Reflections – Looking back

As of today, I have been back in Canada for exactly 5 months and 12 days.

It’s crazy how the time has flown, that 5 months have passed already. But then I think about how much I miss my Shekina family, and I feel like it’s been a lifetime since I’ve seen them.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my time in Guatemala, and over the past couple of days I took some time to re-read the blog posts I had written while I was there. I think I forgot how much I learned. About Guatemala, about poverty, international aid…somehow now I feel like I always knew these things, even though I was SO ignorant before going away. Re-reading my blog posts has really reminded me how much seeing and experiencing what I did changed my perceptions and my understanding of these things.

When I came home from France/travelling Europe, I missed the place. I missed my lifestyle, I missed speaking French. Those were, and have remained, the number one things I miss from that year. A close number two thing I miss is the people I went with/met there. What I’ve noticed is different about the Guatemala trip is that those things are reversed.

I miss the people I lived with SO MUCH. Of course, this was an aspect of my trip that was really different with Guatemala – I lived with these people. But what are the chances that when you live with more than 20 people, all at different places and stages in their lives, that they could become so close. It’s crazy to me how close I still feel to all of these people. Even certain people who I wasn’t as close with when I was actually in the house. I still miss them and want to talk to them and know that they unconditionally support me. When I got medical school interviews, I wanted to share that with them. One of them actually called me, from the States, to congratulate me, then helped me to prep for interviews. When I found out I got into medical school, they were the first people that it came to mind to tell. When I’ve had personal issues over the past months, they are some of the few I feel comfortable to share that with. If you asked me what my ideal night would be right now, it would be one where we all got together, drank some Quetzalteca and laughed/cried/danced til we passed out from exhaustion. THAT would be a damn good time. I really wish I could properly put into words how I feel about these people. They are my family, and the connection I feel to them is strong despite our distance and despite time. I can’t describe how amazing it feels to know you have that army of support behind you.

Both times that I have traveled, I have felt AMAZING during the time that I was there. On top of the world, 100% fulfilled, absolutely full of joy. France really changed my perspective on life and how it is meant to be lived. Guatemala reminded me of that, but I’ve had a hard time applying it to my life here at home since being back. Partly it’s because of different, difficult circumstances in my life. But my experiences in Guatemala also taught me a lot about my flaws. About my attitude, my outlook. That even that positivity I tried to hold on to and apply after France hadn’t really permeated all of my life. Reflecting on my time in Guatemala, I have also given a lot of thought to the contrast between how I live usually here at home, how I lived while travelling, and how I would like to merge those together. I’d really like to get back to feeling that positivity. Especially the part about remembering how lucky I am to live the way I do, to have the opportunities that I have. I’m not sure what exactly it is I need to do to get there, but thinking about all this has really opened my eyes to the fact that a drastic lifestyle change is in order – and that is totally in my control.

So thanks Guatemala. 5 months later you’re still teaching me things. About myself, about others, about community and about what is possible. Here’s to even bigger, better and more exciting things in the future.

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Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Today closes my last day in Nicaragua, a country I have quickly fell in love with. I’m not sure what it is about this place but I have really connected to it. Maybe it’s the scenery- volcanoes, mountains, beaches, palm trees and critters of every variety. Maybe it’s just what we’ve gotten to do here. Maybe it’s that there’s only a week left and I’m holding on as hard to this experience as possible.

First, we arrived in Granada, a colonial town, similar in many ways to Antigua, except without the cobblestone. It was much more European than Antigua also. I really loved it there, and could definitely see myself living there. The entire time I was there I had major nostalgia for France.

To get to Granada, we had to take an 18 hour overnight trip that was certainly eventful! First, we saw a man on a motorcycle get hit and thrown off his bike unconscious. Them, we had a flat tire. Then one of the border officers decided to be a dick and try to get a bribe out of our guide. Then in the morning we got 2 more flat tires! In the end it took us 22.5 hours. Crazy!!

