Only in Ecuador

Daniel Schwarz - Ecuador

November 21, 2012

It really is lucky that I now work in the productive development office of the provisional government of Napo, Ecuador. My job is challenging, fun, and allows me to experience things I never could anywhere else in the world. I’m either sitting in an office, sending and receiving emails in a language I have not come close to mastering, calling different companies to confirm meetings, or am off visiting other communities providing poorer people with ways to utilize sustainable resources. My personal favorite is visiting farms with the veterinarians my department employs, giving shots, and checking the general welfare of livestock. This is really cool being 19 years old and doing things I never imagined possible at my age.

As a non-Spanish speaker I am bound to make some mistakes when sending emails, talking in the office, or making presentations. I tend to make my mistakes in correspondence that is not taken too literally, like emails or casual conversation. However, the other day I made a big, more obvious, and very embarrassing mistake. I had to create an excel spreadsheet to show the budget for a festival in the city I live in. The name of the festival is what follows.  “5to foro del cacao y chocolate amazónico 2012.”  After my mistake I have never spelled that title wrong again. On the excel spreadsheet, which was projected onto a large screen in front of our sponsors, on the top and the middle of the page I wrote the name of the festival. It was exactly the same as the title I wrote above except for one letter. “Cacao” was written “caca.” For those of you who speak Spanish you see why my mistake was embarrassing. For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, caca means poop in Spanish. All of the organizationsponsors, who pledged to give thousands of dollars of support, saw my typo. I put the word poop in a government presentation. The best part about the entire thing was that my boss wasn’t even angry, or disappointed. He simply thought it was funny, as did most of the other people in the room. We quickly changed the typo and life has moved on. Only in Ecuador would some “gringo” be able to put the word poop in a presentation and no one would care.

I got a phone call last week from my friend Meg, another fellow. In a concerned voice she told me that in her hands was a small raccoon-like animal native to the rainforest. For this story his name is Will. Meg proceeded to tell me that Will was struggling to breathe. I told her to come to my office so the vets could help the poor animal. She arrived about 20 minutes later. Sure enough the animal was choking to death. There were six of us crowded around the table. I held down two of the little animallegs, while my coworker held the other two legs. The ” doctor” was trying to pry this small, helpless creatures mouth open. Will was scared, twisting and fighting, so the veterinarian gave him a sedative. It seemed one dose wasn’t enough so Will ended up getting two doses. He was a bit more relaxed.

We pried open his mouth attempting to clear what was blocking his throat, but it didn’t work. In an attempt to save Wills life we gave him a tracheotomy. The vet started to make a cut on Wills neck, passing through the tough skin and fur. Blood started to ooze out as the vet was careful not to sever any arteries. After successfully putting the tube down Wills throat the vet told me to attach the tube to a respirator and to manually give the animal air. After about 30 minutes the vet had cleared what was blocking Wills airway. We cleaned Wills wound, stitched him up, and sprayed the wound with an antibiotic. Will survived, and we were all happy.

It wasn’t until after the excitement was over that I thought how irregular the event was. I guess thats what living in a different country will do to you. It changes your perspective on what is peculiar and what is not. For example, here is a list of “weird” things I have done in the Ecuadorian rainforest.

  • Haven’t had hot water
  • I have eaten:
    • Worms
    • Ants
    • Chicken feet
    • Cow and pork hooves
    • Pig skin
    • Cow tongue
    • Crazy different exotic fruits
  • Went swimming in an Amazonian river
  • Fed monkeys by hand
  • Met the Prefect of Napo
  • Saw the President of Ecuador
  • Got a parasite
  • Watched a boa constrictor kill and eat its pray

Lots more to come!

Until next time.

Daniel Schwarz