Monday, September 30, 2013

Sanitation, Open Defecation and Children's Health

I never thought that I'd be interested in sanitation, but the importance quickly became obvious after only a few months in Ecuador. Basic sanitation, clean water consumption, and hand washing are among the most basic and essential hygiene practices necessary to prevent diseases and infections. It's a link that I learned about through working at the clinic in Tixan and in the more rural communities like Chalaguan, where open defecation was the norm. In Chalaguan, four babies died in my first year from various causes, but all were malnourished to some extent. Malnutrition and sanitation will always be issues close to my heart and I'm going to continue using this blog to talk about them.

I came across an article at the Guardian the other day, Will data linking open defecation to undernutrition force change?, that talks about the lack of interest in sanitation issues worldwide despite the fact that it's clearly a big problem:
The UN says countries where open defecation is most widely practised have the highest numbers of deaths of under-fives, high levels of undernutrition and poverty, and large wealth disparities.
The article mostly talks about the situation in India, a country in which 48% of children under 5 are stunted despite substantial economic growth. India recently passed an enormous bill creating a $20 billion a year food program, but experts say that unless the widespread sanitation problems are addressed, increased nutrition won't make that big a dent in the percentage of malnourished children.

Also at the Guardian, UN calls for greater focus on sanitation and an end to open defecation.

Similarly, journalist Rose George talks about worldwide sanitation problems in this TED talk:

Very interesting. If you have a few minutes, check it out!

It would appear that I'm not done posting on this ole' blog yet because I'm not sure what to do with these ideas rolling around in my mind. Not sure if anyone is still reading, but enjoy if you are!

Monday, March 11, 2013


Hello family and friends! You'll be happy to hear that the 24/7 season of fog is ending, which is a major blessing for me here in Tixan. Waking up to fog and not seeing the sun for many days (let alone the end of the street) is depressing. In Oregon, we get lots and lots of rain and darkness during these months, which is also difficult to deal with sometimes, but the fog is a different demon. I'm not saying its better or worse, but there is something inherently menacing about fog that is deeply creepy. It really feels like someone could always be watching or following you.

Things are busy busy busy around here! Officially, I've got about 5 months left of service so I'm trying to cram in as much stuff as possible here before the end. There is just so much work to be done that its hard to say no! Here's a quick run-down:

1. Elementary health classes! They're going really well. So far we've covered nutrition, handwashing, general hygiene, cold/flu prevention, diarrhea prevention, clean water, and we've done a little lesson in story writing with a health emphasis. Some of the lessons have been more successful than others, but overall, it's been good. Next up we'll be discussing the environment, trash, and recycling, and hopefully do some sort of Earth Day celebration (April 22). I also have plans to do an art or essay writing competition in May/June before the end of school. Let me know if you'd like to send/donate any materials for prizes!

2. High school sex ed classes! These are also going really well. I like hanging out with the little kids, but I also really appreciate the fact that I can have a real conversation with the 8th-10th graders. Next week we'll be getting into anatomy, menstruation, pregnancy, and do a condom demonstration. The rural doctor who works at the clinic in Tixan will be helping me with these classes, because I thought it'd be best to split up the boys and girls. Dr. Juan will take the boys and I'll teach the girls, which will be great since there are so few of them! Hopefully this will allow us to have a more honest and productive discussion.

3. Girls Club/Grupo de Jovencitas! I just formed a girl's club with the high schoolers a couple weeks ago. We're going to meet once a week during recess for 30-40 minutes, and do crafts and chat and hang out. At the first meeting, 14 girls showed up! I think that as we continue more girls will want to participate as well. I don't really want to turn people away, but we'll see what happens. Forming this group feels like kind of a last ditch effort to work with girls, and I'm really kicking myself for not doing this a year ago, but OH WELL. I'm trying to squeeze out something positive from every last moment here. My bright idea with the girls is to do some journaling activities. We'll see how things go, but I'd like to make journals with them, and then do a short writing activity every week or two. At the very least, they'll have their journals to take home with them and use. I've thought about making paper and doing a big project, but I think thats going to be too difficult if we're making 15-20. Anyway, if anyone has any ideas about journal/book making, send them my way! Something simple but attractive is obviously what we're going for.

