Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The end of an amazing adventure

We spent our last day in Belize on the island of Caye Caulker. It was a playful way to end a trip during which everyone worked so hard. As we were walking along the sandy roads and bouncing across the water on the ferry boat I think all of us felt a little sadness about leaving Belize. It is always nice to be home, but it is sad to leave a place where so much is learned about life. In a short nine days we all learned so much about ourselves, about health care, and about humanity. At some points along the trip I think we all had experiences that will now affect the way we view the human condition; whether it be rich or poor, sick or healthy. Though we went to Belize to provide health care, it is safe to say we came back home with so much more than we could have ever given.

On our last night in San Ignacio before going to dinner, we all sat together as a group and gave Miss Juliet some feedback about our experiences. As a whole it seemed the general agreement was that the trip was better than we could have expected and the planning was a perfect balance of work and play. I can only speak with certainty for myself, but as individuals I think we all learned little things about ourselves that we will always be able to give this trip to Belize credit for throughout the rest of our education, careers and life. 

One thing that we all noticed about the people in Belize is how generally happy they are in life. It was a humbling experience to work with people who have so little, but are willing to give so much. They are so kind, generous and welcoming. It is refreshing to see that when we come from a materialistic and greedy society in which our lives revolve around what we do and do not have.  Juliet said to us on the final night "we don't want to be rich, we just want to survive". She said this after we had made comments about our observations of the people living in Georgeville, San Marcus, and San Ignacio; everyone just seemed to be happy to be alive, and so very thankful. The people of Belize may be poor by monetary standards, but they are so rich with happiness and humility that wealth in possessions is not necessary.  I have fallen in love with the country of Belize, and I know many in the group would agree. I cannot wait until a day when I can begin to plan another trip to the beautiful country.

As for our experience from a nursing standpoint, the trip gave us all a chance to gain some confidence in our abilities. Learning to trust ourselves in our assessment takes a lot of practice and being able to work with the population that we did gave us each a chance to comfortably practice without the fear of being judged. In addition, the doctors we worked with provided us with a wealth of knowledge and resourcefulness that we will be able to apply to our educations and careers forever. Dr. Cuellar and Dr. Yorleny stressed to us the importance of looking at the person as a whole and as a human, and to ALWAYS ask "why?". For many of us the people in Belize that touched our lives solidified our certainty of becoming nurses. To everyone in the group, remember: the differences we are able to make in the lives of people who need our help make any stress and frustration of our education, and any obstacles we come to so worth it.

Thank you to Miss Juliet for being such a wonderful team leader and to Miss Rita for sharing her wisdom and intelligence. Many thanks to our parents for supporting us on this adventure, and for staying tuned on the blog.  As a group, we should pat each of ourselves on the back for making the trip great for each other by working so hard and keeping up the humor, we had such a colorful group. And I don't know if there are enough thanks for Nilda for being such a wonderful adviser, stand in mother, and leader.

We absolutely had an "unBelizeable" adventure!

Casey worked so hard to entertain these kids all day!

Caye Caulker.. though windy, beautiful and relaxing all the same.

Well deserved after working so hard all week.

The future of nursing.

... Graduation in on May 11, two months from the day we left Belize.
A look at the smiles on these faces can make any bad day brighter.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Day Eight: R&R

We ended this amazing trip with an equally incredible ending. We arrived at Caye Caulker this morning and enjoyed an island day with snorkeling and shopping. We begin our journey back to the states in the morning.... another early wake up call. We have all grown to love this country, but we will be happy to set foot at home. Please stay tuned for a more detailed post of our time here in Caye Caulker.

See you soon!l

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Day Seven: Last Community day

We went to San Marcos today, a community about 45 minutes outside San Ignacio, to set up our last clinic. We had a late start to the day, but we ended up seeing about 45 patients. On the way home, we stopped at a Dairy Bar in Spanish Lookout, a Mennonite community, and had ice cream after our long and hot day of work. This evening we went out for dinner for the last time here in San Ignacio. Though we are all happy to get home, some of us are equally sad to leave. The people we have met and the lives that have touched us have truly made an impression. Belize is certainly an easy place to fall in love with.

Tomorrow we wake up bright and early (more like dark and early) to leave for Belize City at 6 am. From the City we will take a ferry boat to the island Caye Caulker where we will enjoy a day of fun and snorkeling. I apologize for the lack of pictures, it has been a long day and a late night, and considering our early wake up call in the morning, I should get some rest!

Hasta mañana!

We stopped at the Cayo Deaf Institute quickly on the way to San Marcos; this was the view.

