Saturday, March 1, 2014

End of the trip-Belize

Our last day was a fun day. We went to blue creek and went cave swimming. Highly reccomended. The day culminated with a group dinner at Coleman's cafe and then some card playing with the mcg  folks. 4am bus ride to the airport came a bit too early. Rode about 1/2 way with randy and sort of decompressed about the trip. Although I didn't meet my expectations on the trip - I'd hoped to do more teaching of health workers, of our students and form some meaningful relationships with the people of Belize I did learn numerous lessons. 
I navigated the challenges of traveling with 8 other women of various background and experiences. I experienced atleast 7 different villages in the Toledo district. I listened to two new language and understood none of it. I saw a brand new country via very bumpy roads. I slept in a hammock in the jungle, in huts, health buildings and even a church kitchen. I ate tortillas cooked in front of me on wood stoves while chickens, dogs and cats roamed the house -and inquisitive children watched. I tried new foods such as Caldo, cahoun cabbage, and jippy jappa. I bathed in and river and washed my clothes there. I saw scorpions, tarantulas and heard howler monkeys. I made paper airplanes for kids and showed them photos of snow. I tried to educate women about health issues and performed more Pap smears than I've probably done in my entire career. I leaned how much I appreciate some of the consciences in my world. 
Just like the parable where the man walks on the beach throwing back starfish and someone asks why bother since there are so many I hope something I did affects someone's life, even if just for person. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 6 - Santa Ana to San Marco.

Last night was a bit clammy in my hammock. There were several howler monkeys that seemed to have messed up sleep wake cycles / they howled all night. Sorta sounds like a bad horror film. 

Felt a little blah this morning. Randy and Jono stopes by and grabbed our vehicles in exchange for 15 passenger van. 
We had flap jacks for breakfast breakfast. Think sorta like funnel cakes. I added some sugar for good measure. 

Couldn't quite stomach the beans and chicken. 
Next we headed to the health clinic. This clinic was a bit more well stocked with a pharmacy and several different rooms. There were many protocols for disease treatment that seemed similar to what we see in the states. 

Very few people (4) turned up for Pap smears. We headed out a bit earlier and stopped at a cacao farm - delicious chocolate. We then headed to San Marco eating out to go burritos in the car. 

At San Marco we stayed with our interpreter - yucinias - family. We bathed, swam and washed clothes by the creek. There were tons of minnows they seemed to be attracted to the soap and kept nipping at us. 
We did a health presentation which was chaotic at best. All the school children kept trying to peer in the windows and were very disrespectful. They propositioned one of our group members and made crude comments. Despite multiple attempts to ask them nicely to leave they wouldn't. Afterwards a bit more time by the creeks improved our moods a bit. 
We had tortillas, Cajune cabbage, potatoes, egg/hotdog mixture for dinner. 
Afterward yucinia and her dad sang several songs with guitar music. It was nice. 
The bathroom was interesting. You had to walk through the bull pasture, dodging manure to get there. It was a pit Latrine with a wooden seat. 
Before bed - like 7pm- we went to visit her grandparents. One of her cousins was there and was very pregnant - with contractions every 20 min or so. I advised she should probably go to the hospital :)

Safely in my hammock here. Time for bed. We'll see what tomorrow holds. Plan is for clinic with hillside at 830. Followed by traveling to corazon for a presentation. 

Day 6.75

We were awoken around midnight by someone saying "miss". The pregnant lady was having more regular contractions and thought that it was "time". Shana and I loaded her, her husband and mother in the 15 passenger van to take her to the hospital in PG. We made it to the hospital without any trouble. 
On the way back badness started brewing in my stomach. Despite my extreme care to what I was eating clearly I've failed somewhere. When we got back I ducked under the barbed wire fence, wove my way around the cow dung, hoping to avoid the grazing (or maybe sleeping??) bull and cows on my quest to the pit Latrine. Picture a rickety wooden platform with a diamond cut out shape - a bit too far back so you are committed to sit rather than squat. The door is half covered by an old potato sack. I assumed my half sit and hoped for some relief. About half way in I noticed the hole in front of the latrine contained a large tarantula. I had no choice but to continue my business and hope that it would stay in the hole. I trudged back past the pigs, chickens, cows and dogs to my hammock. By laying very still I was able to withstand the cramping and get a bit of sleep before the next round of rooster calls. 
The saga continued this morning. At one point the cow, bull and calf surrounded the pit latrine...

Day 7 San Marco to corazon

Today was rough. GI bug, sick of non American food, hot and humid...

Between episodes of abdominal cramps and trips to the flush toilet - dirty - but a beautiful sight nonetheless I managed to do 4 or 5 of our 21 Pap smears.

It was a bumpy ride in the 15 passenger bus. I'd made it through about 200cc of pedialyte all day and started to feel a bit hungry so I slowly supplemented with mini Oreos. Did ok with those. 