On our first day in Granada, I took a horse and carriage your of the city, and got some history. Then, we went on a speedboat through some of the 365 islands off the coast. The islands are owned by a combination of indigenous people, locals and super rich nicaraguans and americans. There was a lot of lovely birds, and one island with monkeys. The monkeys were put there as a tourist attraction, which is sad. But now the monkeys know that tourists are there to feed them. So we fed them some cookies from the boat then one of them got adventurous and jumped in the boat! We all tried to just keep calm so she wouldn’t scratch us, as she walked along the boat, then she came and sat in my lap! I just laughed and didn’t touch her, and asked for someone to take a picture but I was so nervous! Anyways it was all fine. We also went to an island to grab a drink, and there were a couple of guys there who seemed to think they were cool. One in particular thought he was pitbull and seemed to think it was appropriate to call me “mamita”. Barf. I ignored him, and the tour guide threatened to beat him up, but he was harmless. I have to say though that I’m very over the men and their commentary here! It’s really not as harmless or complimentary as it was in France.

The next day, we did a full day your. We started with a tour of a Masaya village and got a demonstration of how they make ceramics using traditional indigenous methods. It was cool and the ceramics were beautiful. After that, we headed to the Laguna de Apoyo, a lake with beautiful water where we spent about 3hrs in the water. We ended our day at the top of a volcano, on a hike where we saw bat caves, lava tunnels, and an active crater.

The next morning we headed out to Ometepe, a large island in Lake Nicaragua. It was created by lava flow from 2 volcanoes, one of which is still active. The greenery and flowers here are SO lush. The lake is freshwater, but because it has a river between it and the ocean, there are sharks who have adapted to the fresh water.

Here, we’re staying with host families which is an interesting look into the reality of living conditions here. The houses have tin roofs, bare walls and there is space between the roof and the walls so there are tons f lizards and bugs in our room. Luckily we had mosquito nets so I felt better about that. This morning we got traditional breakfast of rice and beans with fried cheese and plantain.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at a watering hole because we were all dripping sweat and sweltering hot. Most of our group today decided to tackle the massive volcano Conception, which is a 1600meter, difficult hike. Some didn’t make it all the way to the top. I, because I am sane, opted for a cultural tour.

We started with a bio reserve where we saw monkeys, birds, snakes and lots of lizards. It was so beautiful, and I found myself so incredibly happy – I actually said out loud “I can’t believe this is my life!” The day only got better from there. We headed to a town to see some ancient Aztec stone sculptures, then to see some petroglyphs. They were really cool, and so basic!! Honestly they look like drawings I would have done as a 5 year old! Haha. Then, we went over to a beautiful beach, with bath warm water. We ate lunch there and I got lobster with garlic sauce. Om nom. Fucking delicious!

We finished off the night with a beautiful sunset, dinner with our host families (which was kinda awkward because they’re not very talkative) and now I’m sitting with some of my tour group just chatting and rehashing the day and talking about Christmas (which is weird because it really doesn’t feel like Christmas!).

Today has really been an incredible day. All day I’ve had a smile plastered to my face. I can’t quite describe the feeling, but it’s like there is nothing else I would do in that moment to make life better. The future and it’s problems seem far away and manageable, and life right now seems too good to be true.

Tomorrow we head to Costa Rica where I’m planning to challenge myself with some zip lining and canyoneering. If I’m lucky I’ll get to maybe feed some monkeys! We’ll see! On to the next adventure!!

