Monday, January 23, 2006

Natalie Chavez Journal 2

On Thursday morning I had my nutritional class for moms and kids in El Swampo. Both Lynn (Valerie’s intern) and I thought it would be great if we could outreach to their community in a more effective way if we have it in their community instead of making them meet us in a different location. The community’s response to my workshop was great! A total of 25 moms and kids signed in for the workshop, but we had many spectators along the sides of the concrete that were curious at what I exactly I was presenting. I had more fun with this the second time around. I though nutrition was very important, specifically to those infected with HIV/AIDS, because they must have strong bodies in order to more effectively combat illnesses, since HIV/AIDS weakens their immune system making them more susceptible to diseases and more likely to be sick longer than someone not infected with HIV/AIDS. Everyone enjoyed the workshop, asked questions, shared descriptions of their typical daily meals, and afterwards enjoyed some “Christmas” I made for them. “Christmas” was a type of desert the islanders ate that consisted of mixed fruit with condensed milk drizzled over it. It was delicious.
I had just found out an hour before my workshop that today a mom died of AIDS in the public hospital. I had met the mother’s children at Valerie’s clinic earlier that week because they liked to come over and play and learn how to write with Lynn. It got really personal when no one knew what would happen to these children because their other family members refused to take them in. One aunt even told the mother while she was in the hospital that she would take responsibility for her kids after she died. I am unsure if it was a decision strictly out of lack of resources or space. I couldn’t believe that these kids were going to be abandoned and forgotten because of an unfortunate tragedy. I became more aware of the lack of supporting husbands. Not only in this situation, but I have come across many others. Valerie, Lynn, and Kimbal discussed possible solutions in their office because these kids were very special to Valerie. I am not sure what the outcome will be, but I hope these kids are well taken care of.
I took the opportunity to travel to Ceiba with Lynn, Kimbal and a Canadian friend named Julio on my very last weekend here on the island. It seemed more like an industrialized city with malls, outdoor markets, and larger communities. It was much different than Roatan, but I think it was just as beautiful. I felt safe there during the nighttime in certain areas, but that is the same for many other places. We went to the Garifuna festival in Carozel. During the day we received a lot of curious faces because we definitely stood out amongst many darker skinned Garifuna. I had never been in a situation like that before because in California the population is so densely diverse that I fit into the blend of colors, unless my fashion is extremely outrageous. The Garifuna style and culture is so vibrant and lively. They had music playing through large oversized speakers filling up the streets with ranchera, hip hop, reggeton, cumbias, and many other kinds of music. There was a huge soccer match going on in their community soccer field and was packed with families watching. It was a cool new experience.
I have had so many community members, doctors, and other volunteers ask me if this was going to be my last time in Roatan. I think this will be my last time here for the time being since I would like to explore other parts of Central America and other Latin countries. I enjoyed and learned so much from my experiences here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Natalie Chavez Journal 1

It feels great to be back! It was refreshing to see familiar faces once again and sparking conversations with Charles, Jeff, Ms. Lily, taxi cab drivers, patient’s mothers, and other islanders that remembered me from spring of last year. When I first saw Charles he said, “Weren’t you the intern who was here during my interview?”. He is now the new GH native doctor in the pediatrics clinic and a wonderful doctor. He has a different approach and style towards medicine and the children from Dr. Raymond, but he seems to really enjoy his profession. I met the new GH doctors from the U.S. as well. Both Dr. Ellen and Dr. Cynthia are from Pittsburg Medical School and have been nice company. I also met Nurse Audra later on during the week when she showed up to our clinic and she’s been pretty busy teaching classes on a variety of different topics all over the island. I thought it was awesome! I noticed a lot of change since the last time I was here in Roatan. The temperature was drastically different in that it was much cooler in comparison to the scorching 90 degree weather from the spring, there was an increase in hotel construction, a new clinic in Diamond Stone created by nurses Kellie and Carlie who were here last spring, and my old friends were no longer working in the Roatan Hospital in Coxen Hole. Now there was minimal chat with the lady working in the cafeteria because she isn’t Margarita. One great change was the organization I saw in the pediatrics clinic. We had designated areas where medical charts were to be kept depending on their current status (waiting to be screened, waiting to be seen, finished), the desk area was all cleared up, the A/C in the clinic was finally working (THANK GOD!!!!), and the medications/supplies were neatly organized. This, as well as now having 3 doctors on board, made the days in clinic go by much faster (at first). As the week rolled along I enjoyed speaking to the mothers as I tried to figure out what was wrong with their children, weighing the children, taking their temperature, measuring their height, and plotting their information on the growth charts I brought to see if they were growing normally. I loved and missed this sort of direct interaction. The mothers were always very appreciative, as well as most of the children, although this time I learned how to handle really nervous, scared, and angry children that did not want to get their measurements taken. Lots of new experiences. At first the days went by really quickly, sometimes we would be finished by 10:30am, but by the end of last week I had taken up a new role: Spanish interpreter. I had done some interpreting before in the spring, but the doctors had always known enough Spanish to get them by, occasionally asking me what a couple words meant or explaining the use of medications to parents. This time though it seemed as if I was running in full speed, trying to get all of the kids screened, since no child was to be seen without getting screened, trying to administer a couple surveys, interpreting for Dr. Ellen and Dr. Cynthia for most of their patients from start to finish (except during examination), and later having to enter in all of the patient data of the day. I had never experienced so much responsibilities in a short matter of time, but I have always known myself to be at my best when I am under pressure, so I felt that I had to be creative in my technique so as to not stay a whole lot longer after we were done. Although I get super busy in clinic, this is the first time I had ever felt so needed, so indispensable. It’s a great feeling of purpose. In the U.S. the question always lingers in my mind, “How can I make myself a better candidate for medical school, how can I make myself indispensable/one-of-a-kind?”, and now I feel as if I have come real close to that answer. What I love about this island is that it has the balance of beauty, poverty, and isolation to force me to take a different perspective on life. It forces me to think about the lives of the underserved and think up new ways to help, instead of easily dismissing the homeless in the U.S. by assuming he can easily find and obtain the necessary resources. I feel that the island will have a wonderful affect on me on helping me critically think about my choice in career, my life, and my values. I hope that my services and humanity will have a positive affect on the island in return.