Waking up in Sulaco is like waking up to an orchestra of noises; birds and rosters crowing, donkeys and cows hollering, dogs barking, motorcycles revving, and if I'm lucky sometimes NSYNC blasting from the neighbors house : ). Although it's a smallish town of 7000, I think it's noisier than most big cities I've been to. The humidity is already thick in the early morning hours, with much more intense heat to come once the sun is out. It's the type of weather that makes clothes just seem unnecessary, and cold drinks and frozen treats the best things in the world. Did I mention that I love this weather!!?
If any of you don't know me well, I'm not too keen on waking up early (that may be the understatement of the century!). So I've taken to skipping the official group breakfast on most days and instead can wake up a bit later and just enjoy a mango before I get to work for the day. So if you have never eaten a mango from its' country of origin, you are missing out on one of life's finest. Fresh, ripe mangos are one of the most delicious things this earth has to offer. They are so sweet and juicy and the flavor is incomparable to the mangos you can buy at the grocery stores in Minnesota. In the mornings I will take my mango and carefully peel the skin off, making sure to also scrap the remaining fruit that's on the skin off with my teeth so I don't waste any. I eat the mango over the balcony so that I don't have to worry about the mango juice that is dripping down my chin, hands and even elbows and can just let it fall on to the street. There is just no way to eat a good mango without making a mess. Which reminds me of a story my dad loves to tell about his uncle, Tio Ramon, who was a total manners fanatic. Tio Ramon lived in my fathers house when my father was a child and he always had perfect, old school table manners, which he strictly imposed on others as well. So one day my father and his brother got really excited about trying to see how Tio Ramon would eat a mango. They bought the mango and excitedly presented it to him in hopes of a great show. But Tio Ramon simply said "gentlemen don't eat mangos". Well Tio Ramon, you missed out big time haha.
Anyway besides the mangos and the homemade tortillas the food here isn't too exciting and definitely not healthy. They fry a lot of their meat and cook everything in lard. There is generally too much salt and they serve any meal with soda (usually coke). Pretty much every meal here includes beans, tortillas, fresh cheese and some sort of meat. Sometimes they throw in eggs or rice and even some vegetables. One of my companions is starting to say ¨If I have to eat beans one more time... ¨ I'm still fine with them though, but I do miss my vegetables and the diet here worries me. I have noticed that there is a large percentage of overweight individuals in the older half of the population. But that may have to do with the fact that I have seen more potbellies in the last week than I am used to due to the funny habit Honduran men here have of standing around with their shirts half folded up in the heat of the day, which comically accentuates their pop bellies.
Since we are staying in Sulcao (the nearest town that has a hotel) everyday we need to get a ride into the communities that we are working in. There are nine different communities that we are working at, so some days it feels like I'm spending half of my day in a pick up truck. We pile a couple people in the front seat, but most of us are in the back. If we have room we also pick up anyone on the side of the road, from schoolchildren to old men with machetes. The rides have become an enjoyable part of my day. It's incredibly refreshing to feel the wind zipping around me while watching the beautiful Honduran landscapes rolling by; green mountains and hills in the distance, small plots of agricultural land growing corn or yucca on either side of the rocky, dusty road. Its just the beginning of the rainy season so the land still looks a bit dry, and the rivers are low. But it's getting greener everyday. And we have been lucky, it has only been raining in the evening so far, so we are able to get in full workdays in the sun everyday. We are usually the only vehicle on the road. Sometimes there is another truck or person on a bike, horse or donkey. Our driver likes to joke about how much traffic there is when we run into a herd of cows on the road. Our driver Ernesto, has become our best friend here. He is the community plummer and he takes us around in his red truck all day, back and forth from community to community for us to do our work. So we have gotten to know each other pretty well and I am sure he will be the person I will miss the most when I am gone from here. Ernesto is a big guy for a Honduran. As one engineer but it, in general, everything here is smaller except the bugs, the kids are scrawny, you can see all the ribs on the skinny dogs and horses that run around and the adults are short. But Ernesto is about 6 feet tall and solid, with a loud voice and charismatic personality. He gave me a nickname, Teresa la Mexican, La Reina del Sur (Teresa the Mexican, the queen of the south) during the first week and since then others in the community have started to call me that as well. I guess it's from some narco drug lords song, but I can't say I mind the nickname too much haha. Oh and did I mention that he keeps a steady supply of mangos available to us??.... I am a big fan : )!
