Things I learned while in South America.
*A speed limit is merely a suggestion
*Spanish is a must; practice before you go.
*Google translate helped in tough situations.
*Cars honking could mean thank you, hurry up or an expletive deletive.
*Keep doors locked while enroute; getting robbed is a reality.
*Drink bottled water only.
*Brush your teeth with bottled water.
*Take antibiotics before you go as a prophylactic. I got sick before I left, but it may have been prevented if I had started the recommended 2 weeks before.
*At the market, it is encouraged to negotiate a lower price; offer a little more than half and have your money ready.
*Bring lots of small bills; $1's and $5's. A good meal will cost no more than $5.
*It's currently winter; this means it is drier and hotter than summer, (which is rainier)
*Bring lots of lotion in the winter; its dry!
*Ecuadorian cocoa is exported to Switzerland for their high-end chocolate
*Roses are exported to the USA for occasions like Valentine's Day.
*Prepare to eat soup, salad, dessert everyday. Yum!
*A Panama hat is in fact an Ecuadorian hat
*"nurture the small piece of you that makes you you." Keep nurturing the hobbies or passions that make you stand out and define who you are. It keeps your self fulfilled. Volunteer whenever you can; it provides insight, inspiration, humility, perspective and a sense of community.
Phrases I've learned:
*When you greet a passerby, one would say,"Buenos" which just means good, instead of Buenos dias/noches, cutting out the day/evening part for convenience. Same as inquiring how someone is; you'd say, "cómo?" instead of "cómo estás?"
*"Voy a vomitar" that means get the bedpan or you have a big mess to clean in about 5 seconds.
Things that disturbed me:
I had a difficult time processing some stuff I witnessed; I was worried that if I spoke about the awful stuff, it would not bode well to the reputation of Guayaquil. However, I feel these points need to be made so the masses know how desperately Guayaquil, let alone South America need to change their birth practices and this requires the support of international doulas. After chatting with a doula friend living and working in Panama City, I felt compelled to share.
*The majority of mothers birthing are teenagers; some as young as 13 - many conceptions were not consensual or the father was not in the picture.
*Mothers are left to labour and birth without their family present. In social hospitals, families and friends have to remain outside on the street. Some of these young mothers would cry out in pain, asking for their mommy.
*If one has money then one can pay for a private room, thereby allowing family to stay. This will cost more than $200 US.
*Hospital staff are indifferent to the mothers' needs during labour and delivery, often performing invasive techniques without obtaining informed consent. I'm generalizing here; I met one Dr. that lived and trained in the US, one American intern that had been studying in Guayaquil for that last 7years and one from France that obtained consent and showed true compassion.
*Sanitation practices are lacking.
*Cesarean surgeries are routine here at 50%.
*Procedures like episiotomies are also routine, even in circumstances where they were unnecessary, some leading to grade 5 tears.
I am home in Canada now, where I have had the time to reflect on my experience. It was truly humbling and inspiring and provided me the opportunity to truly appreciate the privilege of living in North America, with a pretty decent healthcare system. I am honoured to be able to support women of many cultures, socioeconomic status and lifestyles. I am thankful that my clients have access to evidence-based research, where we can choose to implement or opt out for the benefit of our health and wellness.
I am inspired that eventually women can have this freedom and right internationally.
Thank you to everyone who supported me and my endeavours with CAPPA Latinoamérica. This was the first of I hope many exchanges internationally.
Amazing things are happening. Thank you for helping me be a part of it.