Monday November 12, 2012, Santa Cruz Quixaya. This was our fifth and last day of clinic and, although we were back in San Lucas at around 3:30 pm, the rest of the day was quite busy and interesting. The team had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Mission’s Projects starting with a visit to the Women’s Center, followed by a tour of the local hospital and ending with sighting of the Coffee Project. Susan and I met with Dr. Tun at the hospital to hear about their most pressing needs and to discuss MDP’s possibilities in implementing a more permanent support to the hospital and the health promoters of the surrounding communities. After dinner at the Parish, we met with Chona (the Parish’s main cook for many years, as well as a central figure in the leadership of the Women’s Center, and Father Greg’s assistant and trusted friend of the Mission’s community of volunteers) for a conversation about her favorite memories of Father Greg. Immediately after that, we went to our hotel to meet with a group of local craftsmen who shared the story of their work and showed us their beautiful pieces made with local woods. Our day ended with the traditional meeting during which each member shares their reflections and insights of what the past days of clinic meant to them. Our conversation with Chona and our visit to the Women’s Center were definitely the most powerful and my personal favorite experiences of this trip.
During MDP’s second trip --my first-- to Guatemala in 2008, the Women’s Center was merely a dream in the works. The Parish had a lot and not much more than a blue print of the building. During our subsequent trips to San Lucas, the tour of the Mission Projects would always include a visit to the Women’s Center site. I was taken aback and flooded by a wave of sheer joy and emotion when we arrived at the site to behold the beautiful building, now all completely finished and functioning. The Women’s Center is more than just a building, it is a warm gathering point for the women in the community to learn how to sew, weave, cook and socialize in a welcoming and safe environment; it is also the place where many celebrations take place including the now traditional Christmas Party for the children of single mothers in the community, but more than anything, it is Father Greg’s dream come true, his enduring gift of love to a community of people that continues to embrace his presence. The Women’s Center is what happens when many hearts are united in faith and good will, no matter how different their origin, no matter how great the challenges. Chona’s enduring strength and love for her people and for Father Greg are keeping this dream alive. What an extraordinary inspiration Chona is in my life. I can’t hardly wait to be back in San Lucas and behold her smiling face... Thank you MDP for the opportunity to serve!
Our day began with 7:30 Mass, presided by Father John Francis who was still stinging from his loss at 99 the night before. After our pancake breakfast, we congregated in front of the church. We all headed down to the lake shore and boarded the Hannah, the motorboat that we would use to travel to both Santiago Atitlán and San Antonio de Paolo. Our first trip across the 1000 feet deep Lake Atitlán took about 20 minutes and we arrived at San Antonio de Paolo. We visited a ceramic factory filled with exquisite figurines. Then we wandered around the town for an hour, visiting a church overlooking the lake. When we left San Antonio we headed to Santiago Atitlán. We lunched together without electricity in El Pescador. After that, we scattered amongst the various shops lining the street that lead down to the wharf. A group of us walked to the church in Santiago, and visited the place where Father Rother was martyred. The rest of our time was spent among the shops, searching for the perfect present for a loved one back home. Many of us contributed greatly to the local economy. We gathered back at the boat at 2:30 and headed back to San Lucas. We feasted in the Tolíman restaurant for dinner tonight, enjoying every single dish. We are all looking forward to our clinic tomorrow in Santa Cruz Quixaya. ¡Adios para ahora!
We were up early in the morning on Saturday, zeroing in on yet another clinic. This time we were in San Juan Mirador. The building was hot, musty, and wet when we arrived and the pharmacy consisted of a dirty board and a surgical drape. It was the aftermath of a graduation party: streamers hung limply from the metal girders that suspended the corrugated metal roof. But dutifully we scurried about setting up our stations while children swarmed with curiosity, calling us "Gringos!" as we approached. The children of this village were precocious. Sarah and I were afraid to plug the light in for fear of electrocution, for the floor was wet. A ponderous spider eyed us but settled back comfortably in a pile of boards near Jim's clinic station. The sweat poured and the sun burned but the crew of 10 plodded on. Sara, Lía and Nancy rushed down the hill to make a house call, which was one of our clinic goals for the day. Nancy is insisting that we include the fact that she had to walk up the hill twice for the house call. In the meantime, John sat grimly seeing all the patients in the sweltering tin shack. In total, 53 patients were seen and treated. Jim, with intensity characteristic of Madelia, performed a number of injections to good effect. He was followed closely by Nancy, who also performed numerous injections. Sara and Susan sweltered in the sun intaking patients. Dr. Jim rolled through Kaqchikel, Spanish, and variations in-between to try to understand his patients needs. He was helped by Ana and, occasionally, Jesús. Everybody focused and we closed the clinic by 2:30pm because it was Saturday afternoon. We bee-lined it for Parma, where we enjoyed soft serve ice cream from Italy(locally made). After dinner, 7 of us engaged in an intense game of 99 with Father John Francis (don't forget to draw!) Dr. Jim's strategy confounded Father John. Since Father lost, he was considering taking up Jim's strategy in the future. On a serious note, we all viewed a video on the life and martyrdom of Father Stan Rother. End of day in San Lucas.