Thanks for reading!
My part in the project is on the community education side, so I have spent most of my days so far sitting in on meeting with the communities and their water boards. Most of the engineers are working on technical aspects, going out and surveying the community for the system designs and gathering water and soil samples. I got to join the engineers a couple times this week. I enjoyed being able to see what they do and getting to walk around the communities. They have been measuring the water tap locations at every house so I got to talk with the families that live there and take in the landscape. And there never fails to be a trail of children following after us. They love staring and giggling at us. As I was watching one of these trails of engineers and children from my water board meeting on a porch nearby, it made me laugh to see a young Honduran girl walking behind one of our female engineers with light hair, reaching out and touching her hair with curiosity, well another Honduran teenager behind her kept slapping her hand away to keep her from doing it. The whole time this was happening, the engineer was completely oblivious to the commotion her hair was making.
It's interesting, part of my work here is doing sanitation education, but I have definitely been learning a lot about sanitation as well. Mainly that sanitation is a lot harder here; no wonder diarrheal diseases are such a problem. There is only running water for parts of each day, if at all. It is super hot, humid and dusty. There are animals, and therefore their poop, pretty much everywhere. I went to wash my hands the other day and found some little wormy things swimming around in the water bucket that we use to wash our hands (I think they were mosquito larvae). When I went to bed last night I found two ticks in my bed. (None attached to me yet, so that's good. Although I may just be missing them since the freckles I have all over my body are the same color as the ticks I found haha). This trip has also been my first time having to shower out of a bucket, which is actually not too bad, it just takes longer since you can only use one hand to wash while pouring the water over your body with the other hand. The diligent hand washer that I am has been really struggling to feel clean with the conditions here. I hope that this project will at least get rid of the water scarcity barrier.
Anyway we are staying very busy and learning and experiencing many new things every day. While doing a group Skype meeting at the internet café in town to EWB members in the US the other night, one of the engineers Robert, and I started playing a ¨how many unusual things will walk right by the front door ¨ game. We had a piglet, a 2 year old girl by herself, a three legged dog, a chicken, a small boy on an adult sized bike with 2 other kids chasing after him and a cow. Come to think of it, I would guess that none of these things are actually that unusual here in Sulaco.
Have a good week amigos!
For the first couple hours of our drive to our destination town, (Sulaco, about four hours south west from the airport we arrived at) I eagerly looked out the windows taking in the new scenery. We stopped once to rearrange all the luggage and engineering equipment that was tied (not very securely) to the top of our van and were able to buy a few coconuts to drink. We giddily passed the coconut waters around in the van and chattered about the adventures to come in the next week. After we settled into the drive and some of my fellow travelers started to dose off, I was reminded of a discussion our group had on the trip here about the ethics of this trip. It stemmed from a lecture that we read by Ivan Ilich about how wrong and harmful it is for Americans to do service trips in developing countries. He referred to the famous Irish saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." This same topic of service trips and projects through non-governmental organizations has already come up in at least three of my classes this year, and we go back and forth with this argument. Should we really feel good about swooping in for two weeks to help with a community project or are we simply causing more problems? Well after thinking about this I still haven't come to a clear determination. I think that one thing that sets us apart is that the group of communities that we are working with in
While I do agree that many service project and trips can cause a great deal of damage, especially in the after math once the foreigners leave, I still believe that if done correctly with the right conditions, they can be a good thing. But I continue to worry that this is just ideological thinking on my part, my own ignorance and inexperience justifying it. So even though I may not be sure if what this whole project represents will actually do good, what I am sure about is that our group needs to remain aware of and try to avoid, the pitfalls that are easy to fall into coming from an ethnocentric culture to a less developed place. We may be experts in our fields back home, but here we don't know a damn thing about what is best for the communities in particular situations. Therefore, we need to spend a lot of time listening. We can share with them the work that we have done to prepare and design this project, but they need to be in control of the direction that this project goes. We have put a great deal of time into creating a number of alternative options for the project which we will explain the cost and benefits of to the communities, then let them decide. Over the course of this trip, I am certain that we will be learning a lot from the communities. According to Ilich, it's okay to go to developing countries to travel and study. So at least for me, I can look at this as that I am here to study and learn and will help as much as I can in the mean time.
