Monday, October 19, 2009

Nutrition, Art, and Everything in Between

This week's guest blog comes from Sonia Patel (or Soña as the library kids like to write), our token vegetarian. For a petite person, Sonia's laugh and/or screams can be heard all the way from the apartment. Sonia leads weekly inspirational nutrition charlas, helps run Art class, goes out of her way on a daily basis to make sure she does not step in animal feces, AND is in the process of applying for Med school. Not to mention, wrote us a guest blog during quarterly report week. For all of these reasons as more, I adore her and after reading this I know you will too!

Krysta, Sonia, Dunc and Shawn way back when in Mindo

"When I first came to Ecuador, I reveled in the beauty that surrounded me, from the geographical setting of the Andes Mountains to the colorful clothing of another culture. There was so much to observe and reflect upon that during my first couple of weeks, I found myself exhausted and ready for bed at 7:30p.m. much like a newborn baby. As time passed, I metaphorically grew up; my senses were no longer faced with a slew of new sounds, sights, and smells left time and energy for a more productive organ: my brain.

Deciding which major to pursue at the University of Virginia, was one of the most conflicting and confusing tasks I had to accomplish, precisely because there were too many options. In my biology classes, I felt as if a philosophical background would soften scientific thinking. While in the economics classes, I know that a sociological study would strengthen economic theories centered on human behavior.

I was finally absolved of the restrictive feelings and college mandate of specialization when I began working for Manna. Anything was possible and like a greedy child on Thanksgiving I piled a varied assortment on my plate: I'm working with Sarah on opening a preventative health clinic, co-teach Children's Art classes with Chet, giving nutrition presentations before Haley's yoga classes, occasionally acting as Jackie's gardening partner, shadowing the emergency room at the public Sangloqui hospital and supporting Krysta on the beginnings of a nutrition program at Aliñambi.

Such an agenda provides for constant knowledge and entertainment. For instance, I learned that doctors are required to work for a year in rural communities, most Ecuadorian meals are not balanced with enough vegetables, Jackie accidently killed (and mourned) the one worm we found for composting, and that in every art class one particular girl will cut out her drawings and hang them by a string of yarn.

However, using that productive brain doesn't completely suppress the inner child within. Whether it is indulging myself in the pleasures of a Magnum ice cream bar (America you are really missing out... a comparison to say Haagen-Dazs would only be 10% accurate) or hitting everyone's butt in the Manna house, sometimes my senses, missing that initial onrush, beg for more.

Sonia with some of her fellow health programmers

[ Side note: apologies for the list of activites. It's specifically meant for my family. It's funny how during our Skype conversations, they congratulate me more for learning how to cook (shh.. don't tell them about than for working on programs. ]

- Sonia"