I have two major problems with writing: The first is an inability to correctly convey the emotions I am (or were) feeling during the event I am attempting to describe. I think that is pretty common. My second problem is more unique; I have difficulty recalling events when I am just sitting in from of a computer. If I am not excited about it right now, how can I write about it? Maybe I will learn from 2 months of updating my journal.
Our group of 12 ended up being highly effective in Ecuador. In Santo Domingo we measured about 60 students, did 6+ general nutrition lectures, and helped with nearly as many parasite eradication campaigns (which included distribution of pills and education for further prevention). We also did some group counseling of the teachers at the school. I am still waiting for an email from a really cute teacher at a school outside of Santo Domingo, whom I inquired about and shameless flirted with in front of her students.
In Quito we worked with a Seventh Day Adventist school doing more measurements in the day and helping with a series of lectures on health at night. The crowd of 70 or so was a bit on the well off side, so I think my tofu scrambler cooking demo went over well.
Overall we learned as much as we taught. There are so many fantastic people doing excellent work in Ecuador, we were lucky to be a part of their team for a short while. My main concern was the promotion of vegetarianism. If most of the population cannot afford the adequate foods is it ethical to suggest this diet? I have recognized the privilege that veganism is. My compromise right now is to further knowledge on what types of foods can be grown locally and their nutritional benefits; and from there suggest a more vegetarian diet. We’ll see.
Working and traveling in groups was an adventure in itself. I realize how difficult it is to be always thinking of how actions affect the group. Also, how most people do not have a lot of experience in group dynamics. Considering our diversity in ethnicity, age, religion, and other categories we all worked really well together. I have been working and traveling in groups most of life and we did as well as any. The only pitfall was religion. I had more than my fair share of it over the last two weeks. The pastor of the school we worked with asked us all our denomination and where we went to church. I told him, in rough Spanish, that I was brought up catholic, but no longer went to church. He asked me if I don’t believe in god! I was dumbfounded, but told him, hay una pregunta muy dificil….that is a very difficult question. I thought the more respectful thing to do was to avoid giving him my real answer.
Ecuador is amazing. 18,000 ft mountains, tropical coasts, bustling markets, a large indigenous population… On our 3 days off we took the bus trip around the Chimborazo volcano via Ambato-El Arenal-Riobamba. The volcano is 20,700 ft tall and the road goes with 10 km of it at 13,000+ ft. the peak is the farthest point from the center of the earth due to the equator bulge and is a popular mountain to summit. Plans are in the works for a summit in the next two years! We then spent a day and a half in Banos, a small town at the foot of another large volcano (that erupted 3 years ago). We rented mountain bike and headed down the mountain towards the Amazon, stopping at waterfalls and to watch some drunk Ecuadorians do this crazy bungee-swing type thing off of a bridge. It was great to be on a bike and its still the best way to travel.
The most dangerous thing I have ever done is ride on a bus in Latin America. Hands down the bus drivers are the craziest people in the world. They treat the Pan-American Highway like it was 3 lanes and one way. Passing on blind curves, up hills, when other cars are coming; it’s all done without a flinch. The buses are always packed as well, on one trip there was even a small child sleeping on the dashboard. Sometimes you hope that the driver is drunk, cause then at least he drives slow.
Our trip was a complete success. No one sick from the food, lots of work done, adventures galore (including a kick ass game of sardines), and I got to know some of my friends a lot better. It was worth dealing with the religion and postponing my bike trip…….my bike trip I now have a day and a half to prepare for.