Thursday, March 25, 2010

Costa Rica/Panama Journals

So, while we were on our trip, we were asked to keep a daily journal. I am a huge journaler, so this wasn't hard for me at all. I thought maybe I would post it on here so you could get a glimpse of what we actually did every day, and how I felt throughout the trip. Enjoy :)

February 26, 2010

I love to travel, so the airplanes and bus rides didn’t bother me a bit. We left Detroit at 3:30, and were in Costa Rica by 10pm. Not too bad! We got a few hours of sleep, then we trekked to BriBri on a bus. Apparently, our village is after a river that is currently way too high for us to travel across. I was disappointed because I wanted to meet them and start helping with our medical supplies. We made the best of our setback, and we found a park with a beach and hiking trail. I swam in the Atlantic and tried to climb a palm tree. I like our group, and I am getting to know a lot of people. The food is pretty good too, but I am sort of disappointed because I wanted to try legitimate local food, but I know we will still have that opportunity. I am just looking forward to doing some medical stuff tomorrow.

February 27, 2010

So, after an adventurous, million-mile hike up a mountain and through the rainforest, I am finally back in my room in the village, falling asleep to the sound of rain. I want to live somewhere with no cold, and open roofs everywhere. We saw the village and just hung out some today. We got to swim in the river, which was pretty awesome. I love adventures, and am trying to take every opportunity I get. After a long day of food, exercise, and talking, I am finally lying in bed. So far, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people and am excited about it. This trip has definitely been a learning experience so far. It’s only just beginning.

February 28, 2010

So, we finally got to do the clinic today, and it was slightly terrifiying. I felt so nervous doing vital signs, which is so stupid because I do them all the time. I was also really frustrated because I couldn’t understand a lot, and I feel like I should know way more Spanish than I do. The kids were so cute, too. I just felt like we can’t really do a whole lot to help them. I wish we had the means! It was an awesome experience, and we saw 14 patients in 2 hours. Not bad at all. It’s been good, I just am still nervous, I think.

Well, today was a lot of sitting around, and I was kind of sad. It felt sort of wasted because we only did a total of 2 hours of work. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, but since this is a service trip, I feel pretty useless. I’ll be honest, it’s pretty frustrating because had I wanted to sit around in warm weather, I would have gone on a cruise or to California with my parents. Except, I don’t think they would have taken me. Luckily, it seems like we’ll be doing more clinics tomorrow. It really is beautiful here, and it’s been a good trip so far. I guess I just wish it was more organized. No one ever seems to know what’s going on. I do love “Tico Time” though. Everyone is so laid-back and there are no worries. One of the Costa Ricans, Daniel, was telling us about how he went to class late, and his professor let him take the exam another day. How awesome is that? That’s so chill. Sometimes it can be hard being a relaxed person living in an uptight atmosphere. Being here reminds me that life is not over if you don’t go somewhere, have a strict schedule, or are always busy. I enjoy being laid-back, but it’s easy to get sucked into the busy, crazy life. I go through stages where I don’t want to be a nurse, and today is one of those days. It was so hard being put on the spot, in Spanish. I just felt like I was no help. Blah. I just start feeling like I’ll be the worst nurse ever.

Food of the day: Fried bread, fried plantains, chayote, and monkey tail (Plant, not the real thing).

NOT food of the day: Warm plantain smoothie…sick.

Oh, and I tried fresh coconut, even though I despise coconut. It wasn’t bad.

