Monthly Archives: April 2013

Cloud Forest to Comforts of Home!

After toodling around the beautiful gardens and monastery at Hacienda Cucin, Kathy and I ate breakfast and then started our journey north to the Cloud Forest. I really had no idea where we were going as Kathy had taken the lead and booked everything for us. Oswaldo, from the Refuge, picked us up, then we stopped in Otavalo and picked up two passengers – Peter and Sandra. We thought they were other guests who would be staying at the Nature Refuge, but it turned out that Peter owns the place and Sandra is the manager.

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The 2 ½ hour drive was beautiful. We stopped at a vantage point that allowed us gorgeous views of the crater and the volcano – we were told what a disaster it would be if the volcano blew – so I thought we should stop standing there and move along. The road got bumpier and bumpier as we headed towards our next stop. The vegetation was very diverse and lush – and areas reminded me of Northern Vietnam. We ascended into the clouds and heavy rain. I would never tell Bevan this, but with all the mud and not so perfect road conditions I was wishing we were in his beloved Defender. I was a little nervous as we slowed down because there were 4 men standing in the middle of the road. They all were carrying large machetes. I was thinking “put the pedal to the metal” – but Oswaldo was slowing down. Now my Dad always told me not to pick up hitch-hikers – and I would assume this would include men carrying large knives!!! Obviously Oswaldo’s father did not impart the same wisdom. The 4 armed men jumped in the back of the truck. I thought life was over and thought – I really have had a good run! However, after several miles, Oswaldo stopped and the armed men disembarked without any bloodshed.

Soon after we pulled into a yard – there was a weather beaten house and chickens walking on the veranda. When I realized this was where we would be spending the next 4 days I was wishing the men with the machetes had slit my throat. But like everything, things look better in the morning light….or is that in the dark?? Bevan thinks our house in Cafayate is on the edge of civilization….he has seen nothing!

House at RefugeIMG_4959

Our cabin

Our cabin

Our lodging was actually quite nice. It was rustic – but new and clean. Kathy and I had a cabin down the path that was constructed about 4 months ago. Although it was cold and damp (we slept in our jackets!) it was definitely do-able. (Tonya would be proud of me – I stayed at a place ‘sin’ [‘without’ for the Spanish deficients] 5 stars) Although I must admit that I do like the luxury of boutique and high end hotels, this place had charms of its own. It would be hard to have a Four Seasons in the middle of a nature preserve. Peter- the owner- led us on several nature walks. He is an avid birder so was able to point out several different birds. I think he was a little disappointed at the lack of knowledge that Kathy and I had. As he would point out and say “South American gold beak Tattinger XIV” (this is nonsense, I have no memory of any real names”, Kathy and I would yell out “BIRD”. (Shanda – does this remind you of  Claire’s nanny??) When he would ask what we saw – our answer was typically – “a big brown one” or “a little yellow one – with a chubby belly and pointy nose”.

Day 2 arrived, as did another guest – a self-proclaimed ornithologist. She enjoyed discussing all the bird life with Peter. The 4 of us walked 5 miles to see and listen to the mating dance of “Cock of the Rocks”. These beautiful red birds fly around and make quite the sound. It was very interesting and we are told a very rare opportunity. The other guest told us a joke she loved – what is a fisherman? A jerk at one end of a line waiting for a jerk on the other.  She said she couldn’t think of one for Bird Watchers. In a microsecond I came up with: Birdwatching: when there is a quack on each side of the binoculars.

Kathy and I had fun with some hikes and a little road trip to some pre-Incan ruins. Oswaldo drove us- it was a very steep road and narrow. Sometimes he can’t make it up with the truck but was able to this day. Oswaldo’s wife, Lupe, is the cook at the Refuge. Every meal had multiple courses. Home made soups, home made bread, salads, meat/fish, deserts. It was amazing. It is great to have a home cooked meal when traveling. They had 2 year old twins that were very cute!

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Sunday was spent driving to Quito and shopping at the market place in the park. We stayed at “Cultura Café” one of the first boutique hotels in Ecuador. It is in a great location and great little find. (thanks Miriam for the suggestion!) Our stay there was short – we were up at 2:30, to catch a taxi to the airport for a 6am flight.

I am now back in Calgary. Thankful for water I can safely drink from the tap, a warm house, a toilet that can handle toilet paper, and a bed without bugs.

Things I learned on this trip:

-if you almost step on a caecilian worm in the jungle people consider you “really lucky!

-bed bugs seem to love Deet and yes it is possible for your bites to get bites

-there is a bird that can moonwalk!! Seriously check this out – it is a really funny video and very educational and entertaining. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2Bsu4z9Y3k

-I can survive (perhaps thrive?) in less than 5 star accommodation. Sometimes to see amazing things you really do have to get off the beaten track.

-Even if watching your child get a needle makes you almost faint, you can watch a periacetabular osteotomy in the operating room (good job Kathy – you rock!)

-If I leave Bevan alone too long he will shave his head bald!

Things that I was reminded of:

-I am very lucky to live in Canada and have great healthcare

-I am happy to have a body that is functional (at least most of the time!) and I would rather my body function  well than to look great

-It feels good to help other people and volunteer

-I love to travel and see new places

-I love to be home

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Categories: Ecuador | 2 Comments

Mission Completed, Vacation Started

It was a busy 7 days at St. Ines hospital! Our team assessed, chose, operated on and somewhat rehabilitated 32 people. It was wonderful to hear their stories and know how grateful they were. One young woman said she had given up on her dreams. Now with her new hip she has hope and will be forever grateful that her dream of walking her kids to school and walking to the park to see trees will come true. Really makes wishing for thinner thighs and less cellulite seem superficial and trivial.

