It hasn’t been so long since my last update, but I wanted to share a few things:
After six months of house-hopping in California and three months of travelling, I am a migrant no longer. I just moved into my first ever home of my own, a two-bedroom duplex just behind the Health Center where I will be working on the Hopi Reservation in Northern Arizona. The home is truly beautiful, and the housing complex, like the Health Center and everything else around here, is surrounded by a breathtaking expanse of desert, mesas, and sky that extend in every direction as far as the eye can see. Every time I step outside my door or look out my window, I feel so grateful to be alive and present in this extraordinary place. I don’t start work until October 3rd, and I have enjoyed being able to take my time driving around trying to find all the utilities and offices and stores that I will need for life around here in a place where there are no addresses, few street signs, and everything is in a trailer that often has no sign in front of it to identify it as the Water Office, for example.
|My home with a beautiful tree giving great shade|
The other thing to share is that I was finally able to go back and visit Santa Ana, Ecuador, the community where I have been doing water work for the last 10 years although had not visited since 2012. There is now a paved road, a health center, and an “infocenter” which is like a public internet cafe with incredibly slow internet. The community water system still isn’t working, but most families still have the rainwater systems eight or nine or ten years later, which is remarkable. And many families actually asked me for chlorine dropper bottles for water treatment, in contrast to the summer I first went when no one wanted any kind of “chemical” in their water.
|Rainwater tanks on the large covered community area in Santa Ana|
With all this ‘development’, the people are still very passionate about preserving their natural environment, maintaining their language and culture, and working to provide an education and opportunities for their children. It has been fascinating to witness the progression of one community’s effort through all the challenges, contradictions, and complexity, to enact that mythological entity of ‘sustainable development’. In Santa Clotilde, Peru, I was told that many patients had come to the hospital since I left asking for tests for parasites because they heard the water was contaminated, and I helped the environmental health office prepare a grant proposal to install a treatment system at the hospital.
It was gratifying to feel that even after prioritizing medical education over these water projects for so long, that my work over the years has had some positive impacts and that I continue to have a very close connection to these places and the people that mean so much to me as they grow and change. And man do they change. For example, I met Sacha as a 7-year old in the family I lived in the first summer in Santa Ana, at which time she was frequently helping to look after her younger 2 year old twin sisters as well as guide me around the community. Now Sacha is 17 and was elected the “Nusta Warmi” or “Princess” of her community, which means that she is supposed to work with her community’s local government to raise money and provide support for children in Santa Ana. I’ve made a gofundme page to try to help her raise money for school supplies for the primary school children. If you would like to make a donation, she and I would be very grateful: www.gofundme.com/santaana
|Sacha with her "Nusta Warmi" sash|