March 1, 2010

We went to the clinic this morning, but we only had 2 patients. I guess I just feel like we haven’t gotten to do a whole lot. Oh well, I think we will have more opportunities in Ustupu (Panama). Tomorrow, we wake up early to go on the canoes. I don’t know why I feel so exhausted, but also like we haven’t done a whole lot. So why am I so tired?! Probably because we get up at 6am. Gross. At least we got to siesta yesterday! We had spam this morning, and I just couldn’t do it. I am always willing to try new things, and I have at least tried everything so far. We also had awesome fried bread and banana bread. For lunch, we had mashed potatoes, rice, plantains, and beans. We sure eat a LOT of rice and beans here. However, I’m not sick of it yet. I guess that’s what’s making me sick though. I don’t think it’s the water, otherwise I’d probably be a lot more sick. I’ve been thinking a lot about when I studied abroad. I am beginning to regret not living with a Spanish family because my Spanish is in the shitter. It’s so frustrating not being able to communicate, when I should be able to. We just have such a huge language barrier, and I feel like it’s having a negative effect on our trip. I really want to work on my Spanish when I get home because I’m completely losing it. We also learned how to make chocolate from scratch. It was so yummy. We also went on a short hike and saw medicinal plants. I love how everything is natural and they have natural cures for everything. It’s so interesting to see how they live and are so adapted to such a simple life. I am almost jealous of how simple their lives are. They live to work and reproduce, but you can tell they are perfectly content where they’re at. Also, I love how the women are so happy to serve and help us. I guess everyone is, but it’s really neat to see how the village’s project is run by women. They are just so giving. They really will do anything to make sure you’re happy. I just feel really tired and dirty right now. All my stuff is so dirty and smelly. I even took a shower today.

March 2, 2010

Today was definitely the most frustrating day yet. We left Yorkin, and I was already irritated because of something someone said to me. We had an hour to spare in Cauhita, and we found a pizza place. Well, he told us it’d be 15 minutes, which turned into an hour and a half. Well, we were supposed to be back at our bus at 11am, and at 11:15 we were STILL waiting. Almost everyone gave up, even though we already paid. Well, Dr. Stam walked up and told us we had to go, and he looked in the kitchen and they were JUST making 2 of our pizzas. So we just grabbed what we had and left. It was just super frustrating. When we finally got back on the bus, I was so irritated, I just told everyone not to talk to me because I knew I would say things I didn’t mean. Haha. So, we found out that our flight tomorrow is at 6am for half of us, and it’s based on alphabetical order, so I get the 6am. Cool. Then, the $21 dinner. I just really hope I don’t run out. Anyway, the Yorkin people gave us hot chocolate with breakfast. Yum! Then, I left a bunch of shirts, sheets, shoes, towels, etc. I knew they’d get more use out of it. IT was kind of hard getting rid of my Race for the Cure shirt, but it 1. Smelled RANK (along with the rest of my stuff) and 2. Would help them more than me. Crossing the border into Panama was cool. We literally walked across a super creepy and sketchy bridge. I like Panama City so far. It reminds me a lot of New York City. I am excited to see more of it on Sunday. Also, I am totally jammin’ to Billy Elliott right now. I love this soundtrack. Anywho, I am exhausted and will get about 4 hours of sleep if I go now. One thing is for sure: I am not ready to go home, and I love this…but I am EXHAUSTED already.

