I've sort of put off writing this week to keep my post down to one entry but I realize now it might be a long one! This week was another week of fairly intense medical volunteering, though this time in a more organized context. Timmy Global Health is an organization founded in 1997 that now has eight different service sites in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and El Salvador. Timmy coordinates brigades of medical students, pharmacists, doctors, nurses and volunteers from the US who work on week long brigades. This week we partnered with Shoulder to Shoulder, a similar organization out of the University of Kentucky with whom I volunteered in Honduras in 2010. In five days this week our team of four providers (a retired oncologist, an emergency room physician, a family practice physician, and myself) managed to treat over 500 men, women and children in Santo Domingo, Ecuador and the surrounding areas. Three of the days we were in the Shoulder to Shoulder clinic, and two of the days in even more impoverished areas of the community, working in dark concrete structures with very limited resources. My ultra cool (nerdy) headlamp definitely became a resource, especially for cleaning out ears and doing speculum exams on the women (I later learned the women in the community were lining up outside to see the American “doctora”- there were no other female providers in the area!). I'll let the pictures tell some more of the story.
Other highlights of the week included getting my Euchre card game fix in the evenings, teaching some basic salsa and merengue steps to the team, and finding some time to meditate and pray while walking the labyrinth in the retreat center where we were staying. I ended up with my own room for the week which was very nice, especially since what I thought was just allergies turned into a nasty cold. By Wednesday, I had nearly completely lost my voice, not exactly ideal as I was one of the limited number of Spanish speakers in the group. As I write this today (Saturday), my voice still isn't quite back to normal, but I sound worse than I feel!
One of the days of the trip after work we had the opportunity to visit the indigenous community near Santo Domingo, a group of people known as the Tsachilas. A family of Tsachilas invited us into their home where they taught us some of their customs, including peeling plantains with their teeth, performing healing ceremonies, sacred dances, and dying their hair. The men of the Tsachila community dye their hair red with the seeds of the achiote plant which allegedly protected people from smallpox at the time of the Spanish colonization. A few of the boys on our medical team decided to take part in the tradition and dyed their hair as well. =) Overall, this was my favorite part of the week.
Our last night in Santo Domingo we dined at a delicious restaurant and went out to a kareoke bar. As my laryngitis was still in full force, I decided to skip out from the group for about an hour and joined one of the dentists from the clinic (who coincidentally had filled a couple small cavities for me that morning!) to experience a local Ecuadorian night club. The club was packed with young people dressed to the nines, drinking beer and dancing. We ended up in the VIP section on the stage with the DJ- it was a blast but an hour was enough for me! =)
Yesterday morning we headed back to Quito where we had a chance to visit the Basilica, the most beautiful cathedral I've visited on my trip so far. It was worth the climbing of the steep rickety stairwells to see the views of the beautiful city.
In the afternoon, it was time for my second pre-World Cup soccer game of the trip, Ecuador vs Uruguay. We enjoyed the game in a local bar in downtown Quito where the energy was palpable when Ecuador won!
Last night I reunited with my friends in Tumbaco, once again appreciating the hot shower and warm bed. I got up early this morning and met up with my friend Melissa, one of the leaders from the Timmy brigade, to travel to Papallacta, a town near Quito with some beautiful hot springs- more about this in the next blog… =)