Yesterday was a busy day for the Physio team, which included Kathy. Not only was she a translator and photographer, she became physio-assistant extraordinaire. Jeanine and I, exhausted from the day and the repetition, forgot one patient in a wheel chair after taking her back to her room after walking stairs with crutches. Kathy transferred her safely back to bed! Oops.

Most patients did extremely well although I will worry about Marianna. She looked like an uncoordinated octopus when trying to ambulate with crutches. (to be fair she has one leg shorter than the other and needs her other hip fixed next year ).

This morning we left Cuenca and flew to Quito. After saying goodbye to our team, Kathy and I met the driver to take us to Hacienda Cucin in San Pablo de Lago. ( I just had to ask Kathy where we were!) It was a 90 minute drive north of Quito. A gorgeous drive and we stopped at the equator and did the touristy picture having one foot on each side of the equator. Our driver’s name was Angel, but he drove like a devil. My seatbelt’s function was to keep me on MY side of the car.

The hacienda is a 17th century monastery. Although Angel said the actual monastery is closed now and was never a monastery?! Either way this place is beautiful.

Hacienda Cucin

Hacienda Cucin

Gardens

Gardens

We took a 20 minute drive to Otovalo, known for its markets and crafts. Kathy and I had a great time taking photos. Some friendly men invited us to join them for a drink in the market, which I thought was so sweet. A few minutes later I was just looking at one old ladies items for sale (camera NOT out) and she started yelling at me in Spanish to “Get! Go away you! Get!” She also toothlessly hollered a few other words I couldn’t directly translate but I clearly understood!

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Sure looking forward to some wine and a good night sleep in the garden cabin. Tomorrow we head to the cloud forest. Sure hope it isn’t cloudy there!

Our cottage at Cucin

Our cottage at Cucin

Cheers from Tanya’s iPhone

Categories: Ecuador | 3 Comments

One Happy Customer

Cheers from Tanya’s iPhone

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Cuenca

Cheers from Tanya’s iPhone

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Colonial Cuenca

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia

I had forgotten how beautiful Cuenca is. Perhaps because on the last trips I typically stayed in the hospital until night fall.

Yesterday Kathy, Jeanine- my Physio counterpart and I left the hospital at 3, and toodled around Cuenca. We went into a beautiful old cathedral that had its original wooden floors. We went to the artesenal market and flower market. The city has several rivers running through it and the architecture is colonial and beautiful. There is a lot of festivities (music, markets, fireworks) as the city is celebrating its 500th birthday!

At assessment clinic Ariana, one of my favorite patients ever from 5 years ago came to clinic. It is amazing to me that she and her mother remember my name. Ariana is doing extremely well and was happy to tell me she has a boyfriend.

Eleven surgeries were completed our first two days. Pedro, 18 years old, did super with his Physio and was sent home already. Today 9 surgeries are in the works. Our youngest patient so far is 14, the oldest 72. The 72 year old lady has the flattest affect ever. She did not smile or respond to any of my charming ways. At first I thought she had died, but I could see her chest rise and fall. Then I thought she was sleeping with her eyes open, but she did actually follow a few instructions (not as enthusiastically as Carlos a sweet 14 year old who jokes with me the entire time we do his exercises).

As my friend Frank says, ” the hips don’t lie!” The xray photo is typical of what we are seeing in clinic.  In some patients, their femoral heads are completely flattened and sitting up at the iliac crest instead of the socket. I don’t know how they function day to day.

Signing off with 2 happy and healthy hips.

Cheers from Tanya’s iPhone

Categories: Ecuador, Volunteer | 1 Comment

Mission in Motion

Twenty of us transitioned quite easily through the Calgary Airport, US customs and Ecuadorian Passport control and customs. Only real bump was the “landing in Quito”. I think the pilot forgot to lower the landing gear. The plane belly flopped onto the run way then came to a complete stop in approximately 10 feet. Even the most rotund passengers were sliding off their seats.

We transferred to a “hosteria” about 20 minutes from the airport. My colleagues sitting close to the front said there was a dead guy lying behind the drivers and passenger seat and the first reverse facing bench seat. I couldn’t see or smell such person but did notice the driver looked like she was 13 years old. We were winding through the slums and going down alleys. We all thought we had been abducted but were all slightly too tired to spring into any potentially life saving plan. Surprisingly we ended up at a quaint little hosteleria. Which is different from hosteria. The difference is the amount of people in one room. Now for those who know me well… or at all, you know that I like my privacy and don’t enjoy sharing rooms with anyone, other than my ever loving. I was with 5 others, 2 of which were female. Got to know the new male team members quickly. Well, not that well as we had 3 hours in the room before journeying back to the airport. Between coughing, snoring, dogs barking I managed about an hour sleep. Great way to start the mission, all bright eyed and bushy tailed!

Cheers from Tanya’s iPhon

Categories: Ecuador, Volunteer | 1 Comment

My sister in law is awesome

Thanks Lil T for setting up my blog site!!!

I hope I have some interesting tales to share from Ecuador.

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The countdown is on!

Two more sleeps until I leave for Ecuador. Kathy (friend/ Spanish teacher) and her husband came over this morning for a visit and to get organized. We supplied the lattes, they supplied the muffins, jam, and fruit!!! Biscuit was so excited he let his bladder leak, which made me shriek, and he ran, dribbling all over the main floor. So, our morning visit turned into wiping up a mess and cleaning the hardwood!!! You know your guests are getting an invite back when they bring the food and clean up the mess your dog makes!!!

I am hoping that there aren’t any other messes that Kathy needs to get me out of in Ecuador!

More later,
Tanya

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