March 3, 2010

We left for Ustupu so early, I think I only had 4 hours of sleep. Lauren and I were on the early plane, and we got here around 7am. The island is not like anything I have ever seen, and it is pretty hard to describe. The houses are all grass huts, bamboo and wood fences, and everything is extremely congested. There are no vehicles, so the streets are really narrow. The chief greeted us when we first got here, and he spoke in their native language, Kuna. Then, the chief’s second man translated into Spanish. Luckily, I understood a lot of it because it wasn’t really translated into English for us. I can’t believe this trip is half over, but since we’ve been with the same people and traveling so much, it feels long, too. So, then after the chief greeted us, we had breakfast. We’re eating at this restaurant near the water. They are all super nice, but the food grosses me out. I think it’s because I see how dirty everything is, and I know they use the water to swim, poop, and shower. Then, they drink it. Sick. So, I’ve been eating the food, but I haven’t felt well. You know when you go to a potluck at church or something and there are certain things that you just won’t eat because of the people who made it? That’s how I feel about the food. However, I am also convinced we have a lot of gross food things going on at home, we just turn our heads. It really has me thinking about all the crap we put in our bodies. Anyway, we went to the clinic and met the 2 doctors and 3 nurse assistants. It is pretty well organized and “nice.” I mean, compared to what we have, no, but it’s better than I expected. As soon as we got to the clinic, Kate had to put an IV in a baby 9 months old because she had diarrhea for 7 days, and was just NOW being treated. Diarrhea is the number 1 reason for infant mortality. Kate did an amazing job. I really hope I do well as a nurse because I am still feeling pretty dumb and clueless. The rest of the morning, we separated our supplies, bagged meds and vitamins, and just organized everything. The clinic is closed from 12-1p, so Lauren and I just walked around. In such a small village, we managed to lose everyone I our group. Not sure how that happened. The kids here are so excited and ran up to us the whole time. I walked around holding a little girl’s hand all morning. So cute. And they ALL yell “Hola!” every 2 seconds. I love it. It’s hard because they don’t really speak Spanish, so there is even more of a language barrier, but Christa made a good point. She said it’s kind of nice when you never speak the other person’s language, because then it’s no one’s fault when you can’t communicate. Plus, they are so happy we’re here, they don’t care. We went back to the clinic and tried to help, but there are so many of us and not a lot we can do. Other than height, weight, vitals, etc., they are there by appointment to see the doctor. I think that’s cool. The only semi-exciting thing was when a little girl was brought in super bloody with a head laceration. I freaked out, and was like “GUYS! GUYS!” GUYS!” but it turns out it was only a scrape, it just looked a lot worse since head injuries bleed so much more. I think I would try to be more calm and helpful if I were to do it again. Anyway, after that, we went to lunch and met up with the rest of the group who had just arrived. It was kind of nice getting here first because we were able to get settled. Lauren and I passed out after lunch. I was so exhausted, and so hot though, and my sheets were soaked even with just a bra and underwear on. I literally stayed in the same position for 3 hours. The place our room is in is the doctor’s quarters. There are 5 of us nurses up here. It’s nice because we have a light, shower, and bathroom, but nevertheless, it is kind of creepy. Everything is just old. Also, the walk back here in the dark was SO creepy. Lauren and I held hands so tightly. It was just so dark without electricity and people still creeping about. Also, the plane we took was the SMALLEST plane I’ve ever taken. It’s all so creepy. I’m slightly terrified.

