Moving Mountains– Literally

cancha REACH playingBy Shannon Cantor

I recommend that you travel to the highlands of Ecuador, to the small city of Otavalo. From the terminal—its own chaos of moving people, cars, and shouts—take an old, blue bus parked in the third row from the right-hand side, with a sign in the window marked “Quichinche.” Get off after about 25 minutes, when you reach the last stop. Walk half an hour, straight up hill, through cow fields and a eucalyptus forest. Only then will you find yourself in the community of Agualongo de Quichinche. Continue reading “Moving Mountains– Literally”

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Respect and Responsibility Bring About Positive Change

A volunteer connecting with a villager in Mali

In May 2017, The Tandana Foundation held a fundraising event. Tandana’s Founding Director, Anna Taft, spoke at the event. Below is the text of her speech. Continue reading “Respect and Responsibility Bring About Positive Change”

Founding Director Explains Tandana’s Personal Orientation

In November 2016, The Tandana Foundation held a dinner celebrating its 10th anniversary. Anna Taft, Tandana’s Founding Director, spoke at the dinner. Below is the text of her speech. Continue reading “Founding Director Explains Tandana’s Personal Orientation”

What Connects Two Worlds: Sharing Experiences and Strengthening Relationships

Shannon (in the orange hat) with host family members and a friend in Ecuador

By Shannon Cantor

“Click here to confirm your flights.” I was prompted by the small tablet screen. “Ida: Quito-Baltimore, December 19, 2016; Vuelta: Baltimore-Quito, December 26, 2016.” I had just talked to my mom, and my grandmother was sick. Her birthday is the day after Christmas, and no one knew how many more she would have. I was scared and in a hurry. I clicked “purchase.” Continue reading “What Connects Two Worlds: Sharing Experiences and Strengthening Relationships”

Celebrating 10 Years of Joining Hands and Changing Lives

On November 19, 2016, we celebrated 10 years of wonderful collaboration with communities in Ecuador and Mali with many of our friends and supporters in Columbus, Ohio.  Through these videos, you can enjoy some of the highlights of that evening.

Le 19 novembre, 2016, nous avons feté 10 ans de collaboration formidable avec des villages en Equateur et au Mali avec beaucoup de nos amis et nos partenaires a Columbus en Ohio.  A travers ces videos, vous pouvez voir quelques moments phares de cet évenement.

El 19 de noviembre del 2016, hemos festejado nuestros 10 años de colaboración con comunidades en Ecuador y en Mali con muchos amigos y donantes a Columbus en Ohio.  A travez estos videos, pueden disfrutar de algunos momentos lindos de esa ocasión.

Gathering Together and Understanding the Other

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Laura (second from the left) in Ecuador with her mom, her friend Claudia, and Claudia’s mom

 

By Laura Nichols

I am saddened by the recent events in Dallas, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge… These incidents are not examples of a new problem but are new manifestations of our country’s centuries-old race-based structural violence and cultural misunderstanding. We are not explicitly taught to value the Other, but are implicitly taught to be wary, suspicious, and distrusting of what is different.

When I was 16 my family hosted an exchange student from France. We were visiting my grandparents, who live in a suburb of Chicago.  As we generally did when visiting my grandparents, we spent a day wandering around downtown.  We were making our way down a row of shops on State Street and decided to go into Rainbow.  We walked in, and I immediately noticed that there were no white people in the store.  I leaned over to Anne, and my words slipped out in a whisper, “Anne, we’re the only white people in this store.” Anne is of Korean ancestry.

I cringe as I write these words, as I think of my 16 year-old, North Dakota farm girl self saying these words.  But, it illustrates both the distrust and awareness of what is different that we are implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) taught, as well as the trust and mutual understanding that comes when one knows the Other well enough that skin color disappears.  She became “white like me,” not because we are the same, not because white is somehow better, but because we have connected and white, yellow, black, blue, purple no longer matters. We understand we come from different places and different cultures, and we learn from each other.  We gain insight into what it is like to live as the Other, while realizing we will never know exactly what it is to be in another’s shoes.