4. Craft classes with the women of Chalaguan! Cecilia, the adult educator, and I have been trying to work with the women of Chalaguan to form a jewelry business, but after many months of discussion, its just not going to happen. The idea is just too big and the women are hesistant to commit. So in place of that, we're applying for a small grant through Peace Corps to get materials to do some craft classes, like knitting, sewing, jewelry making, bead making, etc. This way we can more ladies involved in the classes too, maybe some who are interested in learning a new skill, but who weren't interested in forming a business. Along the way, we can chat about small businesses or health or whatever topics come up during the classes and spread the knowledge in a more informal way. Hopefully it works out!

5. Nutrition/hygiene/cooking talks at the clinic! In these last few months, I'm trying to step up the number of short talks, or "charlas", that we do in the clinic and involve the community health workers to a greater extent. There is a big recent push to work on lowering malnutrition in our county, which is great, but no one is really coming up with new or creative ideas to solve this huge problem. I've really cut back on the individual nutrition counseling that I do, because it just doesn't seem that effective (and also because my "office" is now being used as storage). I think that its probably more effective to give lots of charlas on general nutrition to everyone thats waiting to be seen at the clinic, in an effort to raise the awareness and knowledge of the whole community. I want to make more educational materials to put up on the walls, and get everyone to talk about nutrition in the same way in order to give more coherent advice. This problem is waaaaaay bigger than me... but hopefully now that I have a better idea of how the system works and how people think, I can make a more focused effort to get the information out there and encourage behavior change. I also want to teach the health workers and my other co-workers how to make cookies and carrot cake and some other things, which they are all very excited about.

There are some other little things happening here and there, but those are the major projects going on in the last few months! My tentative plan is actually to end my PC service at the end of July and then travel/bum around for a month and get back to Portland at the beginning of September. People are getting married and I've got a life to re-start! I love Ecuador, and I've had a great time here (lots of ups and downs, but overall, very fulfilling)... but its just about time to head home. I miss you guys!

I spent this last week in the jungle around Tena and Misahualli, helping out with a health brigade organized by Timmy Global Health. It was the first time I'd ever participated in anything like that, and it was a great learning experience. More than anything, it gave me a lot to think about in terms of development work. A week-long health brigade is obviously vastly different from Peace Corps service, but each has its strengths and weaknesses. Most people are not able to commit to two years of service in a developing country (let alone a month), so they're forced to resort to a week. Is it possible to get to know another culture/country/people in a week? Absolutely not. But they do provide semi-regular health attention to remote communities that have a difficult time getting to see a doctor normally. I think that organizations that do brigades have great intentions, but I also think that they need to understand the Ecuadorian health system better and encourage Ecuadorians to utilize it as best they can... because primary care is free here! So is birth control! And care for kids under 5! And people with special needs! Ecuador has got some inspired programs runnning, and while they still lack efficiency and consistency, progress is being made. Ideally, NGOs should make an effort to recognize the progress that the host country is making and work with the system to help it run better, and just be around to fill in the gaps. Surely there are still gaps in the health system here, like there are anywhere, but my impression is that Ecuador is doing a good job helping more people get better care. Poco a poco.

Anyway, apart from all the theoretical discussions going on in my head, it was great to meet everyone involved in the brigade... and also get a little vacation from Tixan. It wasn't a true vacation, because I was working most of the time, but a change of scenery was good enough. Plus, I love the jungle! Its amazing. So many bugs, so many animals, so much beautiful, inspiring nature. It was humid and sweaty and I loved it. It was a much needed break from the fog and all of its cold creepiness.

Lastly, my sister is coming down to visit next month! She's getting back from Thailand and immediately flying to Ecuador to spend 10 days. It'll be a rushed trip, but I'm really looking forward to it. It'll be nice to see a familiar face and visit a few places I haven't been to yet and be a tourist.

Well I hope you're all doing well! Just in case you've forgotten, I enjoy getting updates from you all as well... don't be a stranger! Five months isn't forever, but its long enough to need some encouragement :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

February Update

Hello! It's been a little while since the last update. Things are going well here in Tixan and at the moment, everyone is gearing up for Carnival, which kicks off tomorrow with the crowning of the King. Ecuadorians take their parties very, very seriously, so it should be a good time!

