Thursday, January 19, 2012

Observations about the Ecuadorian life - by Ron Benjamin

Trying to see patience

There is an air of familiarity as I become more accustomed to my surroundings. I don´t know what to make of certain practices, however. When waiting for the bus stop, it is best to have a woman get on last because the bus driver doesn´t start moving if a woman is still getting on, otherwise it´s that man for himself. In the bus itself, people bump into others without thinking twice about it. No one gets up for the elderly woman or pregnant mother with children. I think if these are how a desperate people act, or simply survival instincts.

At the leprosy clinic I am fortunate to work with Dr. Martinez who has specialized in the disease. He calls in a patient who not only had Leprosy, but Leprosy Type 2, where red nodules encompass his entire body. His skin is dark, peeling, and he is a mere 95 lbs. The doctor tests his sensation by making him close his eyes and tell him if it´s a sharp or dull pain he is feeling. There is no response. The doctor looks at me and says, he feels nothing in this hands or feet. I think about how the other leprosy patients at least still have the pleasure to laugh from a foot tickle, but this patient seems removed, both from sensation and our current conversation. ¨He doesn´t want to take his medication¨, the doctor finally interrupts the silence. ¨Why not?¨ I ask. ¨It makes his skin darker, and that isn´t a good thing here¨. I´ve read about this. The darker the skin still symbolizes a status of class and though this man is in an isolated Leprosy clinic, these things must still matter to him. ¨He doesn´t care about getting better?¨. The doctor looks at him and then looks at me. Enough has been said.

On the bus back home I am standing in the entrance because the main cavern is simply too overcrowded. I see a woman with her daughter by her side get on the bus. She squeezes in and tries to hold a stable stance but the bus veers and she and her daughter nearly fall into a seated passenger. When I look again, I see a woman has moved over, and a seat has opened up for the mother. I wonder how this can be and see that there are now two mothers with their children on their laps, and understand there must be an unwritten rule between two mothers. I smile at the one who made room by putting her daughter on her lap. Patience is tried here, but it is also rewarded, I think to myself.

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