Honduras

Dec 5th
Copan

Yesterday, I began the first real day of my tour. We started in Copan, Honduras to see some Mayan ruins. The site is much smaller than Tikal (although they did say that only 25% of the site is uncovered) and the structures themselves are much smaller and less impressive. However, they have MUCH more in the way of stelas and sculptures. I love looking at them, and wish I could read their ancient language to understand. I’ve always been fascinated by ancient civilizations and i find it so interesting how many similarities there are between civilizations separated by oceans. For me, it is proof that Pangea must have existed – how else can you explain how interconnected we are?! I also like to try to imagine what tr common people were like in those times. When we think of ancient civilizations we think about rituals, religion, politics. But what were their personalities like? Did they have shy people? Loud people? Sassy people? Liars? Sweet people? I assume they must have, but it’s just not what we ever think of… Bonus, at the ruins there were gorgeous wild macaws!!
After the ruins, Rachel and I headed back to the hotel and I passed out for an hour and a bit. I’ve been exhausted, since my last little while at shekina I didn’t sleep much / would rather spend time with my friends!!
At 3, our entire tour group headed to some hot springs, which were gorgeous, in the jungle. We stayed there til well past sunset, then had delicious barbecued beef and chicken shish kebab with beans and tortillas.mmmm.

As I write this, I’m beginning a 12hr day of travel from Copan to the island of Roatan, where I’ll get the chance to lie on a hour sand beach and do some scuba diving!!

Dec 7th
Roatan
Today, I completed my scuba diving certificate! This means that i can dive around the world at a max depth of 40ft with a guide. Honestly, diving is the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Since I was a kid i always wanted to be a mermaid. Seriously, according to my parents I used to watch and rewatch The Little Mermaid over and over again. Not sure why, but I’ve always had a fascination with fish too. Probably because I love colour and fish are so beautiful. I think I’m also really awed that there is a whole other world that exists totally beyond our views and beyond our comprehension.

Well over the past couple of days I’ve had the chance to explore that other world. We started with some in class stuff, then practiced some skills in the water before heading to a coral reef 40ft underwater to swim with the fishes. After a few moments of feeling panicky, i settled in. Saw all kinds of beautiful fish and coral, incredible colours. The next day was pretty much the same. So gorgeous. Tomorrow we’ll just be beach bumming before heading on an 18hr overnight journey to Nicaragua!!

So…I’m an expert now?

Today was an interesting day at the clinic. Things weren’t too crazy in triage since a large portion of patients are diabetic, and were upstairs getting an info session. The info session was about what to eat/not to eat as a diabetic. The woman was wearing an apron that said “USA Arroz” (arroz = rice) so I assume she’s part of an organization that promotes eating rice. She was going on and on about how rice is good to eat as a diabetic because it doesn’t have gluten, which becomes sugar when you digest it. She was talking about all the nutrients that rice has in it, and claimed that it was a good source of protein? Not totally sure that’s true…I’ll have to look it up. Anyways, at one point she goes “Have you ever seen a fat Chinese person? Have you ever seen a Chinese person with diabetes? NO. That’s because they’re smart and eat 2lbs of rice/day!” I nearly died. Like…wtf. Who says that?! Talk about cultural differences…

Most of the day I was working with a 3rd or 4th year med student who has to do some hours at the clinic as part of her training. I assumed that she had learned a whole bunch of stuff in med school and knew what she was doing….apparently not. We started in triage today, and I suggested that she take weights, then pass them off to me for blood pressure, since I knew she didn’t know how to take blood pressure. She told me she didn’t know how…honestly, I get not knowing how to read a scale if you’ve never done it before, but could you not ASK?! What you have to understand is that that is a crazy busy clinic that is understaffed. The nurses and doctors don’t exactly take you under their wing to teach you what to do – you have to ask, or figure it out for yourself. This girl seems to have no will to do either. So after me doing weights and blood pressures while she wrote the info down, we moved on to injections. There were TONS of people in for injections today, and I was moving through them. Then I realized she probably wanted to have a go, so I asked her about it. She told me no, she didn’t want to. So I kept going and afterwards asked her if she didn’t WANT to do the injections, or she didn’t know how. Again, she didn’t know how. If she had just said that, I would have showed her. But she seemed perfectly content to let me do it…uhm really? YOU’RE GOING TO BE A DOCTOR BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO LEARN THIS?!?! HUH?! It was weird that I felt like the expert who knows how to do all that stuff. I think I’m just gonna show her how to do things next time if I have the chance, I can’t believe she’s not asking!!

