Aimee en Ecuador

Monday, August 21, 2006

Entravistas y Grupos focales…and more…
So I finally arrive in Pedro Moncayo County to live for three weeks. Ines (a social sciences student from Cali), Morgan (a political science student from Seattle) and I lived in Tabacundo and worked together to complete an important part of the first project. We were supposed to conduct 21 interviews and 8 focus groups in 3 weeks. This may not sound like a lot to do in that period of time, but time here is just not the same as in the States or in a big city in Ecuador for that matter. Needless to say, things were a bit hard to organize at first with everyone’s schedule, etc, etc., but we ended up completing everything, but 2 interviews and 1 focus group. They’ll be done after I’m gone….

But first let me tell you about where I stayed and a little about the area…Tabacundo is the largest of the towns in Pedro Moncayo, it’s the capital and also contains the most flower plantations out of the 5 parroquias. In fact, it’s pretty much surrounded by these floricolas (flower plantations) on all sides…and yet I still brushed my teeth with the water….hmm…well, anyhow I stayed with a family well known in the county. La senora was Zoila Espinosa and there are about 500 relatives in this small town of a few thousand. One of her brothers (there are seven in her immediate family) wrote a book about their heritage in Pedro Moncayo with pictures of many ancestors (I think their family has been there since the early 1800’s). Zoila has only one daughter, Estella, about my age who works in the sales department of a big flower plantation that only sells to Russia. Ecuador has various markets around the world, United States being the biggest, but Russia coming in second. The process is an interesting one for each market because they raise the flowers differently (in Russia they like the flowers to be very long-stemmed and have a big blossom, it’s different than those for the states and other countries). Well, Estella certainly has a different view on the flower industry than others I’ve talked to, so it was really great that we were able to talk to her as well as workers and others in the community.

The house was located in the middle of the town, which was nice and close to everything, but not too far from el campo (country-side), where I went for many lovely runs in the morning (great, not to have smog from the passing cars, like in Quito), but an occasional wiff of pesticides that were recently sprayed reminded me of how contaminated the environment might be (I say that because there still must be a lot of research done to prove the contamination exists). In general, it was lovely staying in an area surrounded by the Andes’ mountains and had a beautiful view of Cayambe (snow-covered) everyday, but it was cold (so much for a hot summer in South America). I especially loved the food that Dona Grey made (the woman that helped cook and clean in the house-it’s very common for a lot of people to have help around the house here) because she is from the coast and makes some good fish and shrimp. Yumm!!

Well, onto work stuff…So a day after arriving we had a meeting about what we would be doing and how it would get done. Basically we divided the work into teams—we were working with two community leaders, Frank (an engineer & works with the youth of the community) and German (a lawyer & his wife was the ex-mayor of the town). We also worked with Sebastian, he was hired by Cimas to help with the project, mostly to help with the political aspect and doing the focus groups and interviews. Well, I worked with Frank, which was fun because we talked a lot about his work with the youth and some of the history of the town. Interestingly enough, Frank is organizing an international youth human rights conference in Tabacundo for many youth leaders in Latin America. I only wish I could be there for it, but it’s in September.

So we used our interview guide we had made up earlier and set out to get our 7 interviews done. The guide was pretty long, 51 questions, and asked mostly questions about the perceptions and knowledge of pesticide use in PM. We tried to interview people from all working groups and communities in order to get a well-rounded view of what was going on. So the first day Ines, Morgan and I went over to the municipal building to set up some interviews. That was interesting and somewhat of a cultural clash because we thought it best to schedule a day or two ahead, but that’s not how most things work in the community. Most people wanted to interview the same day or that same moment we arrived. Since the interview guide was still being revised we couldn’t do interviews that day, but it was a lesson learned that things in small towns just happen that same moment and schedules and appointments are not the most useful of tools for them.

