I’ve never broken a bone or spent a night in the hospital yet when I travel I always tend to have ailments of some kind or another. This trip thus far has been no different yet through my ailments I have learned and discovered so much more of the culture. Thus, in a way I’m happy that my body is giving me a difficult time because I have been able to experience that much more of Ecuador!
Back in Quito, I had a sinus infection. The entire process of the doctor visit and getting medicine was a three hours! Unlike the majority of doctors in the United States that you see for a maximum of eight or nine minutes the doctors here like getting to know their patients. Although I had never met him before he talked to me for two hours. He discussed his views on past United States presidents (being that it was 9/11) and told me about a heart surgeon from the Cleveland Clinic that had committed suicide. It was only after countless stories ( a little in English but mostly Spanish) that he began to evaluate me.
For as long as I can remember mosquitoes everywhere have loved biting me. Here it’s no different. I have spent countless nights itching bites until they bleed. One day last week after logging bamboo I pulled up my pants to itch my bites. My host grandmother, Rebecca, who makes medicinal plant remedies for a living realized how many bites I had and quickly disappeared into the forest. Minutes later she came back with nearly one hundred green leaves. She then proceeded to wrap them in a larger leaf and then placed all the leaves into the coals on the fire. After the leaves were warm she rubbed them all over my bites. It was this act of kindness that made me feel more connected to her and her livelihood. Although this only temporarily relieved my pain, the gesture is what truly counts.
Three words. Free medical care. In the larger towns in Ecuador there are doctor’s offices that offer free medical care. Although the health care isn’t the best it is still very effective in helping the majority of the population. This past Friday I was taken to one these ‘hospitals’ due to bad intestinal problems I have been having. It was fun to practice my medical terms from my ever so useful Spanish phrase book and bond with my uncle (age 19). It’s interesting that a developing country like Ecuador could be so progressive with its medical care while such an industrialized country such as the United States could be so behind on standardized medicine. I am still stunned that my entire exam and all four prescriptions were completely FREE!
It’s these experiences and countless other ones that have made me feel like this is my home.