Today was a very hard day. I did not feel comfortable in the hospital at all, it was very upsetting for me to see. It might be that in general I do not like the hospital (hence why I do clinic work now) or I think that the conditions of the patients and the very little resources they had made me sad. There were no private rooms or even rooms for that matter. The halls were littered with gurneys that looked like they were hundreds of years old, all with body fluid stains and torn fabric. In the critical ICU there was one nurse for all the beds with a few nursing aids. The patients all looked so sick and miserable and they had to be all jammed into a room with others who were feeling the same impending death. One of the rooms we walked into there was a woman foaming at the mouth, a dead person that was covered with a drape, and a passed out patient who was on a cardiac monitor that looked eminent. As we made our way through the hospital, I kept feeling sicker and sicker. How could the healthcare system be in such a way that it seemed to be more dangerous for the patents to be in the hospital then out of the hospital? All of the doctors were super young, Juanita said it was because they made no money there and the older more experience docs had private practices.
Today we went into an area of Rio Dulce to do some education and training for the promoters of the villages that work for GVH. This day was a good amount of work. I helped translating for the group that was doing their project that day. I was more than happy to help; it was just a lot of work in a very hot building. I loved seeing the promoters and comadronas participate and take pride in their learning. Many great questions were asked and a good amount of teach back methodology was applied. It seemed that the village members all took great pride in their roles and were happy to be working alongside GVH. The thing that stood out to me the very most today was an interaction I had with a promoter from one of the mountain villages. This man was very knowledgeable about the need for contraception and family planning. He said he was also a teacher and ended up teaching in the school of his village about the importance of family planning and how it impacts the amount of money spent and stress on the family. He said that he wants to help with the contraception education and the family planning, but he doesn’t know what will change the fact that the country is very machismo based. I thought it was interesting that him being a Guatemalan man pointed out the issue of the machismo environment. I told Jennifer that this man was very interested in helping GVH and very passionate about his work. She then talked to Carolyn about the possibility of giving him a larger role.
We camped out last night in the school of the Chinachabilchoc village. Today we were all more than exhausted from not getting any sleep from the storm, roosters yapping, the hard cement ground, the heat, and the fear of spiders and scorpions; both of which we saw the day before. This village we noticed had a very bad outbreak of scabies and both children and adults were suffering from them. This was the first village that we really needed a lot of translating help because only 20 of the 250 people in the village spoke Spanish. I went down into the school to do the hand washing presentation. The middle schoolers were receptive and really liked the glitter demonstration. My group also was lucky enough to do our windshield survey in this village and we had a truly fabulous guide who was receptive to all our questions and really was prideful of his village. He said that almost all of the residents are born and die in the town. This was also the first town that GVH had built a latrine in, they also were undergoing a second latrine installation when we were there.
Today we took a long boat ride past Livingston to get to the Baltimore Village. We were not sure that we were going to be able to make it to this village today because there was a huge storm the night before that was possibly going to prevent us from boating. I worked in triage translating this day. This village had many Spanish speakers with little need for translators. I noted that this people in this village were much more over weight and even the children had cookie wrappers and such they were clinging onto. The adults complained about pain in their hearts which I was not sure the cause of. I thought maybe it was heart burn from so much junk food. They also had rather poorly controlled diabetes. As we were leaving the clinic, we walked past rows of drying fish. We learned that the town sold these salted dried fish at the markets nearby for a profit. As we were leaving we watched little children in the water playing with a small boat. It was truly humbling and beautiful to watch these people who had so little be so happy and content with their lives. On a side note, the hotel “finka tatine” is AMAZING. Wonderful owners, food, animals, and it right off the river essentially in the tropical swamp grounds.
I feel that I gained a mountain of perspective from this study abroad trip. I was able to see how people in another country of a different economical background survive. The political climate and the overall culture of Guatemala were hard for me to digest. I think that on our day with the promoters, I had true sadness brought to my attention. I was talking with one of the promoters who said he did his best to teach about safe partnerships, the importance of family planning, the need for contraception, and healthy relationships. This man recognized all of those problems and was doing his best to educate the youth. I asked him what he thought was going to actually change the way things were, he said he didn’t know if it could change because of the machismo culture. It made me so sad to hear this man who was pouring his heart and soul into educating the youth say he didn’t know anything would make a difference. These problems are on a country level and are not going to be able to change unless huge endeavors are made. I do not know how you can change a deep-rooted culture or a country that is strong on its religions beliefs even if it seems it is pressing the people deeper and deeper into poverty.