Well, all in all Frank and I interviewed our 7 people—a doctor who worked in the community clinic & in the flower plantations; the priest of Tabacundo who has witnessed the changes over the years; a school director & leader of the CIID, a community branch of the government; a councilwoman; a veterinarian who sells fertilizers and other products for agriculture in PM; a small flower plantation owner; and a man who works for a company that gives out small loans to local farmers. The other two teams interviewed others from the local government, community group leaders, flower plantation workers, flower plantation owners (one was very interesting-he was head of the flower plantation corporation-Expoflores) and others.

The results from these interviews were varied, but in general there was a realization from everyone that the flower industry and the local agriculture were contributing to the contamination of the county and that there was a lack of knowledge and ability to prevent more pollution from occurring. Many stated that the health effects of the pesticides were apparent in many communities, but the county did not have the capacity to help many of those affected by pesticide exposure. Some of the stories told about personal effects or those of others were heart breaking, but most made me realize how big businesses can change entire communities and ways of life over a period of a decade or two. On one hand the business has provided many jobs to the community, so they no longer have to travel an hour or two to find work. The salary and availability of jobs have helped local business to grow as many more people come from around the country to find work in PM. As a result many the population of the county has doubled or so in 20 years. However, there have been some serious consequences in health of the community, contamination of the environment, changing of cultural norms, production of agricultural goods, family structure, safety of the community and many other aspects.

In general, we found similar results from the focus groups we did. We conducted 7 of the 8 groups which included 2 groups of flower plantation workers, 2 groups of agricultural workers, a group of healthcare workers, a community group and one that included government & community leaders. I thought some of the responses were better in these groups because people were able to spin ideas and comments off one another. I especially liked hearing from those that worked in flower plantations to hear what the conditions were like.

Well, this has been a long enough entry. I’ll be writing a couple more and include pictures and little more about the experiences I had visiting a flower plantation, going for an outing at a local hotspring, going to the beach and some more fun things. See you all soon!

Here are the pics from las bailes de San Pedro....Hope you like my outfit:) Take care!

Bailes de San Pedro-Inti Raymi…
I’m on a role, writing 3 blogs in one week…Well, I should’ve written about these things earlier. Anyway, I wanted to include some photos and explanation about the festival that Cimas and it’s staff and students participated in on June 29th. In Pedro Moncayo and many of the northern counties, the people celebrate the harvest time (equinox/summer solstice) with dancing, singing, music and yes…drinking in the streets (there’s no rule about having open bottles in the street here). These celebrations are formally called Inti Raymi, but blend into the Christian celebration of San Pedro. It’s a beautiful mixture of traditional culture with the religious celebrations and we had a blast participating in the street dancing and singing. The traditional dress is still worn today by the indigenous population here in the mountainous areas and the language spoken is both Spanish and Quichuwa. While living in Tabacundo (capital of Pedro Moncayo and one of it’s counties) I was able to see how life was lived out by the traditional population, but also see how it’s so mixed with the modern culture….

Anyway, the following pics are from the day in Tabacundo, where began the day with dancing in the streets with the locals in the traditional dress and the passing of various drinks from the locals as well. All of this began at 9am, too early for me to hit the bottle, but I kindly accepted a small swig of rum, but was hesitant to accept the general cup of a traditional drink called canelaza from a small bucket some woman was carrying around. Call me a germ freak, but a semester of microbiology will do that too you. Well, we danced on in the parade until the end, which was a dirt field. There we danced and sang as hard and well as we could to compete for winning a prize for the best dressed and most enthusiastic group (mind you, most of us were gringos, so that didn’t help us much). Well, we never saw an award, but we did acquire more rum and beer to cheer our spirits…Did I mention that they drink A LOT during these festivities…Oy vey!
All in all, the day was fun and ended early for the Cimas group around 3pm. Those in Tabacundo partied on, but I think the sun and alcohol at 9am got to most of us. We ate comida (lunch) and then most of the students were passed out on the bus ride back. However, we did stop in Tocachi (one of the parroquias in Pedro Moncayo) to visit the local panaderia (bakery, they love their bread here…no South Beach diets here) that Cimas helped start up and is run by the community. Tocachi is one of the parroquias that does not have much work for the people living there or any real businesses. The project of a panaderia was designed to help the local community and give them some responsibility in running a small business. They sell to the locals in Tocachi, but also many of the flower plants (florícolas) for their workers. It’s a good business, but is having its problems as it has just started up about 5 months ago.

