I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ecuador. I have traveled to Japan, Bahamas, and even St. Lucia but I have never had the privilege of traveling to South America. Although I had to overcome the normal difficulties of TSA confiscating my friend’s toothpaste and bug spray, or the annoyances of the self check-in kiosks I was eventually able to gaze on the lights of Ecuador’s capitol city of Quito. From the air, the city seemed larger than I was anticipating. Although I was tired from the full day of traveling (I arrived at the Cincinnati airport around noon and landed in Quito around 10:30 PM central time) I was ecstatic about my entrance into a culture I had never experienced.
I went through customs but was quickly told that the hotel we were staying at for the first few days was a two-hour drive by bus. A two-hour drive normally would not be bad, none-the-less, by the time my brigade members had congregated after customs and all the luggage was loaded onto the bus it was after midnight. At least during the drive I was able to see the city at night. There were very few people on the streets and all the businesses appeared to be locked up. I hadn’t had the opportunity to see Quito in the daylight, but I will get the chance to return near the conclusion of my trip.
The bus took us to a city called Cotacatchi. We are staying at a nice, ranch style lodge called Rancho Santa Fe. Luckily, we have warm water and nice beds to sleep on. Friends I have met tell me I should enjoy these amenities while they last. In a few days the team will be leaving for locations where flushing toilets may not be an option. The hotel supplies my two roommates and I bottled water. We will use this to brush our teeth in order to reduce our risk of becoming ill. Although it is a bit of a change to brush my teeth with bottled water, it is an even bigger change in how one cleans after going to the bathroom. Apparently, the Ecuadorian sewage cannot handle toilet paper in the pipes. With this in mind, a small waste paper basket sits beside the toilet to act as a receptacle for soiled toilet paper.
Hopefully, my Spanish will return to allow me to function well while here. Luckily our group has translators incase this does not happen for me. I look forward to what tomorrow will bring for the group and me. We are scheduled for breakfast and then cultural experiences.
Jim Buscher, who will start at UK Medical School in August, is a two-time graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences with degrees in psychology (2009) and biology (2010). But before he enrolls in gross anatomy or makes his rotations in the hospital, Buscher has embarked on a journey to Ecuador as a volunteer with Shoulder to Shoulder Kentucky, an international organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in resource-limited communities.
Jim will spend time working in health clinics performing screenings and tackling the issues that confront the community’s wellbeing, but he also plans on doing more than dealing with health initiatives. Following the lead of Jacob Sither, a friend and student in UK’s College of Public Health, Jim will take part in distributing donated equipment to help develop a soccer program in the community, hoping to build a self-sustaining recreational program to supplement their efforts to improve general public health. The whole point of these enterprises, Jim says, is to improve the lives and families in the community by addressing health, education and economic issues.
Follow Jim's adventure in Ecuador through this blog. To learn more about Shoulder to Shoulder visit: http://www.shouldertoshoulderky.org/.