now have my little Samsung.

On Saturday afternoon, my host mother showed me how to wash my clothes by hand, on the stone table that is often used here. It took me 3 full hours to wash about 1.5 weeks’ worth of clothes. I then had to hang everything up and let it dry overnight. My arms hurt just thinking about it. It did however, make me grateful for a few things in the U.S. : 1) hot (or even warm) water to wash my clothes in 2) A washing machine 3) a dryer 4) The fact that my family can afford a washer and dryer 5) The fact that I was born in a country where owning a washer and dryer are the norm. I also think I will be wearing things at least 2 or 3 times as long as they are not sweaty or stained…

On Sunday, my family took me to Peguche Waterfall and San Pablo Lake. It was absolutely stunning, and it was great to spend some quality time with my host mom and host sister. It was about a two hour drive to the lake, which was at the bottom of an extinct volcano. The waterfall was also incredible; my host sister took me through a crawl space behind the waterfall. In the evening, I was able to skype with my mom, and then a few friends. It was really nice to be able to talk to people from home. I have found that I think about home/family/friends, but I haven’t been homesick yet, which is awesome.

On Monday, the health group had our first cooking lesson. The idea behind these lessons is that when we get to our sites, we can teach people how to modify their traditional recipes in order to make them just a little bit healthier. For instance, on Monday we added spinach and broccoli to a lentil dish, cooked plantains with less oil, baked the tilapia instead of fried it, and made a fresh salad with lemon juice dressing. It was really fun to do something hands on, and I am really excited about learning more healthy adaptations to bring to my site. On Monday, we also found out that the first volunteer decided to return to the United States. Even though I knew this would happen (our staff told us that usually 2-4 people go home during training) it was still kind of surprising, and it jolts you a bit. The decision to ET (early terminate) is certainly a personal and difficult one, and I respect the volunteer for having the courage to do what they felt was best.

Tuesday was a pretty average day of training.

Today, we traveled by bus to the main PC office in Quito. It was nice to meet the rest of the staff, and we also had some more safety and security training, and well as transportation information and an info session on our living allowance, banking, and paperwork.

Today also marks two weeks since our staging in Philadelphia. I think to myself: Already two weeks! We’ve done so much! It went by so fast! The United States, graduation, packing, already seems like forever ago! But on the other hand… it has only been 2 weeks. I still have 9 more weeks of training before I move to my site!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Aunt Vicki on June 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    We love reading your posts Trina, keep them coming! Sounds like your getting along just fine even with a bit of a language barrier but you’ll get there and the words will just roll off your tongue. Keep smiling -with love, the Nicholson Clan


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