Tandana means “to unite” or “to gather together,” and that is what Tandana does.  It unites by bringing people from different cultures, different races, together to have a mutual experience, develop a bond and better understand each other.  I have had the privilege of working with Anna and the Tandana Foundation since 2006 when I spent a summer in Ecuador volunteering in the Gualsaqui clinic.  There has not been another organization or person in my life that has better helped me to understand, and live alongside the Other. I wish everyone could have the same experience that I have had through Tandana because this “gathering together” is what we need in our communities, what we needed in Paris, San Bernardino, St. Louis… My hope is that Tandana lasts for many decades more for this reason: every time someone better understands the person nextdoor, across town, across the country, or across the world, we are one person closer to unity.

Por Laura Nichols

Me entristecen los sucesos acontecidos recientemente en Dallas, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge… Estos sucesos no son ejemplos de un nuevo problema sino de manifestaciones nuevas por parte de la violencia racial de muchos siglos de nuestro país y de la mala interpretación cultural. No se nos enseña expresamente a valorar al Otro; por el contrario, se nos enseña de forma implícita a ser precavido, suspicaz y desconfiado de aquello diferente.

Cuando yo tenía 16 años, mi familia acogió a una estudiante francesa de intercambio. Estábamos visitando a mis abuelos, que viven en un barrio a las afueras de Chicago. Pasamos el día dando vueltas por el centro, pues es lo que normalmente hacíamos cuando visitábamos a mis abuelos. Paseábamos por una serie de tiendas en la calle State y decidimos entrar a Rainbow.  Al entrar, inmediatamente nos dimos cuenta de que no había ninguna persona de raza blanca  en la tienda. Me incliné hacia Anne y susurrando le dije: “Anne, somos las únicas personas de raza blanca en esta tienda”. Anne es de ascendencia coreana.

Me avergüenzo al escribir estas palabras, cuando pienso en mí como una chica de 16 años de Dakota del norte criada en el campo, diciendo estas palabras. Sin embargo, esto ilustra ambas partes: la desconfianza y la percepción que se nos enseña de forma implícita (y a veces explícita) por aquello que es diferente; además de la confianza y la comprensión mutua que sentimos cuando uno conoce lo suficientemente al Otro y el color de piel desaparece.  Ella se volvió “blanca como yo”, no porque seamos iguales, ni porque ser blanca sea mejor, sino porque hemos conectado, y los colores blanco, amarillo, negro, azul o violeta ya no importan. Entendemos que venimos de sitios y culturas diferentes; y aprendemos una de la otra. Conocemos mejor como es la vida de la Otra, mientras a la vez nos damos cuenta de que nunca sabremos exactamente lo que es estar en el lugar de la otra.

Tandana significa “unir” “reunir juntos”; y esto es lo que Tandana hace. Une a la gente de diferentes culturas y razas para vivir una experiencia mutua y desarrollar un vínculo y conocernos mejor. He tenido el privilegio de trabajar con Anna y la Fundación Tandana desde el año 2006, cuando pasé un verano como voluntaria en Ecuador en la clínica Gualsaqui. No ha habido ninguna otra organización o persona en mi vida que me haya ayudado mejor a comprender y a vivir junto al Otro. Ojalá todo el mundo pudiera vivir la misma experiencia que yo he vivido a través de Tandana; porque este “reunir juntos” es lo que necesitamos en nuestras comunidades; lo que necesitamos en París, San Bernardino, San Luis… Tengo la esperanza de que Tandana dure muchas décadas más por la siguiente razón: cada vez que alguien comprende mejor a la persona vecina, ya sea en la ciudad, en el país o en el mundo, estamos más cerca de esa unidad.

 

 Traducción de Beatriz Aramendia

 

Par Laura Nichols

Je suis attristée par les évènements qui se sont produits récemment à Dallas, Mineapolis, Baton Rouge…Ces incidents ne sont pas le résultat d’un problème nouveau, au contraire ils sont des manifestations de la violence raciale que subit notre pays depuis plusieurs siècles déjà et de l’incompréhension  culturelle. On ne nous apprend pas de manière explicite à valoriser l’autre, à l’inverse on nous apprend à être méfiant, suspicieux envers toute forme de différence.

