In the past few weeks so many things have changed so significantly I'm not really processing all of it as real. I want to do some significant blogging, but for now, just the key points of what happened the week between March 24 and April 1.
1) What feels like ages ago, but was really two Mondays ago, I had to make the hardest decision I have to date- how to spend my summer. I was fortunate enough to be selected into two summer programs, the McNair Scholars Program at the University of Minnesota and the Public Health Summer Enrichment Program at the University of Michigan. I tell you this not to brag about how special I am, but to illustrate the agony of this day. Headed to the rainforest at 10pm, having been accepted to the public health program just on Friday with a Monday decision deadline, taxiing around the city buying bus tickets and finalizing trip details, eating only bread because my host parents were unexpectedly called away, I was not having the most zen time. I skyped with a friend, my parents, a representative from both programs, chatted on facebook with more friends, took breaks to fold laundry and think, visualized what I wanted my summer to look like, and even flipped a coin. Up to the last moment, I wrote four emails- the email saying "Yes, I will be a part of the program" and the email saying "Thank you but I will not be participating" was fully composed for each. In the end, I chose the McNair Scholars Program and I will be doing research this summer- still doing public health work, but closer to home, in a way that I hope will be more personalized and offer more long-term support than the other program. I'll keep you updated.
2) And then I went to the Amazon. After my tough decision day, we took the night bus landing in Coca, an oil-drilling town a couple hours from Lago Agrio, where we enter the rainforest. We visited my friend Katrina's host relatives in Coca, then headed for a four day tour of Cuyabeno. Honestly some of the best days I've had. I will hopefully reflect on the rainforest soon, but here are a few pictures of some highlights.
Fishing for pirañas
Making friends with a tarantula that decided that the seating area was a cool place to hang
Making pan de yucca
The group motor canoeing the Cuyabeno River- motor canoe is how to get basically everywhere- and also see the animals
3) After a surreal, beautiful, I-never-wanted-to-leave weekend without any electricity, much less Internet, it was time to pack my bags and say goodbye to my host family in Quito. There wasn't any time at all to process this, as I got back Sunday and left early Monday morning. These people are like my family by blood that i have known for years. I am only comforted knowing I will see them again.
4) And then I moved to Otavalo. I met a new family, which consists so far of my host mom, two older host sisters, Belen and Fernanda, and the son of Fernanda, Pablito, who is four, as well as NINE poodles- their two dogs just had puppies! ADORABLE! I also have a host dad, but he works far away and is only around on weekends. Fernanda works at the Subcentro de Salud where I work, so we spend a lot of time together, and Pablito is absolutely adorable and SO excited that I am in their family. Even though I miss my Quito family, I am excited to be here.
Mama poodle- Chispa- she is so sweet.
Mountain view from close to my house.
5) On Tuesday, I started work at Subcentro de Salud San Pablo. It is the main health center for San Pablo and the surrounding rural communities. I shadow the nurses and go with the doctors on rural visits. I also am learning all about a program called Técnicos de Atención Primaria, which gives people from the community basic medical training. It is like a more formal version of the Community Health Workers that I learned about in International Public Health. I am super interested in community health, so this works perfectly for me. I also get to be a part of the Teen Club and the Senior Club, each meet once a week at the Subcentro to do various activities. So far I am really loving it.
The Subcentro has dogs- Toby
This is where I work guys!
I am learning so much here- about taking advantage of every opportunity, about trying new things and remembering that to this day I am still learning (so what if you hate camping and the rainforest has spiders the size of your face- you want to see it? Live your dreams, you might love it) about being comfortable with uncertainty (which is everything here) and moving forward even in that uncertainty, about trusting strangers- not too much of course- and taking chances (two different families have opened their doors and their hearts to me, and so far, it has gone swimmingly) about myself- about what I can offer and how much I have left to learn. It is cliche and sappy, but it is true, so I am saying it. I am ever so grateful to be here, and for the moments where it does not seem real, where the decisions are too hard for one person alone, where I just need someone to listen, and so many more things, I am ever so grateful to have you guys!