June 26, 2010

La Esperanza

I arrived in Quito Thursday night and (finally!) met NA (the World Vets vet from Buffalo) and BL (the PAE Ibarra coordinatior). NA and I are staying at BL’s aunt’s farm in La Esperanza, a small town just outside Ibarra. I have an AWESOME room on the farm, and even though it’s about 40 degrees (F) out at night, I have a pile of super warm blankets and a nice cozy bed to snuggle in. Now I just wish my Hudson bullie was here with me!

We had a late night tea and cake with BL’s aunt Gloria and her 2 bestest friends, GA and LF. I was exaughsted from not sleeping on the plane (and referring back to a prior entry, there was a woman on the plane who was LITERALLY wearing a bra covered by a scarf. That was IT. Oh, well actually, she was wearing some flashy, “Hey-look-at-me-I’m-almost-naked” jewelry and Brittney-esque shades).

I slept like a baby, and woke up to see the farm in the daylight. Gloria’s neighbor puts her cows out to pasture in the back yard, so I was met with some friendly MOOS from the neighborhood vacas. Gloria has a handful of cats and dogs, all very fat and happy and excited to show me around the property.

Gloria is a very cool person – very ecologically minded with a humane spirit. She proudly showed me a dead scorpion she found in the driveway, and reiterated several times that he “died a natural death”. One of her dogs, Esperanza, was spayed by NA earlier (she’s been in Ibarra for a week already) and is now limping on her back leg in a very ACL-ish manner. Gloria claims she can massage it back to health, and I don’t know for sure if it was the massage or the Rimadyl, but Esperanza stopped limping for a few hours yesterday afternoon :)

NA and I hung out around the farm most of the morning, had breakfast with Gloria, went through our supplies and organized for the clinic. The newest dog on the farm is a cute little black dog named Nikki (after NA :)who is actually allowed in the house and hasn’t moved from the couch since I arrived. She just had an overall ADR look about her (Ain’t Doing Right) and has supposedly had intermittent vomit/diarheaa/anorexia/lethargy episodes since she arrived. She ran around the farm with me for a while, showing me the cow pasture and seemed overall AOK.

We were supposed to go salsa dancing in the afternoon, but BL never came to pick us up. Gloria took us out to lunch, after we re-checked a German shepard, Kaiser, who belongs to Gloria’s great-nephew or grandson. He was apparently showing signs of distemper (which I think is becoming the theme of the trip) and was doing better. We gave in another injection of vitamin B, which cures everything south of Mexico, then went to get ice cream/fruit salad in Ibarra. Yum!

BL was nowhere to be found, and we later found out that a friend of her’s was sick in the hospital. GA came to pick us up and took us to his house to make dinner! He is a really awesome guy, and I want to sneak him back to the States in my suitcase! He’s perfect – he cooks, cleans, drives us around, holds the door open – perfect! Except liking girls… *sigh*

BL came to his house and we had a DELICIOUS dinner, watched some crazy videos on YouTube, laughed, and after the dishes were cleaned and put away, we moved the kitchen table aside and GA and BL taught us how to salsa and meringue! We got back to the farm late and I passed out again (not as cold last night). This morning, NA and I were up and ready to go by 10am to the market in Otavalo.

But first, NA went running past my door with a stethoscope, then again with a thermometer – Nikki wasn’t doing well. Rapid, labored breathing, but no fever. Gloria was upset about a lot of things, and didn’t handle the dog situation well. She told us to just take her to the vet and get her out of the house. There were murmurings of distempter. We loaded her into GA’s car, and took her to the local vet. They have some sort of rapid test for distempter, which they did at the vet’s while GA and I went to the pharmacy to find IV lines and sterile water. When we got back, BL and NA were choaking back tears – Nikki tested positive for distempter.

Since she had been at Gloria’s house for 2 weeks, there was a pretty good chance she would recover from the distemper (as did Kaiser, who had the cornal edema signs of distemper and was now well into recovery). But, there was no room in any shelter or foster home for a possibly-infectious distemper dog, so she was euthanized. In the states, veterinarians are typically responsible for disposing of euthanized animals; in Ecuador, it is the owner’s responsibility. So we went to JA’s father’s house for shovels then off to a remote area to bury Nikki.

Everyone was pretty upset about the events of the morning, so we tried to make the best of the rest of the day. After lunch, we drove to a small town called Otavalo where there is a huge open market (an awesome place to barter for good deals on sweaters, jewelry and other handmade items). Then we drove to the next town over, Cotachachi, which is famous for leather crafts. JA drove us up the Cotachachi volcano to the lake at the top. We drove back to Ibarra just as the sun was setting and went to have parridilla (BBQ) for dinner – my new favorite food. The portions were HUGE, so NA and I saved our leftovers for catching street dogs. Surgery starts tomorrow! Wish us Buena suerte (good luck!)

June 24, 2010

awesome Colombian lunch

From the Barra International Cafe, Bogata Airport

flight of the ninos

Avianca has pretty nice planes, and I was on a huge one, the kind that has seats in the middle, then 2 rows on the sides? It also had an actual first class, THEN business class, then everyone else.

