Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Life in Chelmsford

Some of you have been wondering what I've been up to since arriving back from Ecuador. 7/9.

Well, as is typical JLee, I sleep about 12 hours a day (awesome!) and wake up at noon consistently. I then play around with my laptop (yay HP) for a few hours while also doing chores and errands in my house. Lately that time has been apartment hunting in Pittsburgh, which is strangely both annoying and exciting (i've never really looked for a place on my own before!). I'll be rooming with Mirat Shah another MIT student going to Pitt Med this year. As for the other waitlists, though things had previously looked "optimistic", apparently all waitlists have been "spookily" stable this year and no one has been really taken off. So I'm getting psyched for Pitt and learning a lot more about the school and its programs.

The Pitt FB group has also been inviting to me to all these awesome orientation events including a boat cruise (pitt has 3 rivers), an artsy museum crawl (home of andy warhol), white water rafting!!!, an amusement park visit and more.

In the afternoon I usually read (Pitt sent me the book " complications" by Gawande, a book about imperfect medicine) or bake (I've made banana and zucchini bread, yum). I then take a run around my town in the late afternoon, but generally that is quickly exhausting due to heat.
Then my parents come home and I cook delicious asian food with my mom or go grocery shopping (my family is very food-centered). Evenings wrap up with some online chatting, magazine reading, or PBS watching.

Some days I'll go with my dad to work and spend the day at MIT having lunch with my friends that are still here and then lounging around Baker dorm. It's a pretty relaxing summer.
Today, I brought a big birthday cake to MIT and invited 20 friends to come celebrate with me tonight, it's a good excuse to bring everyone together :D.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ecuadorian Food :) YUM

Of course, trying new food has been a big part of this trip.

Christina and I absolutely love the fresh fruits and vegetables available here. They are so abundant in the summer! They make us pineapple, naranjilla (cross between orange and kiwi), guava, passionfruit, watermelon, tree tomato juices at our hostel and local restaurants. Salads are also very popular here and avocado is used heavily :).

Christina's favorite fruit- narajilla (no english name). Very delicious in juices.

However, local ecuadorians seem to prefer heavier, fried foods- alot of main courses involve rice, beans, heavy meats, french fries, fried plantains etc. It's pretty hearty and definitely fills you up. Thank goodness we hike around enough that I think the calories have not yet accumulated... famous last words.

Ecuadorian things we were told to try include-

Humitas - tamale-like , cornmeal with cheese in the middle Also interesting to note is that soups or sopas are popular and that ecuadoraisn like putting popcorn in their soups ! kinda like oyster crackers...


Today we met up with our third team mate who has been in Ecuador for a bit working on our same project. Her name is Jean and she's a sloanie! We had a super productive day of meeting with the local medical school and working out a scholarship for the indigenous students that may want to study medicine further. Later at night we were able to meet a shaman from the community who is pretty well educated.
We asked him questions for about 2 hours, his views on Western medicine melding with traditional shaman work were something we really wanted to know. He basically has complete faith in his healing capabilities and will only use Western medicine as a supplement to his knowledge. He told us tales of curing cancer, AIDs, and TB with his unique abilities. It is truly something that is almost unbelievable and we had to wonder how much it was luck, faith, or just belief that a sickness was cured. He was very curious about our own backgrounds (our team is all asian!) and how we have delt with melding asian medicinen with american techniques.

We interviewed with the shaman late into the night and caught a quick dinner only to be in the midst of a hugely important soccer game! We watched as Ecuador beat Brazil for the first time in history in the Copa Libertadores. Thousands of people were in the square we were eating in and Ecuadorians were jumping and screaming, singing, chanting during the whole game! I've never seen such excitement over soccer. We happily hung out with the rioters as they drunkenly cheered in the streets. Flags and shirts were waving everywhere, and by the end of the night I knew some chants. The celebrations lasted long into the night. :)

Publish PostThe team!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Guayasamin and Quito Nightscapes

Today Christina and I hiked up big hill (high altitude + out of shapeness = huffing and puffing) to see the two museums dedicated to the art of Ecuadorian, Guayasimin. I found his art very interesting, often grotesque, but all in all the experience was more visually powerful than a lot of American art I've seen.

Guayasamines has a lot of pictures involving his trademark hands.
This museums were very well organized, and I enjoyed my time at both of them.

After visiting the museums, we went to the museum cafe and had our first empanada! Mine was cheese filled and Christina had one with meat. The view every where from Quito is spectacular. I know I keep on saying how beautiful the montain and clouds are...but this is a picture of the view from the museum that was pretty breathtaking.

While eating empanadas we met Frank, a young guy volunteering in Guayiquil. Every traveler we meet here has some interseting life stories. Frank (though he looks hip and very californian frat guy) worked in a seminary for two years, currently volunteers in Ecuador with HIV/AIDs kids and families and wants to work in a faith related occupation for the rest of his life.

Thanks to his excellent recommendation, we had dinner with him at Ecuador's "top of the hub" which was open air. We could see all of "Old Town" sparkling in the valley as well as the lit old town buildings. I tried Ecuadorian specialties- a humita (think tamale filled with cheese), locra de papas (potatoe soup with cheese and avocado), morocho (warm mikly drink with corn and raisins, like rice pudding). It was a wonderful night and we were treated with a live latin band which we stayed to listen to.

Old town during the day- isn't quito gorgeous?
Old town at night, so beautiful. It gets chilly at night here so they turned on these heat lamps that looked dangerous...