As we arrived at our hotel, members from each of the communities that we are working with were waiting for us. They surrounded us as we got unloaded out of the car, while many more onlookers leaned over the balconies above to look at us. They embraced us, fed us, and told us how happy they were to see us. And in that moment my good intentions felt right, so for now to hell with them I go.
I just finished my finals I am now more than ½ done with my masters degree in environmental public health, yah! I feel I have learned so much in the last year, and met a lot of very amazing like-minded people in the school of public health. But it seems like the more I go to school and learn, the more I realize I don't know. And I always thought it would be the other way around...
Anyway, today I leave for Honduras to do my field experience. The field experience is a required part of my degree program, with the purpose of getting us out in the public health arena in the real world to practice applying our skills. I am going with Engineers without Borders to the area of Sulaco, Honduras to work on a water supply project that serves 9 rural communities. This project fits well for me because I have a global concentration in my degree, I always like an opportunity to improve my Spanish, and water issues are one of my main interests in public health.
I feel like I am pretty comfortable traveling in Latin America after doing it alone last year. What I am most anxious about is going with the responsibilities of being the only public health person in the group. But none-the-less, I am very excited to go on this new challenge and to roam new territory. I will be helping with community education and health surveying among many other things. My main goal is just to help the engineers in whatever way they need and to make sure that everything that we are doing is in the best interest for the health of the communities that we are supporting with our project.
Sulaco is going to be very rural and I'm not even sure if I will have internet access while I am gone, but I will write as soon as I can and I will be taking a camera and a flip video cam so I should have some interesting things to share soon!!!
around soo much lately. But I will write a few excerpts of scenes from my life in the past weeks to give you a sense of my time spent here. Starting with...
collection so I spent a lot of time reading. One day I went to a neighboring town called Tico and hiked to a waterfall. It rained a lot during my stay there, but it was peaceful and beautiful and I had the seriously dorky Cocker Spaniel Brandy the to keep me company.
Mexicans. This was refreshing because it felt very unspoiled since everything wasn't catered to foreigners like some places that I've been to are. With the down side being there aren't any hostels, so I had to stay alone in a very crappy hotel. Anyway I loved Veracuz and am determined to go back there when I get a chance.
. . . So begun my a crazy 24 hour journey! I left Veracruz city on an over night bus
that took me to a border town in Mexico. Form there I took another bus that
took me (and luckily guided me through the process) across the border. That bus dropped me off on the side of a highway in the middle of some small town in
***A little about the chicken buses in central America, now that I've been on quite a few I can try and give you a feel for what they are like. They are old school buses from the US that have been stripped and repainted will all sorts of new colors! These buses offer cheap transportation down the road or across the country. Now as most of you have seen, the seats in school buses are made for about two adults. But here in
So quite an interesting experience to say the least : )***
Sacred Shores of San Pedro
From there I landed in
Escuela de los Montanas
Next I headed to a Spanish school in the mountains (the closest town about a 15 min bus ride is called Colomba). The communities next to the school are so small they each only have two streets. The students stay and take classes on the school house grounds and then go into the communities to eat meals with a family there. This was an incredible learning experience for me. Yeah sure I learned some Spanish, but I also was able to spend a lot of time reading about the history of
Okay this is getting really long, so I will update again soon with some more of my Guatemalan adventures
Have a good one
Until next time
Ive been doing a lot since I last wrote. I spent 2 weeks in Puerto Escondido. Soaking up lots of sun and relaxing on the beach. The coast is incredibly hot, you have to walk around really slowly, and you are still really sweaty whereever you walk. I lived on aguas de sabor (refreshing waters that they flavor with fruit) and fruit popsicles made with the real stuff! Yum - the best I've ever tasted! I went swimming when I could, but Puerto Escondido is more of a surfer's destination than a swimmers' so sometimes the waves were too big!! The hostel I stayed at was really clean and great will lots of fun travelers to meet and hang out with. We would all go out together at the bars on the beaches. There is something about being able to be barefoot in the sand at a bar that feels really nice! I did a day trip with some friend to Mazute y Zipolite, beaches about an hour south on the coast. They were also gorgeous! They are famous for being small hippie destinations. It was very peaceful and chill. Zipolite is also famous for being the one nude beach around.
