Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Los Fieles


I celebrated my first “Feriado de los Fieles,” or Fair of the Faithful, more commonly known as Day of the Dead. People traveled from all over the country to visit cemeteries and give respect to those that passed away. My family alone had 9 visitors – that makes for 15 people. I had no idea anyone was coming, but on Saturday they started showing up – cousins, nephews, friends, brothers, etc – and are still here. We went to the cemetery in Sucre Sunday and Monday night at about 7:30 until 10:30pm. It was packed with families. People sit in front of a grave and light candles for hours. The streets are packed with people, cars, and stands of food. There is also a traditional drink – colado morado – see pic of it cooking. I’m not sure why its traditional to drink during the Feriado, but its really good, and the color purple. There are different fruits and spices in the drink – pineapple, uba, cinnamon, sugar, mote, not sure what else – and you can drink it hot or cold, with alcohol or without.

Afterward, there are fiestas, of course. Some people don’t agree with holding fiestas during these days, but the one in Miraflores and my town were packed. Music was blasting so loud my bed was vibrating with the beat all night and into the afternoon. I went both nights; but didn’t amenecer – make it til the sun rises, because we celebrated Halloween too, and for that I did amenecer. Three nights of that in a row is too much for my body to handle – I’m no spring chicken.

I really liked being a part of this holiday here. I think it’s a great idea to have a national holiday for the dead. It brings families, friends, and neighbors together; and it’s a time to dedicate to the loved ones we’ve lost. I was thinking about the last time I went to a cemetery to visit anyone that I’ve lost, and I realized I couldn’t remember. Its been years since I’ve visited my Grandmother, Uncle, or Great-grandmother. I think about them all the time, but I never stopped to take the time and actually visit them. When I get home, I’m lobbying for a national holiday for the dead – we have holidays for everything else, why not the dead too?

Clinica Movil Was a Success


My friend and co-volunteer, Ali, organized a Mobil Clinic to visit her site to give free pap-smears today. Alea and I went to Las Mercedes to help her put things together, and it went really well. There were almost 100 women! The Mobil Clinic is a part of SOLCA – a private hospital here dedicated entirely to treating patients with cancer. Ali gave a mini-charla on how to do self-breast exams and Alea and I did our Corazon Feliz thing – took blood pressure and BMI for everyone and tried to educate people individually on the importance of a balanced diet and exercise. After about 60 people, I started feeling and sounding like a broken record. Some of the women were attentive and had questions about what we were telling them, while others listened politely. I can’t tell if the ones that listened but didn’t talk understood our message or not. Getting people to change their behaviors is so hard, and I doubt that hearing about nutrition and exercise once is going to make a difference for anyone.

It’s interesting to me that Ecuador and the US have the same problems with obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, when the resources of each country are so drastically different. In the states, there is so much more education and access to services – be it exercise, a nutritionist, doctors, support groups, or stores with healthy food - and yet, there is a huge problem with obesity. In contrast, in Ecuador people work in the fields with machetes, wash clothes by hand (in general seem to work harder because they’re not sitting behind desks all day long), grow various types of fruits in their backyards, have access to vegetables, and need to walk more if they leave their house, and services just don’t exist. You would think that both countries would have obesity under control based on the services provided or the lifestyle necessary to survive. But the opposite is true. Obesity poses a huge health problem in both countries. This may be an over-generalization, but I think in both countries the problem is that people don’t understand the importance of preventing illnesses, and don’t want to change their habits. Resources stop being an issue, and the individuals’ decision becomes more important, and people are the same everywhere, regardless of their material possessions or governmental infrastructure. People need to eat healthier and exercise more – what is so difficult about that??