We're also in the middle of 2 weeks of school vacations, so I've mostly been hanging out at the clinic. It seems strange now that I used to go there all day every day, because while theres stuff to do... theres not THAT much to do. I'm also becoming very conscious of the fact that I'm leaving in 6 months, so I'm trying to back off a bit in terms of the free labor. There are some things I do at the clinic that are mostly outside of their work area (nutrition counseling, organizing/reorganizing the files), things that wouldn't otherwise get done if I wasn't there. However, there are other things that I sometimes do because theres nothing else to do... but I probably shouldn't. Sometimes I help take vitals, do some filing and help clean, because I'm bored. The problem is that these are things that are explicitly in the job description of other people, so to some extent, I'm enabling their inefficient work habits by doing part of their job.

Occasionally, I help out because theres just no one else to do it (like the days when all the nurses leave to do vaccines, and the doctors are left without anyone to take vitals), but this is also problematic. The doctors are perfectly capable of pulling files and taking vitals themselves... it's just that it takes so goddam long to do, people will end up waiting for literally 5-6 hours. My conscious always sides with the patients, so when I help out its always to make things more efficient and pleasurable (as much as possible) for the sick people. I think that people appreciate and like me for this, which is great for me... but what happens when I leave? Will things just go back to the way it was before? When everyone yelled and treated the patients (and each other) like crap?

I don't know. It's impossible to know now. I worry about it though, and I wonder if there are any measures I can put in place to help prevent things from reverting back to the inefficient, unhelpful status quo. To some extent, I think that my presence sort of shames people into acting better. I don't yell, I say please and thank you, I don't give people a hard time about stupid, random things. I'm always mystified on the days when the occasionally enforced "rule" is that people can only get one appointment per family. What if 2 kids are sick with fever? What if the family comes with 5 people because they live really far away and can't make it more often? What if the mom needs to get her birth control TODAY and her child is sick? (All of which happened the other day).

I should point out that I don't think its not like this everywhere. Other clinics and hospitals have a better system, more management oversight, and more doctors. The major problem with my clinic can be summarized in one word: burnout. People are jaded and don't even try to have patience anymore. Burnout exists in every field, in every area of the world, but its especially harmful in this sort of first-tier dealing with the public situation. Tixan is a difficult area to work in, FOR SURE, but it doesn't excuse the behavior of some health workers. I've had days where I just have to leave after a few hours because I can't believe how horrible people are being and I feel like continuing to work condones their behavior. Could I say something? Maybe, if the perfect opportunity came up. Otherwise, I keep my mouth shut, because after all I'm just a random, privelleged gringa. There are some moments when I put in my 2 cents, moments that are more suited to my areas of expertise, but when it comes to basic human behavior... nope. I'm no one's mother. The way most Ecuadorians avoid taking the blame for anything (even in situations when it was clearly their fault), it would be suicidal to give a name to the obvious problems.

I've thought about possibly bringing up some of my issues right before I leave, but if I ever want to come back to visit and actually be welcomed, I can't do it. Be smart, Chloe! When has burning bridges ever been beneficial in the long run??? Never ever ever.

Anyway! In terms of other work... the health classes I teach at the two schools have been going really well. The kids are finally calming down, so classroom management hasn't been as big of a headache as at the beginning. I also finally got the 6th and 7th grade teachers at Escuela Luz Elisa Borja to pay attention to me and help me out with behavior issues, so my last classes in January were very pleasant and productive. It took nearly 2 months of complaining, walking out of a couple classes, and finally complaining to the other teachers to get them to change, but better late than never! For the first time, the kids listen, participate appropriately, and are (mostly) respectful for the entire 40 minutes I have with them. Imagine! Its a small miracle.

In my spare time, I'm also working on compiling my lessons into a manual for the teachers to have once I leave. Probably no one will use it, but hey, you never know! I mentioned this project to a woman who works at World Vision (the largest NGO in the world. You know, "for only pennies a day you can sponsor a child...") who is in charge of a national effort called Escuelas Promotores de Salud or Health Promoting Schools or something. Last year, I presented at a conference for the schools in my area, but they haven't asked me to do anything else. Anyway, I mentioned that I'm putting together this manual of lessons for health classes and Veronica seemed interested in possibly using it for this network of healthy schools. I'm going to try and get it done in the next month or two, because it would be awesome to promote it at the participating schools before the year ends in June. The Health Promoting Schools project is a great idea, but its also really vague. At the conference I went to, they didn't exactly teach the teachers how to incorporate health lessons into their curriculum. They mostly just told them stuff they should already know, about hygiene, sexual health and nutrition. To me, taking that information and translating it to the classroom is the real challenge! Luckily, I've got a bunch of tried and true lessons that do just that.

