Monday, April 30, 2012

Venga! Venga! Venga!........makes me smile!

Learning about languages makes me smile! In Spanish, "Venga Venga! Venga!" is much more lyrical than "Come! Come! Come! Of course, that certainly depends upon to whom it is directed.

The first time I heard someone say this was last week when I was at the vet's office leaving the little monsters before my quick trip to Loja and Vilcabamba. Bear had slipped out of her hands, trying to follow me. Venga! Venga! Venga! I had to figure out how to spell that! I just didn't know how to ask. It did remind me of the famous scene in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar when the title character exclaimed "Veni! Vidi! Vici!", which is Italian for " I came! I saw! I conquered".

On my trip back to Paute, the bus stopped for a group of people and the bus driver said "Venga! Venga! Venga! This has become my new catch phrase.

In the Spanish language, all vowels are pronounced and they only have one sound each. The "a" is as in the sound the doctor tells you to make when he tells you to open wide. "Ahhhhh". The "e" sounds like the "a" in cake. The "i" actually sounds like an "e" as in the english word keep. The "o" has the long and definite sound as in oh. Finally, the "u" sounds like the double o sound in stoop. I have a dog named Bear. When my Spanish speaking friends call his name, it sounds just like a southerner in the U.S. ordering their favorite alcoholic beverage at the local bar.

When I first moved to Ecuador, I was intrigued by the word zanahoria. First of all, I could never remember it. It is the Spanish word for carrot. Second of all, it didn't seem Spanish. It didn't flow well to me. When I asked my Ecuadorian friend in Vilcabamba, Lucia, she gently told her gringa friend it was not a Spanish word at all. When the Muslim crusades came to Spain, part of their language was left. Zanahoria is an Arab word.

As with English, which was shaped through the Roman, Germanic and French conquests of the British Isles, Spanish also has the elements of war and conquest. Just the very presence of Spanish in South America is a result of the invasion of Spain more than 500 years ago. The Spanish in Ecuador is a little different from the Castilian Spanish spoken in Europe because some "loan" words come from the indigent Quechua language. In fact, there are 8 to 10 million Quechua speakers in South America. It even has the status of being an official language in both Bolivia and Peru along with Spanish.

History is a passion of mine. The study of the history of languages is called Etymology. Hatians speak a version of French. Vietnamese have some French mixed in their native tongue. Brazilians speak primarily Portuguese. English and a version of Dutch called Afrikaans is spoken in South Africa. There are scatterings of French, English, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch throughout Africa even though there are studies showing anywhere between 1500 and 2000 native tongues in use on that same continent today. The official language of the Congo us French and of Angola, Portuguese. In Asia, Malaysians speak more English in their own country than they do of their traditional Malay.

Yes, learning about languages is fun with a dash of the dark side of war and conquest. I read a book recently that my daughter recommended by Jared Diamond called Guns, Germs, and Steel. It is an amazing history of why some societies succeeded over others and consequently changed the verbal landscape of the conquered lands forever. I recommend it highly.

There are no pictures to compliment this post because pictures of people talking just wouldn't transfer well. I decided to include some fun photographs taken around Paute and Cuenca.

In the meantime, Venga! Venga! Venga! And that is directed to a certain sailing enthusiast in Canada.

There is a Panama Hat store in Paute.  Panama hats were originally created in Ecuador.
Awesome graffiti art in Paute.
Kids need to have fun!!  This was the work of an American in Paute.
This is so strange.   Young girls wanted to have their pictures taken with me in China, too. 
Someone to watch over me!
Gorgeous art college in Cuenca.   I thought it was a church!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Using the public hospital in Cuenca......made my friend smile.

My friend, Diana, who lives in Cuenca, had an interesting experience last week with her teenager involving the public health services of Ecuador.   I found her entire experience intriguing as Cuenca is a large city with the usual red tape when it comes to services.   I am sure I would never have done as well as she!!

 Last Week my teenager announced that his finger was swollen and green, so I looked at it.  Okay, so that's gross.   How long has it been like this?  Oh, I don't know, a few days.   Yikes!!

Here in Cuenca, Ecuador, we had been going to a private clinic near our home for our health care needs, but the cost was $18.42 per visit with no insurance.  The doctors there are great, friendly, professional, and went to medical school in those fancy rich countries like Canada, the U.S., and various parts of Europe.  Okay, so you're thinking, what's the problem with $18?  Well, it might not sound like a lot, but when your monthly budget is only a few hundred dollars, it does start to add up.   It adds up especially when you end up having to return several times.

Good directions!

So, it was time to check out the public clinics which are free to everyone.   The first problem was that nobody could tell us where our public clinic was.   Apparently everyone in the city is assigned a public clinic based on their address.  We went to a different public cliinic and they told us we should just go to the public hospital.

The   next problem was finding the public hospital.   We were told it was the hospital of Vergel as well as its general vicinity.  We took the bus to the right area and started looking for the "Hospital de Vergel" with no luck.  At that point, we started asking people.  Eventually we were directed to the correct building which had a long name, none of which included the word Vergel.  It turns out that Vergel is the name of the part of the city where the hospital is located.

