Two weeks goes by all too quickly, and I feel like there is so much I haven't done in Ecuador. I have been so surprised by the number of cool places and adventures that are available here. With the various climates, there is everything from surfing to mountain climbing to jungle tours... I will have to come back!
I did get the chance to go to a really cool town called Banos which is about 5 hours from Quito, and boy was that a trip. I went with a couple people my age I met in Quito, one of whom owns a hostel and was a fantastic host. My favorite part of traveling is getting to spend time with local people, and I always seem to get lucky and meet amazing locals on my trips. We toured waterfalls, went on a scenic drive around the local, active volcano, went swimming in a river while it was pouring rain, ate great food and got a chance to enjoy the nightlife which was heavy with tourists. The town reminded me of the very touristy areas in Thailand I visited last summer, but without the beaches and Australians. The trip left me exhausted, but it wouldn't have felt like a full vacation without it, so I am glad I went.
I actually met David, the hostel owner, through the woman who runs the service program I am working through. She has established multiple schools in a small town, Lumbisi, which is about 45 minutes from Quito. The town is set up much like a Native American reservation back in the States and is totally separate from the majority of Ecuador. This has led to significant neglect and poverty in the area, but Maria Teresa, the founder of the NGO, is doing her best to make a difference. She is truly a magnificent person and I hope that she continues to have volunteers for many years to come.
The schools are pretty new, and I was surprised at how nice they were considering the town they are in. And the children were so much fun! I spent a couple days with them (4-5 year olds) which was exhausting but just as rewarding. I would like to say I was volunteering and helping out so much, but, honestly, 85% of my time was spent playing games with the kids and not doing anything tangibly productive. I will post some pictures of the little guys when I get back!
The main aspect of my travel here was the work in the hospital. It was a great experience and was definitely eye-opening as I saw some things that were really tough to swallow. I saw bone marrow biopsy kits being reused with only a rinsing under the sink and a couple cases where the necessary medication simply wasn't available, which is especially heartbreaking in the oncology patients. There are private hospitals here which offer more, but the free hospital struggles to offer the necessary level of care. The waiting room was massive, absolutely packed, and the doctors would see three patients at a time in their tiny offices. It is tough to explain, but suffice to say that it wasn't the ideal situation. I would love to volunteer and help as a physician someday, and I hope I get the chance to do so.
I am catching the midnight plane tonight, but I will be back tomorrow! I will have to do some late 4th of July celebrating and grab a beer, get sunburnt by the pool and enjoy some Kansas City bbq as soon as I get back. As rotations start in a couple weeks, though, I am sure I will be wishing I was back in Ecuador playing hide-and-seek with 5 year olds.