The last two weeks were busy and started off a little rough. The week before, Nelly had mentioned that they were invited to a nutrition fair a few hours away for the following Monday. She also told me that she was not sure if they were going to participate or not because they needed to see first if they could get money for transportation and materials. I never heard anything else besides that. I didn’t hear from her at all over the weekend, or on Monday. So, Monday I took the opportunity to do more of my community assessment surveys. My neighbor, Marcela, went with me. Most of the surveys were without incident, but we came across one house that left me feeling terrible. The woman’s house was a bit isolated from the main road, but there were a few other homes around her. She is elderly, and lives all by herself, with her daughter (married with kids) visiting when she is able. She is very weak, and can barely breathe or walk, really. She has what the doctors suspect is cancer. It is making it hard for her to breathe because it is attacking her face; the skin there is being destroyed severely; you can see the cartilage of her nose. No one can offer her treatment here, and she can’t afford to travel to see a specialist. There are not really hospices here that I am aware of, and so she just sits in her home, getting sicker. It is bad enough that she is so sick, and worse still that she is not receiving any kind of treatment, but the thing that upset me the most was how alone and vulnerable she seemed. I could barely keep myself from crying, and was only able to do so because I knew that it would upset her… it was clear to me that she was already self-conscious.
Tuesday morning was bad. Monday around dinnertime, when I still had not heard from Nelly, I sent her a text message asking if we were still going on the medical brigade Tuesday morning. She responded yes, and then I sent another message asking her where and when we were meeting. She never responded. I called her early Tuesday morning and she didn’t answer. Then she called me while I was eating breakfast and asked if I was in Sucre yet. I told her no, because she didn’t answer me and I therefore did not know when/where we were meeting. She told me I should have known, and I replied by asking her: if I knew, why would I ask her? She told me that it was clear I didn’t want to go, and hung up. Once again, Nelly had me in tears. Marcela called Nelly, and Nelly yelled at her too, saying it was none of her business, and saying I skipped out on the fair the day before (skipped out?!?! she never told me they were going!!) and said that if I did not want to work with her, she did not want to work with me either. I was so mad, not so much for the way she talked to me, but more so for the way she treated Marcela, who is basically a saint. A few minutes later, Cecilia, the other woman I work with, called to tell me she was on her way. I was still crying and when she asked what was wrong, all I could blurt out was that Nelly didn’t want me to go so she should just go ahead. I was still visibly upset when she came to my house. She was appalled when I told her what happened. She talked me down, and told me from now on I should just call her or message her when I need to know something. She talked me into going by telling me that they needed my help, which I knew was true; they needed the extra hands because we were going to do blood tests for anemia on the kids. I went, but I did not say a word to Nelly the whole time.
Wednesday I went on another medical brigade, again for anemia tests. This was unusual since we usually only go on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Nelly didn’t go.
Thursday was yet another medical brigade, but this one was the normal one… us checking for malnutrition, a doctor, and dentist. Nelly didn’t go… Cecilia told me she was sick.
Friday was another medical brigade, but with a special purpose. I don’t know if its news in the U.S. or not, but there has been an outbreak of measles in Ecuador, and therefore the Ministry of Public Health has mandated a vaccination campaign. The first day of that campaign was Friday. We went around in the ambulance with a big microphone attached to it, and one of the health promoters that works for the health clinic spoke on it telling people to come outside. The first batch is for kids under 5, and today we vaccinated about 100 kids. We’ll be continuing on Monday, so its sure to be another busy week.
The weekend made me feel better about everything. Sunday I made a HUGE batch of baked ziti for my family (everyone who lives in “the compound”). It was so funny. They were watching me make it like… oh god what is she making. Almost everyone liked it, with the exception of 1 or 2 of my cousins. Some people REALLY loved it. My host aunt had at least 3 servings of it! Everyone liked the baked ziti, but they absolutely fell in LOVE with s’mores. I had tried explaining it to them before, and they were like yeah sure its good, whatever you say. But we started the fire, made the first couple, and it took off from there. It was like a stampede! They went through about 4 bags of marshmallows in a very short amount of time. Everyone loved it… now they keep asking me when we can make them again! It was a great day for two reasons… it was so nice for me to have familiar food, and it was great to share something with them that they really enjoyed.
I spent this whole past week, with the exception of yesterday, helping with the vaccine campaign for measles. Everyday we went out to the rural areas, door to door, giving vaccines. The nurse would give the vaccines and I was responsible for noting in the paperwork for the health center and on the carnet of the child, which is like a mini growth and vaccination chart for kids under 5 that the parents are responsible for.
Yesterday was a bunch of fun. For my English class in the afternoon, I taught the kids about Halloween. I explained what we do in the U.S. for Halloween, and then taught them some words like pumpkin, candy, witch, ghost, vampire, and monster. Then I taught them the phrases “boo”, “trick or treat”, and “Happy Halloween”. We also played pin the tail on the donkey, which was hilarious. Finally, I gave them all some candy to celebrate. They loved it, of course.