Quand j’avais 16 ans, ma famille a accueilli un étudiant correspondant français. Nous visitions mes grands-parents qui vivaient en banlieue de Chicago. A chaque visite, nous avions  l’habitude de nous balader dans la ville. Un jour, alors que nous descendions une rue remplie de boutiques, la rue State, nous avons décidé d’entrer dans l’une d’entre elles, appelée Rainbow. Nous sommes entrés et tout de suite j’ai remarqué qu’il n’y avait aucune personne de couleur blanche. Je me suis penchée vers Anne et je lui ai murmuré: “Anne, nous sommes les seuls blancs dans ce magasin”. Anne est d’ascendance coréenne.

Je grimace en écrivant ces mots et en repensant à cette fille de 16 ans, élevée dans une ferme du Dakota Nord, se disant cela. Mais cet épisode montre à la fois la méfiance et la réalisation de la différence et qui nous sont de manière implicite (et quelques fois explicite)enseignées. Mais aussi la confiance et la compréhension mutuelle qui s’installent  lorsqu’une personne connait sufisamment l’autre personne pour que la couleur de peau disparaisse.   Cette petite fille est soudainement devenue “blanche comme moi” non pas parce que nous sommes pareils, non pas parce que quelque part être blanc c’est mieux  mais parce que nous sommes liées et que par conséquent, blanc, jaune, noir, bleu ou orange, cela n’a plus d’importance. Nous comprenons que nous venons de pays différents, que nos cultures sont différentes mais nous apprenons l’une de l’autre. Nous percevons ce que c’est que de vivre comme l’autre tout en réalisant que nous ne pourrons jamais être à la place de l’autre.

Tandana signifie ”unir” ou “rassembler” et c’est précisément ce que la Fondation fait. Elle unit en rassemblant des personnes de cultures et d’origines différentes autour d’une expérience commune, pour développer des liens et mieux se comprendre. J’ai eu le privilège de travailler avec Anna et pour la Fondation Tandana en 2006 lorsque j’ai passé l’été en Equateur en tant que bénévole dans la clinique Gualsaqui . Aucune autre organisation ou personne dans ma vie ne m’a fait percevoir ce que signifiait comprendre l’autre et vivre à ses côtés. J’aimerais que tout le monde puisse vivre cette même expérience à travers la Fondation Tandana. Ce “rassemblement” c’est ce dont nous avons besoin dans nos communautés, ce dont nous avions besoin à Paris, à St Bernardino, à St Louis… J’espère que la Fondation Tandana vivra pendant encore de longues décennies tout particulièrement pour cette raison: à chaque fois qu’une personne fait l’effort  et réussi à comprendre l’autre, que nous soyons à l’autre bout de la ville, du pays ou du monde,  nous nous rapprochons encore un peu plus de cette unité.

Traduit de l’anglais par Charlotte Galland

An Intern Reflects on Global Citizenship

 

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Hailey with two Tandana scholarship students, who volunteered during a health care volunteer vacation

 

By Hailey Shanovich

When I accepted the position as the Environmental/Gardening Intern with The Tandana Foundation this autumn, I couldn’t possibly have imagined what I was getting myself into. I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison studying plant biology and simply came across the opportunity on my institution’s database. It appeared to be a good match for me: incorporating aspects of environmental science and horticulture and allowing me to improve and practice my Spanish while traveling to South America for the first time.

Even though Tandana sent me an extensive internship manual and I underwent an orientation upon arriving in Otavalo, I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me in my host community. The amount of warmth my new family greeted me with and the greater amount of good-will and optimism that they held was emotionally overwhelming for me and we continued to become close at a rate I had previously thought impossible. I couldn’t believe how warm and genuine my coworkers were as well and must admit I had never felt so welcomed in a professional position.