Well, that’s all folks. Hope you’re enjoying all my writing and will stay tuned for more. Take care and my next blog will include my trials and tribulations in Tabacundo working on the project. Adios and write me how you’re doing!

Monday, August 14, 2006

More pics from my Baños trip...hope you enjoy these...

Here are some of the pics from Baños, trying to put the rest....

Having fun in Banos…

So my life here hasn’t all been working. Of course, I have enjoyed the nightlife and getting to know other parts of Ecuador.

One of the trips I was able to take with two friends, Charlotte Tuttle and Ines G (two other students from the states) was to Banos. You might have recently heard about the eruption of the volcano Tungurahua. We were there before the eruption that didn’t effect Banos, which is borders the volcano, but spread ash to smaller bordering towns to the south and west as far as Guayaquil (~270 miles away)! Actually some of the medical students from the U of M (Kate, Brett & James) were there at the time. Haven’t asked them what that must have been like, but I’m sure, pretty impressive…

Onto my story there…not extremely exciting, but fun and beautiful nonetheless. Banos is about 4 hours from Quito by bus because it stops every where making the journey quite long. But entering the city of Banos is pretty impressive. You are going way too fast down winding roads and can feel the pressure change as you descend. The view is amazing, it’s extremely green and somewhat Amazon-like as Banos sits just the west of the Amazon area in Ecuador. Then you enter the city, which sits at the foot of the volcano and is fairly a simple town consisting of its usual concrete buildings. The city is pretty big for it’s location (~16,000) and has a lot to offer. Because it borders the volcano there are many hot springs, which I didn’t personally go in, but Ines did and said they were pretty packed at 5am (I can only imagine bumping behinds with people at 9 or 10am…I’ll pass).

Anyway, the first night we went up in an open-sided bus they call “chivas” here to the top of a mountain beside the volcano, where we could see the city of Banos below (note the pics). There we drank some hot alcohol something or other and stood around a fire for a while. The next day we had a wonderful breakfast and wheat bread (something rare here, it’s all white bread, an Atkin’s nightmare) then decided to go horseback riding for FOUR HOURS!!!! Yes, it was beautiful and fun as we went up the mountain again and saw a little bit of eruption (just the ash-note the pic) from afar and then came down the mountain. It was a big steep coming down, which was scary, but the horses are well-weathered and probably know the mountain better than any human. But man, was I sore the next day. Now I truly know what being saddle sore means. Sunday I went to the beautiful Basilica for mass and then we shopped around a bit and left for home. Unfortunately, we didn’t go the beautiful waterfall nearby, but I saw some others about 2 weeks ago (you’ll hear about that trip as well).

So that was my time in Banos. I’ve provided some pics of various things for your pleasure. One is of all those on the horseback trip and our two great guides, Jorge & Raul. Enjoy!

Ok, here are the pics from the meeting...I had a feeling I would have to post them separately...grrrr....enjoy:)

So I haven’t been keeping up….

Well, to no surprise you’re getting the next blog a month later…I give up on saying I’ll write soon because it never happens, but such is life and the time I’ve been spending here has definitely been super busy and flying by. But anxious to see my home again and everyone….So some updates…

To let you know where I’m at in my research and then I’ll back track a bit…I’m currently wrapping things up here in Quito after being in Tabacundo for 3 weeks to do the interviews and focus groups. I loved being in Tabacundo (in Pedro Moncayo County ~1hr north of Quito), it was relaxing and lovely to feel like I was really in Ecuador (it’s a small town). Anywho, I’ll go into detail of the events and what I did in another entry….And yes, it won’t be another month because I’m leaving here on the 23rd about another week or so.