There are a few others projects in the works, such as a women's jewelry cooperative, a girl's club, baking/cooking classes, and English lessons, to name a few, but I'll return to talk about those another day. It's funny that with 6 months left, all these opportunities suddenly fall in my lap. I wish I'd had these bright ideas a year ago, but what can you do?

Lastly, I applied to the Portland State University Master's in Social Work program for entrance this fall, so fingers crossed they let me in and give me lots of money! This means that I'll be heading back to Portland after Peace Corps ends in July or August, which is pretty exciting. It feels really good to have something of a plan and a place to be for the next couple years... which is a big reason I signed up for PC in the first place. I can't seem to settle down in one place on my own, so I have to force myself to do it using other means! Restlessness is really a big problem.

Anyway, I hope you're all doing well! I'd love to get an email update when you get a chance. Seriously! I'll leave you with a picture of me and some of the health workers after our Christmas program at the clinic. The ladies helped me buy my outfit and get all dressed up, which was a lot of fun!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's November!

I accidentally skipped an October update, I hope you'll forgive me. Fortunately, while I wasn't writing on the blog, a lot of awesome stuff was happening in October, so here's the rundown...

I went to COLOMBIA!!! It was super cool and a perfectly timed vacation. I didn't even realize how much I needed to get away from work and life here. When I got back to Ecuador, I felt totally refreshed and ready to jump back in. Vacation time is NOT overrated people.

I started the trip in Bogota where I met up with a friend from home. I never ever ever would have considered visiting Colombia alone, although now I don't think its quite the crisis situation that we all imagine. All developing countries have their safety issues and as long as you're not straying too far off the beaten path, its safe.

After Bogota we visited Villa de Leyva and San Gil.
Pozo azul
"Pozo azul" or a little blue pond outside of Villa de Leyva.

Parque Natural El Gallineral
Riverside botanical park in San Gil.
Then we headed up to the Carribean coast and an absolutely beautiful national park on the beach called Tayrona. To get to the beach, you have to hike a ways through the jungle (like an hour or more) which was obviously super hot and sticky.
Parque Nacional Tayrona
And once you get to the beach? You can rent out a cabaña for $80 (no thanks), camp (no tent) or sleep in hammocks. No joke, the hammock was the best sleep I got the whole trip. All 10 hours of it.

After that we went to Cartagena, which is as awesome as it looks in the movies. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, I really enjoyed the city and the many channels of American crime shows in English on the tv in our room. Don't judge me!
Colorful colonial buildings in Cartagena.
The last full day was spent at a mud volcano, which is pretty much exactly how it sounds. You climb to the top of a little hill and then jump into a mud pit with about 50 other strangers. It you want to bond with someone or many strangers, go to the mud volcano. It was super super weird and amazing.
Mud volcano
Andrew and I and our 50 closest stranger-friends enjoy the mud.
At the end of the month I made a trip down to the jungle in the province of Zamora-Chichinpe. It was my first time that far south, and I kept having to remind myself that I was still in Ecuador because it was  so different from my chilly little mountain oasis.

The jungle is really awesome! We stayed at some cabañas about 4 hours from the capital of the province in the parrish of Nangaritza.
Cabañas Yankuam

We played in waterfalls...
Wine-colored waterfall

and took a river boat ride...
River boat ride

We swung on every vine that looked strong enough to hold a person...
Swinging on vines

and entered the Labrinyth of a Thousand Illusions... which is made up of ancient coral covered in jungle. The coral apparently comes from the period of time when Ecuador was ocean, but now sits in the middle of the Amazon. We were also warned to not stray off the path because there are landmines still buried around from the 1995 border war with Peru. Awesome.
Labrinyth of a Thousand Illusions

After the labrinyth we were treated to this lovely view...
Jungle view

All in all, it was a great trip and I can't wait to visit again. It was only my second time visiting the "Oriente" as they call it here, but I really love it. I plan on using my extra vacation days to go play for more time before I leave next summer!

As far as my normal life is going... things are pretty good at the moment! I'm working a lot more in the schools doing health classes which is fun. I'm also getting involved with the founding of a women's jewelry collective in Chalaguan, which has a lot of potential, but we'll see what happens. Unlike the dry latrine project, this idea came from the women themselves so I'm hoping that they will be more motivated to see it through. Next week we're going to meet with them to figure out the logistics and how they should organize themselves. I've made my logistical and possibly financial support contingent on my getting to do a series of child development classes with them in January and February, so hopefully we can get a lot of stuff done at once! An adult educator with the Ministry of Education (Cecilia) is the one heading up the effort, and so far we work pretty well together, so I think this project might actually happen! Keep your fingers crossed.

