Saturday, October 9, 2010

First Week in Agualongo

Hola Todos,

We have been in a small Andean, rural community for the past week, each in our own homestay families. Living conditions have been intense but varied. We´ve all learned to appreciate comfort and convenience which we experience at home. However, it is an incredible experience regardless-there is no better way to learn about a language and culture than living with the families and in their reality.Our living conditions have been unlike anything we have ever experienced before. We are sleeping on woven mats with an alpaca blanket on the dirt or cemenet floors of our families houses. The nights can get quite chilly, so it has definitly taken some getting used to. The concept of privacy is also much different here. Most of us are sleeping in a room with the rest of our family members, so needless to say, we are all quite bonded for better or worst.

For the two weeks we are here we are split into two groups for the days activities. Lucky for you, your two bloggers can represent both of these groups...Firstly, I, Megan, have been a part of the volunteer medical clinic group which is run through an amazing organization called the Tandana Foundation ( This has been a great, hands on way to help the local people of the Andes access healthcare...which actually travels to them rather than forcing them to get to a city for attention. Each member of the clinic group has had a job this week including: doctor´s assistant (Joe and Anna), dentist´s assistant (yours truly), vitals takers (Natalie and Austin L) and pharmacy (Catherine).

This can be quite the task when you are getting questions in spanish from all sides. Our days begin around 9-930 and end between 1-3 depending on the need of the community. We usually see about 25-40 patients and help them to the best of our ability and our resources. It has also been a treat to work closely with Anna, the founder of Tandana, who is inspiring in her work in Ecuador as well as her ability to work with many different cultures. Now i´ll pass the torch to Austin (girl)...

¡Hola! After another week of intense spanish lessons, I think we are all feeling much more confident and capable of communicating with our host families. Monday through Friday Emma, Mia, Claire, Jim, Jessica, and I (Austin) spent four hours every morning paired with one other student and our spanish tutor. The teachers were great and were even nice enough to travel from the city for us. It was also an experience to be taking classes in the local daycare center. We were constantly amused by the children´s antics, although we were ocasionally scared for their and our safety. After a week of witnessing children excaping over the fence, playing with machetes and flaming sticks, and torturing puppies (all done without pants), we all have a new found respect for the daycare ladies.

Afternoons were either spent with the group playing games and reconnecting or doing activites with Tandana. At 4 PM each day it was always nice to reunite with our other half. One evening we spent (again split) half in a Kichwa lesson and the other half in an Ecuadorian cooking class, which led to a wonderous feast. We consumed diligently seasoned steak, potato balls with cheese, mota (look it up), tomato salad, chamomile tea and a delicious raisin cake wrapped and steamed in a palm leaf. It was nice to spend sometime with the other Tandana volunteers by the fire as well. Kichwa is the locally spoken idiom here and most of our host parents learn spanish as a second language, so they really appreciate our effort to learn their native tongue. Here´s a say thank you in kichwa you can either say ¨dios le pague¨(god pays you) shortened to ¨pagui¨ or just ¨pai¨. Another afternoon some of the group members participated in a futbol game with the local children near the community center, which was heated to say the least. Many of the kids playing were members of our host families.

We drafted new group agreements:

1) No exclusive (especially sexual) relationships in the next two weeks.
2) Be on time, and that means ready to go!
3) No cliques: Carpe oppurtunities to connect one-on-one with everyone (turkey burger time).
4) Thou shalt check thyself prior to wrecking thyself: if you can´t say it to their face, don´t say it at all.
5) Participate to your honest, full potential.
6) Carpe present; stay diem


In the beginning of the trip we drafted group agreements, and this is our revised version for the coming weeks.

After this week, we´ll spend the weekend in Otavalo and possibly do some hiking in the Andes. Sunday, we are off to the valley, cloud forest of Intag. We will update you more on what is in store there later on.

Hasta Luego,

much love,

Austin girl and Megan

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