As for what I did in June and July…well, maybe I’ll do 2 entries for this (definitely for the pics anyway). With the organization I’ve been working with, Cimas, I’ve attended a few community/government meetings in Pedro Moncayo. A little on how things run down here…Pedro Moncayo is one of the many counties in the province of Pinchincha. There are 22 provinces in Ecuador that serve as states. Within each province there are counties and within the counties there are various parroquias (I’m blanking on the word in English). So Pedro Moncayo has 5 parroquias: Tabacundo (the capital and where I stayed), Tocachi, Tupigachi, La Esperanza and Malchingui. There is a governor of the county and several counsel men and women that make up county government. In addition there are parroquial groups that have representation from each parroquia. All of these governments fall under the provincial and national governments; however, in the last 10 years or so, Ecuador has decentralized many of its programs (especially in health and education). The decentralization has come about in efforts of the government to “save” money to pay off the heavy debt that it owes to international banks and businesses. Thus the burden has fallen on local governments to organize themselves to better their own communities.

Needless to say, this has been hard for many counties, but Pedro Moncayo has tried to solve their problems in a different way. I believe they are the first to form another form of government that focuses on community participation. In 2000, the Health Committee (Comité de Salud) was formed in the county and then in 2002 the County Health Counsel (Consejo Cantonal de Salud-CCS) was established to focus on the health challenges of Pedro Moncayo. Those participating in the CCS include the mayor, a director of health, Fundación Cimas and community members from all of the parrioquias. In 2003, the Instituional & Intergral Counsel of Development (Consejo Institutional & Integral de Desarrollo-CIID) was developed to discuss all of the counties problems, not just in the area of health. With these 3 counsels Pedro Moncayo began conducting yearly county assemblies to join the local government in planning for the county’s future. This is a very participatory process, which is unique in Ecuador and has been interesting for myself to see functioning in such a small area. But it is needed as there is no other way for the people to be heard in the government. It is there hope to make real changes that come from the people and not just elected officials, but of course, it is not a perfect process. When I went to one of the meetings of the CIID, there were many people from all sectors present, but the following meeting has less than half the people present. So getting things accomplished has its limits. Nonetheless, it is a start for the county and very new. With time and the help of NGO’s and other organizations this participatory sector of the government will hopefully sige adelante (move forward).

One of the biggest issues now is the access to water in the county and the growing flower industry that is encircling some of the parroquias, namely Tabacundo. At the meeting I attended the issue most pressing was how the new water channel would be divided among the parroquias and the flower plantations (las floricolas) and who would run it. On one side is the local government (el municipio) and las floricolas that want the municipio to be in charge and want the most access to the water. Then there are the people that want to establish a community group to be charge of the water and distribute the water to the people mostly (as of now some parroquias do not have regular access to water and need this new access). Legally, the water should not be run by the municipio, but by the people; however, there is no one enforcing this rule and thus there is this big problem for the county. I sense a bit of corruption and favoring here…perhaps I will see the outcome before I leave, vamos a ver…..

So, I guess that wasn’t much about what I have been doing, but I wanted to set a context for the research and what’s shaking down here. Stay tuned for me. Hope all is well with everyone. I’ll be back soon, ciao!

Now for some pics! Well, here’s some from the meeting of the CIID (Consejo Institutional & Integral de Desarrollo) that I went to in June. This took place in a school in La Esperanza; however, they usually occur in the municipal building and are attended by various actors in the county. I have been to quite a number of other community & government meeting since then. Then I don’t always understand what goes on, but I try and it’s an interesting process to see in action. I’ve also included a photo of Cayambe, one of the many snow-covered peaks of the Andes. How beautiful a view one can see daily. Ok, enjoy the pics!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Aqui estan las photos

Well, not sure why the photos didn´t get loaded onto the last blog. Maybe I wrote too much. Anywho, these are the photos and one more of me in front of La Plaza de Independencia en the Centro Historico in Quito. I´ll have others to show in upcoming entries. Perhaps I´ll do a few entries of just photos of a few trips I´ve taken. Ok, hope all is well and Viva Italia! (That´s for my dad who was in Italy when they won the world cup!)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Where did I leave off?