I'm also heading home for a visit December 17 through the 28!! I really can't wait. I really do love Ecuador now, a love which took a full year and a half to blossom, but I'm extremely excited to see family and friends and eat cheese and watch TV. I can't tell you how much I've missed delicious cheeses.

Ok thanks for reading! Hope this finds you well. I'll leave you with this picture of me and some of the basketball team at the awards ceremony a couple weeks ago...
Team HCA

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September update

Hello friends! Happy Fall! Here in the Sierra of Ecuador, we're officially entering winter soon, which means many, many months of rain and fog. The rain is much needed because everything has pretty much dried up, including some of the streams used for water. By the time January rolls around, I'm sure I'll be sick of the constant rain, but for now its necessary.

The big news of the past month is that I moved to Tixan! I said adios to Alausi and paying too much for rent, and moved to the small town of Tixan (population 700ish) to complete my service. I was pretty nervous about it before, but after a few weeks here it feels like the right decision. Its significantly colder than Alausi, mostly because its about 200 meters higher in altitude (2940 meters) but its nothing a couple sweatshirts and a few blankets can't handle.

I'm living in one of my co-worker's houses, but the family primarily lives in Riobamba, so they're not around much, just the occasional weekend. It turns out that this is the perfect situation because I get a good amount of alone time yet the nurse stays at the house occasionally during the week, so we'll make dinner and chat a bit in the evening. She's also pretty health conscious and open to trying new foods, which means we eat lots of veggies, which I love. Fiber is not underrated people, particularly when you have amoebas.

Work is going well and I've changed up my schedule quite a bit to keep myself busier. I'll be working at both the elementary schools in Tixan this year doing health classes. At one school I'll work with each grade once a month, and at the other I'll work with the kids twice a month for a shorter time. Its incredibly tiring to teach 90 minute classes with 35 kids, but I enjoy it. At the end of the day I feel like I actually accomplished something. The curriculum for my health classes is completely open as well, so I plan on doing a bit of everything, from hygiene to nutrition to environment stuff. This month I did a handwashing class with everyone, switching up the activities a bit depending on the age, and they were (almost) all successful. I'll also be starting sexual and reproductive health classes with 8th-10th graders and I'm really looking forward to that. I think it's going to be good.

This Friday begins my second annual "inter-area" sports tournament. If you'll think back to last year for a moment, this is the tournament for which I was "madrina", aka I was in a beauty contest. Luckily, I'm not doing it again this year. All I have to do is show up in my uniform and play. The tournament is spread out over three weekends and we're going to be competing in basketball, indoor soccer and Ecua-volley. I refuse to play Ecua-volley, but if they need me for soccer, I'll be happy to run around for awhile. Obviously I'll be playing basketball, and I suspect that we'll do well this year.

Unfortunately I'll have to miss the second weekend of the tournament because I'll be on vacation in Colombia for 10 days! I'm extremely excited. I'm meeting my friend Andrew in Bogota and we'll head northeast through the country up to the coast. It'll be my first time out of Ecuador in 15 months and my first time to Colombia. I don't really know all the much about the country (besides cocaine and FARQ), but I plan on learning a lot. I'm particularly interested in the Carribean beaches we'll be visiting the last half of the trip :)

Lastly, I thought I'd just throw out the fact that I really enjoy getting mail... hint hint. The last time I went to the "post office" to check if I had any mail, the mail guy said "Nope, your boyfriend and family have forgotten about you." Is that supposed to be a joke? Yikes. Please send me mail. Every postcard counts.

The address again is:

Chloe Pete, PCV
Correo Central
Alausi, Chimborazo

No, you're not missing anything, there are no numbers. Just words. It's not perfect, but it works in 2-4 weeks.

Ok thanks for reading! Hope this finds everyone well. I'll be visiting Portland for a few days over Christmas, so definitely let me know if you're interested in catching up and hearing more weird stories from my time in Ecuador.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Link to Ecological Dry Toilets info

In April, I attended a workshop on constructing dry latrines, or ecological dry toilets. Overall they're pretty similar to pit latrines, but there are some key differences that make them more awesome and nice to use. A couple days ago the resident expert on these toilets, Chris Cannaday, posted some pictures and information on his blog from the Peace Corps workshop, and I thought some of you might like to check it out!