After about 2 weeks I was feeling too
lazy from being a beach bum for too long and decided to head Chiapas, the
most southern state of Mexico before Guatemala. I
took an all night bus to
I had previously just about run out of money,
when I got a big fat tax return. So onward my travels go!! Next I spent a week
This last weekend me
and my friend Shiren headed into
I spent a day in
Coatepec is beautiful, it's very wet and rainy and incredibly green! The dog I am staying with is a super cute cocker spaniel! My apartment is small but lovely with a lofted bedroom and overlooks a lush green valley! The dogs owner also owns an ecolodge which has a sauna and many hiking trails, so I'm sure I will be using that a lot!
Okay promise to write again soon!
Here are some photos
Til next time.....
Trying to start where I left off . . .
My second month in Oaxaca went by very quickly. I went in to Volunteer at Oaxaca Street Children everyday for a few hours. I met lots of cool people there because there were many travelers that volunteered on there way through Oaxaca! I was proud of myself for living on my own for a month, but I think I've had enough of that for now. It was pretty lonely at night. I battled a stomach thing for about a week. Hopefully the last time for a while, but I took some antibiotics and that cleared up.
Some highlights from this last month: I went on an amazing trip to Heirve el Agua, which is a place that has natural springs and petrified waterfalls. It was beautiful. I went with my friend Gandhi to meet a local artist who makes Mexican folkloric art out of "garbage". She is so creative and her artwork is really cool. We got to go to her house and see her studio and talk to her all about her art and experiences. My other friend took me to the pueblo of his grandmother and the nearby towns. I got to spend time at her ranch and we went to a Mezcal house to see how it is made and then taste different kinds. We went strawberry eating, um I mean picking haha ....yum! I took a couple more dancing lessons. I am loving Latin dance more and more. I went to the Santo Domingo museum and also a tour of the Ethnobotanical gardens there. Santo Domingo is this absolutly beautiful, huge catholic church, I went a little overboard wth pictures, but the plants and views were just breathtaking! I got rejected from the U of Minnesota Masters of Nursing program (okay that's a lowlight). Which I was pretty sad about . . . but, I got accepted to the U of M masters in Public Health program in the Environmental Health program. I havent made a for sure decision because I still have to hear from some more schools and think about it, but I am excited about this program, so I think I will be starting my Masters degree next fall!!
After my months rent was over, I wanted to stay in Oaxaca for a few more days and a few Germans that also volunteer at the Center with me kindly offered their couch futon at their house to me. So I was couch surfing this last week and have offically moved into my backpack, which required donating some clothes of mine and storing a few others at my old host family´s house. I was sad to leave Oaxaca because of the great friends (especially Carlos) that I have aquired there, but also ready to get out and see more of Mexico. So on Friday morning Carlos and I headed to the coast. Carlos has a glass/window company that he had some work to do for in the coast area, so it worked out perfect for getting a ride there. We spent some time in a few coastal towns, Rio Grande and Salina Cruz where his jobs were and also where he has some relatives. Then we spent a whole day in Huatulco, it's the most commerical part of the coast here probably and also the most beautiful. And then we spent a couple days in Puerto Excondido, which is where I stayed, and am now. Puerto Escondido is cheaper and is known for being one of the best spots to surf! I just checked into my hostel early this morning and then spent a couple hours watching the ocean and the surfers. The coastal area is beautiful, it's exteremly hot, and I am very happy to be here! I am also lucky to have a friend from California who I met and really hit if off with in Oaxaca who is doing a program here in Puerto Escondido this month. So I´m sure we will be spending a lot of time together. I'm not sure how long I am going to stay here becuase I want to check out some other areas of the coast, but I will keep you all posted!
Here are pics from Oaxaca and a few from the beach so far,
enjoy, like I said, there are A LOT!!
Til next time....
love from the beach
Hi hi!! I've
been having so much fun that I have been putting off writing my blog. Hmm
where do I start? So I did my week in the clinic with an alternative physician.