March 4, 2010

4 more days. Alright. Today was one of those days that just threw me over the edge in all kinds of ways. It started out pretty great. After breakfast, we went right to the clinic and set up. Some of us worked on the returning clients for the study, some worked on triage. I helped the nurse do height/weight and vitals, mostly on babies. After awhile, we decided to start giving out the toothbrushes and toothpaste we brought along. I am not joking, I have never seen such a mob. At first, only some kids came up, but after a few minutes, there were hundreds of women and children pushing, hitting, grabbing, etc. We also gave out balloons and gum. At one point, Christa and I were completely lost in the crowd. I have not laughed that hard in a long time. It was so fun even though I know tons of people got way more. I’d rather give them all out and know they’re exposed to it at all. So then, we hung out for a while then went to lunch. Apparently, the Bio students and Dr. Stam assumed we weren’t going to the beach with them, so they all ordered sandwiches and left without us. Sometimes I feel like they forget about us. So we ate real quick and then got ready to meet them at the beach. Little did I know the beach was on an island pretty far away, and since it’s been storming/raining, the waves were crazy. Not only did I feel like I was going to vomit at any second, but I was pretty scared for my life at one point. So, we get to the other island, and all the other students left as soon as we got there. There were these bugs, like gnats, that were stinging us and getting on our clothes. And then it poured like crazy. We had fun while we were there, and some people brought snorkeling gear. I saw some coral and fish. The boat ride back was MISERABLE. I probably would have thought the whole thing funny, had I not felt so nauseous. I was squeezing the side of the boat so hard, and I squeezed my eyes so tightly. I was just praying over and over. Luckily, we made it back safely! Dinner was…an experience. They literally fried whole fishes: eyes, scales, and all. I’m all about trying new things, but I was a tad grossed out knowing the fish came from the shit-water. They literally have outhouses overlooking the water. Sick. I ate it, but it had little meat. We also had fried plantains. Yum. I’m gonna miss those with ketchup. Yumm. I’ll have to figure out where to get them/how to make them at home. After dinner, we all went to a congress meeting. The chief invited us all to introduce ourselves, tell how we got here, and how we’ve liked it so far. I was so terrified, but I spoke in Spanish! Honestly, I was SO scared, but proud of myself. I think it was one of the coolest things I’ve done here. “Soy Kelly Doyle. Soy un estudiante a universitat de Capital en los estados unidos. Me gusta la gente y los ninos mucho y me gusta todo. Es muy bien aqui.” Woot! The chief is so BA in his tie and fedora. He left us all pose and take pictures with him, too. It’s funny how short everyone is here. He was like 5” tall. Everyone is like a miniature person. Lauren and I went back to the balcony and laid in the hammocks. Everyone chatted for awhile. Chris and I talked about how we need to see each other more. Lauren and I were, once again, terrified on our way home. It’s so creepy to hear all the “Hola”s and have NO clue where they are coming from. Anyway, the people here are incredibly welcoming and gracious. They will do anything for us. I especially love just watching and playing with the kids. There is an absurd amount of kids on this island, but they adore us and are so happy to see us. I suppose it was a good day. I’m super pumped about my hammock!

March 5, 2010

This morning, we went to the clinic. It was a lot less busy than yesterday, and we didn’t get to do a whole lot. I sat in with the doctor for about a half hour. We saw patients with hypertension, fungal infection, dermatitis, and HIV. Nothing super cool, just people wanting checkups and med refills. After that, we were supposed to switch off and I had a free shift, so I went and took the longest, most glorious (cold) shower. I even shaved the legs. Yes! I felt cleaner than I’ve felt in a long time. After that, everyone was pretty much done and so we debriefed and talked about what we’d change for next year. After that, we went back to the balcony, and Christa and I talked about how it is obvious that Christianity is missing from this trip. Like, there is NO spirituality about it, it’s simply a service/learning trip. We just wish we felt like we could be more open about talking about Jesus and reaching out. It’s a major difference, and I definitely can tell it’s missing. It’s nice to have Christa on the trip because I know she can understand it’s pretty hard to want to reach out so bad, but not really know what to do. We went to the cathedral and saw where they hold Catholic services, so I know religion is an important part of their lives. It’s just weird. The church was beautiful and had really cool paintings. Also, it was the first time we’ve really gotten to play with kids here. They swarmed us, and it was awesome. I played with the cutest little girl, and then took pictures with her family. They were cracking me up because they wanted me to take pictures of them alone with trees in the background. We also went to Felix’s parents house, where some women painted our noses the way some of the traditional women do here. It’s a line down the nose. It’s funny because a lot of the girls didn’t hear them say it was a stain that lasts up to a week, so they were all freaking out when it didn’t wash off. It’s fine with me because I think it’s a cool part of their culture. Plus, I don’t really have anything I can’t have it on for when I get home, if it really DOES last a week. I started to not feel well after our “traditional Kuna meal” consisting of crab or chicken and this gray potato/plantain coconut soup. It makes me sick to think about. I pretty much didn’t feel well for the rest of the way. Dinner was plantains and a fried chicken leg. It was okay, but I probably shouldn’t have eaten it since it was so greasy. The historical guy came and talked to us too. He just talked about how their symbol looks like a Swastika, but that it is NOT the Nazi Swastika symbol at all. It actually is a backwards Swastika meaning peace and good fortune. Kind of makes sense that Hitler would turn it around…irony.

