Week 6 Children International, San Jeronimo and my lappy

11 07 2010

Hi Folks! Amid several data entry days, this week has had a few highlights. MOST IMPORTANT, I took time to meet my sponsored child Blanca and pretended it was Christmas, and I got to San Jeronimo for a few last surveys, plus a power outage and trip to the clinic.

Sunday: Instead of doing one day trip to see Blanca (outside of San Pedro Sula), I decided to make a weekend by visiting the closest beach town Tela ~2 hours outside of SPS. Although I did enjoy swimming, I am mixed on whether it was worth it. To get there by 12noon ish, I had to take the 5:15am bus to SPS and then wait there ~2hrs for the next to Tela. I did get to see when the bus arrived in SPS (since I will be taking the same the day I leave Honduras) so that is one less unknown. I am glad I splurged for the “Plus” seats (aka VIP for $6 more) which meant my trip was more conducive to sleeping, which I did practically the whole way. Long travel day story short, I got to Tela but a mile outside the main Old Tela. This was factored into my hotel choice (that and its bargain quality) so I stayed by myself in a rather dingy hotel (though for $5 more I got a room with TV and AC- so clutch). Unfortunately, there was not really enough time in my mind to get settled in my hotel and get to this botanical garden I wanted to go to, so in sort of slight resignation, i just went to the beach instead. Aquamarine water that was slightly warm, it was easy to get in, though very few people left stuff on the beach so that made me nervous, though I only brought my key (clipable to my suit), towel, skirt and 50L in a plastic bag worn in my suit. The beach is not as fun alone. I did walk way down the banks and sat and talked with a few vacationers and a local on a pier with a thatched roof (beautiful breeze). Still, you get heckled by guys even in my modest bathing suit. I did manage to watch a little sunset and eat a yummy shrimp/crab dish right off the beach (though I really wanted a coconut and a straw, something my walking made me miss out on.) It did not stay out to late and made it back to my hotel, enjoying the AC and various American movies on the TV with subtitles.

Monday: Another early day, seeing that I have to catch a bus at 6am ~20 minutes away walking. I gave myself plenty of time, practically leaving a 5am. Not many cabs at that hour, though no one bothered (still was not comfortable walking there). I did make it onto the bus and to the bus station where my ride from Children International picked me up. The deal is you get to their main area, and they will transport you the rest of the way. So with one field worker and our driver, we went ~hour outside the city into a small town to where the Children International office is. Here I got a first got to meet Blanca! I recognized her from the photos and see and her mom came with me on a tour of the building. There, they provide free medical and dental care, school support/library/skill training (for the older kids), their administrative offices and a playground (though everything was metal and concrete which made me shudder having helped build a nicely padded playground before). I met the doc who has children living and working in the states. From the office, we all got in the car to go to her “apartment.” I use it loosely since it’s a 2 cement room place smaller than my bedroom in Durham, with one room with two beds and raddy couches and one dresser. The kitchen area has a hot plate like stove, shelfs for food stuff and a broken refrigerator (I guess the icebox kinda of works since it’s still plugged in, though they buy ice sometimes to put in the fridge. Out back is their spicket with sheets up to for some sort of bathroom/bathing/laundry area. I did not look behind the curtain but I could smell urine. And they rent this place for $15 a month. At least it has cement floors and a roof. The only thing decorating the apartment is a certificate for Blanca graduating Kindergarden, so sweet and so sad but a step toward breaking the cycle of poverty.