The frame of the Arbor Loo... plus a sliver of my backside!

This weekend, the plan is to make the official move to Tixan. I feel good and also horrified by the idea. Then next week school starts again! Supposedly they don't do much the first few days (weeks?) so I'm drawing up the plans for some more involved classes and projects with the kids in the two schools in Tixan, and possibly the high school. The clinic has been stressing me out a lot recently, so I'm looking to find some other things to do for part of the time.

Then in two weeks is our Mid Service conference! Gahhhhh how times flies! I'm not sure what we'll be doing for 5 days and 5 nights, but I think it'll be nice to see the other volunteers in my group who I haven't kept in touch with... which is everyone minus 3. We've also lost four volunteers in the last month or so (as in, they decided to end their service and go home... they didn't die or anything), which puts the group at around 50 I think. It'll definitely be interesting!

Last weekend I also took a quick trip to the northern beaches, so I'll try and post some pictures here soonsies. The Pacific Ocean seems to maintain its beauty no matter which hemisphere you're in :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

One Year in Alausi!

The view from Chalaguan south down the valley at sunset, August 9, 2012
Can you believe a little over a year ago I moved to Alausi? Neither can I. Time FLIES!! There have been so many ups and downs and funny/crazy/weird things that have happened, its pretty amazing to think back to the last 12 months. Let's reflect a little...

This is the most challenging part of being here. Work typically consists of days and weeks of endless frustrations (with intermittent periods of boredom) only to be broken up spontaneously by tiny yet awesome achievements. I want to be clear on this: I'm not changing the World here. I'm barely influencing the lives of a few people. I didn't have any grandiose ideas of eradicating malnutrition and eliminating poverty when I got here, but even so, my ambition has shrunk even further once I came to terms with the reality of life in my little corner of Ecuador. The poverty, unemployment, lack of investment in education, and overall (dare I say it?) failure to provide basic medical services combines to create a black hole of sickness and ignorance. Throw in crushing sexism and a very strange yet very prevalent culture of "gimme gimme", that I think has been cultivated over many decades by NGOs, missionaries and government welfare programs... and you've got one hell of a situation. Sure, people say they'll change their hygiene habits... but only if you pay for and build the toilets yourself. And then they won't actually use them because thats not how behavior change works.

To be clear, I haven't built or paid for any toilets yet. I've summarized the attempted dry latrine project with the community of Chalaguan here in recent months, and there is nothing new to report. I'm going to give it another try here in the next couple months, but I'm currently formulating my cautious second attempt. I'm not even close to giving up yet, but I've realized that the approach was all wrong the first time (just add it to the list of failed Volunteer projects, which I'm sure counts in the thousands). In this second year, I really really really hope to make some head way with the dry latrines, if not in Chalaguan, then somewhere else. It feels like a giant waste of time and energy and knowledge to have attended the five-day Peace Corps workshop and then do absolutely nothing. We'll see how things go in the next 12 months, but I'll be very disappointed if I can't impart any toilet-building knowledge.

Year Two will also be entirely different because I'm moving to Tixan. I've had enough of living in Alausi, not knowing many people, not being able to hold meetings in the late afternoon/evening, watching too many movies at home alone, etc. In Tixan, I'll be living with a family again. Or, technically I'll be living in their house, but they aren't always around because they spend most of their time in Riobamba. This isn't totally ideal for me, but I'm a lot more confident in expressing my needs in Spanish so I'm going to work hard to be proactive and assertive. I won't have internet in the house like I do now either, so be patient with my email response time! The good news is that they have a couch! And my adoptive host mom, Vilma, who I work with at the clinic, is a great cook and eager to learn more! I'm excited to show her some salad recipes... raw vegetables WHAT??? It's going to be ground breaking.

Honestly I'm nervous about the change, because moving is the worst and I always dread that period of adjustment. Fortunately, I think I'm much more capable of coping with the change now than I was a year ago. I understand Spanish! People know me! I'm slowly but surely picking up Kichwa! For example: Haku nuka wasima lechita ubiyangi = Let's go to my house to drink milk. So useful!

I have to get ready for bed now, but I'll leave you with a song from Prince Royce. I hope you enjoy this style of music, called bachata, because it will be playing in my car and house nonstop once I return to the USA. Get excited!

Cuidense mucho! Hasta luego!