08 June 2011

Brigades and Pancakes

So, it is Wednesday morning, 1030 and 81F here in La Unión. It has been like this the past two weeks or so, low to mid 80s during the day, low to mid 70s at night, very pleasant and nicer weather than I’ve been hearing about back in DC. I am enjoying town, becoming comfortable here. The medical brigade that came last week was helpful in that process.

When I say medical brigade, I don’t mean anything military, it is just a group of (usually) gringos that comes for a few days to do medical work. Ours had 2 Honduran doctors, a Honduran dentist, and a US pediatric nurse practitioner, and a half dozen assorted others to see humans, and a vet team for animals. Sam worked with the vet team and wrote about it in her blog post. I stayed in the church where the human medical team set up, and spent most of my time translating medication instructions. Patients came in and went to “triage”, or registration, where they got a form that served as their chart and had their name, blood pressure and chief complaint written on it. Then they waited for one of the doctors to become available, and after the doctor saw them, if they were prescribed any medications they came to the pharmacy, which is where I was for three days. Cindy, the team leader, worked the pharmacy with two others to fill the scripts, and then I gave the medications to the patients and explained what they were for and when to use it. It was certainly the most intensive, and important to get correct, uses of my Spanish yet. It was very helpful though, in that I was using basically the same language over and over, and the repetition was great. I was able to handle most everything, and only had to go get help to understand a question a few times, and most of those it appeared that the patient had a mental issue, and it wasn’t me not able to understand, they really didn’t make sense. I think I did really well with my Spanish for only being in country 3.5 months!

I also explained the cell phone system here to them, and set them up with a phone so they could call home. This particular brigade tries to come to Honduras every year, so they are going to be able to use the phone on their next trip. We also introduced them to baleadas, which they had somehow not had yet. They had gone to a grocery store in La Ceiba before coming to La Unión and had several US style meals. They invited Sam and I to eat with them, and we really enjoyed the food. Pancakes with syrup, spaghetti with a meat sauce that wasn’t baloney, pan-fried chicken breast (no bones!) and toast with butter were some highlights. Don’t get me wrong, I like Honduran food, but a taste of home and the variety was delightful.

The brigade was in La Unión and saw patients on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. These were full days of work from 0800-1800, which is not the standard day here. Let me briefly cover the rest of the week. Wednesday, the brigade left but we hung out with them most of the morning. We stopped by the centro de salud, where they were finishing installing a new dentist chair in the front room. I guess we had misunderstood the previous week as it seems we are going to get a full time dentist here, who is very needed. (The dentist with the brigade didn’t do fillings, if teeth were rotted they got pulled. In three days the dentist pulled around 120 teeth, mostly from children.) In the afternoon, we went to a meeting of escuela para padres y madres, which is kind of like a PTA, and gave a brief charlita about VIH/SIDA (HIV/AIDS) to 25 parents. Sam did a great job facilitating and I filled in with the technical health information.

Thursday, I went to the centro in the morning. There are two health promoters that only work in the morning on a malaria and dengue campaign, and I went with them to a house that had a pit in their backyard that has the dankest most mosquito ridden water I have ever seen. We took some samples of the water to show the doctor and use in charlas, and then put abate (larvacide) in the water to eliminate it as a mosquito source. After that, we sat around the centro and talked about things. Water cooler chat stuff, great Spanish practice but not really work. Sam had finally met one of her counterparts, and we went to the next door municipality of Yocon to meet some people. After lunch and a meeting, we were back home after 2 hours and done for the day.

Friday, I went to the centro again in the morning and made a plan for the next week. Then in the afternoon Dario, the fulltime health promoter, drove me out to the municipal cremetorio, or landfill/trash burning field/pit that is about a mile outside town. There is no collection though, so many people just burn their trash outside their house in town. After that, we climbed a hill at one end of town to get a view down on town, and that was my work Friday. Sam and I then went to Rosario (another town about 10km away) with Letty, my counterpart at the centro, to visit her family there for a bit, and after we got home Sam and I had dinner and watched Hancock and Charlie St Cloud. This was a busy and full day! (You can click on any of the pictures for larger sizes of them.)

Picture of the trash pit, yes it is smoldering.

View of La Unión from halfway up a mountain.

Saturday, we did laundry, read (I started and finished We Are All The Same, by Jim Wooten), had lunch out (fried chicken), and found Sam two pairs of jeans.

So there was a week in the life of me as a Peace Corps Honduras Volunteer. It was a busy one! A lot of current volunteers have told us not to get frustrated if we don’t do any work for the first month or so, but it turned out we don’t have to worry about that! In addition to all that, this Monday I was on the radio to talk about diarrhea for 30 minutes, gave a brief charlita to the waiting room at the centro about the same on Tuesday, and think I will be on the radio again this afternoon to talk about malaria.

I’ve had busy days and I’ve had slow days, and my money is on busy days being more common. That is good, because there are not a lot of things to occupy free time here in La Unión outside of soccer. We will be reading a lot, and you can look at our Books page to see how much and what we are reading.

I suppose that two pages of text is plenty for one post, I’ll try to post shorter and more often.


Tl;dr: A medical team came to town, we helped them translate. The rest of the week was not as busy, but still full. I had a 30 minute radio show about diarrhea. I’m going to try and post shorter and more often.

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