Saturday, June 30, 2012

What I´ve Loved and What I will miss about Cuenca

  • Do you know what I think I´m going to miss most about Cuenca (besides my kids)? That´s it´s okay to be open and friendly here, just because. It´s okay to be happy and smiley because I am happy, and it´s okay to smile at others and to laugh at myself. I´m going to miss nice people. And I´m going to miss that it´s okay for me to be nice without being questioned or barked at for it. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ecuador: Amy: Infested

I don't have fleas!!!!!

....I'm just allergic to them...

I've had this obnoxious rash for about 5-6 days now. It's itches really bad and the doc of course can't really tell what it originally looks like because I've scratched myself to bits. It looks oddly like chicken pox...pre-scratched...but I've already had the chicken pox so I'm pretty sure that's  not where it is. I've missed 2 days at one orphanage and 1 day (today) at another at the other orphanage because I wasn't sure what I had and didn't want to be case zero of adding another complication to the orphanages.

I had stopped by the Emergency Department (mostly cause it's functions as an off hours clinic) Saturday late afternoon. They kept calling the dermatologist to come in to check out my gruesome scratched up rash, but weren't able to reach him. I'd also been kind of short on breath, but they didn't even listen to my lungs. I was sure to emphasis that I wasn't worried about the rash as much as I was about being so short of breath. Oh well, I went home and thankfully they didn't charge me.

Went to the derm today turns out he thinks I'm having a systemic reaction to few flea bites. he says the rash doesn't really look like bites themselves but that is looks similar to a rash many people not native to Ecuador get when they have an allergic reaction to a flea bite here. Apparently, it's not uncommon. BLAST my awesome, over-active, immune system. It's kind of scary to think I could be having a reaction to something enough to effect my breathing. I can't imagine having asthma and dealing with this on a regular basis. My reaction-breathing wise-is not bad. It's tight and makes it hard to sleep and it's a little tight all the time. In the ED on Saturday they wanted to give me a shot of benadryl, which I declined. I found out from the derm that you can't get Benadryl in pill form in Ecuador....good thing I brought my own!

So it'll be 7 days of steroids (16mg- it sounds like a hefty dose, but I think I'm just used to peds dosing) and Benadryl for at least 10 (that's what the doc said but I'm one of those non-compliant, self-diagnosing nurses that will take just until I feel better and then as needed :) ). Oh and this wonderful cream (I think it has atarax in it) that instantly made me feel better-itching wise. Lungs still tight.

After the doc told me I could try to debug my place but he thinks with the few bites I probably got them from a stray dog rather than my bed, especially since I itch all the time and not just at home or at night and he couldn't find any actual bites. Then I mentioned I work in the orphanages, one of which is particularly dirty and he then became concerned that it might even be scabies because those are fairly present in orphanages he says. If I don't feel better in 7 days or it gets worse I go back to get treated for scabies.

I think the doc is probably initially right with the allergic rash since he's seen it before he says and because my lungs are tight. But I'll let you know if I turn out to be scabies infested.

Either way, fleas or scabies....


Just take this as evidence that I am huggin' and lovin' these wonderful kids :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ecuador: She looked right at me and moooooo-ed!

I was gone for a week at the coast and returned to the baby and toddler orphanage this morning. I´d really love to see some, if not all, of these kids saying some words before I leave. (I also have a goal to have the currently 1 month old baby, that has been there escentially since she was born, laughing like crazy before I go back to the states in July.)

I am only at this orphanage 2 days a week, Monday and Thurday and since I cou ldn´t find any children´s books, I bought a colorful photography book full of animals and bright colors. I had brought it once before and sat down with some of this kids to look at, christeing it´s pages with tears and lovin´ (spit and kisses), but it was a big hit. Two of the kids, two of the younger kids, actually said a few words, well, one said banana, and another little girl picked up on the animal sounds we would make. As I walked into the playroom today, again with my book, SHE LOOKED RIGHT AT ME AND MOO-ED!

I was so excited. Several of the kids also at least remembered the book, or books in general, I don´t know, gathered around me-more like piled on top of me-and started looked through the book with me. It got a few more tears and bends and a lot more smiles. Today I got the moo-ing girl to say, ¨boom. boom. boom,¨ when we were looking at a picture of a drum and pounding the book/floor like a drum.

