I got up at 5 yesterday (after not sleeping most of the night for fear I wouldn't wake up by 5) to get ready to catch my 7 o'clock plane to Guayaquil. Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador. It's also the business capital (Quito is the government capital). It's on the coast and is hence warmer than Quito. It's about a half an hour away by plane.
Medardo, a super nice man from a local NGO, picked me up at the airport. It turns out they thought I was much older, so we had some difficulty connecting at first. He took me to the infectuous disease hospital which is where the HIV and AIDS patients go. It was very clean, but kind of dingy looking...old peeling paint, dark, old beds, etc. Patricio, the head doctor wasn't in yet, so we went across the street to the administrative offices and labs for the national institute of hygiene and tropical medicine to meet with the director, Luiggi. It was quite a contrast to the hospital with it's newly painted walls and beautiful architecture.
I don't know why this photo saved in black and white, but it gives you the general idea. During the day we went back and forth across the street many, many times.
Once Patricio arrived we went on the rounds with some doctors. This was really interesting as we got to visit with some of the patients. I did, however, feel a little like we were exploiting them with our big group entering their private space. One of the doctors who joined us on this portion seemed fascinated with my last name. (Everyone here is fascinated with Risa, and while you think it would be easy to pronounce, as it is a Spanish word, people refuse to believe that it could actually be my name and bastardize it out of principle.) Halfway through the rounds, he asked me if I was Jewish. When I said yes, he pulled a yarmulke out of his pocket and cheerfully exclaimed, "Me too!" Turns out his folks are Sephardic Jews from Spain. As the Jewish population in Ecuador is super small he was super excited to meet me and beemed the rest of the day.
Overall ,the meetings were successful and they are definitely interested in pursuing a project with Mauricio and I. It was super tiring, as all of the meetings, etc. were in Spanish and since they were all for my visit I had to try my best to understand everything and participate as much as I could. By the end of the day I was exhausted. Medardo brought me to one of the local parks where there are wild iguanas (pictures to come) and then to the pier and then to the airport to fly home.