Karla’s Nine Lessons Learned as a Water Ecuador Summer Volunteer

karlaClosing out my third week in Archidona, Ecuador, I’ve had a little time to adjust, readjust, and reflect on my internship thus far. As a Public Health Intern with both Water Ecuador and Runa Foundation, I’ve been working on a study to determine the quality of water that is bottled and distributed here in Archidona and also in the neighboring city of Tena.

Additionally, we’ve been conducting surveys to better understand water usage and health in these communities.  For me, one of the most exciting parts about this internship was getting the opportunity to work out in the community—interacting with people and gathering data first hand. As can be expected in only the best of internships, there’s been a bit of a learning curve. So, to illustrate what I’ve been up to for the past three weeks, I’ll share with you some of my favorite lessons learned:

1. A 20 L bottle of water is heavy. It is also an excellent exercise for your biceps.

2. You can turn any place into a laboratory with enough elbow grease and a little passive aggressive signage.

3. In terms of conducting community surveys, some people are really (really) comfortable with long (really….. long) silences. (My inner monologue starts panicking: Did they hear me? Did they understand me? Did I actually say anything or did I just imagine it?)

4. Other folks have a lot to say. (I am very happy to hear that you have reunited with your estranged aunt and that she is visiting you tomorrow, but the question was about where your drinking water comes from…?)

5. No matter how serious your serious face is, every once in a while, someone will still giggle when you mention diarrhea.

6. Rejection hurts less the more often you are rejected. (Ahem. You, sir, relaxing in your hammock on your front porch—you certainly don’t seem muy ocupado, but I will take your word for it.)

7. Mostly, folks are incredibly hospitable—offering us anything from a chair to sit on to a glass of water to a soothing lotion for our numerous and horrendous bug bites.

8. Oh. Yeah.  Bug bites. Everything in the Amazon is trying to eat you. If you are wondering if an insect will bite you, the answer is yes. (Luckily, if you are wondering if you will die from said insect bite, the answer is usually no… usually.)

9. More than anything, I’ve learned the importance of “being a sponge”—so to speak. I’m here to work, yes. But I’m also here to learn. And there is certainly no shortage of things to learn.

Until next time,


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