I have learned a lot in the short time I have been in Chimbote, but there is only one thing I have mastered. The judges give it a 10 out of 10 for effectiveness, 5 gold stars for execution, a happy face for creativity and an A+ for originality. I have perfected my blank stare. My deer in the headlights look. My state of shock. It is my pride and joy and apparently the only thing I can do absolutely perfectly in Peru. Admittedly, my Spanish continues to improve, especially with the help of my host family, but there is still much room for improvement. A month ago, I could probably carry on a fairly decent conversation with a three year old. Now, I like to think that I’ve advanced to the speaking abilities of a five year old.
I love Cambio Puente. Every time I start to get frustrated or tired with hospice, I go out to Cambio Puente and get so excited about being here. Hospice is really a needed service, but it has been a distinct challenge for me these past two months. I think it takes a special kind of nurse to really enjoy working in hospice (even in the States). It is hard going into the homes of people who are actively dying every day. I am glad that I have other worksites that are so life-giving.
Last week we went out to Cambio Puente to start some health assessments on a couple of the families in the community. The families we talked to only have running water from 5am to 9am everyday, use pit toilets, drink untreated water, cook over wood or kerosene and many have only attended primary school. With our neighborhood agents in Cambio Puente, we are working on finishing these health assessments on all of our families involved in the project. One family we talked to moved here a couple months ago from the Sierra. They speak Quechua, one of the native languages of the Andes. We went to their house hoping to speak to the 15-year-old daughter who has a baby of her own. After waiting for a long while and being sent on a wild goose chase by her youngest brother, we saw her walking down the street. She had just come back from the clinic where she had seen the doctor for severe right-sided abdominal pain. Diana and I instantly thought appendicitis. She was given a referral to go to the hospital in Chimbote and confirm the diagnosis. ‘Oh good’, I thought, ‘she has insurance, she’ll be fine’ (I am still pretty unclear how the state insurance system works here because most people are not covered). Yes, her hospital bills would be taken care of, but what about her S/. 1.50 (about 55 cents) transportation cost to get to Chimbote? After a couple phone calls, we were able to arrange her transportation through our project and get her to the hospital. The doctors at the hospital decided to do a couple last tests before taking out her appendix and discovered that it was not appendicitis. They are still unsure what has been causing her so much pain, but at least surgery was avoided.
My host family has really been wonderful. I can tell that my Spanish has already improved in just the short amount of time I have lived here. My days are full and I am exhausted when my head finally hits the pillow. If you have never realized it, I generally like pretty stupid, cheesy jokes. So does my host family. We typically eat miel de vieja (as opposed to miel do abeja) with our pancito every night. When someone answers ‘nada’ to a question, the appropriate response is always ‘¿Donde?’. If a joke is just too stupid, family members are often seen tickling themselves to make them laugh. If there is one thing Peruvians have mastered, it is their sense of humor.
A big thanks this week goes out to my Aunt Mary, Uncle Paul and cousin Rebecca who have been on my cheering squad since my days on the St. Thomas swim team.