Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just a Photo? Think Again.

Despite having been here for 9 months, I am still surprised everyday at the little cultural differences that pop up. So let me just tell you this little story. Hondurans hate and I mean hate their photos being taken (at least the majority of the employees in the clinic). A lot of the people here are very shy and have what we refer to here as “pena”, or are embarrassed a lot. So yesterday, I had to take all the employees’ photos for an identification card for Shoulder to Shoulder. I made an announcement at a clinic wide meeting last Friday saying that this Tuesday was “Photo Day” and that everyone should come to work well-groomed to take a picture (even though they already all do that on a daily basis). I thought that telling everyone a few days in advance would alleviate some of their embarrassment, allow them to prepare and primp, etc.…. boy was I wrong! I had people hiding from me, people who refused to take the photos when others were watching, and people who made me redo it 4 or 5 times even though this will just be a little picture on a card. What should have taken an hour at most ended up taking the entire day, as I would have to ask multiple times/ even beg for people to take a photo. Now I know no one likes his or her individual photo taken, but doing it in Honduras takes this dislike to a whole other level. What I don’t understand is that the doctors in the clinics are continuously taking photos on their phones and modeling for each other to post on Facebook, hmmmm the irony of it all! But again, I am reminded that nothing is quite as easy as it seems! Sometimes all I can do is smile and laugh even though I don’t understand. Happy Holy Week! I will write after my little vacay. :-)
A little pic from a recent hike in Santa Lucia, hoping this will all be green soon!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lessons from Salty Water, Bug Bites, and the Art of Rural Medicine

 This past week, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a wonderful group of people in a little community, Agua Salada (in English known as Salty Water), away from modern distractions.  Through getting to know this group, both Americans and Hondurans, I realized just how much I could learn from the people that I have come into contact with here. Whether it was the third year resident who served in Afghanistan and worked as a flight nurse for twenty years and went back to medical school at the age of 45 or the woman who has nine kids, is pregnant with her tenth, and walked hours to get the clinic, the resilience of the human spirit is truly astounding. We all fight our own battles but who we are, in a sense, is our stories and I was so grateful to get to share and listen to these stories with both community members from Agua Salada and the brigade members of the University of Wyoming.
Kate, Peter, and I on the hike to the Agua Salada waterfall
The week was spent running clinic out of the local Catholic church, doing home visits for those patients who couldn’t make it to the clinic, and educating local elementary students about proper hand washing, teeth brushing, and sun protection. We also hiked to two waterfalls, which was a refreshing activity during the heat of the dry season! Working alongside the community members, I was once again reminded that nothing is quite as easy as it seems and that even though the help we provide seems wonderful at first glance, there are often many unintended consequences. With the construction of the new clinic, this includes local struggles for power, putting the blame on others, and once again, the sense of entitlement that can come from the extension of aid. But I am just reminded that we are all human and when it comes down to it, across all cultures and countries, we are all more alike than different.
A group shot at the waterfall

The local elementary students rocking their new shades after a talk on sun protection
 I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Agua Salada community though and I am excited for the future clinic. We have had countless meetings talking about what the clinic means for the community and how it can benefit the surrounding communities as well. There is a local committee that will include representatives from all of the outlying communities who will work alongside Shoulder to Shoulder to make the decisions, prepare for the brigades, and promote health in their respective places. While I will not be here to see the finished project, it has truly been a great learning experience to see the progress and all that goes into the construction of a new building. It takes many hands, materials, and minds for something that at face value seems so simple. 
One of the future buildings of the clinic
 I have also become close with Emeldo (the president of the local committee whom we work with) and his brother Leopoldo and I will be sad to goodbye to them in a few short months. I have worked with them to plan the brigade and they were literally there to help us everyday during the brigade, taking out the trash, cleaning up after us, guiding us to home visits, and making sure we had everything we needed. The hospitality of their family toward me was truly something! I already have plans to go back and visit Agua Salada (it’s about an hour and 45 minutes from where I live) before I leave.
Relaxin' in a hammock at Emeldo's house

Emeldo, his wife, and their granddaughter and I on the last night
Now that I'm back, everything here seems a little more quiet as I am not with the brigade at all hours of the day but I am working with the education project again. The first week of April is Semana Santa (which in Honduras is code for finding any body of water to cool off in) but I will be heading to Copan Ruinas, the site of the Mayan ruins in Honduras with a few people from the clinic. Supposedly tourist activity has picked up this year due to it being 2012...dun dun dun! It should be interesante. I hope this finds everyone well in their respective places! Paz.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Life as of Lately.....

 “It’s terrible and wonderful, but it’s true: we’re all in the same boat. That’s the consolation. It’s not just me who’s scared and lonely and worried and isn’t sure how to help myself. We don’t know how to help ourselves’ but there is one thing we do know how to do. We know how to help each other.”
 Colin Beavan, No Impact Man
 I love this quote and just wanted to share it!  Soooo… today I’m not really feeling like writing too much! So I just wanted to update some pictures with a little summary of my life the past few weeks to keep everyone in the loop.

Baking pumpkin muffins (yummmm!)  in the clinic
 Things here have been pretty….slow and simple, but as it should be! Now, with the Peace Corps pulling out, we have a new travel policy and are forbidden to go anywhere out of the area on public transportation. Kind of a bummer, considering there were parts of Central America and Honduras I would have to liked to see but that’s life. The truth is that the majority of people who live here never get to leave due to limited economic resources, so I have absolutely nothing to complain about. And we will be able to travel a little still!
Sunrise hike in Santa Lucia
I have started working in the library again! It’s so great to see the kids everyday.

We went to the beach in El Salvador with a group of doctors and dentists from the clinic here. We took two trucks and put a mattress in the back of one of them and stayed at an all-inclusive resort for a night on the beach in a town called Salinitas. We ate too much, danced a lot, and enjoyed the beach and the pool, it was a great getaway in all. El Salvador has paved roads and uses US dollars, so I couldn’t complain!

My roommate and I at the resort in El Salvador

The group from the clĂ­nica at the beach

Out for the night with Amy, Flor (my dentist roommate) and Victoria (a doctor at the clinic)
 Tomorrow I leave to go pick up the University of Wyoming brigade in the capital city, Tegucigalpa. I will be with them at a little community called Agua Salada where we stay at a school and run the clinic through the church. They are currently building a clinic that should be completed by this summer. I'm excited to go back and see the people I met in November, it should be a nice change of scenery for me and will be nice to be completely away from technology for a little over a week!

The University of Wyoming clinic in Agua Salada
 I hope this finds you all well and know I am thinking about everyone at home! More to come after the brigade.