March 6, 2010

Today, Lauren and I finally got to sleep in! And by that, I mean we woke up around 8. Oh well, it was at least nice being able to sleep in a little. Today was pretty great because we were actually able to do things for the people here. We went to the school and cleaned classrooms. We swept, “mopped”, which actually means dumping buckets of water on the floor and swirling it around with our brooms. The major project was moving the desks. They were in a storage barn across this totally sketchy bridge that had holes and such in it. We formed an assembly line and moved about 150 desks, one-by-one into the schoolyard. It was solid, hard work, and I was pretty exhausted, but it’s the first time this whole trip that we’ve done something helpful (manual labor) for them. We also cleaned and put the desks in the classrooms. It’s kinda sad because they start school Monday, and none of the classrooms were set up. I’m not positive what their plan was, but it felt great being able to do that for them. I’m sure I’ll be super sore tomorrow. We were invited to someone’s house for lunch and when we got there, it was actually a memorial celebration for a sergeant who had died a year ago. We saw a photo album of his funeral and it was really creepy. Anywho, I was nervous about the food, but it as actually really good: Chicken noodles and rice. Basically, I need to give up carbs for a while after this. The food here is much better than I’d anticipated. I am really excited about going to the open-air market. I want a dress! A lot of people are going to the Canal tomorrow, but honestly it sounds boring. I mean, I hate museums and I think it’d be cool to see it for like 5 minutes. The only thing that sucks is since we’re not canal-ing it, our flight is the second one, at 1:30. What am I gonna do here for the entire morning? Especially when breakfast and lunch are not included? I am definitely sleeping in. I also need to separate the things I am leaving here. I really want to get rid of all my clothes because everything I own smells RANK. I legit have never smelled so awful in my life. Anywho, today Lauren and I came back and showered since we were disgusting from the desk situation. Man, I can’t wait for a HOT shower. And a clean body. And clean clothes. And my bed. Man. So, we hung out and ate peanut butter and crackers. We hung out at the balcony for a while. Our entire group just seems a lot more accepting and close now. I’m getting to know a lot of people, which I am really happy about. I love making new friends. Dinner kind of sucked because it was greasy chicken again. At least they have ketchup. And they fried potato chunks, so they sort of resembled fries, which I am also excited about. We went back to the balcony and hung out with everyone. Felix and his friend even came to hang out with us, which was really fun. One thing that has been nice is that I haven’t really focused on my self-esteem here. It’s kind of nice not having to think about myself. I really have been trying to focus on helping the people here. I mean, they live in poverty, who am I to think about “fat days” while I’m here? Plus, everyone makes you feel good about yourself anyway, and they are so grateful to have us here. That’s also another reason I ate regularly-I didn’t want to offend them by not. I just can’t imagine living like this. I am so glad to go tomorrow, but it’s been a really good experience. I think it’s always important to be exposed to this kind of thing. We get so caught up in our lives and troubles, it is easy to forget that people get by with worse. But the thing is, and I noticed this in Bolivia too, the ones that have the least, seem the happiest. I really do believe that. I always wish I could be happy with what I have instead of always wanting more. That’s why trips like these are such a huge reality check.

