Last Hurrah with HSI

Trip Start Dec 10, 2009
Trip End Dec 20, 2009

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

After two years together, Shen and I finally found ourselves on work trips to the same country at the same time.  And right in the nick of time, too, since this may be my last work trip!

About a week ago, I flew into Lima for a veterinary training that HSI coordinated for a local organization.  My affection for Lima always surprises me; it's constantly gray, chilly, chaotic and congested.  Sitting in traffic takes years off the useful life of your lungs.  In fact, the first time I came to Peru, I slept in the Lima airport just to avoid facing the city.  But after coming a couple of times per year with HSI, I've come to appreciate the people, which is of course what makes a city.  I get a unique window into the culture, since I'm usually participating in free spay/neuter clinics in low-income neighborhoods in the district of San Juan de Lurigancho.  People at home often comment that my job must be tough, because people in developing countries don't care about their animals in the way that we're used to.  While it's true that people I work with often relate to their animals differently than us kissy-faced Americans (guilty!), I am, to the contrary, always inspired by the care that people provide for their animals when such care is made available.  People improvise whatever they need - boxes and bags for carriers, fishing nets for leashes - to bring their pets safely, and often over long distances, to receive veterinary care.  It's an honor to be a part of providing it. 

After Lima, Kelly (my friend and fellow program manager) and I traveled to Ecuador to make site visits in Ambato and Cuenca.  It had been almost exactly 3 years since I made children cry as an English teacher in Ambato, and it was interesting to go back.  At the time, I had no idea that so much good animal work was taking place right in my own city.  The site visits were bittersweet - the point of an initial visit is to learn more about the group, and to start putting together a coherent vision with them of their potential and how we can help them realize it.  In the past I've always known that I would be the one to follow through.  It was strange knowing that I'm gathering information and creating a plan in the hopes that my replacement will make it happen.  Kelly (both of them) will advocate for my programs, but in the end it will be my replacement (as yet unknown) who will determine their fate.  I feel a strong responsibility to these local groups, and it was emotional to think that my professional relationship with them is drawing to a close.

We pretty much sprinted through Peru and Ecuador, but tomorrow Shen and I meet up in Quito for a week of vacation.  Kelly and I travel well together and we've had a wonderful time between all the sprinting.  Now I'm looking forward to a more relaxed pace, and of course, seeing my favorite Shenandoah! 
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