Today we finished our 3 day of clinic. We traveled to the town of Porvenir and when we arrived at the clinic, a line of people were waiting to be seen due to the efforts of the local health provider, Petrona. The steady stream of patients never let up until around 3 in the afternoon. We served over 64 patients, and it was a very busy and productive clinic, which was good for us after the slower clinic yesterday. Many of the patients spoke no Spanish, requiring a three way translation process: from Kaqchikel to Spanish to English and then back again. After our clinic was finished, we visited a footbridge dedicated to Father Greg, and built in 15 days by volunteers from Marquette. We had stopped there to pick up a group of engineers working on a water project. When all 17 of us were loaded in to the back of the pickup truck, we drove to Parma for some ice cream! John treated us all to some delicious soft serve. ¡Gracias Juan! After we returned to the parish, the ladies spent some time examining the intricate scarves and table runners made by the widow's group headed by Chona. None of us walked away empty-handed. Looking forward to our next day of clinic in San Juan Mirador an our subsequent day on the lake! ¡Adios!
Hello to all of our friends and family back in Minnesota!!! Today we attended our second day of clinic in Panamaquip. The village was up in the mountains near San Lucas. The drive up there was absolutely beautiful!! This is a village I nicknamed "Jurassic Park" because of the steep terrain with the vines draping the sides of very deep ravines. The road is narrow and steep-at times it felt like we were going up at such a sharp angle as if on our way to the heavens through a beautiful sky! The weather is very warm with nearly clear skies all day. The coffee bean trees line the road ways and mountain sides. The corn now harvested with just the dry stalk remaining serves as the support for the vines of beans that climb up the stalks.
In the village, the children came to the clinic with curiosity to see the "gringos", but stayed all day to play with the team when time allowed. Their happy faces brought a warm feeling to the hearts of every team member. One of the children playing with us even called Dr. Jim "Grandpa" in English!!!
After clinic today, the team took a few minutes to walk to the San Lucas cemetery to visit the burial site of Father Greg Schaffer. What a humbling site that was to see!!! The site was decorated with many flowers and wreaths of colorful flowers from the recent celebration of All Saints and All Souls day-otherwise known here as Dia de Los Santos and Los Muertos.
Within two days of clinic, our team of ten has become united as one- one goal, one vision and one desire: to serve the people of Guatemala.
Just as an FYI- we have not felt any after shocks of the Earthquake that occurred yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by this tragedy.
To our friends and families back in Minnesota, we thank you for your continued support and prayers while we are away.
To our Friends at UHD Clinics and Hospital, Sara and Nancy hope you are doing well in our absence- we are enjoying our work without the influence and stress of computers, EMR, insurance companies, medicare, and API.
Despite our hard work at clinic and our dishwashing duties, we find it quite delightful not having to do any cooking, laundry or house cleaning!!!
Peace to All- the November MDP team
This blog from Susan was written yesterday but we were unable to post because the Parish had temporarily lost their internet connection.
Hello from San Lucas Toliman!
We held our first clinic today in Comunidad de Xejuyu, everyone pitched in and from the beginning things went smoothly. We had a bit of excitement as we were setting up for clinic. The ground began to shake and a loud roar accompanied it like a really large truck traveling quickly down a gravel road. We quickly realized it was an earthquake and not a large truck and so we left the building we were in. After about 30 seconds the ground settled and not even the medicines in pharmacy were knocked over. We heard later in the day the quake was large and other parts of Guatemala had severe damage. We are all fine and safe here.
It is always a joy to watch the team come together, and to serve the people to the best of our ablilities. One of the best memories from today was watching the kids of the community play with Sarah and Lily (a long term volunteer). Then the kids sang a song for all of us. Beautiful!!
This is just a quick note to our blog readers from the MDP Board of Directors back in Minnesota. Bridget Hermer and Carol Diethelm both heard about the earthquake in Guatemala today. Bridget called the Parish in San Lucas and they assured her that everyone is fine there. Carol contacted one of her friends in Guatemala and learned also that they are all well. We just wanted to pass this message along in case you happen to catch the story regarding the earthquake. Thanks!
Hi everybody and welcome to the blog of the November trip to Guatemala! We are all still a bit tired and recovering from our long day of travel yesterday. It was an early start - we had to be at the airport by 4:30 for our 6:15 flight. Needless to say, most of us slept on that first plane ride. Our layover was in Miami and we were there for about an hour. The flight to Guatemala City took less than 2 and a half hours and customs went very smoothly. Our group was expected and two government officials helped expedite the process. Adrian drove us from Guatemala City to San Lucas Toliman, and we arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Iquitiu, shortly before dark. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the parish and met Fr. John Francis, a priest from Minnesota that, I believe, many of you know. We are preparing for our first day of clinic today, and I will let you know all about it later!
Our trip begins early in the morning on Tuesday, November 6th. We will be traveling to the parish of San Lucas Toliman for our mission work with the native people of Guatemala. In preparation for our trip, tomorrow our team members will be coming over to our house to pack up all our medicines. In addition to packing the medicines, we will be sure to write a blog post that includes a short bio of all our team members. ¡Adios!
Author: Sarah Peller
I'm a senior in high school on my second trip to Guatemala. I will be working in the pharmacy and also hold the title of Blog Poster Extraordinaire! So if our blog isn't updated, I am the one to whom you send the angry emails. Thanks for following our blog!