I think she’s really shy/insecure though. I told Odilia, my spanish teacher, about all this, and she explained that it’s one of the Guatamalans’ worst “faults” – that they are really shy. They think it’s better to pretend they know what they’re doing or just avoid things instead of asking, because they’re embarassed. I think that’s the case with this girl. She’s too afraid to ask, but also too afraid of making the slightest mistake. For instance, we had to use the nebulizer with 2 kids today. We had no idea how to set it up, so we did ask a nurse, who of course immediately left us to it on our own. For each patient, you have to use the nebulizer twice. It is prepared exactly the same way both times. We did it together once for each kid, but then I had to leave. This girl got all nervous and told me that she needed to get a nurse to come “help her”. Honestly – this just involves putting some liquid in a little container, pressing the “on” switch, and waiting until the liquid runs out. Easy peasy. But she was obviously really nervous about even doing that on her own. She kept double checking things with me etc. Again – I’m no expert, I just asked questions when I didn’t know, and took every opportunity I could to practice and figure things out. I guess it just goes to show how your personality can affect your opportunities. If you have a “go get’er” attitude, like I’m doing my best to have here, you learn a lot, experience a lot, and the staff has trust in you. If you don’t…well…you don’t.

On a totally different note – Casa Shekina is getting plain ridiculous. In the best way. A couple of nights ago, 7 of us just sat around laughing for 3 hours at completely random/stupid shit (no, no alcohol or drugs were involved). I think we were all a little over-tired to be honest, but it was great to just laugh until my face and stomach hurt so much. It’s a wonderful release, and I don’t laugh that hard often. I think it’s a testament to how at home I’m feeling in the house/with my housemates that they made fun of me (Vicky snapped a horribly hilarious picture) and I didn’t die of embarassment – I actually laughed along. I have a severe fear of being embarassed with people I don’t know well. So either I’m getting over it, or I’m just really comfortable here/with these people.

This weekend, Carlos, the owner of the tour company that is partnered with Maximo, is hosting a Halloween party at his house. I went to the Maximo party as an 80s workout girl, but I want to do something different this weekend – any simple ideas?! LEMME KNOW!

Women’s health in Guatemala

Today has been an interesting day for learning about women’s health in Guatemala. The clinic I work at, as with all public clinics, have a family planning section. In this area they do pap smears and give information regarding sexual health. They also give, or advertise, all forms of contraception. It’s common to have women come in to get their birth control pills, or to have the depo-provera contraceptive shot (which is more convenient since it lasts for 3 months at a time). I think this is a wonderful thing.

Today, however, I learned that abortion is illegal in Guatemala, and what the consequences of that are. I’ll leave my personal views out of it, and just give you the jist of what I learned. So a woman comes into the clinic for a pregnancy test. Turns out, she’s pregnant. The woman was in tears – the father was not her husband (although I don’t know whether it was a case of rape or an affair…my spanish isn’t good enough that I could figure it out). She’s been having lots of problems with her husband already, and knows that he won’t care what she says. She insists that she cannot have the baby. She seemed to be saying (again, I’m not sure I caught everything) that she had already taken some kind of pill and gotten some kind of injection to try to get rid of it – which of course didn’t work. I felt horrible for her, she was so scared and was really stuck. She never went to school, couldn’t write, was poor and already had 3 children. Plus the problems with her husband…she was so deperate. And I desperately wanted to give her a hug!! The clinic ladies told her that there was nothing they could do – they aren’t authorized to give abortions. After the woman left, I asked them, if she wants an abortion, where does she go? They just shrugged their shoulders and said they didn’t know.

