Trip Start Apr 21, 2013
Trip End Jun 30, 2013

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, June 29, 2013

I was joined for breakfast by the older partera, who had stayed the night in the clinic.  As we ate she spoke about her concerns for the traditional skills that have been passed down from generation to generation of parteras.  She had been a partera for 50 years and had grave concerns about the future of her profession.  She feels like the ministry of health are making it harder for them to practice, as there is more paperwork that is necessary for them to complete for each birth, and they must also attend education sessions each month.  However, they are not being paid by the ministry and lots of them aren't being paid at all, as the women can't afford the $25 that it costs for the partera to attend the labour and birth.  This money covers all the natural medicines that the partera makes, and allows the woman and her family to stay in the clinic, for three days, with meals included.  She was worried about the changes that were being made, especially with the paperwork, as lots of the parteras can't write.  She felt that women were too scared to go to the hospital and if there weren't many parteras, this would leave the women birthing at home by themselves, which would lead to more maternal deaths.  As I watched the tears well up in her wise looking, but tired and worn face, I was over come with the sense of loss that she was feeling.  It was highly emotive....until she asked me if I could do something to help them, and then suggested that $5000 should do it!  It wasn't quite as blatant as I just wrote it, but she feels that volunteers are the only way that they can get money to help them.  I agree that volunteers can provide them with money (it costs $100, 70 GBP, per week, to volunteer at the clinic, meals included), but I don't think money is the answer to their problems.  The money and decision making powers between the doctors and the parteras needs to be resolved with the ministry first.

At 8am Adela came to pick me up, as she had invited me to spend the day in her community.  I wasn't sure what this would involve but I have taken the decision to say yes to every opportunity/invitation whilst I am here.  We arrived into a small community, that had a sports/events open air building, and a shop and not much else.  There were lots of fairly poor looking houses, and kids and chickens were running around everywhere.  Adela's home was fairly basic, with not much spare furniture or anything fancy but it was in a better condition than lots that I have seen recently.  I was surprised that they had no running water though, and only a water pipe in the garden, that continuously flowed.  I guess they must fill up a bucket and bring it through to the bathroom, when they need to use the toilet.  Adela's house was full with her children, who are now in their late teens and early twenties, and their partners, and their children.  There were babies everywhere and I struggled to keep track of who belonged to who.

We spent the day preparing food for a festival in the evening.  The community was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and it is the custom here to have a party once a year in each of the communities.  Everyone from the other communities are invited and the people make food for everyone to eat upon their arrival.  They set up a table , next to a fire, that would be used for the cooking, and then everyone sat around chatting and chopping up the food.  Our table had 7-8 women preparing the food, and the men and children came and went throughout the day, popping back to check on the progress or to grab a few nibbles to eat.  All of them were related to Adela, and they all lived in the community, which meant that they were surrounded by their family all the time and the children grew up together with close bonds.  Their were four different family groups, that had set up a "kitchen" area each, and they each aimed to cook dinner for 100 people.  The idea of that would be extremely daunting to me, but they sat around, chatted and slowly prepared a huge cauldron of soup, and a massive pot of beef stripes, that were covered in a tomato, herb type sauce.  They would serve this with rice and yuca.  So I sat with them, helped where I could and just enjoyed being caught up with this experience of a huge family collectively preparing for the festivities.   They all seemed to be enjoying it, as they sat around chatting about not much and let the children run about in the fields

Unfortunately the men seemed to be getting drunker and drunker, and some of them had clearly been drinking throughout the night too.  One of them seemed to like the novelty of a white person, and kept leering over me, slurring his words and hugging me and patting me on the stomach (which seems completely acceptable her and a sign of endearment, it seems).  When he came back over for the tenth time, and asked me to dance with him, even though there was no music, I politely declined.  I whispered to the woman sitting next to me that she might have to help me with the drunk men, as I didn't like him touching so much....to which she replied "that is my husband!"  Whoops!! 

In the evening, Adela took me down to the river to wash and prepare for the party.  As the sun had set and the river water was freezing I suggested that I wasn't that dirty, but instead watched as they washed their clothes in the river, and bashed them against the rocks.  They washed their hair and their bodies in the river and then changed into clean clothes for the night ahead.  It was a popular event, and I can presume that most of the people there didn't have running water in their homes either.  As the people from the other communities arrived, they were given a bowl of soup, and a bag with the other food in it.  Similarly to when we attended the party the other day, the people weren't encouraged to eat it together or with the hosts.  Everyone took their food and wolfed it down quickly or in many cases, put it in their bags to take home with them for another time. 

Now was the time for partying and drinking and there were lots of crates of beers and a band were preparing to play.  Unfortunately everything was taking ages, and we waited for hours for the band to start playing, as the crowd was eager to dance.  By 11pm, when we had waited all evening, and they still weren't playing Adela decided to give up, and that we should return to the clinic for the night.  It was a bit of an anti-climax for the day, and I could tell that lots of people were disappointed.  All in all though it was a unique experience for me, and one that I can reflect on, as I had spent the day with a huge family and was involved in their fiesta, in a little community in the Amazon rainforest, in Ecuador.
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Gramma on

Holy!!!!! Quite the experience. You are such a GEM to take in all of the experiences...... But I do have a heart for those women with their health care system..... Love and hugs

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