Emergency room

Once inside the building, we were overwhelmed by the sheer size and chaos of the place.   Seriously, a person could do their running practice in this building on those really rainy days.   If you ran down every hallway it would surely add up to a few miles.   There were crowds of people everywhere waiting, waiting, for what we didn't know.  We found an information desk and showed her the green finger.  Ewww!!  She explained the directions to get to Curacion.  We took the necessary turns and found the right room.  Unfortunately, the person there told us we would have to take the finger to the Emergency Room.  We followed the directions she gave us (we thought) to a big open room with a crowd waiting and asked about getting the help we needed.  The people there told us the finger issue was not serious enough to warrant a trip to the E.R.  They told us we would need to go to our local public health clinic at Feria Libre, a huge open food market near our home.

At this point we were unsure how to proceed.  I was discussing it with my son as we walked back toward the hospital entrance, noting that the people at the E.R. had told us to go to the local clinic.  My son interrupted, "Um, mom, that was the Audiology Department."  I turned around to look at the sign and, sure enough, it said "Audiologia".

A REALLY long name.

We returned to the Information Desk to ask how to find the clinic. ¿Que pasa?  We explained.  She said there IS no public clinic at Feria Libre.  Then she took pity on us.  She abandoned her post to walk us all the way back to Curacion, where she exchanged a few words with the same woman who had sent us away the first time.  Ninety seconds later the woman from Curacion was directing my son to come with her and for me to wait outside on the bench.  I did not hear any screams, but when my son returned the finger was bandaged, presumably no longer green as all the green seemed to be in his face.  When we discussed it later, he said he was sure that at the PRIVATE clinic they would have used an anesthetic.

He sat on the bench with me for a while until the nausea went away.  During that time the woman from Curacion reappeared and told us we would have to go to the E.R. to get some medicine to prevent a re-infection.  She walked us through various hallways to point us in the right direction to find the E.R. explaining that she could not write a prescription.  Everywhere we went people seemed surprised to see the extranjeros (Foreigners) in the public hospital.

There was a small crowd at the E.R. and two little reception areas connected to the waiting room.  We asked the person working at the first one what to do and she said we needed to talk to the person in the other room.  That person was not there and it occured to us that maybe a lot of the people there were also waiting for this person to return.  Apparently the locals were paying attention because when someone came out of the E.R. area, one of them told him the extranjeros needed help.  That man then approached us and took us to an office inside where we spoke to a doctor who wanted to see the prescription which we did not have.  She wanted to know the story of the finger after which she took us into a big E.R. room where people sat smiling with bloody bandages, amazed to see the extranjeros there.  A doctor who was clearly busy was very pleasant in writing a prescriiption for us and directed us to fill it at a pharmacy.  I really didn't know if we would have gotten the medication for free if we had looked poorer, but we were very happy to have the finger on the mend and left to find a pharmacy.

I think he´ll live.

We were never once asked for any information on our finances or immigration status.  Apparently their services are free for anyone who walks in.  This is SO different from the health care system in the U. S.!  We also have Canadian friends here whose doctor explained to them that medical professionals are required to work some number of hours each week at the public clinics or hospitals, indicating that the care is really just as good, albeit more chaotic, to get.

Upon reflection, we felt very well cared for at the public hospital, having had so many people go out of their way to help us.  And it was yet another of many cultural experiences, something we are not likely to stop having anytime soon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Settling into Paute.........makes me smile

I've been in Paute not quite a month. EVERYTHING makes me smile. I admit to a bit of nervousness when my friend Jani left with the knowledge that I may be one of the few English non espanol speakers in this town of around 25,000. I thought I would be on a bus to Cuenca 4 or 5 times a week seeking out people I knew for conversation. That hasn't happened. I have been to Cuenca twice. I am amazed at how this town has embraced me. Two tiny adorable dogs have not been a liability either.

I am including a lot of pictures with this post. How can I not? There has been so much to discover. People say hi to me, calling me by name, and I don't even remember meeting them. I'm not THAT old!! Unless, of course, you ask one of my kids or my brother or sister-in- law. My sister might be a little kinder.

The word seems to have spread about Bear's love of ball retrieval. Perro futbol!! We played in the park central one time and people come up behind me and I recognize "perro" (dog) and "pelota" (ball) There are plenty of street dogs but none that are really trained. My new friend Gabriel has a street dog he feeds and gives fresh water and none of them seem to be particularly thin or mistreated. I was a little nervous about a pit bull the other day until 8 pound Amber barked at him and he ran away!

I've found the courthouse. I've seen a fist fight in the town center. I saw a paintball building in the riverside park with some very new looking jungle gym constructions for the kids an American built. I've found the public hospital with the graveyard directly across the street which is the most efficient thing I have seen in the land of maƱana. And it seems the grave sites here are more "rented" than owned. I was told if the family does not pay after five years you will be evicted and someone else gets the space. Yes, that's right. Dug up and thrown away! More unexpected efficiency!

I have found an apartment in which I will be moving close to Jani's return. I think this is home!!
Kitchen in the new apartment.
You could be evicted from here.
My friend Gabriel and his youngest daughter, Chi Chi.
Owners of the laundry.
Yes, we have no bananas!
I met Joseph, my new landlord, in the park last week.

Found at the market.   One set does not belong.  Chickens, Guinea Pigs (cuy) and puppies.   I HOPE they dont eat puppies here.
Some of the bounty at the local market.