So this afternoon I asked my spanish teacher about whether abortion is legal in Guatemala. She said no. Of course this leads to the usual problems – women get themselves into super unsafe situations because they have no other choice if they feel they have to get rid of the baby. Often, it is inexperienced midwives that perform the procedure. These procedures are incredibly unsafe, and most of the women end up in the hospital anyways. Even worse is that once they get to the hospital, they are treated with little to no respect because of what they did. My spanish teacher told me that when she was in the hospital with one of her children, there was a woman next door who was there due to a botched abortion. When they did the procedure on her, obviously painful, they did it without anasthetic and she could hear her screaming. This was to supposedly teach her a lesson – not to try to abort her babies. She also told me of another time she was in the hospital, where a girl had come in from complications after taking some kind of medicine to try to abort her baby. When the nurse came to get her out of the waiting room, she just yelled out “where’s the *expletive* that wants to abort her baby?!”, then proceeded to verbally harass her in front of the entire room. Whatever your opinions on abortion are, I think there’s no doubt that this is totally unprofessional behaviour that would NEVER fly at home. Their views on patient autonomy and acceptance are obviously quite different here. Luckily, this morning the nurses at my clinic were really nice about the whole thing. If they hadn’t been, I’m not sure I could have taken it.

This lead into a discussion with my teacher about contraception and sex education in Guatemala. Apparently, it kinda sucks. When I pointed out how great the clinics are about advertising contraception, she explained that the information is only really available to women who already have kids – women who have come to the hospital or clinic for some reason and found out about it there. It is rarely taught in schools, or if it is, it isn’t done very much/well. Also, because of the power difference between men and women here, it is difficult to use proper preventative measures for both birth control and STIs. Women aren’t really “allowed” to ask a man to use a condom. It’s even worse for married women – if they ask their husband (most of whom also frequent prostitutes) to use a condom, the husband starts making assumptions about them sleeping with other men…which leads to other problems etc. etc.

I’m sad to say that I’m not surprised with the birth control situation. However, I was shocked and appalled to hear about how women who have abortions are treated. What happened to basic respect and decency? It’s a part of the culture here that I’m not sure that I will ever be able to understand fully. Maybe it’s a discussion for another day with my teacher. I tell-ya. She’s great. I love learning about this stuff, even if it is sometimes disturbing to hear.

It just keeps getting better

I can’t lie to you – when I first got here I was a little disappointed. I had the most amazing time of my life traveling in Europe, and I was so excited to feel that way again. I guess I didn’t realize that doing it for a second time would be so different. It’s like a relationship – at first it’s new, exciting and gives you butterflies in your stomach. But then, eventually, you settle into it, you get comfortable, and the relationship changes. You’re still happy with them, but it’s just a different kind of happy. That’s how I feel about my relationship with travel – it’s changed. I still love it, but it’s not as exciting anymore.

I think I also forgot how long it took me to get used to France. I guess it was so long between when I arrived and left, that I forgot that in those first few weeks I wasn’t that in love with France. It took me a few weeks to get my groove here, too, and I guess I thought that it was just because I didn’t really love Guatemala that much. A couple weeks later, and I can tell you that I do love Guatemala. I still have so much to learn about it, but what I do know, and what I have experienced, has been wonderful.

So, what can I tell you about what I’ve been up to these past couple of weeks? Well, Casa Shekina is a blast. I love having people around all the time to joke around with and whatever. I’ve been out a few times and experienced the nightlife – it’s a lot of fun! The music is awesome, and even better, the drinks are often cheap or free for ladies. I’ve met some locals, either through Maximo or through going out. I wish I could mingle more at the bars etc, but I feel really uncomfortable. For anyone that has ever thought that Canadian men were bad about being too touchy-feely while dancing – Guatemalan men are worse. Fair enough that that is how they dance here (unless they’re doing salsa or something), but what bothers me is that they are so persistent even after being shot down multiple times. I grew up being taught that “no means no”…so if I tell you I’m not interested in dancing with you, you should leave me alone. They don’t seem to follow that same concept here. I have basically resorted to avoiding them by dancing more closely with my girl friends, leading multiple men to ask if we’re together. Quite frankly, I’m good with them thinking that…especially if it means they’ll leave me and my body alone!!