I didn't get the best version of this photo on my camera, and we are  missing two members of the group due to some sickness, but this is the San Marcos group with the doctors: Dr. Cuellar and Dr. Yorleny. In Belize, the medical resources are not nearly as convenient as those in the states. The doctors here are trained to be very resourceful. Their knowledge of healthcare is so broad and we were so lucky to learn from them.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Day Six: ..... Busy day!

Our day started at 6:30 this morning when we rode to town to watch the start of the "La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge", a canoe race that is 40 miles long starting in San Ignacio and ending in Belize City. We then visited the market where some of us bought a variety of different spices. We went to the Octavia Waight Center for the elderly to spend time with the residents there and then went to a medicine trail walk that led to an Iguana Project. We finished the night by practicing sutures with Dr. Cuellar.

I will let the pictures to the rest of the "talking"! Enjoy!
At the market buying spices

Sarah and Pam took charge of taking blood pressures of all the residents this morning.
The Octavia Waight Center was inaugurated in 1986 and was initially meant to be a place where the elderly could retire. Since then it has become more of a nursing home where many people with dementia, Alzheimer disease, chronic hypertension and diabetics reside.   The home has a capacity of 24 residents and sits on a 4 acre lot of serenity in Belize.  The home is named after Mrs. Octavia Waight, a woman who was one of the first midwives and caregivers among the community when there we no resident medical doctors.

Aaron helping our with physical therapy.
To learn more visit:  http://www.octaviawaightcentre.org/octaviahistory.html

The oldest resident at the Octavia Waight Center was 104 years old, soon to be 105 in July. many of the people in this picture are in there 90s and certainly don't lack spunk!

Aaron took on about 20 baby iguanas before we left the cage.

... And Jen had even a few more than that.

The start of the canoe race. The race runs along the Macal and Belize Rivers. The race is not designated for only professional racers, anyone who chooses can sign up for the race.

There was a huge crowd this morning to watch the participants begin their four day race.

This was the first group of us that tried the termites... the rest of the group caved shortly after so we could all say we ate termites today.

A little hesitancy with the termites.... Hey, when in Belize!

Nilda faced a fear today! Very proud of her!
We all had at least one little iguana crawling on us today!
We ended the day with a lesson on suturing with Dr. Cuellar. Some of us had a hard time getting the hang of it. But it was a great learning experience!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day five: Day two of community clinic

Hello! Just a quick post tonight... it was a long busy day and we have an early wake up call tomorrow! Today we set up our second and final community day at Georgeville. I think its safe to say we really made an impression on some of the members of the community.

This evening we had a great dinner at a place called Sanny's Grill, and then came back to the hotel to have a dance lesson. We were taught three different traditional Belizian dances: the "Cha cha ra ra cha", the "Punta", and a traditional festival dance. Dancing was a great way to burn off some of the calories, as we've been eating so much delicious food! I will post only a few pictures tonight, but enjoy!

This little girl came to get a check up and was terrified of us. After some sweet talking and a goodie bag, she was posing for photos like she was a little model!

We had an excellent dance teacher!

This is our whole group, minus our bus driver, Alton and the two doctors. Ms. Juliet is on the left next to Nilda, she is our team leader; Ms. Rita is on the right and Ms. Ana, our interpreter is right behind Ms. Rita.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Day Four: Community Clinic in Georgeville

We set up our first clinic this morning in the Georgeville community. Once at the community center, we unpacked our supplies and organized the pharmacy area. We then walked to the pre-school where we gave the children their own toothbrushes, tooth paste, and other toys. We each partnered up with one of the kids and taught them a little lesson on tooth brushing. Many of them were excited about it and did a great job. A few others were very shy, but played along after some coaxing.  We started to take in patients at 9 am. The community center was buzzing with people after just a short time. We were set up into five groups of two to take patients and assess their chief complaints. After the assessment process we presented the patient situation to one of the doctors who would then address the probable diagnosis. If necessary, the patients were prescribed medications from our pharmacy.

The most common health issue we came across was hypertension, followed by diabetes. We saw a few cases of colds, mostly in children, a family with scabies, and a woman who likely may have tuberculosis. Today was a full day of working and learning. We are going back to the same community tomorrow to finish our work there.

This evening we went to dinner and then did some shopping in town in San Ignacio. After a long day many of us are looking forward to sleep, and equally looking forward to going back to Georgeville tomorrow!
Going in to the pre-school in the morning.
This little guy got a little restless after being so good sitting and waiting for us to finish with his mom. He loved playing with all our tools... and he especially loved stickers.

Setting up the pharmacy.