Speaking of everyone else.

There were about 30 little kids (between 6 and 10 years old) on the flight sin adultos. They were all wearing big red Avianca buttons that said "UM" - "unattended minor" maybe?? I was too tired to ask questions, but am somewhat stunned that people still put their kids on a plane alone - and on international flights?? Don't they watch CNN? I am nervous to travel abroad MYSELF, and I am pretty gringa brava. But a 7 year old? Thankfully, Avianca has AWESOME in flight entertainment, so they were actually pretty well behaved. I watched "Meet the Parents" and the first part of "Valentine's Day" in between naps, Sudoko games and breakfast.

A new observation from my trips around the western hemisphere: clothing on airplanes. I dress like a total nomad when I travel - shoes or boots (if I wear them on my feet, I don't have to carry them in my bag), some sort of comfortable pants (sweatpants preferred, yoga pants for warm climates), a bandanna (to cover my bed head and function as an eye mask when I sleep), my glasses (don't want to sleep in contacts), and some sort of sweatshirt or something (since I freeze on planes). So I pretty much look a hot mess getting on and off the plane. Other people?

I am currently sitting in the Bogota, Colombia international airport, waiting for my connecting flight to Quito. I am utterly stunned at what some people wear to travel. Especially the women.

On my flight, there were numerous women wearing short dresses, tank tops, skin tight skinny jeans, full-on makeup, perfect hair (extensions and all), and shoes. I can't believe the shoes. Aside from the fact that my feet freeze on planes, I can't imagine wearing little skimpy flip flops if you're running through the terminal to catch a plane. On the other extreme, there are the mamis with the 4" stiletto heels and platform pumps. How do they do it? I have a hard enough time walking in my uber-attractive Keens, how do they manage heels? More importantly, why is it so important to look good while traveling? I know... it's all about the journey, but that can't be comfortable when arriving at the destination? Never mind fighting with the luggage on either end of the flight - and don't tell me these girls have only carry-ons...

I am off to find lunch and then off to QUITO!!!! I love flying into Quito at night... the mountains and lights are so beautiful. Hopefully the ninos will all be in bed by then. NA and PAE will be excited to see me, regardless of the situation with my hair, and say another little prayer that my bags get off the plane and through security in tact!!!

Half way there....

Aye.... Dios.... Mio....

So far, so much has gone wrong that it can't help but get right quick.

Tuesday my beloved Blackberry died, and I almost lost my mind. Instead, I lost my temper at RadioShack, and after shelling out $50 for a new battery, the damn thing died AGAIN Wednesday night! I am totally embarrassed at how technology dependent I am. So after a few mini-panic attacks, my phone was fixed (not entirely, but enough to last for the next few weeks) and I was off to pack.

Then the insanity began...

I spent the better part of 4 hours sorting, stacking, organizing, re-sorting and packing 45lbs of medical supplies. Then I took a quick trip to Walgreens, followed by more packing, laundry, cleaning, organizing. My wonderful father (*LOVE YOU*) came to Stamford around 10pm to stay over, then take me to the airport in the morning. As I was packing and checking things off my list, I had the panic attack to end all panic attacks... my passport.

Couldn't find it.

Looked everywhere.

Ripped apart my mess of a room looking for it.

Re-ripped everything apart again.


Pulled myself together.

Cried some more.

Beat myself up for being an unorganized mess.

Apologized to self.

Woke everyone up to help me look.

Long story short now, it was in a box in the corner of my room, where it had fallen out of my backpack post-Haiti. I usually do a better job of unpacking from a trip, but after Haiti, I just wanted to forget it, so my luggage pretty much sat wherever it landed for a few weeks until I could get the strength to look at it again. I guess that's when my passport fell out.

I got about 30 minutes of sleep last night, and made it to the airport in 1 piece, with 4 bags. Check in was a bit sketchy, as they were trying to make me pay $100 for a carry one bag. No. Thanks, but no. So please say a little prayer for my carry on bag, which was checked with everything else. I hope it all comes out in 1 piece - however, everything was packed in so tight I don't think there's room for breakage.

JFK has never been so much fun. I am so tired, but too nervous to sleep. I just want to get on the plane and pass out for 6 hours en route to Colombia.


Wish I Had Some Help Here

What 60 lbs of crap looks like BEFORE:

Was too emotionally drained to take an AFTER shot, but let me assure you, it was ALL packed into 1 large L.L. Bean rolling duffle, 1 small L.L. Bean carry-on duffle, 1 RubberMaid carton and a back pack...

Aye my aching back!!!!!!!

June 20, 2010

laughter from above

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” (Woody Allen)

Thursday I leave for Ecuador (trip #4 in 2 years...) with World Vets for a 3 week spay-cation in Ibarra. I have never been farther north than Otavalo (which is apparently pretty close to Ibarra) so it will be a true adventure! I had planned to join World Vets in Cambodia for Pacific Partnership 2010, but the universe had other plans. So I am off to Ecuador to join up with the vet (she arrived last week) and we will be spaying everything on 4 legs until our other team member arrives in July.

World Vets will be back in Ecuador at least 2 more times this year... guess I best not make any plans...