Thursday, June 8th, 11 PM Central Standard Time - San Cristobal:

This was our final day of regular medical work. It's also my brother's birthday back in the states. This is the first time I recall not being able to call him; Happy Belated Birthday, Rob!

We rode out to Pamuk to finish check-ups on the children we were unable to see yesterday. We also stopped for a housecall on the way and checked out two children by the side of the road while waiting for a staff worker to join us. When his bus arrived, he told us of another sick child on the bus. The bus driver chose to stop the bus, and everyone on the bus waited while we attended to the children.

David worked up the two children from the home, and I addressed the child from the bus. David's kids were malnourished with infectious diarrhea, worms, and general failure to thrive. The child I saw simply had a respiratory infection with some reactive bronchial involvement. We mixed the antibotics there on the side of the road, Maragarita provide the translation to Poqomchi', and the mother and child reboarded the bus, which then resumed its route to San Cristobal.

Following this mini roadside clinic, we reloaded the van, then picked up yet another sick child on the way to the school. We elected to bring him (and his older sister - folks here never go to the doctor alone) with us for treatment rather than treating him at the roadside as it was starting to get late.

We set up the clinic again at the same school we had used the day before.

This was the view from the hill the school was on. We joking referred to the little latrine up behind the school as the "room with a view."

Of course, the weather changes rapidly here, and by the time we were ready to leave, view was somewhat less spectacular.

Maladies seem to come in waves: yesterday's theme was tooth decay, with a large number of patients needing referrals for rotten teeth. Today's motif was "bug in the ear", and at least five children were seen with various insects or insect parts in their ears. We removed them through a combination of water irrigation and simply hooking them out with a soft plastic curette. I'm not sure the exact number of kids seen today, but to our best estimates, everyone that needed to be seen was seen.

Following the day's work, we stopped on the way back to the YMCA by a little path that lead back to the town of Cerro Verde, or "green hill". While waiting for the others to come meet us, we stopped by a roadside stand for a soda. Bottles have significant value here, both as a means of carrying fresh water as well as for their deposit. Drinking glasses and disposable cups are out of the question. Instead, they serve the beverages with a sandwich baggie and a straw.

Briefly visiting at a nearby house while waiting. I realized after I returned to the states that I didn't have many pictures of housing here. This was one of the nicer homes we saw, near the tienda where the sodas were purchased, and next to the path to Cerro Verde. Construction is typically concrete or dirt floor, with wooden pillar/beam frame, and wood plank walls. Roofs are usually either corrugated metal or thatch. Windows are open; no glass nor screens.

Eventually the bus arrived, and we were joined the members of our team. Another two kids were treated on-the-spot by Dave and Linda for impetigo, then we proceeded en masse down the trail to Cerro Verde with the throng of children returning home. Notice the girl is carrying an empty soda bottle gleaned from the trip in the far left image...a valuable container for carrying water in a place without faucets.

The homes in Cerro Verde were a bit more modest than the one up by the road, with predominantly thatched roofs.

While there, we had a chance to see the schoolhouse that had been built both by the town, and then the subsequent one built by the government. The villagers had (by hand!) terraced a large portion of the adjacent hillside in order to provide a large flat area for a school building. It was cinder block / concrete floor / corrugated metal roof construction, but this one actually had electric fluorescent lighting. The previous school building had wooden walls, corrugated metal roof, and dirt floor.

While there, made several attempts to play some games with the kids, including an attempt at "Duck-Duck-Goose!". Some of the children were too shy to touch the hand of a Caucasian, and the others weren't sure which direction to run. Others, if they were going to be "it" again after failing to beat the "goose" back to their spot in the circle, simply chose not continue playing and walked away...yet another instance of the difficulty of bring North American games to Guatemalan culture. Jewel Anita had some success trying to introduce hopscotch.

Following this we were shown the local church...

... and were treated to the demonstration of the marimba. Usually the marimba is played by three people at once.
brief recording of the marimba being played

Our guide was the town's teacher, a pastor of the church, and a farmer as well. He had originally grown up nearby, gone on to advanced education, and had now returned to teach. This is a photo of him with as many of his family as would fit in the field of view, in front of a corn-drying rack in by their house. The second image shows more of his house. I didn't notice at the time, but you can see in the back of the image that he also has made the switch to one of the steel storage silos.

As dusk was setting, we all packed back into the minivan and returned to the YMCA camp for a farewell dinner. The dining hall was decorated for celebrating our departure: palm fronds were attached to the pillars, and the floor was covered with fresh pine needles. While it created a lovely texture and scent, my allergies were none too appreciative.

I had chance to talk at some length with Arturo at dinner, the gentleman that talked to rest the group yesterday afternoon. It was interesting to hear him share the vision they had of Food for the Hungry helping people to improve their lives by applying biblical principles of living. He drew a stark contrast between the idea of simply giving something to those in need and helping them to improve their way life. frustration with the numerous other agencies that will simply provide handouts for short period of time, effectively converting the needy into beggars. Their approach, in contrast, is to facilitate people working for community goals. Dinner was special, consisting of enchiladas, a dish of plantains with a red mole sauce, a cooked vegetable salad, and a tasty pineapple tea. And of course, the coffee was excellent yet again.

Picture of Arturo on the right, and Domingo (one of the local Food for the Hungry workers) on the left in the dining hall.

Following dinner, we gathered under the rotunda for a reflection on the week's activities. Our group from Ascension was joined by some of the Food for the Hungry staff, and Jewel Anita and Nathan providing translations between us. We reflected, prayed, and sang a bit, then Nathan and Jewel Anita presented each of us a locally made candle, affixed with the scripture Matthew 5:16, in Spanish:

Asi alumbre vuestra luz delante del los hombres, para que vean vuestras buenas obras, y glorifiquen a vuestro Padre que esta' en los cielos.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

We then returned to our rooms to sort, pack, and reload the puppets/etc in the duffle bags for the trip home. Pete discovered that frogs have a self defense mechanism that involves rapid emptying of the cloaca. Hey, at least it got him to change his shirt.

Things are settling down now for the night. Peter and Jim are sleeping outside in the hammocks. Pete took two showers: first with water following the frog incident, and the second one with Off bug spray. We'll see how long they survive out there this evening. I'm hitting the sack, as we're planning on a 5AM drive to Antigua tomorrow.

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