Week 2, surfing in El Salvador and beyond

Last week was pretty much the same as the first – clinic, lessons, sleep. The only difference is, that I FINALLY went out for the first time last Tuesday. Tuesday is “Ladies Night” here in Antigua, and there are a couple of bars where the drinks for girls are either free, or 4Q ($0.50). I went and it was a nice opportunity to meet some more people from the volunteer house. Of course, we called it quits early, since we all had to be up at 6:30 the next morning, but I’m glad I went!

This past weekend I decided to join a group of 9 other people going to El Salvador. Guiness Travel, which is paired up with Maximo Nivel, runs a weekend trip to a small surf resort. The weekend basically consisted of learning to surf (I actually got up on the board, yay!), swimming in the pool and the ocean and relaxing with drinks in hand. Overall, it was a great weekend and I was a little sad to come back to Antigua where I actually have a few responsibilities (I know, my life is so hard, right?).

Yesterday, I started at a new placement. I’m still in a clinic, just in a different city – one about 40 minutes away by chicken-bus. I changed because I didn’t feel like I was needed THAT much at the first clinic, and I definitely wasn’t learning anything. There just weren’t very many patients, and the doctor seemed a little grumpy and not wanting me in the room to shadow him. This new clinic is LARGE and has a lot of people. The population is mainly indigenous and quite poor…people come in filthy dirty, especially the kids, and some without shoes. Most are wearing the indigenous, traditional dress (which I LOVE…gotta get a picture!). A lot of what I’ve seen so far illness-wise has been infections of various sorts – probably because people aren’t consciencious about washing their hands (hint: DO NOT EAT street-food). This week I’m in the clinic with Mindy and Deon, the 2 med students that have been living where I am. Mindy’s been sick the past couple of days, but it’s been good to have Deon around to show me the ropes, and explain some of the medical stuff I’m less familiar with. He started showing me how to do an abdominal exam today – yay! exciting!…seriously though. I love this.

I have a lot more autonomy at this clinic, and less interactions with the nurse. However, the doctor is really nice and even speaks some english. I’ve shadowed him for about an hour for the past 2 days, and he explains what’s going on with the patient, and lets Deon do his own little exam to practice etc. He told me that once I know how to do it, I can practice with the patients also. He also told me that if/when he has time, he will teach me how to do stitches. I’ve already seen stitches done once in this clinic – a guy came in who had sliced his thumb, practically to the bone, with a machete. I have to say, I don’t think that the stitches were done in such a way that the scar will be minimized, but let’s be honest – he’s lucky he has his thumb at all. It was crazy difficult for the nurse (yes, the nurses do stitches here) to get the needle through his skin because it was just SO leathery and caloused. I hope my first patient doesn’t have skin like that! eeek!

Finally – I’m switching my accommodations as of this weekend. It’s nothing against Mary, it’s just that the house is the “older person house”. This weekend, Mindy and Deon are leaving, who were the next youngest after me. Then, the others who I know better and who are a little younger will be leaving within the next couple of weeks and I would be left with people in their 50s and 60s. Somehow, I prefer to be with people more my own age! So, I’m moving to the volunteer house to do that. I’ll be in a triple room with 2 canadian girls I had a chance to hang out with in El Salvador this past weekend and who are really nice. I feel there will most likely be some “noise issues” in the volunteer house as a whole, it sounds a lot like first year res, but I think that ultimately I will be happier there! I hope I’m right 🙂 I also hope I will get more food there – I came prepared not to eat as much as I do at home, and that’s definitely been the circumstance. However, over the weekend I discovered that the volunteer house people felt almost over-fed, while the people in my house were feeling slightly unsatisfied. A few people have now mentioned this to Maximo and they’ve assured us they’ll check it out. Not sure what exactly is going on there, but I hope for those who are staying in Mary’s house it will get better! The problem is not that I expect to be fed the same way as at home, but that I want to make sure the money they give the host familys for my food is actually going towards my food. Ultimately, though, I’m sure it will – Maximo has been really accommodating thus-far, and I’m sure they’ll get the whole thing sorted shortly.

I will end todays post with 5 things I LOVE about Guatemala so far:

1. colours – the colours of the clothing, especially those who dress traditionally, are amazing. So many bright colours – it’s exactly my scene!!
2. friendliness – the people here are SUPER friendly. They are a little reserved, but if you smile at them they will immediately light up and say “hola” or “buenos dias”. Even the lady who does my laundry is so nice – I told her I didn’t have enough money on me to pay her and that I would come back with it in 15 minutes – she told me to just take my laundry and come pay her the next day…I don’t know ANYONE at home who would have that much confidence that I would actually come back – and this is a lady that doesn’t have nearly as much money as most people in Canada!
3. The prices – EVERYTHING IS SO CHEAP AND I WANT IT ALL. ‘nough said
4. Chicken busses – riding a chicken bus is such an experience. Men hanging out the door, people madly dashing into the bus before it drives away, crazy colours, stickers that say “I love Jesus” and stickers of naked women beside one another, 3 people to a seat, being thrown from side to side as the bus rounds corners at insane speeds…yup. love it.
5. Speaking Spanish- I’ve wanted to learn spanish for many years now. Not only am I learning Spanish now, but I’m also using it every day, forced to figure out how to express myself to people who won’t understand me any other way. I’m excited to start using this newfound skill to learn more about Guatemalan culture and customs!!

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