I can´t wait to spend more time with these kids. Another super bonus today was that one child, who usually just kind of spaces out and plays on his own was super interactive. He was giggling and coming up to volunteers to play. He also had a nasty chest cold and would cough with his giggles. Yuck. But I couldn´t very well not play with him the first time I´ve seen him try to interact, and he was kind charming me like a champ. More updates to come. Thanks for you support everyone. I can´t wait for those books to get here!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ecuador: the simplest toys are the best

I arrived at the orphanage with my paranoid-nurse supplies. (I may not matter in the long wrong, but perhaps I can prevent a few colds now both for them and myself, and I can keep thing like play-doh, which I brought today clean enough for another go around. Gotta remember even if I can’t see how it will matter in the long wrong, I’m going act like it all matters now.) Such supplies include: hand sanitizer and kleenex. I also brought cornstarch to mix with water and play dough. It’s going to be a textile day.

I accepted the first 10 kids that swarmed my table. Trying to explain to them that I could only have 10 at a time for this particular game. I doubt I got anything across in words, but they eventually go the picture, except the 12th kids to show up: my amigo, the charmer who immediately started in, “Tia, aaah Tia. Uno mas, Tia.”. I eventually had to just ignore him once I was sure my point got across and he was just trying to force his way in.

The cornstarch didn’t go so well for the first group. (If you’ve never played with cornstarch and water you ought to give it a shot. HOURS of endless fun, even for an adult. Works for kids of all ages, too. It’s totally benign so even young kids can mess around in it for a long time and be safe while remaining totally occupied.) With all the initial excitement and confusion and grabbing I wasn’t able to explain or control the amount of water and corn starch kids were getting. And I wasn’t able to clearly demonstrate what it was supposed to be. So nix the cornstarch.

I pull out the play-doh (Thank Alena Malloy) and the kids go crazy, except they don’t really know what to do. I think mostly cause they are so ready to grab and make sure they get some that they aren’t even concerned about what to do with it yet.

I should mention here that every kid had to wash their hands with water first, then use the sanitizer. There were a few younger kids in the first group that had super booger-y noses. Boogers I did not want mixing with my cloths, face, hair, or play-doh. So I pulled out my kleenex and started wiping noses repeating constantly, pointing at the kleenex: No piso, necessita basura ___________.  I controlled the first few pretty well, and they were young so just let me wipe their noses and threw their tissues away. We’ll come back to the kleenex later as it wasn’t quite the issue at this point.

My group of 10 finally calmed down enough to enjoy the play. The lids had molds imprinted into them which was the first discovery. I showed them how to make balls and cubes, and roses. Slowly the got a little more creative. The first group is always a test group. I got some kinks worked out but ended up taking so much time to get things calmed and organized that we hit lunch time and had to clean up. Of course others were disappointed and didn’t want to use the table I was at for lunch so I asked the director if we could continue using the table after lunch was finished. She was, of course, okay with this if we waited until after lunch was cleaned up--a common chore for the older girls.

I grabbed a few index cards and all by myself wrote out, “Groupo Dos” and “Group Tres”, numbering them from 1-10. I also had one of the teenage girls write out the names of everyone who had already participated. This ended up working quite well as when one group was finishing up I’d have an older child wanting to be more included and more grown up, go find the children in the next group. I would also have them monitor who showed up, since I don’t know everyone’s name, to make sure I didn’t have kids sneaking in before their turn. Also, a very good thing as I always ended up with at least 15 kids at the table...5 of which obviously didn’t belong.

My friend, the charmer, sat around moping all through the first group. I told him he had to leave or have no turn at all several times. He eventually hung back enough to be out of the way, lessening the chaos, but never all the way gone. I told him he could sign up in the 3rd group and it was like I refused him food. He through a huge fit to which I had no response and ended letting groupo tres fill up, and fourth group and a fifth group. Each time we changed groups he through a fit and pouted. Each time I reminded him to stay back or he would have no turn. And each time I also reminded him that all he had to was sign up with one of the groups. Finally, right before the 5th group was to start he relented and signed his name. I welcomed him to the table and showed a few fun tricks with the play-doh, even though he’d been watching from not far off for a while. We had a good little moment though there at the end. I think the little bit of extra attention allayed all the ignoring of his fits I’d done through out the day and we were friends again.

Now let me tell you about the kleenex. It was a bigger hit than the play-doh. Humorously so. The obsession with the kleenex was incredible. The older kids, the ones I let help me out--and even had sanitize a few hands and wipe a few noses for me--quickly learned that tissues were scented. I guess that’s pretty common here, more than unscented tissues. And started sniffing them. I didn’t get what was going on at first. Just holding kleenex to your nose isn’t especially effective. (I don’t know if it was because they expected it to be scented or whether it was just the idea of having something that set it off, but many kids were more interested in getting a tissue to put in their pockets than they were in the play-doh, not that they didn’t like the play-doh I had just explained that this was mine and needed to be returned at the end of their allotted time.) I eventually had to bribe kids to blow their nose with the tissue with the promise of a new one they could keep. But the HAD to blow their noses with their first one. I couldn’t stop smiling. Every time I handed one out though I insisted: “No piso, necessita basura”. I think they started making fun of me a bit about it, repeating it with me and rolling their eyes as I handed them out :).

