. They like things to be spicy though and there is always a bowl of homemade chilli sauce on the table, with many chillis floating on the top, which I have been warned away from numerous times. In addition, they like to add salt to their meals whilst it is cooking, which presumably is to add a bit of flavour, as everything is a natural product and they don't add any flavour enhancers or condiments to anything. You wouldn't find a bottle of ketchup or mayonnaise at the table here, only the homemade chilli sauce. A few times I have caught them trying to distract me, as they stir another tablespoon of salt into the bubbling saucepan, but I just laugh and say that it doesn't bother me at all. I highly doubt they will add as much salt as is in the usual highly processed Western diet.
The sun was scorching and it was set to be an intolerably hot day, which generally means that patients don't show up because they are resting in the shade at home. Yep, rain or shine there is a good excuse for patients not attending the clinic. The two girls from the States came over again, to conduct more interviews, but the parteras were no-where to be found, and so they spoke to the medical doctor and to one of the women from the ministry of health instead. Both doctors have said that they don't think there is a problem with the indigenous people accessing the health are here. Interestingly the parteras and the woman from the ministry of health disagree and think it is a problem that they need to keep fighting and empowering the local people
. I could expect the divide in opinion is because the parteras and the ministry lady are all indigenous themselves and understand more fully the difficulties that are faced. I can completely sympathize with the idea of people attending a clinic, where a different language is spoken, that is not your first language, and you understand most of it but not all of it. It is one thing for me to smile and nod along, when someone is talking too fast or using words that I don't know, but it would be really scary if you don't fully understand the doctor that is talking about your treatment or asking for more details about your symptoms.
After a delicious lunch of vegetable, quinoa, potato, and beef soup, followed by rice, with beetroot and marinated beef stripes, we were all full to the brim. There was nothing else to do, but lie down in the ward for a little power nap, as there were no patients and we all had full stomachs. Four of us took a bed each and didn't get up for half an hour, bliss! There wasn't much else to do for the rest of the afternoon, and we passed the time by looking at photos. Each time I showed them a photo of me before this trip, I was met with a chorus of “ahh, you used to be fat”. It was all very good natured but I couldn't believe how many times I heard the word “gordita” in one afternoon.
When I returned from a walk into the town, I was met by one of Olga's daughters, who shared some sugar cane with me. It grows a bit like bamboo and I learnt that it is yet another thing that they have growing in their garden. It was tasty and refreshing, and just what I needed after a long day in the intense sun. Dinner time was a small, simple plate of rice, with a fried egg on top, and tomato slices on the side
. The food I ate today is fairly typical of what the people eat here. There is always a large plate at lunchtime, as that is their main meal of the day, and is usually commenced with a large bowl of soup, and followed by rice, meat and vegetables of some kind. The people here also like to eat a whole fish once or twice a week if they can. Dinner is usually a snack, and is served on a small plate. Lots of the poorer people go without breakfast and dinner, because the main meal of the day is at lunchtime, around 1pm. To start with I found it difficult to find the space for all of the food at lunchtime and found myself craving more food in the evening, but now I have adapted and even found myself ordering food in that sequence in Montanita on the weekend. I have come to enjoy having a large lunch, and then only having something small before bed, it feels like the sensible way to eat. I am not sure that I would get away with having an afternoon nap in a ward bed at home though.
After an un-conventional breakfast of unripened bananas that had been boiled, and served alongside with a fried egg and instant coffee, with milk powder, I was ready to face the day! I joke about some of the concoctions that they come up with, but I must admit that I generally really like the food here and never cease to be amazed at how much they grow and cook their own products. They have a simple kitchen, with two gas burners and the ever present fire, which they use as their main way of cooking. They don't have any cupboards to store food, as the animals would get to it in a flash, instead they have hand woven baskets that hang from the ceiling or wall. They don't have a fridge, which seems to be the norm here, and instead this means that they have to only buy what they want to use that day, then cook it and eat it. I expect it helps them to waste less food and reduce the incidence of food poisoning, as everything is served straight off the fire. Mainly of course, it is more out of necessity, as the people here can't afford expensive kitchen equipment, or the electricity to run it