So, I would like to start by thanking all of you who have written back and who have replied on my blog site:) Buenas noticias make me happy or any contact for that matter. So where did I leave off, oh, yes, from the beginning…yeah, I’m late in getting out these blogs, but things have definitely picked up and of course, what I thought I’d be doing here has changed quite a bit….

Well, from the beginning, after arriving the first night, my host mom, Miriam and my host brother made me feel at home right away. I have to admit, I love my host mom here, she’s just the bomb! The second night she took me out with one of her friends and some other exchange students from the States to a great Cuban bar called Varadero, where we drank mojitos and danced to a live Cuban band (Note the pictures). The following day we went to a place called El Panecillo, which overlooks most of the city. During Christmas time the city displays a manger scene there that can be seen by the entire city, which spans north to south about 35km (~13 miles and growing) and only 3-5km east to west. A very long city, no doubt. Here’s a nice panoramic photo looking north on the city (thanks, mom for taking out the ugly telephone pole).

So, that Monday was my first day at Cimas…I was nervous as I didn’t have the best idea of what I was to do. After a few meetings totally in Spanish my head was tired of trying to comprehend…funny, I thought I was fluent, but I’m not used to hearing constant Spanish spoken around me, even with Antonio, we prefer Spanglish:) Anywho, Dr. Suarez and I sat down and talked about what was to come in the following months (since then things have changed, but you’ll hear about that soon)…pretty much for the first two weeks I did literature review of the effects of pesticides on humans and attended planning meetings about the research and the 3 big projects that will span more than 5 years or so.

The first project, which I am participating in, will last until September. We hope to identify what pesticides are being used the most in Pedro Moncayo (in the agriculture, the flower industry, everyday use), what effects they have on health, who they are affecting the most, what opinions people have about the use of pesticides (general population, flower industry administration, local government, officials of various organizations-PAHO, FAO, etc) and what could be some preliminary steps to better the situation. We will also do database searching and organization of mortality and morbidity in Pedro Moncayo to see what illnesses are most prevalent and they are resulting from pesticide exposure. In the second project, which will take place over the next year, will involve taking surveys about demographics, use of pesticides and their effects, taking samples of water, soil and bodily fluids to determine contamination by pesticides, more in depth research on what health effects have resulted from exposure and more concrete solutions. The third and largest project will involve the implementation of solutions, developing reliable cancer/chronic illness rates in Pedro Moncayo, promotion of better health for the county and the development of national toxicology center, where healthcare students/professions can come to learn and help improve the health of Pedro Moncayo and the country.

Well, over the first two weeks, I came to realize that I would be doing pure public health work (database research, developing questions to use in interviews and focus groups and analysis of data gathered, etc.) and no clinical work. I was a bit disappointed, but I will be doing clinical work the rest of my life and my true purposes in coming were to learn about international public health, research and participate in an effort to better the living and working situation for the people of Pedro Moncayo County. Not to mention get a better hold of my Spanish (which is coming along as I sit in 2-5 hour meetings some days) and travel a bit here.

Thus, I am disappointed with my work here. One thing for anyone going abroad to work, etc., NEVER expect to do exactly what you originally plan. Things ALWAYS change and usually for the better. In my case, I am learning a ton about how to conduct a research project and the history of Ecuador’s globalization (how this has affected public health of the country). I am also able to participate in unique discussion groups that give voice to the people of Pedro Moncayo as they speak on an equal level with local government officials and administrators of the large flower industries among other local figures.