During my stay with Tandana I had the opportunity to co-lead three volunteer programs including a biannual health care volunteer vacation, a gardening trip, and a visit from ARCC (Adventures Cross-Country) students. I hadn’t previously considered myself a leader, and hadn’t had much experience in a role like this, but after each program came to a successful end I became more comfortable in the position of group coordinator and gained a lot of self-confidence in that aspect. I loved working with both the communities and the volunteers. It was really cool to see the realizations taking place and relationships being made during these inter-cultural exchanges. I got to see both the volunteers and locals developing a deeper sense of empathy and working with each other towards a common goal even though they didn’t possess much previous knowledge of each other’s’ cultural and historical backgrounds. They both shared a capacity to understand the other person’s state of mind and adapt to it and thus were able to form some very beautiful and real relationships despite all the differences and barriers.

Before this trip, I hadn’t really bought into the whole “travel and meet yourself” philosophy; that traveling wasn’t entirely essential to be able to build our personal and global competences. However, I now realize that I stand corrected. My time with Tandana allowed me to analyze myself as a member of a bigger, global community. If there’s one big “take away” I gained from my experience with this organization it is that we should feel obligations towards one another merely through our shared human culture. It allowed me to be able to see myself as part of the whole global picture and recognize that opportunities for global citizens are far from equal within and between societies and thus inspired me to want to take a bigger part in this cause. So although it wasn’t the experience that I predicted, it was an experience that I needed. I feel that I know myself more as an individual and citizen of the world and have gained new insight, knowledge, and skills that I wouldn’t ever have anywhere else. Thank-you.

Ashta kashkaman, mashikuna (“See you later, friends” in Kichwa).

 

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Hailey with a fellow Tandana intern at San Pablo Lake

 

 

Por HaileyShanovich

Cuando acepté el meritorio de jardinería/ambiente con la Fundación Tandana este otoño, era imposible imaginar lo que me esperaba. Actualmente soy estudiante universitaria de biología en la Universidad de Wisconsin-Madison y vi una oportunidad en la base de datos de mi institución. Me pareció ideal para mí porque podría incorporar aspectos de las ciencias ambientales y horticultura y además de practicar y mejorar mi español en mi primer viaje a Sudamérica.

Aunque Tandana me mandó un manual para la pasantía y recibí una orientación al llegar a Otavalo, no estaba preparada para lo que me esperaba en la comunidad anfitriona. Mi familia anfitriona me saludó con mucha calidez y además la gran cantidad de buena voluntad y optimismo fue abrumadora para mí. Empezamos a ser cercanos más rápido que había pensado que era posible. No podía creer lo amable y sincero que eran mis compañeros del trabajo también. Tengo que confesar que nunca he sentidos tan bienvenida en un puesto profesional. 

Durante mi tiempo con Tandana, tuve la oportunidad de liderar tres programas voluntarios, incluyendo el viaje bianual de voluntarios de salud, viaje de jardinería y una visita de estudiante de ARCC (Adventures Cross-Country o “Aventuras por el país”). Antes de empezar, no me había visto a mí misma como líder y no había tenido experiencia en un puesto así, pero después de que cada programa llegara a su fin con éxito, me sentía más cómoda en el puesto de coordinadora del grupo y obtuve mucha confianza en mí misma en este aspecto. Me encantó trabajar con las comunidades y los voluntarios. Fue increíble ver la comprensión que se logró y las amistades que se hicieron durante estos intercambios de cultura. Pude ver que los voluntarios y nativos adquirieran un sentido más profundo de empatía y trabajo en equipo para lograr una misma meta, aunque ninguno tuviera conocimiento previo de la otra cultura u origen. Ambos compartían la capacidad de entender la mente del otro y adaptarlo y así formaron relaciones maravillosas y verdaderas a pesar de las diferencias y obstáculos.

