Pijal Experience - A perspective

{Originally posted August 27th, 2013}

My first encounter with the mission group from Plano, Texas, was when they were having breakfast in the hotel in Otavalo. Blanca presented me as the German girl who would do the translations for them. Some of them looked at me skeptically. A German translating from Spanish to English?

However, after very little time, we came to see that we did not only understand each other's language, but also our hearts were the same. Needless to say, there were some misunderstandings: Our English might have been the same, but our accents were quite different and although our cultures were similar, the German perfectionism seemed really strange to US Americans.

On the first day we went to Pijal to see “our” community the first time. We also met Encarnación, our boss in Pijal, and many other people of the community like the evangelical pastor of community. For the US people it was a long event, but for those accustomed to Ecuadorian events it seemed rather short.

Ronnie And Paul Helping Patient

The next morning we went to the eye clinic to start our first day of work. We all had a specific role: Silveria, Lisa and I were the translators, Mary the queen of the glasses and Mark the king of the computer. Rebecca and Jenni were the receptionists, Paul was the person to go to with every kind of problem, and Jessica, Corey, Ronnie and Chet the fitters of the glasses. Besides, there were a lot of other things we had to do like find the perfect glasses for everybody, put eye drops in the patient’s eyes, or calm down the young girls who thought that wearing a pair of glasses meant the end of the world.

The work was very interesting and in the course of time we thought of other ways to optimize our work. We decided to eat at the places we worked (we were the vagabonds of the group as we always had to move to a different place each day) to have more time for the patients. Moreover, at the end of the week I was seated between two fitters to translate for both of them at the same time. For the women who were not able to read, Lisa had a very good idea: We organized a needle and a thread for them to try out their glasses by doing their traditional work, sewing.

The mission group from Plano did a very good job and the people also learned a few phrases of Spanish and found other very creative ways to communicate with the people from Pijal. Still, Lisa and I weren't superfluous: We were not only translating languages, but also cultures. How could anyone of the group know that for many people there is a difference between adios and chao, or that in the indigenous communities many boys have braids?

Ronnie And Paul Helping Patient

On the last day of work everyone was a bit stressed out. The place wasn't perfect, there were too many people waiting to be attended by us, and after work some of us were witnessing a small drama outside of our clinic. A totally dehydrated woman needed the help of our doctor Jan. It seemed that she only drank a little bit of water over the last several days, but took too many Ibuprofen pills. With the medical help of Jan and Hailey, the explanations of some women of the community, and my translations, we brought her with Marilyn's car to her husband so that he could take care of her and give her water on a regular basis. Maybe we couldn't take part in the closing events, but we did what we came for: serve the people who need us.

It was fun spending time with the group because of their kindness and the different characters: Some of them were funny like Doug, merry like Silveria, or flirts (especially with the little girls) like Corey. We'll see how many hearts this one took with him to the United States. ;-) I don't think I'll ever forget my time with them and I'm sure that not only the people from Pijal profited from us, but also we from them. Therefore, I hope that we will all meet again in two years, working together in order to further improve life in the communities of Ecuador.

Isabelle Tyrasa