Archive for the ‘Ecuador’ Category

Thursday, 19 February 2015
Hello to all. All well here in Villa Vasquez, Dominican Republic. We’ve almost completed our first week and with no mishaps. The team (Hancock County Medical Mission) left Maine ahead of a major snowstorm and arrived smoothly. I came to the DR three days earlier with wife Jeri’s team, caught up with old friends in San Pedro de Macorís and saw how much the school Colegio Moriah and the Haitian Baptist church had grown since I was last there. On Saturday I met my own team members as they arrived at the airport.

We’re working in two medical groups as usual: the surgical team, which works every day in the local hospital and hardly sees the tropical sun, and the clinic team which goes by bus each day out to small farming villages and shamefully gets sunburned while doing general family medicine and occasional referrals to the surgical team or to Dominican specialists. Teo and Frida, the MMI directors, are also MDs and are treating patients. I’m translating for an MD named Ron from Saskatchewan, Canada.

Most of the days we set up clinic in school buildings, usually a kind of sprawling affair of long rooms separated by courtyards, secure for kids and also for a medical team. We’ve seen some beautiful places along the way, one of them about 1000 feet up with a view of the sea. Not too hot here, mid-eighties, and comfortable nights sleeping. Good hotel, concrete and tile with running water (usually) but no hot showers and no wi-fi. We eat in a rented house about four blocks away, meals cooked by MMI staff (that’s Medical Ministry International, our hosts) and the hospital is a few blocks from there, so it’s easy to walk around. Small town, easy to walk from one side to another, and friendly. We’ve gotten to know a few people in town—Andrea, the lady who owns the pizza place (best wi-fi AND best pizza around) and she speaks good English because she comes and goes from New Jersey.  Antonio, the security guard here at the hotel is also very friendly and we aren’t at all intimidated by the stockless shotgun that he carries around like a cane. Very talkative, and these people are great to learn from. Besides ourselves I don’t think we’ve seen anybody from the United States except for a woman with the Peace Corps. Villa Vasquez NOT a tourist destination.

Farming country nearby, lots of bananas, rice fields, and on today’s trip some tobacco. Sugar, but not so much in this area. Saw a few kinds of cactus on the ride today, and that area was very dry¸ many buildings with gutters and pipes set up to collect rainwater in cisterns. Old fashioned outhouses at the school where we worked today, and in some ways this is a step up from the proper flush toilets at the hospital—I’m told that there was no water at all there today and they had to lug buckets when the toilets got too foul.

Typical surgeries include hernia repair, gall bladder removal, lumpectomies. Probably other major surgeries like hysterectomies and tubal ligation but I’m not with that team this year [update: Charlie just confirmed all of the above, but said “lots of hernias”]. The hospital in Villa Vasquez has an OB unit so there have been two or three childbirths each day. Sarra, one of our scholarship students, has been with the surgical team, working pre-op and post-op, and has seen a few newborns, although not the births themselves. Taylor, our other student, has been with the clinic team and working with integrated health, which works as a waiting area after patients have seen the doctors and while prescriptions are being filled. During that time they receive a lesson in health care and hygiene and a gospel message, then instructions about taking their medications when the meds are ready. Taylor has been translating and assisting and she clearly loves kids. Also, there are three other teenage girls on the trip from Virginia. All are rooming together with an adult, an OB surgeon, to keep things on the level.

Food great, by the way. The MMI cooks have been doing this a long time. No chance of losing weight, especially with the pizza place as the wi-fi hot spot. Breakfasts include eggs, maybe bacon or sausage, fruit, choice of cereals and the best granola except for Jeri’s. We start breakfast with a praise song and close it with a short devotional by whoever had volunteered. My turn was this morning, and it was on Psalm 100. We also start the work day with an introduction to the people we’ll be treating, with a “circle time” that includes the song “Alabaré” (I will praise) and a prayer. The key is to be brief because it can be a long day.

I’ll close now, go over to the pizza place to connect and (try) to send this. Charlie and the gang are already over there. This time of evening I’ll walk past a bunch of older men playing dominoes on card tables on the sidewalk. You’d think it was a world-class chess match. Maybe it is, or better.

Thanks for praying. Keep it up for us, would you? See you next week in the snowdrifts.

PS—Also check out our Facebook page, Hancock County Medical Mission.  Charlie has been posting photos and videos of the OR team.  I’ll try to put this up on my blog, https://fromoffshore.wordpress.com and may include a few of my own photos in a few days.

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Oswaldo Guayasamín, La Pieta de Avignon, 20th century (after Quarton)

Oswaldo Guayasamín, La Pieta de Avignon, 20th century, Ecuador (after Quarton)

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[another in a series of pre-scheduled blog posts.  we’ll see how close this comes to reality.]

I don’t mean to poke fun at our surgeons Charlie and Joe, but I couldn’t resist this video from a Seinfeld episode.

Except for the Junior Mints and the viewing gallery, this could be an operating room in a hospital in Ecuador on one of our mission trips.  And our students Lily and Seth will get a chance to view surgeries and possibly to assist in a small way.  An opportunity like this would never come their way in the U.S. until medical school.

Junior Mints, however, are available over-the-counter.