This little guy wasn't actually a part of the pre-school class, but he was so eager to participate!
Toward the end of the day many of the children came to visit and play after school.
Dinner tonight consisted of a lot of fried food, but it was SO delicious. Fresh salsa and chips, garnachas, salbutes, empanadas with a fish filling, and fried plantains. We also drank tamarind or pineapple juice. The juices they serve here are all made with fresh fruit and unlike most juice we've ever had.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Day Three: Community Visits and the Mayan Ruins

We began our work today with visiting homes in the Georgeville community to assess the need for medical attention. We interviewed families and gave appointment cards to those who wish to come to the clinic. We met many different characters and animals and saw a variety of living situations and learned much about some of the family dynamics that shape the families of the community.

Today was a beautiful 86 degree day and the first day we really had to be careful of sunburning. We fared well with only some red patches from missed spots during application....tomorrow we'll be a little more diligent in evenly applying our SPF! After lunch we drove to the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins Archaeological site where our guide, Juan, taught us about some Mayan history as it pertains to Belize. He also gave each of us a little insight to our futures by doing some palm readings.

This evening Dr. Cuellar came to the hotel to talk to us about Dengue fever and how to assess it, we also prepared for tomorrow by labeling and packaging vitamins and toy bags for the children at the clinic. Tomorrow we will leave the hotel around 8:30 to go to back to Georgeville to work the clinic all day.

Hasta mañana!

This kind woman let us into her home to see her fire hearth in her back yard.

A group of siblings and cousins in one home. These little cuties LOVED having their photo taken!

Juan said we were one of the nicest groups he's ever had! Here we are standing with the El Caballo

Juan taught us about the symbolism used in the architecture that indicated the status of the times in Mayan civilization.

Aaron pretending to not be scared of heights....

Monday, March 4, 2013

Day Two

Good nite! Here in Belize "good nite" is a greeting, as in "good afternoon" or "good evening".

Today was a fairly long day of going through orientation and preparing for our visit to the Community tomorrow and the clinics in the next few days. Some of us woke up for a refreshing 0600 walk with our team leaders, Rita and Juliet, which was a peaceful way to start the day.  During our orientation we learned more about Belize and the culture and we talked about the formal paperwork we will be filling out as we visit the families in their community as well as the assessment sheet we are expected to fill out when we interview the patients. The doctors who we will be practicing with, Dr. Cuellar and Dr. Yorleny, came to talk to our group about their expectations for assessment during clinics. I am confident working with these doctors will provide us with exceptional learning opportunities.

Tonight we ate dinner at a Restaurant where we were able to experiment with tasting different cultural foods. Some of us ordered garnachas, which is a corn tortilla with refried beans and cheese, empanadas, a corn flour dough filled with chicken and salbutes, a corn tortilla with refried beans, cabbage, and cheese. The main difference between the salbutes and garnachas is that the former is a soft tortilla and the garnacha is crispy. We enjoyed main dishes like "pibil" that is port cooked under ground served with corn tortillas, "escabache" is onion soup that is cooked with chicken and served with corn tortillas, and the most adventurous dish "cow foot soup" which is a soup made with cows feet with vegetables in in served with rice or corn tortillas. Sarah was brave enough to order the cow soup and actually enjoyed it. There were some....different.... looking animal parts to the soup, one piece looked like an artery and another like spongy bone tissue which a few members of the group were happy to try. Aaron ate the "artery piece" curiously which some of us looked on with a little less bravery. The food is very good a flavorful, however I don't think I will be ordering cow foot soup any time soon.

Along view during the morning walk.

On the way to lunch at Canidas.

Sarah's cow foot soup dish.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Day One

We made it safely to our hotel in San Ignacio and we have gotten settled in. We arrived at about 4:30 (which is 5:30 in the U.S.). We didn't have any problems getting through customs with our WIDE variety of supplies, though some people in our group had to show the contents of their bags. Some of the lucky ones who were searched happened to have the vaginal fungal creams, pampers, and lice-removal kits (ha-ha), another bag that was searched had all the "drugs" (acetaminophen, multivitamins, ibuprofen, etc.) in it! Luckily, it was not a problem. When we first got into San Ignacio we stopped to a marketOur hotel is very nice with amazing views. We can see mountains in the distance that is actually Guatemala. We had a dinner tonight that consisted of fresh salsa, stuffed chicken, fried fish in creole sauce, potatoes, fried plantains (YUM), and beans and rice.

Please enjoy the pictures! There will be much more to come!

Dinner at "Cenaida's Belizean Food"

At the market

The juice drink on the left is called sorrel, a juice made of a hibiscus-like fruit. The drink on the right is a variation of rice milk.

A view from Nilda's room

Chili peppers at the market. Beautiful colors!

Fried fish in creole sauce, beans and rice, fried plantains, stuffed chicken, corn chips and salsa.

Just after arriving in Belize!