March 7, 2010

So, for whatever reason, I woke up at 7:15am today, which kind of sucks because we didn’t have to be anywhere until noon. Lauren and I packed all of our junk and walked around the island. We decided, after not finding bread on the entire island, that maybe $2 for breakfast would be worth it. Luckily, it wasn’t too late and we arrived just in time to get the usual: huevo con queso y pan. The first group left around 10, so I just sat on my bed and read my book. I tried to nap, but it just wasn’t happening. We met in the square at noon, after finding bread! Yes. 3 rolls still smokin’ hot. That was my lunch. Yum. All they needed was Texas Roadhouse cinnamon butter. Aside from Chick Fila, TR is what I want before I kick my butt back into gear. It’s kind of crazy to think the trip is over, but it did seem a lot longer, too. Anywho, we waited for 2 hours for our plane, and then we got to Panama City around 3:30. After a quick stop to drop off our luggage, we headed to the stores. Obviously, all I wanted to do. The stores here are pretty trashy. I guess it’s kind of like Schottensteins, but like 100x worse. The clothes are trashy too, definitely behind in the fashion. Luckily, I found 2 cute dresses. The things are cheap too! I got one for $8 and the other for $9. We also got these awesome smoothies on the street: pinapple, banana, and Nesquik?! Sounds weird, but so yummy. We went to the open-air market, which was sort of disappointing. I think a lot of the shops were closed. I ended up finding 4 pairs of earrings (2 for Mom and Jayme), a keychain, and a present for Kevin. I hope he likes it! We all showered and got ready for the dinner. We went, as a group, to this place called Penca (Pensca?) on the ocean. I love how everything is open to the fresh air. I’d like to live in a place where you don’t even need doors. Jeez. I’d love it. The only thing I hate about it is that my hair will NOT cooperate. I have never been the type to have nice air-dry hair. It’s kind of wavy and frizzy. Boo. I wore one of my new dresses, we all did. It’s the first time this trip that I have felt decently cute. I actually enjoyed not caring for 12 days. It was nice not having to worry about what I looked like. I got a chicken salad and it was awesome. I have been craving fresh veggies, and it was PERFECT: Lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese, egg, chicken, and blue cheese dressing. This salad was like, MADE for me. I had 3 strawberry margs and was feeling good. I pretty much just passed out when we got back to the hotel, I was SO exhausted.

March 8, 2010

Well, we’re officially on our way home. I am on the plane to Atlanta, and we just watched the movie The Blindside. It made me cry, of course. We had to meet in our hotel lobby at 5:30am, which would have probably sucked a lot more had I not passed out so early. A bunch of others stayed up, drank, and talked, but I couldn’t do it. Especially since I can definitely feel a cold coming on. I have been thinking a lot about Ustupu and the life there. I have been trying to figure out why it didn’t really affect me as emotionally as I thought it would. I guess it DID affect me, but I wasn’t so much sad. I think it’s because I know this is the life they are choosing, and it’s all they have ever known. But it’s still in ridiculous conditions. Instead of being sad about it, it was more just my trying to adapt to their lifestyle rather than feel bad for them. Most people don’t have electricity, running water…separate rooms. I mean, they live in huts made of sticks and leaves. The kids run about with absolutely no parental control or discipline. They’re pretty rude and there are SO many kids. They don’t have much food at all, but they make do. They aren’t starving to death, and they have opportunities to leave, go to college, etc. And some people DO choose this. I mean, all of this should be sad…heartbreaking. But the entire time, I wasn’t really sad. I was grateful for their acceptance and for being so giving, regardless of what they had or didn’t have. I guess I felt like I was just adapting to a different way of life. But that’s the thing, I did adapt. I showered less, wore clothes over and over again, ate what was served, attempted to learn the language, etc. What was I expecting? I think I was expecting a non-adaptive environment. I guess I was thinking we would be going to a place where their lifestyle just wasn’t working. But there, it did. Sure, there were issues. The trash was everywhere and they seemed to have no concept of how dirty it made everything. I now appreciate the whole “a little goes a long way” idea because I tried VERY hard not to litter, I wouldn’t even spit my gum out. I wanted to not only respect them, but also to try to do my part in cleaning up the island. Also, the idea that they poop, throw trash, and bathe in the same water that they drink and cook with is just nasty to even think about. But again, they make it work. Their immune systems are solid from that shit…literally. So, it’s hard to be sad for a group of people that, yes, have much less, but they don’t NEED anything more, and they are so happy and selfless. How do I cry for a village that opened their arms and invited us in? I am more grateful than anything else.

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