Oh, I could go on, but I won’t, this blog entry is long enough. Plus, I must leave you wanting to read more:). I will most likely be living on and off for the next few weeks in Pedro Moncayo (about 1 hr north of Quito) to conduct some our interviews and focus groups for the project to get opinions and gather info on pesticide use. I will keep you updated as to what will happen, though. Also, I have ventured out a few weekends to visit the beautiful country of Ecuador and yes…I have gone salsa dancing a few times here and even participated in a fun festival in Pedro Moncayo. Oh, yeah, it’s been interesting living here during the World Cup as Ecuador is obsessed with their soccer!! But I will write about those fun times in my next blog entries with more pics:P

I hope you enjoyed this entry and will be back for more! Take care all and you’ll hear from me soon. I hope to hear from you as well:)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

And so the saga begins…

Buenos tardes a todos! So, here I continue my tale of me in Ecuador…Well, as I said in the last entry, I started out to a rough start. Of course, I planned my trip with ample time to spare and get enough sleep…yeah, right…if you know me well, you can imagine what my last week was like. Running around trying to do last minute things and the preparation for my research here that I should’ve done about a month ago, but for me there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all…

So there I was, 11pm the night before I was to leave and I was still packing…My brother, Ian was getting ready for bed because we had to get up at 4am to catch my flight at 6:21am. Antonio was waiting patiently as he does for me all the time while I packed up my last things. Then Sam (Samantha Pace for those that don’t know my great friend from med school) stopped by in her timely fashion to say goodbye and give me some useful supplies for my trip (cutter for those malaria ridden-mosquitoes, some space saver packing bags-I needed those with all my stuff and some other goodies). Finally, about 1am or so I was done with my packing…who needs sleep anyway, I thought…uhhh…me (I didn’t have much those previous few days)…

Well, 4am came early and I thought, “ok, I’ll be fine”…but I was definitely DEAD TIRED!!! “Ok, I’ll sleep on the plane”, I said to myself. Antonio and Ian helped me get my stuff in the car as I gathered all my thoughts, fears, emotions in my head as I closed the door to my apartment. I thought, “Am I really leaving for 3 months?” That morning it felt like I was leaving for 3 years (how your emotions come out with little sleep)…Needless to say, I was a bit sad (ok, I cried a lot)…After all, I just had gotten engaged, but I wanted to do this adventure and I wasn’t turning back…

Anywho, we arrived at the airport with only a few minutes to spare…ooops… with an international flight your suppose to be 2 hours early…I thought since I had such a long layover in Miami I was golden with 45 minutes ahead of time. Not said the flight attendant…well, I made it and was on my way. I grabbed a bite to eat in the airport and then hopped on the flight…I thought, “A banana and muffin should hold me over until Miami...” What a mistake that all was. I ended up almost passing out 30 minutes before we landed in Miami due to a lot of things, but mostly my blood sugar was way low. They called the paramedics to meet me at the gate…the two friendly medics took my blood pressure, which was very low, but I’m an athlete…then they took an EKG and thought I should take a visit to the local ER because my sinus rhythm was a bit slow. I probably should have said no and just went to get something to eat and rest in a corner somewhere, but I was a bit emotional at that point and off I went to the Panamerican (look the name up) Hospital about 2 minutes away…so much for my layover plans to the beach...I’ll have to go on my way home. Of course, everyone was speaking Spanish to me, so I felt like I was already in Ecuador, except for the Puerto Rican accents….Well, I ended up getting some tests and some needed sleep and absolutely terrible food (I ate it all, though, cause I was starving at that point). Hope my insurance covers me for expenses out of my normal coverage area...

Well, I caught my connecting flight to Ecuador and arrived safely with my host mom and brother waiting for me. I made an immediate connection with both of them and have been so happy and blessed to have gotten such a wonderful family to stay with. My host mom’s name is Miriam and her son is Francisco and it’s so nice I can communicate with them well. So we’ve had some good times this week and much laughter…what a difference from how I thought it might turn out…just need to trust in the Big guy a bit more, I know…

So there ends my long saga of getting here and here is a pic of my host mom and her son. Hope you’ll keep in touch and keep reading my blogs. Next to come is a little something about my first week or so here, so stay tuned. It’s been a blast so far and I’m getting used to life here, but there still many adventures to be had and you will here about many of them. Take care for now and que Dios le bendiga a ustedes! Hasta pronto, Ciao!!