Things at the clinic are same-old same-old mostly. Tuesday was an interesting day. I went in in the afternoon instead of morning, and there were pretty much zero patients. Myself and Evelyn, another volunteer here for only a week, sat and made gauze pads, while a doctor talked to a pregnant woman having pains and the nurses decorated the clinic (why, I don’t know). Soon, the doctor came out of the consultation room and asked me “have you ever felt a contraction?”, to which I obviously responded “no!”. So she took me in to see the woman, had me feel her stomach (I felt the baby’s head…it was weird, and awesome) and then explained that if she started yelling, I should come in and time the contraction, which I would know was happening because her stomach would get hard. Then the doctor told me that she would be leaving, and the next doc wouldn’t be in for another two hours….talk about accountability?

Then, I noticed some women hanging around in the clinic with their children, so I asked them if I could help. They were there for vaccinations, and since I had been in the vaccination room so much in the first clinic, I figured I could deal with it since the nurses weren’t around. Turns out I needed a little help – I couldn’t find the right vaccine, and then I needed to double-check whether acetaminophen needed to be given for that particular shot (to keep off fever because the vaccination causes a reaction). Despite that Evelyn and I obviously weren’t 100% sure of what we were doing, the nurses were content to answer our questions and go back to decorating, rather than supervise us while we put needles in babies’ legs. I couldn’t help but laugh. After volunteering in hospitals for 3 years back home, the most I’ve ever gotten to do was hold someone’s arm while the doctor put a cast on it. Here, I’m practically a trusted nurse, and when I don’t know how to do something I only get shown once before I’m expected to perform it myself.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned/observed about Guatemala!

1. The most common reasons that people come to the clinic are: infections (mostly gastrointestinal and respiratory) and complications of diabetes. This makes a lot of sense given the malnutrition and dirty conditions. People coming into the clinic are consistently filthy – they then touch their food, etc. with those hands….it’s gross. really. But either they don’t know any better, or they don’t have the water and soap to deal with it.

2. These people are tiny – think about a typical man in North America, Europe etc. Now shrink him down by a foot and a half, and make him half as thin. Now, you have a typical Guatemalan man. Think about a typical North American etc. woman. Now shrink her down by a foot, and make her twice as heavy or twice as thin. You have the two types of typical Guatemalan women. At the clinic, I mostly deal with women and children. Part of triage involves weighing each patient. Whether the women look 3x my size or half, they are ALWAYS lighter than me. The number of women I’ve weighed under 100lbs is scary. And this is while they’re wearing fairly heavy clothing. It puts it into perspective how important WHAT you eat is – not only how much you eat. I’m sure that I weigh so much because I have a lot of muscle (or at least that’s what I like to tell myself), while they, physically larger than me, do are mostly fat, due to lifestyle and nutrition. It’s a sad situation.

3. Kids get serious separation anxiety – kids here, from the time they are born until they’re like 2 years old at least, are carried around on their mother’s back or front. Whenever they start crying, their mom just whips out her boob to feed them/shut them up. So it’s no wonder that the instant you try to take a child away from their mother, to weigh them for instance, they start screaming bloody murder. It’s interesting that this kind of attachment to family starts so young and never really goes away. As kids grow up they live with extended family, unlike in canada where so many people turn 18 and get the hell out of their house as fast as possible. There are, of course, financial benefits to living with family, but they also count on each other as a support system.

4. Antigua is paradise – I could already tell, from going to Sumpango every day for my placement, that Antigua was very different from other Guatemalan cities. Then last week, my spanish teacher took me to that photo exhibition. I learned about the genocide that happened in the 1980s – where the government claimed that the Indigenous peoples were siding with rebels in a civil war and tried to wipe them all out through horrible massacres. I learned about the garbage city in Guatemala City, where people calling themselves “miners” dig through giant piles of sewage and trash, looking for something that they can sell. I learned about how the gangs basically run Guatemala City, and that if you see someone with a tattoo of the virgin mary, it means they’ve killed 12 people. I learned about the men and boys who harvest sugar cane, working until their hands are bloody and raw just to get 20Q (not even 3 dollars) per tonne of sugar cane. I learned about the blocades that people put up in Guatemala city to protect their neighbourhood from gang activities, taking shifts guarding it with weapons. I’ve learned about the families who sleep on dirt floors and whose children are suffering from horrible malnutrition. Meanwhile, in Antigua, I am sitting in a room full of computers with internet, I can walk down the street to the pharmacy or a restaurant. I complain if my drink at the bar costs more than 4Q…It’s a brutal, but necessary wake-up-call about the fact that both at home, and in Antigua, I am living in paradise.

