Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bucket Showers, Clorox in My Nalgene, Beautiful Sunsets = Time Passing By in the Blink of An Eye

Forgive me for not writing for so long! By the time I realized it was October, it was gone! Hmmmm…where to start?
In Mid-October, it rained and it rained a lot. We’re talking the whole south of Honduras in a state of emergency, landslides galore, trees falling down on the road, and not seeing the sun for almost two weeks. Life here kind of stopped, the buses weren’t running, the power went out frequently, and school was canceled since the roads were muddy and some parts were submerged in water so they were too dangerous to cross. And then what happened? It stopped. The sun came out, the roads dried up and it hasn’t rained in this region of Honduras since and it most likely won’t rain until May. How’s that for an abrupt change?  I already miss the rain and wearing my sweater, not a good sign for the next 6 months!
On October 20th, we picked up the University of Rochester at the airport and we rode in trucks (still unable to brave the roads in a bus) to a community called San Jose, which is located about two hours away from where I stay in Santa Lucia. This little community is tucked away in the mountains and was my home for the past two weeks.  We stayed in a house specifically built by the University of Rochester for a future volunteer and did not have electricity and running water but it was wonderful (hence the title of bucket showers and Clorox in our drinking water for extra measure)! Everyday started around 7:30 for breakfast and then we hiked to schools to do a project with the kids, went to houses to see patients (we helped with a machete wound and ankle injection), and the residents also stayed in the clinic to attend patients. It was a great learning experience to see the relationships that the University of Rochester has built with the community as they have been coming there twice a year for eight years.  They do microfinance projects (we met with a few women who have started fruit selling businesses and paid back their loans in full with interest!), build latrines, build cook stoves with chimneys to reduce the rate of respiratory diseases, and have recently started with fish farms as a means to support the families who own the farms and the idea is to eventually sell the fish for profit. The community is much poorer than the one I live in Santa Lucia. No one has electricity, most homes are made of wood with dirt floors, and there are few roads, which limits access to school and other amenities. It was great to be stationed right in the community for two weeks getting to know the families, loving the technology free life, and hiking around on beautiful mountain trails. I am truly so lucky to get to be meeting all of these dedicated and idealistic people. The family medicine residents were so convincing…they almost convinced me to be a doctor…almost that is. 

The San Jose scholarship students and their parents

The students at the local elementary school lined up to sing the Honduran National Anthem before class
 Several of the more notable incidents that happened during my time in San Jose were (almost) seeing a birth and the Day of the Dead. The night before Halloween, I was standing out on the road talking on the phone to my sister Erin, when I saw a bunch of lights approaching in the distance. Thinking it was a custom for Day of the Dead, I kept talking. As they approached, I realized they were carrying someone in a hammock and were calling for a doctor. It turns out, they walked four hours up steep mountain hills with a woman who was in labor. About twenty people accompanied her to the clinic and then turned around to make the four-hour trek back. Her family, a midwife, and a few others stayed and the residents broke her water and coached her through her contractions. I thought I would be able to see my first live birth but unfortunately as her contractions were too far apart after two hours, we called a truck to take her to the nearest hospital in La Esperanza about two hours away. We put a mattress in the back of a truck and she rode on the bumpy roads with a midwife, talk about a way to make the baby come sooner! We saw her two days later and her and her baby were healthy and doing well!
The sunset with the volunteer house we stayed at in the foreground
Working hard (or hardly workin') at the pharmacy
Hiking in the mountains to one of the school visits
Also, another interesting cultural tradition I witnessed was Day of the Dead. November 2nd here is the day to celebrate deceased loved ones. In Honduras, this celebration lasts nine days. All of the families get together to walk to the cemetery and they bring gifts and the favorite food of their deceased family members to the cemetery to remember and celebrate their lives. The cemeteries here are very colorful and full of fake flowers and this tradition was very interesting to observe. It’s a great way for the whole community to unite and they all walked the multiple miles to the cemetery together, remembering those who have passed away, something I think we don’t do enough of in our busy lives. Overall though, it was wonderful being nestled in a little community getting to know its people, its problems, and its customs and I was sad to see the University of Rochester brigade leave!
The University of Rochester grupo in front of the clinic in San Jose
 After they left, I got to spend a few days in the city and then went to the airport to pick up the Montana State University brigade. There are twelve undergraduate nursing students and some faculty and we are staying at the clinic about an hour away from my home base. So far we have done a lot of home visits and given educational talks about multiple health issues. This weekend I will go to another community about an hour away with the University of Wyoming and will be with them until November 20th. Clearly, life here is busy and flying by a little faster than I would like it to but I am loving it and know I am thinking of you all!

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