Jan. 5, 2009 - Day 2
I woke up this morning, still not used to brushing my teeth with bottled water or tossing used toilet paper in the trash rather than flushing it. But these minor bathroom inconveniences were nowhere near as unpleasant as I had imagined.
Breakfast was at La Regio's where we all enjoyed incredibly flaky and buttery cornmeal biscuits with jam, made even better with eggs and freshly squeezed orange juice - along with what I quickly understood to be the obligatory tortillas and salsa that come with every meal. But what strikes me most about breakfast here is how much time people devote to it. Breakfast isn't a "hurry up and eat as quickly as possible to start off your day" type of affair like it is in the States, but more of a means to ease into the day and reconnect with friends and family. There is a certain simplicity and pace to life here that I find enchanting and very agreeable.
With our stomachs full, we embarked on the 5-hour long drive to Jaumave, where we will stay for the next few days. The length of the drive gave me plenty of time to enjoy the sights of the Mexican countryside. We passed by majestic mountain ranges and valleys, and barren, desolate fields dotted with the occasional cactus or palm tree. The land seemed to stretch on and on for endless miles into the distance. Passing by the numerous residences scattered along the road made me acutely aware of the conditions in many of the rural towns and villages in Mexico - conditions I had never before seen first-hand. Tiny, colorful, one-room houses built of nothing more than corrugated steel or pieces of cardboard and wood leaning against each other, the occasional fence consisting of irregular-shaped sticks and rusted wire, the children running barefoot with mud-covered clothing, livestock freely roaming the dusty streets - all are images that will remain with me for years to come.
Jaumave is a tiny village with perhaps 200 residents, consisting of a 5 or 6-block radius centered at three small, park-like plazas. It's the kind of town where it's common to see children playing soccer on the streets to the delight of fearless dog packs, couples snuggled on plaza benches while fruit sellers try to steer shoppers their way, and small, family-owned ice cream shops and bakeries lining the narrow sidewalks.
During triage training tonight, we learned how to accurately take pulses, temperature readings, and blood pressure measurements and discussed the main health concerns we will likely encounter during clinic - everything ranging from parasitic infections to hypertension to UTIs. After taking vital signs on each other for practice and amassing numerous mosquito bites, our group headed out for milkshakes at "la Cabana", a small but charming outdoor restaurant owned by Fernando, one of the few residents here who speak English. Topped with frothy cream and sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg, it was the perfect treat to end the day.