She was really great to work with. She has studied Chinese medicine and acupuncture
in China and herbalism in Spain. I am definitely going to remember the tender
way that she talked to her patients and the tenderness that she touched them with. Some of my duties at that clinic
included taking the needles out after an acupuncture session and also taking
blood pressure and applying herbs on to the body.
week of my Child Family Health International program was at CRIT, (Centro de
Rehabilitación Infantil Teletón) a center for handicapped children in Oaxaca. They have
several CRITs in major cities around Mexico and try to build a new one every
year from funds that they raise in a major telethon every December. But
they are still pretty far in between if you don't live in a major city.
One mom that I saw had traveled 8 hours with her daughter to come to CRIT for
appointments for the day. Anyway the Crit facilities are amazing. Beautiful,
clean, latest technology, the staff where I worked with were all really good
with the kids and really compassionate. They have all types of physical
therapy including a huge pool for therapy, occupational therapy, dentists, art
therapy, psychiatrists, sports therapy, mechanical therapy with machines that I
don't understand , electrotherapy, all types of physicians etc etc... all
specialized to work with handicapped children. I have really been
noticing based on the clinics that I have been to, the technology and standards
of sanitation are a lot lower I think mostly because they don't have the
resources, but CRIT was right up there with the best centers Ive seen in the
US! I spent my time there working in the nursing station. I took a
lot of vitals signs on patients which was really good for practicing my numbers
in Spanish. Im really glad I got to do this program, I have learned so
much about the health care system here and got a chance to know Oaxaca which I
love more and more each day!
This last week I moved out of my host family's house and into an apartment to stay here for another month or so, I am renting from a friend of my host moms, who is cutting me a deal. I am continuing with Spanish lessons twice a week with my amazing teacher and have been volunteering at an organization called Oaxaca Street Children. They are an organization that provides kindergarten for the kids that would otherwise probably be working on the street . They serve lunch to up to 80 children per day, provide medical care when they have a nurse or doctor available and a center for support. They also set up sponsorships for people to financial support children though high school. I have been doing anything from going through the clinic to check for expired medications, helping kids with their homework, translating thank you letter from Spanish to English from the child to their sponsors or helping in the office.
I also had a really cool experience this last week. One of the guys I worked with in the nursing station at CRIT is also a paramedic for the Mexican Red Cross in the nights. So he took me to work the other night. I got to follow the doctors for a while in the urgency area, then got to go to part of a paramedic's student class and got to ride around Oaxaca in the ambulance with the paramedics all night when they got a call. It was really interesting and exciting!
I am still dancing away, have made a couple new friends. My Spanish is improving, but not without several embarrassing mistakes and miscommunications per day haha. My aunt Lili and her husband came to visit me last weekend, so that was fun! I've been taking pictures, just haven't been to a computer that will let me download them onto the internet yet! I will go to an internet café soon. Hope all is well with everyone!
Until next time.....
This week was another great one in Oaxaca! I got to go to a new clinic. I have been going to Dr Margarita´s private clinic. She is a general doctor who sees everyone from babies to the elderly from all over Oaxaca and surrounding places. Her clinic is about a 40 mintue walk from my house, so I've been able to see a different part of town. It is very small and it´s just her, she doesnt even have a nurse that helps her out. As Ive say before, things are every different here healthcare wise. For example, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that she doesnt even use a computer. She has a type writer that she writes out orders and perscriptions on. Its really amazing. I have enjoyed working with her this week because she is very nice and since its just the two of us, I felt like she was much more receptive to me and helpful with my questions and showed me a lot of cool things. She is a very good doctor who is nice to her patients and always takes the time to listen to them, which can be rare in some doctors. Tomorrow I head to a new physicans clinic who also incorporates traditional and alterantive healing therapies. My medical cordinator Dr Tenorio, described her as ¨an angel¨, so I'm excited for this week.
I have started going to a Latin dance studio. It cost 30 dollors for all the classes you want all month, for up to 5 hours every evening Monday through Friday (talk about a good deal). My teacher is a dancer that has won all sorts of dance competitions here. He along with several male assitants are there to dance with us every night. So I went 4 nights this week and have been having a blast. Friday night I went back to
I am still humming along with my Spanish, I practice a lot, but Im still far from good! The weather has been a lot warmer and lots of hot sun this week, which I love. I am starting to get a lovely farmers tan, from all my walking around town. I have a week of more learning and dancing ahead of me
Until next time.......