amazingly, tomorrow marks our last day visiting our four communities. monday and tuesday were our final charlas, with their own wrinkles and speed bumps. the difference now, at the end of our project, isn’t that we evade these obstacles, its that we’re more accustomed and better prepared to handle them when they pop up.
monday was our last day at Los Juarez, and we arrived to find one of the most impressive turnout of moms we have seen so far. over 50 moms were scattered around the schoolyard, waiting, when we arrived at 10:30am. but of course, a dose of humility is always healthy, and we quickly realized that these women were not there for us. some kind of government agency was coming to conduct a competency test for women who had been working on completing their secondaria (like middle school), thus these groups of women were studying from graph paper notebooks, scribbling notes in pencil, and cramming some last minute knowledge in before the test. and of course, the level of organization was par for the course: little to none. few women knew when the testing officials would arrive, even fewer could explain how things would go once they were there, leaving us a bit confused about how to run our charlas. but, now much more seasoned in the art of pulling something out of nothing, we simply gathered the women with a quick announcement, and dove in. we pushed through our talk about diarrheal disease with our largest group yet, mass distributed our cups for mixing suero (oral rehydration salts), and moved on to first aid. we split up into our stations and again got it going quickly. of course the testing agency arrived a few minutes later, and women started to trickle out. but i had just started my: “my knee is broken, help me!” act - and a few women traded concerned glances. i broke character for a moment to let them know anyone could leave that needed to, and most did. but as i was still splayed out on the concrete clutching my knee, one leaned over to the next one and loudly whispered, “well, we can’t just leave him!” they sweetly stuck out the rest of my talk, before heading off to take their test.
tuesday was back to Los Tovares, one of our favorite communities. we had a great, lively charla with the kids, then had a few hours to burn before our talk with the moms. an hour in, a few of the kids snuck out of the classroom and timidly asked us if we would like to see their dance. unsure of exactly what we were agreeing to, we followed them back inside. what ensued is hard to put into words - but it was an adorable, hilarious, hectic, sweet and thoroughly amusing display of choreography, time and practice. lines of kids crisscrossed, doing a variety of moves mostly drawn from american hip hop culture, with others doing cartwheels through the crowd. during the second dance, set to a song from grease, a pair of younger girls had only a tenuous hold on the choreography, but were having the absolute time of their lives while dancing away. a girl was chasing one of the youngest kids in the class in and around the dancers, and though i’m fairly sure it was not part of the dance, it is simply impossible to be entirely sure.
we had a low turnout of moms for our talk, likely due to the once-weekly Tuesday market in San Miguel, but it was a really engaged, interested group. we cruised through the diarrhea talk, occasionally pausing our curriculum to let a mom explain to the others, quite thoroughly, exactly what we were about to say. the first aid talk was equally fun, active and involved. the moms were a bit skeptical about feeling my dorsalis pedis pulse on my foot, but it turned into an opportunity for laughs, and soon we headed back, feeling good about the folks we reached with all of our charlas over these past few weeks.
wednesday was our ‘off day,’ but we had a morning tour of hospital CASA, the sortof alternative, holistic, maternity hospital in town. it was a neat facility with a cool, integrative approach, not to mention a really beautiful building, complete with a rooftop terrace for inpatients. that tour was immediately followed by a cab ride and a tour of the Hospital General, the larger medical center for most of the folks in and around San Miguel. it was a really clean, well equipped, and quite large facility, and i think we were all impressed with the organization, cleanliness and approach there, despite a massive number of patients daily (the doc who led us around estimated 600 patients come into the emergency dept daily).
a mellow afternoon culminated with a cup of coffee with some of the interns at CASA, a group of nice, fun young folks, about our age with similar interests. they showed us a neat coffee shop tucked in just off of San Miguel’s main square, where we chatted in english, told jokes, and shared stories about our different projects and goals going forward. its too bad we’ve only met them now, because they would have been some fun companions for going out and seeing a bit more of the city.
wednesday evening, Sam and Dr Carlough arrived in San Miguel - the two main folks that run the OIA (office of international affairs) at UNC school of medicine. they joined us today for our health fair in El Lindero, another successful, busy, and enjoyable day. we saw around 30 patients, I screened for, and found, a lot of folks with problems with depression, and I managed to refer a good number to the psychologist in San Miguel. I believe we also finally found a community without high rates of undiagnosed diabetes, which was a bit of a relief.
tomorrow, we return to Viznaga del Cero Grande, another of our favorite communities, for our final health fair of PPS 2011. its shocking that it is already coming to a close; it feels like just a few days ago that we arrived in these dusty communities, drenched in sweat in our mismatched scrubs, yet now we are saying goodbye. we’ve been invited to a few year-end events next week, so we can postpone the nostalgia a bit longer: a graduation ceremony and a theater performance are on the docket for our farewell tour next week. but in all reality, it is both sad and mind boggling that we are leaving so soon. but i suppose my spanish is evidence that i have been here for a few weeks - i’m finally past nerves over having basic conversations, i’m able to explain my way around words i don’t know, and i feel like i can really communicate with my family (at long last!). at least one goal has been accomplished.
but i suppose i shouldnt get ahead of myself: hurricane Arlene is bearing a course directly for San Miguel. tomorrow’s health fair may yet be canceled due to torrential rain, risk of flooding, and high winds. if so, we’ll simply shift the date to next week, and we can relive the joys and sorrows of another ‘last’ visit. another sign of how far we’ve come: not one of us is panicked about the prospect of a heavy storm totally shattering our plans for the day, we’re just a bit more ready, and used to, making do.