Rant - if I see another child kick or throw rocks at a dog I'm going to kick them. I can't believe the neglect and abuse of animals here. So sad. 

We had a large turnout today for the presentation. I got task with answering questions afterwards. Sorta reminds me why I don't do primary care. These women repeatedly ask me why their periods are irregular or why they don't bleed with the "injection". One lady who looked to be in her 40s told me she had lower abdominal cramping each month before her period. These topics are pretty taboo in society here but just can't imagine never discussing these things. 
Lots of people came up complaining of years of lower abdominal pain. With no lab capabilities and very jumbled histories due to cultural differences and translation trouble it was pretty frustrating. 

Tonight was Caldo again for dinner. I managed to eat a tortilla. We stopped by the "store" on our way back and I had a sprite. 

Bedtime now. Looks like tomorrow will be a busy day... Hoping I feel better then. 

Day 8 Sunday wood to pg to Laguna

Today was another successful Pap smear day. 21 more done for a grand total of 210. We got some dinner and a bit of touristy shopping in pg after finishing clinic and then had a second dinner in Laguna followed by a local craft show. We got to see the other groups then and catch up. There were lots of stories to share. 
Going to bed in my hammock for second to last night. Howler monkeys are being quite vocal in the background. 
Not quite sure what tomorrow will hold. 
I'm pretty happy with my cold shower here. It was awesome. Finally feel sorta clean. Yay!!

Day 7.5. Scary things

Things were going well. We'd had a good presentation to about 40 women. The kids were well behaved. We'd washed for and washed clothes in the creek. Jono had even left us almond butter. We were all pretty excited about the last day of Pap smears. 
We made it back to the community center with enough time to string our hammocks prior to dinner at 7pm. 
Dadada... Cue creepy music. 
Theresia was looking up at the rafters and noted a scorpion... It was black with small pinchers perched in the rafters. about 12 ft off the ground. Second later Katie alerted us to a large tarantula in the second room. She and shanna quickly took care of the tarantula with some chacos as a plan was formulated to remove the scorpion. Mentally my plan was to get all my stuff closed up and out of there ASAP. Couldn't really recall any wilderness training on scorpions - and felt avoidance was prudent. Minutes later 2 more scorpions were discover in the room with the tarantula. Images of Lara croft tomb raider began going through my head. One of those scorpions was killed - and then Blake found another above the door. A consensus to get all of our stuff out was quickly formed. New sleeping arrangements were a must. A couple of the more adventurous states they'd stay there. I knew I'd have nightmares sleeping there. No way. 

We had a nice Calhoun cabbage with potato like things and corn tortillas at the Acolade's home. Katie, yesenia, and shanna worked some magic and now we are sleeping in their guest house/ room. We all strung up our hammock and are ready for bed...

My only phone resoure about scorpions...Initiate treatment as soon as possible in patients who develop clinically important signs of scorpion envenomation, including but not limited to loss of muscle control, roving or abnormal eye movements, slurred speech, respiratory distress, excessive salivation, frothing at the mouth, and vomiting.
As we found out the emergency department is only open sometimes - and they don't have much as far as medical treatments here not sometime I want to fool with...

Day 5 - Santa Ana

Today was a busy day. After breakfast (beans and tortillas and eggs) - this time I didn't try any of the pepper after I was so suprised by the pepper I added yesterday - I expected black pepper and this was definitely hot pepper. 
We had a bit of time before hillside showed up so we went down and bathed in the river. The water was a bit more murky but still felt nice. We hung out for a bit afterwards. When hillside arrived we broke into 2 groups. I went with Angela to hillside with Tricia and shana. We did 27 Pap smears there. Several ones I did looked abnormal. I'm somewhat disappointed not to get the follow up info about what they find. At the other clinic they managed to do 49 exams. Quite an accomplishment for 4 practitioners in a limited environment. Interesting the misconceptions people have. One lady who was menopausal was concerned the exam could cause her to start to have periods again. Others thought birth control would cause cervical cancer - some thought if they missed too many periods they would explode. 

We hit punta gorda on the way to our next town - Santa Ana and got some gas. It was 10.62 - about 5 per gallon of diesel fuel. 
In Santa Ana we are staying with the chairman. I've finally found a more natural place to hang my hammock and fly. It's between a tree and telephone pole :) 

The property here is beautiful. It's sort of what you'd expect in a rustic Eco lodge. There is a flush toilet with a water tank on top. There is electricity and music. The area we ate used to be a bar. The chairman used to do protocols for some Norwegian company and now has an exotic fruit tree farm. He was telling us a lot about the area and some of the people in the area. He was very well educated and was worldly. His wife made us excellent flour tortillas, fried beans, and eggs mixed with hot dog. Some of us strung out hammocks in the yard and other set them up under the veranda. 

Tomorrow we will have clinic here and then head to San Marco.