Monday, June 14, 2010

Hit by THE DENG and other stuff

April 22, 2010
I dreaded getting out of bed this morning, knowing that I needed to go to Los Laureles to weigh and measure kids to see how they’re growing. Los Laureles is far, and during the rainy season not accessible by cars. The last time I went, it was about an hour walk. This morning things got better when it started raining, and I had to ride in the back of a pick up truck for about 40 minutes without a roof just to get to the closest community to Los Laureles reachable by car.
Upon arriving in Resbalon, I was reserved to the fact that I’d be walking, in mud up to my knees for at least 1 hour, by myself. I figured this was better than the alternatives – going to another community closer only to sit around and wait for someone else to come back from Los Laureles. I don’t like waiting. I’d much rather be on the move. And I thought it would be some nice time to myself; plus I packed a PB&J sandwich that I really wanted to eat all myself. After psyching myself up for the journey, I was pleasantly surprised when a volunteer from Resbalon started asking owners of horses if I could borrow one for the morning. I didn’t understand everything that was said, but I did get that one man said yes and started preparing his horse.

I’m standing there thinking, “is this guy coming with me? Are we riding double, or is he just going to hand over his horse to me? I have no idea. He must be coming with me, he couldn’t possibly be giving me his horse – he doesn’t even know if I know how to ride.” What do you think happens? Of course he just hands me the reins and says “here ya go senorita.” So I hopped on and said thanks, and off I went on horseback!!

The only downside was that the stirrups were really short, and couldn’t be adjusted, so the volunteer that was coming with me swapped my horse for a donkey, and that guy rode my horse. But it was still awesome – trail riding if I’ve ever done any. We rode for about 40 minutes to get to Los Laureles, through mud up to the donkey’s knees, slippery spots, holes that had to be jumped over, up and down hills and it was absolutely, incredibly amazing. I’m buying a horse with my readjustment allowance!

And the very next day, the symptoms of dengue presented themselves - fever, achy body and horrible headache. I was in Portoviejo running errands and even though it was the first day of fever, I knew it was dengue. In Ecuador people don’t get viruses with fever, they get dengue or something worse. Little did I know the fever would last me 6 days, I would have a headache so bad I couldn’t be out of bed for more than 10 minutes without feeling nauseous, that I would lose my appetite or throw up if I ate, and that just when I started feeling better, I would break out in an incredibly itchy, red rash apparently due to the fact that my white blood cells dropped so low. It was horrible. But on the 10th day when my rash was under control and I didn’t have a fever or headache, I felt like a completely new person. To be healthy never felt so good. So ended my 10-day sabbatical. I was back to work, with only one week before Andrew and Scott were coming to visit.

The week of May 10th Patricia, Marisela and I presented the HIV/AIDS project we wanted to start to one of the high schools and received enthusiastic responses. Two days later, we gave a presentation to the students to stir up interest. Everything was going really well, according to plan, and then this guy from the health center threw a wrench in everything by saying that the students who participated in our program would need to do all kinds of other health activities in order to get the appropriate credit and to graduate. This was the day before I was leaving for vacation. So I ended up having to leave not knowing if we were really going to be able to start the program, after I had already applied for a $1,000 grant. Long story short, I got the grant, and talked to the higher ups in Portoviejo about the project, and it’s a go. We start in the high school this week (June 14). After almost a month of back and forth all because this one guy is incompetent, and finally we are right back where we started – just doing workshops on HIV/AIDS according to the model of VIHDA Foundation and AID for AIDS International. JUST WHAT I WANTED. I only got what I wanted though, when I was finally ready to compromise and accept whatever this guy wanted to do. Funny how things turned out.
The trip with Andrew and Scott was great, and a nice break from things in my site. We traveled a lot, and the boys got a good taste of Ecuadorian culture – just ask them. We were in my site for only 2 days, but we decided to teach the kids how to play baseball. Andrew and Scott had the idea to make a baseball out of a little rock wrapped in a sock, wrapped in dried banana leaves, and covered in tape. They work surprisingly well. For a bat, we used a piece of cana. We had a great time – and everyone here loved it. We’ve played a few more times since then, but its not the same without the American boys. I’ve been playing a lot of soccer lately, trying to do baseball before.

Besides starting the HIV/AIDS project, I’m still working with the Committee of Volunteers. Right now we’re in the middle of a month long medical campaign where we’re visiting the majority of the communities that participate in the Committee to bring medical attention; vaccines; control of weight and height for children; and weight, height, blood pressure for adults. It’s the best thing the Committee has done in the year I’ve been here. The mayor finally agreed to a contract with the Committee, and he is paying 2 health promoters, so they have ganas to work again. I still feel like I can’t get through to them though on changing anything. They are too consumed in the day-to-day activities. I’m not giving up, but I am letting go. I’m focusing my efforts on the high school students in this HIV program – they are the ones that can still be influenced.

Pics of HIV Workshop in Guayaquil

Pics of HIV Workshop in Guayaquil

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