Since last writing so much has happened. It feels like ages ago!  At the end of last week, Clayton and I went to the Cinterandes office and organized my life for the following week – obstetrics. YAY!

The rest of the day we wandered the streets, simply exploring what was a brand new city for me, with Clayton as my guide. We walked to Turi, a viewpoint over the city, which was absolutely stunning! So many red cobblestoned roofs!

Saturday was my first big day in the big wide world alone. It was a little intimidating! I managed to go to the cellphone store and bumble my way through acquiring a sim card AND topping it up, without really having much clue about what was going on. Afterwards I wandered around town, soaking up the sites and eventually came across this little café in a nice courtyard that sold plain old gumboot tea. Wow did that ever make my day. It is amazing how a little taste of home can make everything seem better. So, of course after that, my mission for the afternoon was to acquire my own personal supply of tea bags – luckily it was very successful!

When I got home I found I had a message from Emy, a local student who had befriended me on the bus last week, inviting me to go to her farm for the rest of the weekend. I am so pleased I went – this was easily my favourite experience so far.

I drove with her family – brother, sister and parents along winding roads and into the darkness. We arrived at their 19-hectare farm (this is really big for Ecuador as land prices are mad!) and set about making dinner.  Afterwards we played cards – I am still not 100% sure on the rules, but Emy and I seemed to win which was great! The following day we drove up to a nearby lake with her sister having driving lessons. The poor girl kept apologizing for her driving, but there was no way I’d have been driving on those roads!!

Later we explored the river and mucked around while her dad and brother fished. Emy and family – thank you, if you read this, it was an incredible weekend and a great opportunity to improve my Spanish and spend some time with your family.

I returned to town, and it was back to reality of school in the morning. While I had been away another student, Sam had arrived from the USA.

This week I have been based in Clinica Humanataria, which is a clinic on the western side of town. It prioritises women and children’s health, and oversees 22% of the births in the region. Here, I have met 5 local students, all in their final year.

They make me feel incredibly lucky to be studying in NZ, not here – they work 7am-5pm daily, plus every four days they pull a 29-hour shift!! It has been great getting to know the students; they have been so friendly and accepting of my terrible Spanish.

I have been out for lunches, invited to dinners and weekend events, all of which has been absolutely fantastic! I even went to a monologue about a local Quichuan woman (which it turns out was in Quichan not Spanish – made me feel much better for not understanding it!)

The week certainly challenged my Spanish! But now, I think in Spanglish. This is somewhat annoying as I speak both English and Spanish badly / insert English words when I don’t know the right one is Spanish.

Over the course of the week I have seen several vaginal deliveries, C sections, sat in on obstetrics and gynaecology clinics, and done plenty of listening / improving my Spanish. I have been privileged enough to witness that moment when a woman first meets her baby, and instantly falls in love. It is a moment that I will never tire of.

I have seen many practices here that vastly differ from what is considered “normal” in NZ. Some examples – newborns here are always laid on their side, in case of vomiting, to prevent aspiration. In NZ babies are always on placed their back, as it has helped decreased the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Another- fathers are in general not allowed anywhere near the delivery room – partly because delivery is in an operating room, and totally sterile. I found differences like these challenging, as to me the NZ ideals have become so ingrained, they feel like they are are integral parts of the birthing / newborn process.

Soon enough though, my hospital week was over and it was time for adventures! Saturday called for exploring of local markets and parks, followed by a large family lunch with delicious seafood soup. Seriously, the long large lunches make the rest of the day disappear! It was great to spend the remaining afternoon just relaxing and reading.

On Sunday, Sam, Emy (who’s farm I visited last weekend) and I caught the bus out to Giron, and walked to a 60m waterfall. This was stunning! In the afternoon the clouds rolled in, and created some fantastic photo opportunities… I am becoming terrible at taking photos at every possible opportunity – Sam and Emy needed some patience. However, I had not realized quite how much time I was taking until I saw Sam’s watch, and discovered that my own was losing time at the rate of about 15 minutes every half hour!

At home, we found a 3rd student had arrived, Amy, again from the USA. We spent the night chatting and getting to know each other. For the next week, until we go out on the bus again, Amy and I will be sharing a room, which should be great!

On Monday, it was back to Clinica Humanataria for more babies and C-sections! My non-medical challenge for the day was to acquire a new watch battery so I could safely go tramping in Cajas National Park.

So today is Tuesday, and I have just returned from Cajas National Park. I bussed up there in the early hours of this morning. Arrived and it was unbelievably cold! I had packed every stitch of warm clothing I would normally take in NZ and still felt the need for star jumps!

Fortunately it warmed up, and I was absorbed by a group of Argentinians for a morning hike. This was great – they were so friendly and keen to correct my Spanish. I hope I meet them again some day! After they headed back to Cuenca to catch another bus north, I walked to the highest point in the park – which is about 4200m.

This is much higher than I have ever been before – our mountains just aren’t that big! At the top, after a narrow climb through a rock crack, clouds and rain engulfed me. The area is renowned for its thick fog, so I wasn’t about to muck around to find out how bad it could be! After a quick descent below the cloud line, I settled in for more photography and read my book. When it got late, I eventually found a bus back to town – tried to wave down 3 buses before one finally stopped though!

It is unbelievable how quickly my time here is going – only a few more weeks here. AND THEN I’M GOING TO THE GALAPAGOS FOR EASTER!!!!!!!!