It is in her home I meet all her brothers and sisters, including the oldest who is deaf and essentially mute aside from guttural vocalizations. With no formal sign language, he still manages to communicate with his mom and sister through their own sign language. The other children and healthy and wonderfully sweet. I get a picture with all of them. I also get one with Blanca wearing a dress with shorts that I brought her from the states. Its a  little big but the kind she can grow in. After this visit with the family, Blanca, her deaf brother, mother and I go with the CI staffers to go to lunch and shopping! We go to an area ~30 mins from her home but there is more shopping and stores. Based on Blanca’s decision we get burgers at Burger King. It was her decision but anyone who knows me will recognize this crisis of conscience as a child obesity researcher (and as a generally thrifty person since BK is practically the same prices there as in the states so its a relatively fancy meal). But with happy meals or “Amigalitos” (little friends), they get toys and a chance to play in BKs slide jungle gym (not made of cement). I sort of had to show them what it was and how to enter but soon they figured out the slide and were having a ball. I wished I could have brought the other kids. After lunch and playtime we head to a chain clothing store (pricier that most around but securing takes credit cards and is still like Walmart prices. This is where Christmas begins. Knowing I can use my credit card, we get clothes for everyone in the family (why just make the other kids jealous?). It was fun to just say yes to almost everything with a few practical exceptions. With a pit stop nearby for school shoes for Blanca, we then head to a grocery store and fill an entire cart. Granted there was a tense moment when both my cards stopped working (and with ~$120 bucks worth of food, I didn’t have that kind of cash). After one frantic call to the credit card company, they finally remove the hold (I told them twice I was going to Honduras!) and we head back, really running short on time (though I insist we go back to BK and get happy meals for the other children+ice cream in the car).  I was a little sad on the ride home since I knew it was the end. At one point, the ice cream made her a little cold (how in Honduras I don’t know) but I was wearing a big stretchy skirt so I pull the hem over her like a blanket. I do tell her that when we arrive, we will have to unload quickly and say a quick goodbye, as it was nearing 4 (technically the ending time for the workers) and I needed to catch a 6pm bus back to Copan Ruinas. Upon arrival, we do just that, with quick bear hugs and one last photo. My guides and I hop back in the truck and head back to my bus, happy but a little forlorn.

Tuesday: A slight recovery day, but I manage to enter all the data from my surveys into my database, a boring and tedious task but necessary. Nothing to exciting beyond that though I make a stop at the office to check in about the next day.

Wednesday: San Jeronimo! Fortunately, this place is one with paved road all the way to it (the things we take for granted!). There is no pregnancy club today so I go with one of the health promoters and stop by every pregnant woman’s house for interviews. I appreciate that so many are willing to participate (probably since its something different and a break from the usual). Its hot but its still beautiful walking around…until I end up standing on an ant’s nest unknowingly and they sting the crap out of my foot. I don’t generally complain about bug bites but it turned out like bee stings on my feet => swelling and discomfort (i decided not to post the photo of my ugly swollen foot). It didn’t kick in for a while so I enjoyed my visits for a grand total of 112 interviews (small compared to Mike also in Honduras, but my population is a little more select). But a good (and maybe last) day of interviews.

Thursday: another computer day, diving hard and fast into my first project, a medical record review. Converting the collected data into a usable format was difficult (and not without error correcting). Nonetheless, I knock out a year’s worth of data analysis (2009). I just need to do 2010 and 2008 but at least i have a better template.

Friday: another computer day, though it started with no power (just like last Friday…I am sensing a pattern). I decide to head to the clinic where they always have power as I am getting closer to crunch time. Fortunately, they also had a monitor I can borrow (really annoying that I can’t bring my laptop just anywhere to use). More data analysis in a hot windless room BUT I talk to the staff to work out supplies I can ask for from Remedy: Duke’s program to send extra medical materials from the Hospital to needy places. They give me an inventory of what they have used so I can get a sense of what to ask for. I stay until 4:30 and work my way home (its not technically really far but on public transit, particularly leaving Santa Rita, its slow as the bus drivers don’t like to leave unless they are full and lie about when they will leave.) But I spend a relaxing evening at home and manage to finish off another book (my 4th in 6 weeks)

Saturday: Slept late but got a package so I made it into town and looked around at some more of the shops in town. Some good stuff (some fair priced, some overpriced even for Honduras) I also ordered some yummy pupusas to go and watched a little soccer. Then I caught up on some more work (analyzing referrals to the bigger hospital like for obstetrical complications etc). I did go out to what just appeared like a concert in the park but was a big evangelical concert. Although I didn’t know Spanish Christian rock songs, it struck a chord deeply and made me miss my church life back in the states. At one point though I did bump into the same Doc from Nueva Armenia (she practically comes to Copan every weekend and loves to dance) so we got a few beers, some grub and went out dancing a little. I am really starting to enjoy this little town. However by 12:30 I was pooped and ready to go home, shower and sleep.

Thanks for reading! Sponsor a child!

http://www.children.org/AboutSponsorship.asp?sid=79E1871-255B-4596-96D5-572243C46EA81

-Kaitlin Rawluk

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