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Ecuador: the market

[I’ll schedule this to post tomorrow, Monday.  Today is Sunday the 17th and most of us spent the morning wandering around the market a few blocks away.  Some of us attended church service next door (see blog post below, churches).  The market is mostly indoors with open sides, with some vendors out on the sidewalks.  The streets around were nearly impassable to traffic if not blocked altogether for pedestrians, and because today is also election day the nearby schoolhouse became a voting center.  Police and military personnel all around when voting started at noon.]

 mercado 1

mercado 2

mercado 4

mercado 5

mercado 6

mercado 8

mercado 9

Our dining hall at Hotel Jarfi in Salcedo, where some of that good food ends up.

Our dining hall at Hotel Jarfi in Salcedo, where some of that good food ends up.

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Ecuador: a few churches

On Sundays we relax, maybe go into town (or out of town for an excursion), and those who wish may go to a church service.  Sometimes we hold a service ourselves on the hotel grounds.  Often, there are volunteers from an evangelical church nearby who have been helping us all week with food and logistics, and we’ve become friends with them and attend their church.  Or, we have the option to attend a Catholic service.

Sorry no photos of evangelical churches.  I have photos of the insides of a few of them where we’ve set up clinics, but these churches tend to be low-budget—and only the posters inside or the signs over the doors outside can distinguish them from a house, an apartment, or even a barn.  Often they are based in the back yard of the pastor’s home.

The Catholic churches are always a work of architecture, even in a small town, and always adjacent to the town square.  One of the things I love about Ecuador is their city planning:  the downtown will be laid out as a grid with a beautiful park at the very center.  Across the street on one side will be a church, and along another street usually municipal buildings and also shops.

It’s better than going to the mall!  It’s a very clean, safe area for all ages and on weekends—besides church services—there may be celebrations, or outdoor markets on Saturdays.

But here are a few typical churches from previous years:

[liveblogging edit:  I’ve added a few photos of the Catholic church here in Salcedo, across the street from our hotel.  A few of us attended service this morning.]

One of at least three Catholic churches in Cotacachi, and the most modern.

One of the Catholic churches in Cotacachi, and the more modern of them.

Interior of the church above in Cotacachi.  The posters have a verse from Acts, chapter 4, in which the apostles Peter and John are warned by the religious authorities not to speak about the risen Jesus.  They replied,  "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."

Interior of the above church in Cotacachi. The posters have a verse from Acts, chapter 4, in which the apostles Peter and John are warned by the religious authorities not to speak about the risen Jesus. They replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

Another church building in Cotacachi.

Another church building in Cotacachi.

An older church building in Cotacachi.  Notice the park in front.

The above church building.  Notice the park in front and the dome in the center of the building.

Church in Salcedo

The Catholic Church in Salcedo where we’re working this year. This and photos below were taken this morning or Wednesday evening.

Church in Salcedo by night - Ash Wednesday service as I was walking back from work

Church in Salcedo by night – Ash Wednesday service as I was walking back from work

Church in Salcedo - Ash Wednesday evening service - no flash -

Church in Salcedo – Ash Wednesday evening service – no flash –

Church in Salcedo from the park

Church in Salcedo from the park

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[pre-scheduled blog post]

In Ecuador it’s called el día de San Valentín”  and often “el día del amor y de la amistad” (the day of love and friendship).  There’s usually some kind of recognition among the team-members, and often something with our Ecuadorian hosts.  

This video has a good example of folk music, or música folklórica, around here, and the scenes of fiesta and people in the streets are pretty typical of a celebration day in a small city like Salcedo in the Ecuadorian highlands.  Some of the lyrics say about Salcedo, “for it’s the land of love.”  We shall see.

I don’t know if there will be any kind of extravaganza going on while we’re here, but if so this would be pretty typical.  Although I have never seen any bullfighting.

[Live update:  I had forgotten that it would be Carnaval time when we got here, and we arrived on the day itself, called Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday elsewhere.  People were partying in the streets, music blaring, kids shooting people with shaving cream cannisters (I got sprayed as did many of the others) and water guns and throwing water balloons.  All in good fun.  Yesterday wa Ash Wednesday and more subdued.  A lot of the patients had a cross of ash on the forehead.]

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Ecuador: duct tape

[I’m scheduling a number of posts, some of them foolishness, to show up automatically while we’re in Ecuador.  The wonders of WordPress.]

Remember what Karl Malden used to say?  “American Express Travelers Checks:  Don’t leave Karl Maldenhome without them!”  And then the ad would show a horrible scene of a honeymooning couple who did leave home without them, lost everything and went crying to the embassy, destitute.

With credit and debit cards, travelers’ checks are now as out of style as Karl Malden’s hat.  But what has never gone out of style, like ketchup on A Prairie Home Companion, is good old-fashioned duct tape  (click link for 101 uses).

I won’t say that our surgeons use duct tape as extensively as the ones in the cartoons below, but the stuff is so useful on these medical missions that we never leave home without it.

[Liveblogging update from Salcedo, Ecuador:  while we were unpacking and sorting the medical supplies this afternoon, Mary T the O.R. nurse (aka Boss Mary, as there are four of them this year) looked for a roll of duct tape and when she found it said, “The most important tool in the O.R.”  Sometimes these blog posts just plain write themselves.]

Glasbergen - surgeon nail clippers duct tape       

Rhymes with Orange - surgeon duct tape

Thanks to http://www.glasbergen.com and http://rhymeswithorange.com

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