5. Women are stuck – another informative conversation I had with my spanish teacher: women’s rights. Here, as in many developing countries, women are considered second-class citizens, and take on the role of housekeeper. While there are some women in the working world, most, especially in rural areas, stay at home with the kids etc. When my teacher told me she thought this should change, I asked “so, where will the children go?”. Her answer was that they could either go with families, or to day care. The problem with this is that good daycares are expensive, and the cheap ones (such as the ones that many of my friends here are volunteering at) are incredibly understaffed. They tend to span huge age ranges, with 5 year old children mingling with 15 year olds. A big problem has apparently been abuse – of the younger kids by the older ones. So women are stuck. If they don’t have any family and don’t have much money they can either send their child to a school where they will likely be abused, or resign themselves to being housewives, and the cycle continues…

And on that note, I leave you with: My biggest problem with Guatemala so far: no pizza places open when I get home from the bar. Seriously. this woman needs food.

Guatemala is cool

Apologies for the WORST title for this entry, ever. I honestly couldn’t think of what to call it, so there you go.

First off, I have to say that I am happy with my decision to move to Casa Shekina. I think that the more up-beat tempo of the house is more my style, even if it causes me to do stupid things like go out dancing til 2am on a Tuesday when I’m sick and need to be up at 6:30 the next morning. Seriously though, everyone in the house is really nice, and it’s pretty much impossible to be lonely. At the same time, I do have the “quiet space” of my room if I need it. Right now I’m rooming with 2 girls, Kim and Josey, but Kim is leaving at the end of the week, so it will most likely just be Josey and I for the rest of my stay (unless maybe Rachel joins us in Nov?).

Also at this house, there’s an american girl whose parents are French, Clelie, so she obviously speaks perfect francais. Today we had a french coffee date, and she showed me a good cafe to get good croissants. I’m excited that I’ll have the chance to speak french, we’ve decided to have semi-regular dates to keep it up 🙂 Tonight everyone in the house is going to a crepe place for dinner…omnom.

Everything else here is also going well, I’m progressing pretty quickly through my spanish lessons, but the best part is that my teacher is really into Guatemalan history and politics, so she shares with me. Tomorrow, we are going to go to a photo exhibition about the Guatemalan genocide of the 80s…it’ll be cool I think, and interesting to have her explain everything. I really knew NOTHING about Guatemala before coming, so I’m hoping to learn as much as possible in the short time that I’m here!

In terms of the clinic, 2 days in a row now there have been no patients, because they weren’t taking consults, and no one told me, so I went in anyways!! Yesterday almost everyone was at a protest in Guatemala city because of funding cuts, and today they had a major meeting. OI. I did, however, get a doctor to teach me how to do the proper knot for stitches yesterday since she had time. So maybe next time someone needs stitches I’ll be able to help out? I’m hoping to start getting into new stuff this coming week – sitting in on pre-natal care consultations, seeing more emergencies, and maybe asking the doc to watch during a baby delivery. Now that I’ve had the chance to get to know the docs better, hopefully they will be comfortable with me sticking my nose in to watch more!!

I still really want to write that blog post about all the things I’ve learned and observed about Guatemalan culture…maybe I’ll have to write it post-photo exhibition tomorrow.

For any friends reading this – I MISS YOUU and I wish you were here to share this experience with me.
For any future volunteers reading – This place is pretty great. you should be excited.