Journal Entry #2 Volunteer experience adjusting to new environement

August 9, 2016


Today was supposed to be my orientation day at the hospital. I was informed after breakfast that the Chief Doctor and Sister had to go to Belmopan for meetings, so I wouldn’t be able to start until tomorrow. Jaime gave me my orientation to the town after breakfast, including taking me to the new hospital and then brought me back to the house and suggested that I go explore.
I found myself nervous again, about going into town alone, and finding my way back to the house. I dispelled the feelings, and gathered a backpack of a few supplies and took off for town. I made sure to note the landmarks for return to the house, and decide to go try to find a few sundresses as I forgot to pack any. I walked all over town, down almost every street and noticed that almost all of the buildings look old and run down. A few of the building were nice, and almost every store that I did go into, there was someone watching me. Evidently, theft is quite an issue. Of course, I do understand and would never dream about stealing, so I tried not to feel offended. All of the people that I spoke with, were quite nice and averagely dressed. Even though I noticed that many women wore shirts or dresses, I could not find any average sundresses. All of the dresses that I found were fancy, going out on the town dresses. There must be a place to find regular cotton dresses, I just need to figure out where to find them.
The main grocery stores and pharmacies are run by oriental folks and because the locals cannot compete, they sell their fruits, vegetables, and fresh bread at stands mostly located in one area of town. I was pleased to discover that all of the tropical fruit that I love is grown here and there are several more varieties that I haven’t had and plan to try. I stopped by a fast food stand for lunch and ordered a regular burrito and a coconut water. To my surprise the burrito was shredded chicken in an enchilada type sauce wrapped in a handmade tortilla. Although it was different than I expected, it was quite good, although not a well balanced meal and in that way, similar to American fast food.
I walked to the old hospital which was replaced 8 years ago. The building was abandoned and quite dilapidated. For being a hospital, it really was quite small compared to what I’m used to. It is an interesting layout of connecting rooms and small buildings. Clearly marked rooms included the Public Health Nurse’s Office, Laboratory, Children’s Ward, Doctor’s Office, Outpatient, Pharmacy, and a room for delivery of babies. The hospital had a quaintness about it, and was painted a lovely shade of yellow. I was told that the morgue was at the very top of the building, and there had been a makeshift cemetery underneath.
Speaking of cemeteries, I have seen a few in passing and noticed that there are cement crypts on top of the ground. I have yet to discover why the people are buried in this way, I assumed because of possible flooding, but that is currently unclear to me. I plan on trying to find out, and go to visit one to see if there are head stones or writing on top of the crypts.
I have met a few other students who are currently in residence at the guest house. Six of them to be exact, who are all medical students and he from Ireland. It is interesting to hear them speak and to listen to their experiences at the hospital. They seem mostly surprised about there being no privacy for the patients, as friends and neighbors just come on into the room to speak and the Doctor just goes about his work. They are also having an interesting time trying to figure out how to do different things without certain equipment or the capability of specific tests. They have certainly peaked my interest in my upcoming experience.
For dinner, we had pan sauteed onions and chicken, served with coconut rice and a salad. I am really appreciating Nancy, and Jaime’s hospitality and their balanced meals. There is most often fruit and vegetables in some form or fashion at every meal. Their children are just lovely, high spirited characters, who are very well mannered. I am blessed to be staying with such lovely company.