PS Sorry no pictures, they wouldn´t load on this entry..ggrrrrr...I´ll add a bunch next time.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ya llege!

Hola todos!

So this is my first entry…a little late in coming as I should have been journaling before I left the county, but alas…being late, hmm….sounds familiar to me! I know most of you reading can remember a time or two or three or four when I’ve been late in doing something or more likely, getting somewhere! But you love me anyway.

Ok, well, do address some of the feelings I was going through as I prepared for this trip….I was excited, nervous, anxious, doubtful, hopeful, but most of all bien alegre! Thanks to many people, I was able to take this opportunity to come to Ecuador and join in efforts to understand how, why, where and what kind of disparities exist among the people here.

But before I get into what I´m doing here in Ecuador, I must first make an announcement to all that don´t know. On May 14th, in front of my family Antonio Maldonado asked for my hand in marriage. Yes, that´s right, I am engaged and we are planning our wedding for next July 7th, 2007 (lucky sevens! We didn´t plan that by the way) en Hermosillo, Mexico. We hope some of you can make it, but you´ll hear more on that later. For now you can see one of the pictures my mom took as she was her normal camera-happy self taking photos of the moment.

And on to other things…For those that I did not get a chance to talk to about my trip before leaving, I will be working for the next three months with a non-profit, development organization called Fundación Cimas del Ecuador ( The organization is located in the captital, Quito, but researches and works with communities a little ways north in a county called Pedro Moncayo, which is one of the poorest in Ecuador. In the past decade or so, the organization has noticed a significant increase in chronic illness and cancer among those living in the county compared to other areas of the country. In that time there has also been an increase in the number of flower factories (floricultoras) in the area and they are a very lucrative export for Ecuador. Because this industry exports roses to the States and other countries, the flowers need to be undamaged by insects and other organisms. Thus the use of pesticides/herbicides/insecticides have been used exposing workers to very hazardous conditions. Not all of these “floricultoras” misuse and expose their workers to hazardous amounts of pesticides, but the idea of using these chemicals has spread to use on local farms to keep pests from ruining crops and within household settings for other reasons. Thus, the entire population is affected by the use of these chemicals in addition to those working in these floriculturas.

So….this is where I come in…yeah…back to talking about me (hee:P)…In preparation for a more formal investigational study, I will be doing a lot of groundwork for Cimas. In short, I will first be doing some review of other studies/research papers/etc to identify which cancers are related to exposure to pesticides. Then we will use a national cancer registry and interview many residents of Pedro Moncayo to identify those who have been affected by cancer. With this information and the results of more in depth physicals for those identified with a chronic illness, we hope clarify what is causing these illnesses among the residents of Pedro Moncayo. More importantly, the goal is to obtain accurate and substantial evidence that change needs to take place in order to protect a population of workers and families who are unjustly exposed to toxic chemicals….

And so I will step off my soap box…but I digress…you will hear more about this as there is a lot that I did not include and much more that I have yet to learn. But for now, if you are still reading, these are my beginnings here…Oh, I almost forgot….oh, but I will tell you in my next blog about my arrival (somewhat of a traumatic experience) and host family…hmmm…I bet your interested enough to come back and read some more!!

So I leave you all for now, but here is a picture of me on my first day next my house that my host brother, Francisco took. What beautiful mountains, huh? Not to mention the nice cool weather, although I could go for some hot days after a cold Minnesota winter. Ciao, mis amigos (that’s what they say here) and we’ll be in touch soon! Take care and God bless.

Hello all again!

So I don´t know why my pictures didn´t load in the last blog, but I but I´ve added them to this entry, so I hope you enjoy. Anywho, I will be posting a bit more regularly, so keep in touch! Take care and I hope all is well.