Antes del viaje, no creía en la filosofía de “viaja y te conoces a ti misma”. No creía que viajar fue esencial para construir nuestras competencias personales y globales. Sin embargo, ahora me doy cuenta de que me equivoqué. Mi tiempo con Tandana me permitió analizar a mí misma como un miembro de una comunidad global más grande. Si hay una lección que obtuve de la experiencia con esta organización es que debemos sentir obligaciones hacia otras personas solo porque compartimos la cultura humana. Esto me permitió ver a mi misma como parte de la visión global y reconocer que las oportunidades para los ciudadanos del mundo no son iguales entre y dentro de las sociedades. Fue eso lo que me inspiró a tener una parte más grande en ello. Aunque no era la experiencia que esperaba, fue la experiencia que necesitaba. Siento que conozco más a mí misma como un individuo y ciudadana del mundo y aprendí un nuevo entendimiento, conocimiento y habilidades que en ningún otro lado habría adquirido. Muchas gracias.

Ashtakashkaman, mashikuna (“Hasta luego, amigos” en Kichwa).

 

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Hailey helping out during a health care volunteer vacation

De Hailey Shanovich

Quand j’ai accepté le poste de stagiaire environnemental/ jardinage chez la Fondation Tandana cet automne, je n’aurais jamais pu imaginer ce dans quoi je m’embarquais. Je suis actuellement étudiante en premier cycle de biologie végétale à l’Université du Wisconsin – Madison et j’avais découvert ce poste simplement dans la base de données de mon Université. Celasemblait me correspondre parfaitement :contenant des éléments de science environnementale et d’horticulture et me permettant d’améliorer et de pratiquer mon espagnol tout en voyageant en Amérique Latine pour la première fois.

Bien que Tandanam’ait envoyé un livret de stage très détaillé et que j’avais assisté à une séance d’orientation à mon arrivée à Otavalo, je n’étais pas préparée à ce qui m’attendait dans ma communauté d’accueil. Lagrande chaleur avec laquelle ma nouvelle famille m’a accueilli et la quantité encore plus considérable de bonne volonté et d’optimisme dont ils faisaient preuvem’avaient profondément touchée et nous avons continué à nous rapprocher à un point que j’aurais cru impossible auparavant. Je n’arrivais pas à croire à quel point mes collègues de travail étaient également chaleureux et authentiques et je dois admettre que je ne m’étais jamais sentie aussi bien accueillie dans une situation professionnelle.

Durant mon séjour avec Tandana, j’ai eu la chance de codiriger trois programmes de volontariat comprenant un volontourisme semestriel dans le domaine des soins de santé, un séjour jardinage, et une visite d’étudiants ARCC (Escapades Transfrontalières).Je ne m’étais jamais considérée auparavant comme un meneur, et je n’avais pas beaucoup d’expérience dans ce type de rôlemais après chaque projet achevé avec succès, je suis devenue beaucoup plus confortable dans le rôle de coordinateur de groupe et j’ai acquis plus de confiance en moi à cet égard. J’ai adoré travailler avec les communautés et les bénévoles. C’était vraiment sympa de voir le déroulement des réalisations et le développement des relations durant ces échanges interculturels. J’ai pu voir des bénévoles et des locaux  développer une profonde empathie et travailler ensemble vers un but commun alors même qu’ils ne connaissaient que très peu de chose des origines culturelle et historique de l’autre. Ils ont tous les deux partagés une capacité à comprendre l’état d’esprit de l’autre et à s’y adapter et ont donc pu nouer de très belles et véritables relations malgré toutes les différences et les barrières.

Avant ce voyage, je n’étais pas vraiment une adepte de la philosophie « voyager pour se retrouver » et je croyais que voyager n’était pas vraiment indispensable pour pouvoir construire nos qualités personnelles et compétences générales. Cependant, je réalise maintenant que je me trompais. Le temps que j’ai passé avec Tandana m’a permis de faire mon auto-analyse en tant que membre d’une communauté plus grande, à l’échelle internationale. S’il devait y avoir une grande leçon à tirer de mon expérience avec cette organisation est que nous devrions nous sentir obligés l’un envers l’autre simplement en raison de notre culture humaine commune. Cela  m’a permis de pouvoir me voircomme unepièce d’untableau d’ensemble et d’admettre que les opportunités pour les citoyens du monde sont loin d’être égales au sein des sociétés ou entre elles et par conséquent, cela m’a motivé à vouloir jouer un plus grand rôle dans cette cause. Donc même si ce ne fut pas l’expérience que j’avais prévu, ce fut l’expérience dont j’avais besoin. Je pense que je me connais mieux moi-même en tant qu’individu et citoyen du monde et j’ai gagné de nouveaux éclairages, connaissance, et des compétences que je n’aurais jamais pu acquérir nulle part ailleurs. Merci.

