December 12, 2009

Newton's new law

If f = the mass of airplane food in my stomach,
and u = the altitude above sea level in Quito,
(c) = function of car sickness,
k = constant speed on Pan American highway,
and me = time in Quito, then after about 2 hours...

f*u(c)k = me


Wednesday afternoon I left Santo Domingo and arrived in Quito after a quick layover in Panama City (my 3rd time in the Panama City airport in less than a month). I arrived in Quito around 10:30pm and spent about an hour going through customs and getting my luggage. Some Proteccion Animal Ecuador and Animal Balance volunteers met me at the airport, in case I had a problem with customs. I have never had an issue before with the airports in Ecuador, but this time I was carrying some medical supplies minus paperwork and didn’t want to wind up in Ecuadorian airport jail if there WAS a problem. Of course there wasn’t, but I know the first time I try to test it, I will be on some episode of “Locked Up Abroad – Ecuador” crying that I didn’t do it ;-)

I don’t remember eating anything terrible on the planes or in the airports, and actually hadn’t eaten that much in the last week or so as these trips are notoriously vegan. I don’t care one way or another if someone is vegan, vegetarian, whatever, but it’s the militant vegans that ruin it for me. One of our vets, B, is an awesome cook and had MacGuiver skills in the kitchen as well as in the clinic. He whips up the most outrageous meals from practically nothing (and probably some stuff he finds on the side of the road, but I try not to think about that), but claims he had to “cook to the lowest common denominator” (aka vegans) so I suffered through several meals of vegetables disguised as real food. Most of my time in the DR I ate packaged food, bottled water and bread, and avoided most airport food, but I was SOOOOOOOOOO sick on the car ride from Quito to Ambato. A combination of exhaustion, dehydration, less than healthy food and experiencing the 10,000 ft Quito altitude in the backseat of a compact car that smelled like dog urine was too much for my stomach, and I got very sick very fast. After several attempts of trying to swallow the contents of my stomach and begging the driver to pull over, I somehow survived and arrived in Ambato. I was so sick and exhausted at that point, he could have left me in a sewage ditch on the side of the road and it would have been a huge relief. I passed out on my friend DA’s front lawn at about 2 am, wiping puke from my hair and thanking the gods I was out of that friggin’ car. I had an almost similar experience during my last trip to Ambato (in the same car after being dared to eat yagralocra – a cream soup of animal “parts” with congealed blood garnish - it smelled and tasted like necropsy) and would rather walk up the Cotopaxi barefoot than get in that car again.

I spent most of the day yesterday in bed, and went out for a little bit to drop off my laundry and run some errands with DA. She has an adorable blue car (which I did not get sick in thank god) with a million decals all over it, as part of her duty of the reigning beauty queen of Ambato. It was hysterical to drive around town and have almost everyone stop us and say hello. I enjoyed it, but after almost a year, DA is pretty sick of it and ready to pass the crown on to the next girl.

I was supposed to meet with Proteccion Animal Ecuador volunteers in Ambato to go over projects about the website, grants, donations, etc. I am pretty pissed that I traveled all the way to Ecuador with a laptop full of documents/donations and threw up any/all food in my stomach onto the Pan American highway, only to be blown off and stood up for 4 days. Wednesday, yesterday and earlier today I was too tired and emotionally hung over to care, but then I was just plain pissed and disappointed. One of the biggest challenges I’ve been presented with in 2009 is trying to remain professional in all situations, and this was a huge test of patience. There is SOOOOOOOOOOO much that needs to be done in the veterinary and animal welfare world of Ecuador, and it has been awesome to work with several groups and contribute to the process over the last year and a half. I’ve had inspirational, fulfilling experiences working with veterinarians around the world. It’s a far different experience than anything in the States – a mixture of developing world living, political hurdles, public health, animal welfare, veterinary medicine and epidemiology. The challenges are huge but even the smallest success is tremendous and inspire me to do more for animals around the world. I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, but if I did, it would be to help those who need and WANT help.

“I’m not anyone, I’m someone. I can’t do everything, but I can do something” Marlin Perkins

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