Coming home from Guatemala is always a transition. I don't wake to the roosters and the smell of smoke in the morning and I find I miss that. Most of the people I encounter during the day don't worry about not having enough food for their family. The stark differences between there and here are painfully apparent.
I want to update you all on our last few days.
Our final clinic day was Monday and of course by the last day we were truly a well oiled machine. We work more closely with the health promoters and they are such a valuable asset. The village we went to on Monday was fairly infested with scabies. The health promoter shared with me that many women and children were suffering from it. We treated many patients early in the morning but then the flow of patients slowed. The health promoter shared with me the women were embarrassed to come to us and tell us what was really going on. She asked what more she could do to get them to come to clinic. My only answer was to continue to try to educate and encourage. I wish more of them had come as eradicating as much of it as possible would be best for the entire village. One step at a time.
After clinic we met women from the charity program. Jake, pharmacy assistant extraordinaire, had gone shopping with Emmy, Dr. Tun's wife, on Friday with money collected from our team. The women they bought for on Friday came to receive the food packages on Monday evening. This was difficult for many of our team. We spoke that night of the difficult burden so many of these women have been asked to bear. They were so thankful for what they were given. We were told that since they had rice and beans now maybe this week they would be able to buy meat for their families. We were given a glimpse into their circumstances and humbled by their gratitude.
We held our final team meeting Monday night and all had the chance to share a bit about our experience and what we would take home with us. I would like to comment on the feeling of family that existed among the team. We laughed a lot and sometimes cried together. The team work was fabulous and once again I feel so blessed to have been a part of this group.
Until we meet again San Lucas.......
Yesterday on Saturday we had a great day. Susan and I gave a talk on diabetes and women’s health to the local health providers in the villages. We spoke and took questions for about an hour and 45 minutes. They seemed very interested and asked a lot of questions. They’re doing a phenomenal job improving the health of their communities. We can definitely see a big difference when we visit these communities from when we started. While we were doing that the rest of the group was taking a tour of the women’s health center, the school, the coffee project and ended up at the clinic with us. They enjoyed it a great deal. We then did a half day clinic and saw about 40 patients. It was in a very nice clinic and everything ran really well. We came back and went to mass and played Farkle, a dice game, on the top of the hotel and it was a blast.
Today was a gorgeous day on the lake. 75 and sunny the whole day. We went to San Juan, which is a town most of us have never been to before, and then we went to Santiago and toured that town. We also added a fair amount to their local economy. We saw where father Stan was martyred. The chapel was open this time and I had never seen that before. It was very moving.
Tomorrow will be our last day of clinic. It’s been a great trip so far!!
The last few days have been incredibly rewarding and incredibly challenging in turns. I have had joyful reunions with my friends and second family here in San Lucas, though they’re as disappointed as I am that I’m only staying a week. Chatting with Beatriz in the office as she works through the accounting or bothering the cooks in the morning fills me with contentment but also the sharp realization of how limited my time is this trip, especially in comparison to my time as a Long Term Volunteer. Despite this, or possibly because of it, I have tried to throw myself into each and every task and opportunity given to me.
Our first clinic day in Nueva Providencia was slower but that gave each of the providers more time to adjust to the new electronic medical record system. It also gave me time to adjust to being the most experienced medical interpreter, because I had always traveled with a more experienced medical interpreter when I worked with MDP in April. The act of interpreting is a powerful one, giving a voice to those who would otherwise not be understood, but even when I'm confident in what I say part of me always wonders if the patient actually understands the doctor’s instructions or if I missed one of the symptoms mentioned in the patient’s story. The slower day allowed me to build my confidence, which was fortunate as the second day of clinic, in Santa Teresita, was quite busy. The clinic was hot and loud, with the majority of the patients lined up before we even arrived. Many waited for hours for the chance to see our providers. Today we hosted a clinic in Pampojila and each of the providers had their own private exam rooms which was a nice change. We saw patients at a steady rate and in the early afternoon Dad, Cathy, Jordan, Lauren, and I went on a home visit to a patient the health promoter said was too sick to come to clinic. Speaking with that patient was a new challenge for me as an interpreter because while she clearly understood some Spanish, the patient primarily spoke Kachikel. While I can speak a few phrases of Kachikel, we needed a three way translation to make the patient’s concerns and the doctor’s advice understood. The patient was a diabetic with extremely high blood sugar who had begun feeling weak the past week, a story which came in bits and pieces through the health promoter translating from Kachikel to Spanish before I relayed the information to my dad from Spanish to English. This was the first patient I had helped care for this week who needed the three way translation and it was a very interesting process.
