Day of the Dead and Translating

This week was insane, but great. I hardly slept and now have a cold, but it was totally worth it. All week during the day, I was helping out a fellow volunteer, Erin. Her organization is an American medical foundation based in Portoviejo (the nearest city to my site). This week, the owners of the foundation brought about 10 doctors from the States to give medical attention for one week. However, the doctors don’t really speak any Spanish, so they were looking for translators, and that’s where I came in. At first, I didn’t want to do it and I was really nervous. I didn’t know if my Spanish would be good enough to help. But, actually, it was really fun and a lot easier than I thought it would be. I wasn’t always able to translate word for word, but I know enough Spanish now that it was easy enough to explain what the doctor was saying to the patients in Spanish. The other thing that was really cool was that even though these were people in other towns who I had never met before, I was able to understand almost everything that they said. Moreover, it was so much easier to alternate between Spanish and English than I thought it would be. I am still using basic tenses, but I feel like my comprehension/listening skills have improved immensely, and I definitely have sufficient vocabulary to communicate efficiently. I never ever would have managed to translate like I did when I first got here to my site. WHOO! The doctors were also fun to be with. They were all older, and mostly from southern states, so their accents were great. They all had a good sense of humor and made the week fun.

The other thing I loved about this week was that Monday and Tuesday my community had Day of the Dead celebrations. It is not actually called Day of the Dead here, and it is not quite the same thing. Here in Ecuador, it’s called Los Fieles DisFuntas or Los Fieles. They celebrate the night of November 1st a little bit of during the day on November 2nd, and the night of November 2nd. My host family said that everyone has their own little rituals that they like to do, but in general, families go to the cemetery after dark on both nights, and put candles and sometimes flowers, on the grave sites. This is also a time to repaint the names or do any repairs they need. It is a totally different atmosphere than cemeteries in the U.S. I think most of us think of cemeteries as sad places, not somewhere anyone really enjoying going. But here, they had vendors set up selling not only flowers and candles, but also tons of food, like any other street fair. Once families light the candles, they just sit in front of the graves and talk and eat. The kids run around and play. The families move from one grave site to the next, making sure to visit all of their relatives. It felt to me like they were including their passed relatives in a party, including them in their lives and conversations. It was really special, and I think it was my favorite holiday here so far.

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