Me Encanta Ecuador
Trip Start Feb 09, 2008
2Trip End Feb 27, 2008
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Well there hasn't been much time to devote to the old blog, so I'll take this opportunity to say that Ecuador has taken my breath away (both literally and figuratively--at 9,350 ft elevation the air in Quito is so thin that the Hilton has keep oxygen tanks on hand for new guests who have a hard time adjusting--thankfully I was spared this embarrassment!). The snow capped mountains, hot springs, volcanoes, hummingbirds, harrowing rides with fearless taxi/race car drivers, Andean music, delectable ceviche, art and primarily the incredibly beautiful, gentle and fun-loving people have provided a certain kind of heaven on earth! I'm so thankful to everyone who made this trip possible for me~ the timing was just perfect after losing my very dear Aunt Mae Mallory a few weeks ago and this trip has been the best celebration of living I can think of right now~ I've thought of her all along the way
I'm back in Quito now after some solo R & R in a beautiful mountain town called Mindo about 2.5 hours west of here...stayed at a very relaxing and beautiful eco-reserve called Sachatamia which consists of 120 hectares of private rain forest adjacent to a national reserve called Mindo-Nambillo. The area is well known for its biodiversity with an abundance of birds, butterflies, waterfalls and lush tropical flora as well as deer, armadillo and very close by the Puma! I got to see a toucan for the first time, fly on a zip line through the forest canopy, get most of the way through Love in the Time of Cholera, visit a "Mariposario" (butterfly farm) and see a "sensing" plant that moves away when you touch it at the local orchid garden!
The celebration of Valentine's day in the middle of the work week in Ambato was the perfect reminder for me of why we were here in Ecuador ..."Work is love made visible" kept popping up in my mind as I watched the care and compassion displayed by everyone involved: parents for their children, volunteer nurses and doctors for patients whom they could not communicate with, and the gracious staff at Regional for this big bunch of Americans taking over their space for the week (many, yo included, speaking very questionable spanish!) It was a wonderful scene of people at their best, where generosity, friendship, and understanding took the forefront and pettiness, negativity, and complaining were virtually nowhere in sight..
After the week of surgeries/clinic visits was completed, my friend from the SICU Lynda and I took a side trip to Papllacta (see below) and then had the good fortune to head back to Ambato on Wednesday for the post-operative clinic and get a look at how things were healing...everyone was looking great! Bandages and suture were removed and and just a few patients needed to be referred for follow up visits with local surgeons in Ambato. Parents were all smiles, though some of their children were a little scared about people poking around on their surgical sites...When everyone had been seen a small group of Rotarians, some hospital personnel and Beatriz and Henry Vasconez, the trip leaders, estimated the numbers for the week- approximately 110 surgeries, 750 pediatric/adult clinic visits, 75 audiology visits, and an unknown amount of physical therapy and orthopedic prosthetic provisions. The week was a great success, and because this project is ongoing, many of the children who had surgery this year and need more will be able to come next year for further reconstruction
Lynda and I decided that a mountain thermal spa would be the perfect way to recover from the week´s activities and hired a car (the local artist Marcelo Tejada´s nephew Pablo) to drive us about 2 hours east of Quito to a gorgeous spot where hot springs from the volcanic water system bubble up into beautiful pools.. The drive was very scenic as we traversed steep green mountains, passing waterfalls, rural hacienda, cows and horses..the only unfortunate part was that Pablo revealed to us his secret passion on the way out of Quito---race car driving! He is, it turns out, a formula 1 enthusiast and drives his Kia as if he were at the Indy 500! Two lane highways became three land speedways as he overtook buses, sports cars, vans of tourists around narrow hillside corners and left me screaming from the passenger seat while clutching that handle they install for terrified people like me! Lynda on the other hand was cool as a cucumber in the backseat; Driving an ambulance through Baltimore as a paramedic for many years made her immune to this kind of life-threatening driving. She just pretended we had our sirens on while I was overtaken with panic and nausea
I'll be heading home to Baltimore tomorrow, and inspired by the thermal springs of the Ecuadorean mountains, installing a hot tub! (complements of my generous neighbor, Tim Train, who is upgrading to a better model) Come by any time for a visit!
If you're REALLY bored at work and want to check out some more Ecuador photos, go to
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tkspence/ and click on the ecuador set on the right
Hope to see as many of you as possible in the very near future!