Ashtakashkaman, mashikuna (“A bientôt, mes amis” en Kichwa).

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Hailey with two Tandana scholarship students, who volunteered during a health care volunteer vacation

Healthy

By Anna Taft (Some names have been changed to protect patients’ privacy.)

A barefoot woman in traditional Otavaleña dress wandered up to the schoolyard in Larcacunga, grey hair trailing from under her head wrap.  “What are you doing?” she asked.

“We’re offering free medical consultations,” I replied.  “Would you like to see a doctor?”

“Well, okay.  I’m healthy, but I have pain here,” she said, placing her hand on her back.  “Where are you from?”

“Very far away,” I answered in Kichwa.

“All the way from Otavalo?” she asked, eyes wide at the thought of us traveling ten kilometers from the market city.

“Even farther than Otavalo.”

“Even farther?” she asked, incredulous now.  “How is it that you came all this way to my community?”

How is it, indeed?  It’s a winding story that began ten years ago when I first came to Ecuador as a volunteer for a neighboring village.  But even given the incremental, mostly-explicable growth in that story, the question’s underlying surprise merits remembering.  It is a bizarre thing we are doing, though we often forget that in the enthusiasm and instrumental focus to our energies.  We collect volunteers, including doctors, nurses, and willing assistants with no medical experience, from the United States, bring them to the Andean highlands, and each day take them and our boxes of supplies to a different village’s school or community center to provide basic health care.  A bizarre thing, but a beautiful one.

Beginning my usual set of questions for arriving patients, I learned that her name was Maria Juana Perugachi Torres and that she could correctly state her age at 90.  Many elderly patients weren’t sure of their age, or guessed something different than the birth date on their identity card suggested, but Maria Juana was right on.  I couldn’t help grinning at her, and she responded with the most beautiful smile I could imagine.

“Open your mouth,” Katie instructed my new friend, holding out a thermometer and demonstrating with her own mouth, “under your tongue.”   She gently nudged the thermometer into Maria Juana’s mouth.  Maria Juana sat there, mouth gaping wide, waiting for Katie to finish whatever odd thing this was she was doing.  Katie motioned for her to close her mouth, using hand gestures, forcefully closing her own mouth, saying in her brand-new Spanish, “close your mouth.”  But Maria Juana didn’t understand.  Finally, a middle-aged woman who had already been through this process and was waiting her turn to see a doctor came over and taught Maria Juana how it worked.

As Katie helped her roll up a sleeve to make room for a blood pressure cuff, Maria Juana repeated, “I’m healthy!”

Guessing she might fear her sleeve was being raised for an injection, I reassured her that it was only to take her blood pressure, as if that meant anything in her world.  Next, she was asked to climb up onto a scale.  She stepped squarely up from the side, her left foot entirely covering the plastic window where her weight would be read.  Katie and the middle-aged patient managed to convince her to turn 90 degrees and then inch backwards so that her weight could be recorded, then instructed her to dismount.  What an odd set of tests, Maria Juana must have thought; she would have a story to tell when she got home. Speaking of home, her breakfast was there, waiting to be cooked and eaten.

“What time is it?” she asked, as if she were late for an important meeting.  Receiving her answer, she waited patiently for a few minutes and then asked again.  “I haven’t eaten yet,” she offered, as if to appease our quizzical looks.  Unsure of how to respond, we gave her more blank stares, and then I remembered the boiled eggs in my pocket.  I pulled them out, offered one to her, and began to peel the other one for myself.

