I have officially been in Ecuador for 1 week and 1 day! It has been quite the adventure thus far. I arrived after midnight and thus stayed in a hotel in Quito my first night. I met my coworkers and host family the next day. I could not be any luckier; my host family is wonderful and consists of a huge family of support and hospitality. I have a host mom and dad and they have two sons, each of whom has a wife. One of the sons also has two little boys with whom I play soccer and basketball in the yard before dinner most nights. My host family has trouble pronouncing my name so I am known as “Li-Li” by all of the family in Quito!
My Spanish has returned to working proficiency/fluency rapidly because no one in my workplace or in my household speaks English. Additionally, my research has been making progress. I am working alongside full-time employees of Fundacion CIMAS del Ecuador and my project thus far has been specifically analyzing causes of mortality in each of the five parishes (parroquias) in Pedro Moncayo County. The goals are to identify causes of mortality that are unexpected and to assess any possible changes that can be implemented to improve quality of life and prevent certain causes of death in the region. I find the work quite interesting thus far and I am looking forward to visiting Pedro Moncayo County in the coming weeks. All of my research and the data bases that I have access to are written in Spanish and it is an incredible learning experience to be able to do medical research in a different language!
Outside of the office, I have been staying active. I found a great loop around El Parque de La Carolina in Quito and for safety purposes take a taxi to the park after work each day. The altitude up here is NO JOKE! We are located somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 ft. above sea level in the city of Quito itself and I am hoping my hematocrit continues to rise and make my runs easier and easier each day! I am fortunate in that a close friend from UCSD SOM also happens to be in Quito for the first few weeks I am here. She is part of the Child Family Health International program in Quito alongside other medical students, public health students, and pre-health students from the U.S. and Canada. I have been adopted by the group for weekend adventures, which has been fabulous thus far. Last weekend we ventured to Quilotoa and a lake outside of Cotacachi for epic hikes at altitudes greater than 12,000 and to the open-air market at Otovalo. It is wonderful to have friends, both new and old, from the U.S. to ease me into my first few weeks in Ecuador. The scenery is beautiful and it is much more fun to have friends with whom to travel to such scenic destinations. It is also nice to get a bit of a break from 100% Spanish that I have during the week to speak some Spanglish (a strange combination of Spanish and English that we have all adopted) with friends. Que chevere!
This upcoming weekend, I will travel with my Child Family Health International medical student friends to Los Amazonias near a rural city called Tena en el bosque (much more rural and forested area about 3-4 hours by bus to the East of Quito). It will be a three-day excursion and we plan to leave Friday morning with a guide who is a native Ecuadorian.
Hasta la proxima vez,