Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Timbara, Zamora, and that Time I Got Super Sick From Amoebas

Currently, I am sitting in the warmth and comfort of my Cuenca house, with a strong cup ofcedrón. We returned from Timbara hardly a few hours ago and, though I grew very close to my Timbara family, I was glad to be back in Cuenca. Timbara is about 20 minutes from Zamora and is a jungle paradise (though some of my fellow interns may disagree). The lush greenery and humid backdrop of the area seemed to be out of a storybook. Every morning, my open window would give way to a beautiful view of nearby mountains with wispy, low clouds hugging the thick tangles of vegetation. The air was heavy and smelled like earth but had a certain appeal. At any given point, there was a high chance of rain and the fresh mud and potholes of water prompted the need for rain boots (I have never had to wear rain boots before, so I was excited; in fact, I think I wore the boots everyday even when there was no rain).

Our first day in Timbara started off with getting caught in a torrential downpour (I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say that). My Timbara host mom, host sister, Austin, and I took temporary shelter underneath a poorly constructed shed en route to our house but quickly realized the architectural flaw of having holes in the corrugated metal roofing. We decided to run and stepped into our house, soaked, cold, and muddy; one of us slipped and fell in the road with a 30 kg bag strapped to our back (I won’t give any details, but the poor kid’s name started with an “A” and ended in “-nand”). Regardless, I thought it was a wonderful way to become acquainted with Timbara. My Timbara host mom, Maria “Panchitza”, is a sweet lady with a stooped stature and wide smile. She owns a tienda in the corner of the village and her children help her with daily operations. Her husband is a gold miner in a nearby village and commutes two hours daily (I was particularly interested in Juan’s work, but he was very hesitant to tell me details). The family owned a large area of land behind the house and I was often there to pick fresh fruits or simply take in the beauty. A large creek ran through the property and my family had a small pond where they raised tilapia by trapping them with a net at the mouth of the pond. Low-hanging papayas and bananas were my late-night snacks (at the risk of slipping into the river) and Kira, the puppy, was my companion during many early morning walks.

Timbara was fun because there was no shortage of paths and hikes. Approximately twenty minutes from our house, a gorgeous waterfall erupted from a dense expanse of green. With my trusty, knee-high rain boots, I felt invincible and would often wade into the river and simply stand there, feeling the force of thousands of gallons of water rushing past my dry feet, gently pushing the rocks and sediments below. Listening to the roar of the waterfall, hardly twenty feet away, while watching the water silently flow over my boots was an oddly relaxing and humbling experience.
Near the end of my stay in Timbara, I became horribly sick. I could not hold down food and I was losing weight by the pounds per day. When I went to the doctor, he barely looked at me before concluding that I had amoebas, “like the rest of Ecuador.” Cool. I was on antibiotics for five days and was fine after day four. As the phrase famously goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I would hereby like to slightly change and add on to that phrase by saying, “when in Ecuador, do as the Ecuadorians do; get amoebas from drinking the water.”

Before I came to Ecuador and before I saw pictures of Ecuador, I had many preconceived notions about the climate and geography. Timbara was the closest to my preconceived notions. I am glad that Timbara was the last location I visited because it reminded me that I had so many incredible experiences beforehand, before I came across my preconceived idea of what Ecuador was. My mental image of Ecuador may have been accurate, but it was far from the whole picture, literally and figuratively. 

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