Why was she so pleasing to me, this 90-year-old I had just met?  Was it the sly, toothless smile, the high voice blending Kichwa and Spanish, or her self-confident air, asserting quite indisputably that she was healthy?  Perhaps it was her approach toward difference.  Walking through the center of her community, she discovered strangers from a distant land there, doing inexplicable things in the name of “medical consultations.”  She wasn’t afraid or angry and neither was she clamoring for a panacea or a handout.  She was curious enough to try it out, and trusting enough to have her vitals taken, but not so enthralled that she forgot about her breakfast.  In a sense, that attitude shouldn’t be surprising; you don’t get to be 90 in her circumstances without developing a certain self-assurance in addition to an impeccable cardiovascular system.  But she had none of the complaints of loneliness or aches and pains, laments about lost joys that are the staple of some of her contemporaries.  If only all of us could approach new experiences and others with that sort of calm curiosity and confident equanimity.

I was hungry too, so I gobbled up my egg and a protein bar, taking advantage of a lull in arrivals.  José Manuel, the current president of Larcacunga, approached me with his bag of pills.  “When do I take these?” he asked.

Reading the simple instruction sheet in the bag with the medication, I replied, “one with breakfast and one with dinner.”  Many patients liked to double and triple check their instructions, so I was not surprised.  I noticed his pills were for stomach problems.

“With which water?” he asked.

“Oregano,” I suggested, knowing that oregano tea was considered the best remedy for an upset stomach, “if you have it, or if not then with toronjil or cedrón or anise, any water is okay.”

“Anita!” called Joaquin, an interpreter we had hired to work with one of our doctors.  “Jim has a patient with women’s problems.”  Joaquin, indigenous himself and fluent in Kichwa as well as Spanish, cared about the patients and was sensitive to women’s modesty and reluctance to discuss female issues with him in the room.  I bounded up the steep bank to the principal’s office, which Jim was using as an examining room.  I translated for Jim as he asked a few questions, and then Molly brought in the patient’s pregnancy test results: positive, not at all what she was hoping for.  Elena was nineteen and already had one child.  Apparently, things weren’t going well with her husband and she was not excited to bear a second child.  She hadn’t even mentioned the possibility of being pregnant, until Jim asked to make sure a prescription he had in mind would be okay.

After Elena left, eyes downcast and red, I reemerged on the sunny soccer field to the sight of the kids, out to recess, running madly up and down, kicking a tiny ball.  Maria Juana was heading home with a bag of ibuprofen (she was healthy!  Just had some pain in her back).  She stopped to shake my hand, saying “yusul pagui.”  God pay you.            As we rode down in the van that afternoon, Jim related the story of one of his patients.  The diagnosis was situational depression; what she needed was someone to talk to.  She had talked to Joaquin for half an hour about her pain; her teenage adopted son had disappeared, perhaps to Colombia, and she wanted to make sure her younger daughter, also adopted, was healthy.  Joaquin had related only the basics of the story to Jim, but both had watched her attentively as she spoke.  Jim had examined the daughter, found her perfectly healthy, and told the mother she was doing a great job of caring for her.  The mother spoke to Joaquin some more, reiterating her worries, and he noted her name and her son’s to see if he could help her by contacting immigration authorities about her son.  She thanked Jim and Joaquin profusely, saying she hadn’t been able to tell anyone about her troubles before, and departed, her burdens at least a little bit lighter.

Sinking back in my seat, I felt a warmth in my eyes.  This was the kind of medicine that touched me.  I had sometimes wondered how it came to be that I, who had always been rather suspicious of medicine, was coordinating groups of volunteers and taking them out to Ecuadorian villages to practice it.  My motives, I must confess, were more about intercultural interaction and education for the volunteers than medicine, when I began the program.  I realized, though, that what bothered me was less about medicine itself and more about the power relations that are typically set up in the clinic and the bureaucratic structures that reinforce them.  Here we were, listening to patients, sharing laughs with them, trying to respond to their needs, and asking only a 50-cents-per-family contribution for the medications we provided.  Our volunteers were doing their best to learn the villagers’ languages, welcome them, play with the young ones, smile with the old ones.  And many of the patients walked away with the means to improve their health.

That night, exhausted from the responsibilities of organizing the group’s work and activities, I closed my eyes.  Maria Juana walking away from the school, trailing her wisp of grey hair, was the first vision that appeared.