Half a year later and not a single step further ahead yet. Or…?
This Sunday exactly six months ago was the Big Day: the start of my world trip. I thought it ´d take me about two or three years, but if I keep this pace, I won´t make it home in the next ten years :P. So, half a year later, and not a single step further ahead yet. Or...?
I´m sorry (well, not really actually :P) that I´ll start with disappointing news for everyone who thinks that I met a rich Ecuadorian and that I´m writing this story in a luxury apartment with an ocean view… There aren´t too many rich Ecuadorians. And if there were, the market where we work wouldn´t be quite the right place to meet them. No, I´m still living in my room with Ecuadorian “alternating current” (on-off-on), similar “alternating internet” and a 50% probability of hot water. There´s always cold water though, and it enters my room automatically when it rains heavily.
And no, it´s not a poor Ecuadorian either, although there are a lot more of them around here than rich ones. Although… actually, a few Ecuadorians did steal my heart: “our” San Roque market children and their families of course, my landlord who always has the time to talk for hours about the history, the politics and the musical styles of his country, our hilarious volunteer coordinator and my office companion Gladys who puts on her bright pink jogging suit on on Fridays to teach physical education, and our hypertension and diabetes patients in the market who pray for us (?) and insist on giving us food when we pass by to see how they´re doing. And then there´s the impressively calm and humble if-you-want-to-know-anything-you-should-ask Ruth the vice director, my Spanish teacher who loves cinnamon cookies as much as I do (is that even possible?), our social worker who cares so much for those in need that he forgets sometime that he also has a family and the woman from the laundry service that gives me an umbrella when it suddenly starts to rain. And the sisters of course, who call me for lunch in the comunidad when I work weekends, Mirian that comes in to do one hour of English homework after nine hours of working as help-for-anything-that-needs-to-be-done, the owner of the night shop who gives me what I need even if I don´t have money, the doctor who sends her team to work with us in the market and who never forgets to remind us that we´re brave warriors in the army fighting unhealthy lifestyle, and the market family that invites us for lunch and hot chocolate because “you don´t really have a family here, right?"
But also the non-Ecuadorians have made this place a real home in these past months: if-I-want-an-honest-answer-I-ask Brendan the communication guru who´s always up for… frisbee (:D), my French neighbour who told me all the possible Quito horror stories in my first three days here, so even I would be careful with my belongings and with myself, and our volunteer coordinator Emily who calls sweeping the floor a “challenge for my coordination”. As well as coffee with love fellow addict Kilian who shares the German bread his grandfather sends him with us, our market-responsible / mother Hannah who took care of both the kids of San Roque and the volunteers for half a year, if-we´re-both-ill-we-might-as-well-go-for-lunch-in-shared-misery with Graham, Sinead the Irish primary school teacher who, although a little older than me, enjoyed making foam fish with wobbly eyes as much as I did, and clinica collegue Jenni who bakes marshmellow heart shaped cookies for valentine’s day.
And in that context our project Clinica de calle (street clinic) has been developing incredibly fast in the last few months. We started off with not much more than an excel sheet with fourty names and their daily (?) blood pressures of last year. Now we´re working with the leaders of the market sectors, we sit down at the vendors’ stalls for about half an hour to inscribe them, tell them about health and risk factors and to identify the ones at risk for health problems. That´s also a great opportunity to notice other things going on (violence, abuse, addiction, child labour, psychological problems) that we can help with by guiding them to the professional services that are available for free: helping kids and their parents to find a school or make a start in our educational program for kids in the market to prepare them to go to school, introducing them to a social worker of CENIT or a collaborating institution, or guiding them to “coordinated attention” to families in a specialized centre where physical and mental health go together with social work in a family context. Per month we´ll be able to reach about 200 people! All for about 25 dollars a month (of copies and pens) and practically all done by Ecuadorians for Ecuadorians: we´re only a (hopefully temporarily necessary) connection.
So these months I´ve been working double shifts to get where we´re now. Soon I´ll take two to three weeks off, my “obligatory holiday”. I´ll take my guitar, my pen and paper to the beach to sit down and organize my thoughts there. In September, an English pediatrist will come here to take over the street clinic coordinatorship for a year. It would be great if I could be there to show her everything we´ve done and to explain how everything works in the markets and CENIT. But the money I planned to spend in two months did run out after six months… and even though the 300,- euros I spend here in a month is not a lot of money at all, staying for a few months more would mean a serious change in my budget plan for the whole trip. Well, time will tell. At least the fundaments of the project are made, solid and documented :D… We´ll see what the future brings. And also here in Ecuador, the future will come to us automatically.
Many thanks to everyone at home and here for making these last six months fly by and sorry for the messages that are left without response for a while sometimes! I do read them, but also here there´s no more than twenty four hours in a day :). As soon as there´ll be a (new) leaving date, I´ll let you know. And I also have to update the information about what to do / what has been done with the donations I received!
A big hug and see you…? Eeermm.. well… later that will be I guess! :D