Saludos desde Ecuador! I’ll just give a quick update because I have to get up early tomorrow but I made it safe and sound to Quito and so far things are going well. I arrived Saturday night around 11 and after passing through immigration and literally just walking through customs (which was nice because I was worried about the honey and hazelnuts I had in my bag) I met a group of students from my program who were all huddled in a circle waiting for the “driver man” (which is who they told us to look for). We looked and looked and waited and waited for about an hour and a half and then got a little worried because the pre-departure email had said not to make the driver man wait for more than 30 or 40 minutes, otherwise he would leave you. But he eventually showed up and we made it to our host family around 2am and went straight to bed. I didn’t realize there were so many people in the house until I got up the next morning and all these people came downstairs for breakfast. I think there’s 9 people total in the house, all students on the summer program. Some students are 1st or 2nd year med students and others are premed like me. It’s been fun getting to know them, I got lucky to live with some cool people. On Sunday we had an orientation at the language school where we are taking classes and then they took us around to the different hospitals we will be working at and showed us how to get there. I also got my rotation schedule, which I’m super excited about. Starting tomorrow I’ll be shadowing at the maternity hospital in the emergency department, which is awesome because I was hoping to get some emergency experience. Then next week I’ll be in the military hospital in the surgery department (also awesome because we get to scrub in and watch). Week three I’ll be at Eugenio Espejo, which I think is the biggest hospital in Quito and serves the most people. On week four I’ll be shadowing at a clinic north of Quito. After that I go to Chone and when I come back to Quito I can choose which rotations to do again or I can try something new. So I’m very excited about this all, there’s definitely no time to get bored. For the first two weeks I’ll be shadowing in the mornings and taking Spanish classes in the afternoons.
Monday and Tuesday (today) we had full days of Spanish classes to get us up to speed for our rotations starting tomorrow. I’ve been kind of isolated in a bubble of English speaking Americans and the first day I was really worried that I wouldn’t be immersed in Spanish as much as I had hoped but I’m in the advanced Spanish class so we have been speaking Spanish most of the last two days. My friend and I have also been trying to speak Spanish together outside of class so we don’t interrupt our Spanish train of thought. So I’m less worried now than I was the first day and I’m sure once I start rotations I’ll be even more immersed and I’ll get up to speed pretty quickly. I’m already thinking in Spanish (I keep wanting to write in Spanish now) but my spoken Spanish is still rusty and it takes more effort to express myself than I would like. That should get better in a few weeks though.
The hardest thing so far is the food and sanitation here. Everyone who has been here for a few weeks already has had some sort of intestinal problem and you have to be really careful of what you eat. It’s something I’m not used to monitoring. Today at lunch I didn’t eat the salad (which looked really good) because it had fresh uncooked tomatoes and cucumbers in it and I didn’t know how they were washed. Halfway through my delicious juice I started to wonder if it was OK to drink because I wasn’t sure if it was diluted with purified water. It’s going to take a while to figure out what’s OK to eat and what to avoid but for now I’m just being as careful as I can. They told us to eat hot food and stay away from any fruit that you don’t peel yourself because often the fruits and vegetables aren’t washed properly.
Lunch itself is a fun experience. During our lunch break we walk down to the market which has a bunch of food stalls, all serving similar things. During lunch hour on the weekdays it’s super crowded so you just have to find a seat wherever you can, which is great because it makes for some interesting conversations with the locals. Today my friend and I sat across from an adorable little Ecuadorian couple (the old ladies are so tiny here) and they told us all about Quito and Ecuadorian food. For lunch you pretty much just choose a vendor and they tell you to sit down and they bring you food. We had the lunch special today and for $1.75 we got juice, a huge bowl of soup, and a main plate of meat with rice and salad (sadly I didn’t eat that). On our way out of the market we have been stopping by the fruit vendor stalls to buy an unusual fruit that we’ve never seen before so we can try it later.
There’s tons more to write about and I’m sure I’ll have even more to say after my first hospital rotation tomorrow, so I’ll leave it at that for now and give another update later this week.