I only lost one red play-doh and one bottle of sanitizer that day. Not as bad as I was prepared for but for sure worse than I had hoped for. I’m pretty sure I know who took the sanitizer and have a few guesses as about to the time the red play-doh disappeared. I guess all I can do is hope the sanitizer is used appropriately and prevents infection. As for the play-doh, it will probably be stolen from the person who took it and end up dried up and ruined in no time. It is a little disappointing but I can’t get too upset about it. It would drive me crazy and probably be very ineffective trying to fight that battle.

I debated on how much I should try to explain to the children that if my things were taken or treated badly I wouldn’t be able to bring them but have decided that at this point I’m just going to let it slide, especially since several of the kids, after they found what I had lost started going through other people’s bags and looking in their beds where I’m sure they keep a few private possessions. I certainly don’t want them to think it’s okay to steal, but I also don’t want to teach them that going through other people’s things are okay.

I did the best I could to tell the children who were looking--a little too hard--to help me find my missing items, “thank you but I’d rather not have you go through others' things”. Knowing they will most likely do it anyway, I don’t want it to be done on my account. And even if found, the person who stole it (if not knowing it was found and returned to me, and maybe even if it was) would feel like it had been stolen from them. So unless it becomes a much bigger problem I’m just not going to worry about it for now.

Ecuador: infested

One Friday I went to the orphanage with 51 kids (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I work mainly in two different orphanages. One is for babies and toddlers, at least the children I work with are these ages; they also have a few preschool age children here as well. I also work at one that has 51 children of all ages).

I wasn’t expecting the kids to be there, as most of them are old enough to go to school during the day when I am there. So on Fridays I just do hours and hours and hours of laundry. This particular Friday they were all home. Big four day weekend of some sort. Maria weekend, I’ve heard it called.

Upon my arrival I was swarmed by a few of the older girls, while a large number of children sat surrounding a tv that was fuzzily playing Lord of the Rings with Spanish dubbing. I welcomed the greeting at first, (I do really love hanging with the kids.) until I looked over a second group of kids being combed over at table at the back of the room...for lice. I looked at the girls hugging me and their dark hair--speckled with white. One in particular had an excessive amount. I can handle a lot of things, especially things I can wash off or get over. I tried not to make my squirminess obvious but wriggled free of my lice-dotted friends and worked my way over to the opposite side of a barrier, (a railing-like thing all around the common area) near the kitchen. I stood outside the kitchen, on the opposite side of the railing--hoping it to be a bit of deterant from direct contact or at least close hugging and cuddling until people had been debugged. I stood there trying to come up with a minimal contact activity. I got nothing. So I hung out and watched Lord of the Rings and joked with the group watching--mostly boys--about which one was my novio (boyfriend) and which one was their novia (girlfriend). Grimbly is my pick to be my novio, by the way.   

Eventually I pulled out some Spanish flash cards I made for myself (my first week here and sadly haven’t looked at much since). The kids went nuts grabbing and swarming. It was a bit absurd. I eventually got across, in my incredibly broken, nearly non-existent Spanish: para mi por que no espanol! No ________!

The older kids had grabbed most of them (biggest kids rule, there’s definitely a pecking order here) and figured out what I was saying....well, they probably didn’t, but they figured out what they were and returned them. A few of the boys, one in particular, took interest in them. My little playa I mentioned before who tries to get his way by  smacking his lips and saying, “Tia, aaaah Tia”. You know the one. He learned to recognize the words quickly but pronunciation came a little slower. He was pretty excited to learn though--most of the kids can do numbers and colors in English already. We did this during commercials of Lord of the Rings. (Most of which were commercials for exercise equipment, which equates to more novios and novias :). )

My ipod was a big hit, too. There were a few of the older kids I let play with it. I still can’t figure out how to get it off repeat, but I think I managed to avoid having anything erased.

During all of this the older girl with the most lice was most insistent on hanging on me. I buried myself in short-haired boys as best I could and eventually got up and sacrificed the last hair tie in my bag to put her hair in a braid to at least prevent it from flopping around so much--and it was pretty and gave her a bit of attention. (I alcohol-ed my hands a million times that day...and several of t he kid’s hands as well.)

I’ve decided to start just start taking my own paranoid-nurse hygiene supplies with me to these places. Even if they aren’t up my snobby standards all the time, they can at least be clean when working with me and the things I bring.