Outside of the clinic setting, the team has been getting to know one another and having a lot of fun together. We have played a variety of card games on the floor of the Iquitui. Some of the responses in the game “What’s Yours Like?” have had us in stitches (It’s changed over the years, and “It brings all the girls to the yard” come to mind). We have also had the chance to speak with Andres about his experiences growing up on a finca, or coffee plantation, and the good that the mission and Father Greg have provided to the town of San Lucas and the surrounding areas. Today Dad and I played in the weekly chamusca, or pick up soccer game with some of the mission workers which was exhausting but fun. While I think every visit to San Lucas for the rest of my life will leave me thinking it was too short I feel grateful to be able to re-experience San Lucas with my parents and the rest of our wonderful team.
We have had a couple good first days in clinic. People who know me know that I like going to new places and we have been to two new places in Guatemala. The first place was Nueva Providencia and today we went to Santa Teresita. Yesterday we saw about 46 patients and had an introduction to the new electronic medical record that San Lucas is implementing. It does add one more step but will be much better as more groups continue to come and there will be some history for the patient. It will be interesting if this could be used as a sample program for many other areas in poorer countries. Today we saw about 73 patients and went down the mountain quite a bit. It was warmer since it was a lower altitude and all of the people came at once and were in the same building we were in all day. The people were generally very sick so we had an opportunity to help them quite a bit, which was rewarding.
One gentleman at the end of the first day was very moving. After we finished our appointment with him, he blessed me and my daughter Sarah, who was interpreting for me. All I could think about was how he had so very little but still was happy with what he had and was praying for us to have good things. It was especially moving to have him bless my daughter, who I am so proud of.
We also had a discussion about life and the finca by Andres. He grew up on a finca that is now the town that we went to the first day. It gave us a very good idea of how the Mayans had to live many years ago and some still live today. Last night we saw a movie on Father Greg and how he helped walk with the people here in Guatemala.
Our team has had a great time together and has had a couple of game nights on the roof of the Iquiti hotel. Hopefully you can join us next year!!
Today we were at Nueva Providencia today. It was our first day of clinic. We all used the electronic medical record. It was a successful first day!
We made it all the way from chilly Minneapolis to warm, lush sunny San Lucas today. We did have to scurry through the Atlanta airport, no time for food or the bathroom but we all made it on the plane. We traveled up the newly paved road into San Lucas. Many less potholes on this trip and once we got to our hotel our final team member Jake joined us. We have had our orientation and some went to the square to watch/play basketball. We will get rested tonight and be ready for a full day tomorrow.
Thank you for your prayers and support!
Welcome everyone to the blog for the MDP team traveling to San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala this November! My name is Sarah Peller (daughter of co-founder of MDP Susan Peller) and I’m in charge of organizing the blog for this trip. Hopefully you’ll get to hear from a variety of voices this trip but if not you’ll receive your updates from yours truly! The MDP team this trip is affectionately referred to as the Peller-Eiselt team as everyone is either a Peller or related to Jim and Katy Eiselt. Our team members are listed on the right-hand side of this page.
As you’ve probably deduced from our team list, I was invited to join this MDP group because of my Spanish knowledge and also because of my extended first-hand experience with the San Lucas Mission. I spent 10 months volunteering as a Long Term Volunteer with the San Lucas Mission, working mainly in construction, health care, and with the visiting groups, and I returned this past July. It is hard to put such an experience into words. The people of the San Lucas Mission brought me into their lives as family and that is a gift I can never repay. The love and affection I felt there was incredible, and I miss all the people I met there every day. I was blessed to be able to spend time among them and know that in whatever small way I may have contributed to the well-being of the community, it was far outstripped by the growth, knowledge, and friendship I gained while a part of the mission. I am beyond thrilled to be traveling back to the Mission and hope to be able to make time to visit all my friends around our busy clinic schedule! Send your prayers our way this week, as we head out tomorrow!