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Thursday, December 23, 2010

¡Feliz Navidad!

I can’t wait to show this card to my host sister, Milagros.  I know exactly what she is going to say; “Wow…son locos! Todos!” (“You’re all crazy!).  She will then, likely, erupt into a fit of giggles, much like I did upon seeing this card for the first time (and the second…and the third…).  Enjoy!

Here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas filled with too much food, enough candy and cookies to make your tummy ache, lots of board games and a wonderful day spent with loved ones.  ¡Feliz Navidad!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Change of Scenery

Life has a way of getting pretty busy down here in Chimbote which makes it easy for me to forget to take care of myself.  I need to remember that if I am to really take care of patients and be a good nurse, I have to take some time for myself.  This past week was exactly that, and it was much needed.  I was fortunate enough to be able to take a trip up to MontaƱita,CIMG2031 Ecuador with my fellow CMMB volunteer, Amber.  We left Friday morning and after experiencing the unreliability of South American airlines, ended up staying a night in Lima.  After three months in our respective cities, Lima feels enormous and overpriced.  Our dislike for the city grew as we overpaid (by Chimbote and Trujillo standards) for dinner, drinks, water and a pack of gum.  The fact that we should have been sitting on the beach in Ecuador probably added to our bitterness.  We made it to our hostel in MontaƱita Saturday evening after a short bus ride from Guayaquil and a picture with Ecuadorian Santa.  Our hostel was gorgeous.  Grass huts with a swimming pool, mosquito netting, a couple spiders and cockroaches for roommates and only a few minutes walk from the ocean.  CIMG2033After spending three months in the Peruvian desert, I was in awe of all the green on the Ecuadorian coast.  I hadn’t realized how much my environment affected me.  Our week consisted of relaxing on the beach (even though it was cloudy), meeting some new British friends, hiking in the national park, La Machalilla, and eating a whole lot of food.  While the week went by fast and just perpetuated my desire to travel all over South America, I feel like I will be much more capable of having a positive impact in all of my worksites after a little time to myself.

I would be lying if I said I was excited to come back to Chimbote after my trip.  It was weird being at the airport, thinking that I was not going back home to my family and friends or on to a new adventure or vacation.  Life can be tough down here and I am still adjusting to Peru (although it is feeling more and more normal every day) so I was not quite sure how I felt about coming back to brown, dusty and dirty Chimbote.  Thankfully, I am not here for the beauty of the city (which is hard to see on a daily basis), but I am here for the people.  I was reminded of this the instant I walked into my house and was greeted by my host family.  We sat down for dinner and everything felt right and that annoying question that has a way of popping up every so often (“What am I doing here, again??”) took its’ appropriate place in the back of my mind.

I am not much of a birthday person (or a party person in general).  Most of the time, I would be just as happy to sit at home with my family and friends, eat good food, chat or watch a movie.  Unfortunately, that is not considered a very Peruvian birthday. CIMG2178 My host family (have I mentioned how wonderful they are?) had a party for me, full of dancing, drinks, lots of food (we went on Friday to buy the two whole ducks and yet I was still shocked to see a duck head in the pot) and a great time with my Chimbotano family and friends.  One of the things I continue to struggle with down here is the fact that I simply do not have the words in Spanish to express my gratitude to my host family.  You can only say “muchisimas gracias” so many times before it starts to lose its meaning…

This week, I am thankful, firstly, for a host family who treats me like a daughter/sister of their own.  Secondly, for the opportunity to travel.  It is always humbling to talk to a local and realize that a vast majority of Peruvians will never have the chance to see their own country, let alone a different one.  Most locals will go through their lives only seeing Machu Picchu in pictures and on TV.  It definitely puts my blessings into perspective.  Thank you, everyone for all the birthday wishes and your continued support and encouragement!

If you want to see some more pictures, click here.  As a reminder, there is always a link to my pictures on the left under ‘More Info’.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mystery Meat

I have this game I like to play a couple times a week at lunch.  I call it, “Name that Organ Meat”.  So far, I have successfully identified brain, liver, and kidneys.  My quality BCC anatomy classes have, however, failed me a few times.  I am still quite unsure what organ of duck I ate this past weekend…

The arrival of December has presented some new challenges down here in Chimbote.  The one other RN at the clinic went on vacation starting last week which meant that I have been the only licensed nurse on staff for the past week.  While intimidating, it has been nice to know that my skills and knowledge are trusted enough to put me in this position.  My confidence in both my nursing skills and my Spanish have grown just with the independence I have been given in the past week.  One of the highlights from this week was seeing a woman who has elephantiasis which has caused her a lot of pain and a pretty bad infection in one of her feet.  After helping her up on the bed, cleaning her feet and chatting with her for a good half hour she was in much better spirits than when she arrived.  It is patients like her, who are so grateful for everything, that really make you appreciate what you have been given.  Walking her out of the clinic while our security guard ran and hailed a taxi which had to drive through a construction zone to pick her up just brought a smile to my face.  Whenever I get frustrated with anything that goes on around me, I have to remember patients like her and know that this is why I am here.  I saw another patient this week who was in a mototaxi accident about two months ago.  His entire heel is completely torn up and infected.  The day before he came to the clinic, he went to the state run hospital to have his stitches removed.  When he came to see us, he still had pieces of stitches around the wound as well as some that were just forgotten about.  Unfortunately, this is the accepted standard of care in many healthcare institutions.

This past weekend was spent getting our house ready for Christmas.  I learned that Peruvians decorate their trees in the exact opposite order of what I am used to, starting with the star on the top and ending with the string of lights.  I also learned that Santa, a fairy, a fast food chicken, flamingos and a giraffe were all at the birth of Jesus.  Our nativity takes up an entire half of our living room wall and took almost two days to complete.  Pictures are forthcoming.

This week, I am thankful that the hole in my ceiling is over my dresser, rather than my bed as it would have been a very unpleasant surprise to wake up with it raining on my face this past week.  A dresser full of wet clothes and a flooded room make for a much happier Cathleen in the morning and a much cleaner room than the alternative.