The next day was Saturday and I had swung by the store to pick up hand sanitizer and kleenex. We’ll save that for the next post. :) I’ll tell you allllll about it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Orphans all grow up

Chronologically there are a other posts that should go up before this one, but this one just happened and I wanted to get it typed out and make sure that all of you who have donated and pass a very special "thanks," I just received on to you all as quickly as possible.
I went out for a walk on the beach this morning, took my body board with my just in case the waves were any good. I, as usual, ending up collecting a bunch of cool rocks and shells (what is it about cool rocks and shells that make us pick them up like we have the biggest plans in the world for them?). I plopped down at a spot near the shade to take a look at my collection. I've been on this spot of beach a lot of have pretty much been the only person on the beach for long periods of time. Today there was a little more activity than usual, but still calm and mostly alone. I had some really cool clear rocks with tinges of yellow and purple and pink-I found out later it's quartz and is supposed to help pull out pain, or bad energy, when placed on a sore spot. (Maybe I'll try it on this weird bite/rash/thing on my foot.)

While I was surveying my collection-and the waves-I was approached by a man, probably in his late 20's early 30's who looks native, who also checked out my collection. I felt a little silly because really...I'm collecting shells I don't know what I'm going to do with. He had come out of a house behind me somewhere and had brought with him some broken pieces of clay. He said they were pottery from an island afar off and that the darker they were in color the older they were. He had some that were almost entirely black. (Me, the ever unromantic skeptic, thought, "that would be pretty cool....if it's true".) He went on to check out some of my rocks and shells as well. This is how learned that my rocks were actually quartz and could help heal me. He spoke very good English, and with only a tinge of an accent that didn't sound Ecuadorian.

He told me a his story. He was an orphan in Quito. He was found wandering the streets on his own when he was about 2 1/2 and placed in a orphanage there (Quito=capital of Ecuador). He wasn't there a terribly long time but he says when something that big happens you remember it. And that I believe. On the streets alone at 2? Yeah, you're gonna have some memories of that, and of the orphanage too I'm sure, which he said he did. He was adopted by a couple in Quebec, Canada, explaining he speaks French better than English or Spanish. Now the tiny bit of accent makes sense. Although I'm sure his English and Spanish are just fine. At least his English was perfect.

He saw the burn on my knees from the yesterday and asked if I'd like some aloe for it. Yes, please. (I'm burnt enough that and bending and creasing of the skin stings, but it's not the worst burn I've ever had...guess I was body boarding much longer yesterday than I realized. I thought it was about an hour, turns out it was closer to 2+ hours.) We went to the house he'd come out of and met the owners, a couple of Minnesota, and he cut me a piece of aloe off one of the plants growing nearby. God is so smart to make aloe grow in places where the sun is the strongest :)--you know beaches, desserts, etc. He showed me around the grounds a bit and we went to the top of a small lighthouse attached the main building on the grounds. As you can imagine, the view was terrible :-P. He pointed out some land he owns nearby and hopes to turn into a rental place with surf lessons, etc. Very cool for him. Said his mom and grandma came from Canada just this past February to come visit.

He says that his mom knew when she met him that one day he would end up back in Ecuador. He is of Incan decent and very much looks native to Ecuador. Funny how mom's just know some things. He said when he came back he spent time in Quito, including a night in the orphanage. He also traveled in the jungle and round about some of the places his ancestors would have come from. I don't think he knows who his biological parents are and I'm guessing he knows his ancestry by his features, very "typical" he says of Incan people. And I would agree he looks very much like the indigenous people I've met.

It was a nice morning stroll, and it was an interesting conversation. It was nice to hear about his plans and about how he'd overcome some of his "holes" from being an orphan. And he talked about his supportive family and his one white brother but he also still refers to the orphans here in Ecuador as his brothers and sisters. 

As I was leaving he said, "thank you for taking care of my brothers and sisters" and did a hand to mouth kiss towards me in gratitude. I thought since so many of you are helping me out with taking care of his "brothers and sisters" that I should pass that thank you on to you. This man speaks gratefully of the opportunities he had growing up and all that he knows from growing up in Canada that he wouldn't have ever known, or had the chance to know growing up here. He was apparently a swim champion in Canada and was able to compete quite a bit world wide. He also attributes his size (he's not much taller than me but he's bigger than most Ecuadorians) to growing up elsewhere :). That one may or may not be true but certainly his education, his family, and a lot of other experiences he's been able to have would been have been much less likely had he grown up in an orphanage in Ecuador. He does seem like a very well-adjusted and appreciative man.

And my sunburn feels a ton better already. Thanks for the aloe, Pablo!