Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Farewell Honduras!

My faithful blog followers,
I write this blog sitting in the Atlanta airport writing most likely one of my last as I have finished up my two years in Siguatepeque. I have neglected the site for a long time now, SORRY! Selling my things, saying goodbye, and finishing up my work kept me quite busy.
For those of you who’ve lived abroad, you probably know exactly how I am feeling right now. Parece mentiras. It just doesn’t feel quite real that I have finished my time in Honduras and am now about ready to restart my life back in the U.S. This past week was one of a lot of fun, and a lot of mixed feelings too. I finished up work Thursday a week ago to give me a little bit of time to close things up without the stress of work. My last shift was pretty typical. I ordered a cake to say goodbye and thanks, and then that evening my fellow nurses had a little farewell party for me which included games, singing, and an open sharing time. It’s so strange how you don’t know how much people like you until you leave!

Farewell with my nursing compañeras:

The next week was spent selling my things: refrigerator, oven,
microwave, table, and furniture. It is truly incredible how much one accumulates in 2 years! And what is even more incredible is that my Honduran community came to me and asked what I was selling. So it was not hard at all to sell everything, which took a big stress off my shoulders.
The farewells started out almost joyful, but the closer and closer I got to today, the harder and sadder they got! On Thursday my church family had a farewell get-together for me. Also involved games, singing, and open sharing time. This time they focused it on Bible verses they had to share for me. It was a special time. People showed up I never guessed would have.

Wendy, Roxanna, Me, Lety at my farewell from church:

Playing games at the church farewell:

Also had a nice little lunch with some of the female single doctors at the hospital who turned out to be really great friends and company in my time at the hospital.

Then of course it was farewell with my closer friends outside of church and my work at the hospital. As my friends left back to the Tegus to where they are studying, it started to feel real.

Farewell with some of my closest friends:

Saturday I spent running around doing last minute things. That evening I was invited to a small little town called Balin which is near Lake of Yojoa, which is about 1 hour from where I live. This was really quite an honor because the aunt of a close friend/coworker lives there and back in December I had donated blood to her because she has advanced cancer. So she wanted to invite us over for dinner before leaving. Culturally, my friend explained to me that folks from the rural areas tend to make a lot of food when they plan on having company like this, and I guess I was the guest of honor in some sense? So they had chicken soup, tamales, tacos, squash with honey, pork, coffee, soda. SO much food and what I feast. In Spanish there’s a phrase “nos quedamos triste por comer tanto.” I was “sad” from eating too much. And if you think about it, when you eat too much, notice your face, it might look sad from being so full!

Dinner in Balin:

So Sunday was my last day at church. And then afterwards off to eat fried fish with my “Honduran mother.” After that, off to do laundry and finish packing! It’s kind of tricky packing the last 2 years of your life in 2 suitcases, especially with all of the beautiful purses/souvenirs/gifts people gave me. This morning my best friend/coworker brought me to the airport in San Pedro Sula, and up till now it’s been tears, sleeping, getting through security, and being crazy weirded out by hearing English. It has been seeing all sorts of different faces, fancy duty free shops, drinking fountains, clean bathrooms, the smell of delicious toasted and horribly expensive sandwiches. But most glorious of all: throwing my toilet paper in the toilet instead of in the trashcan beside the toilet, which is what one must do in most of Central America due to the plumbing system. Yes my friends, I have arrived, and my feet are now back on American soil. I am so looking forward to seeing my momma and sister’s faces when I land.

Trip to the airport: My best friend Paty and her brother Ismael with his wife Yenni and their daughter Genesis. Really great folks!

So the next several weeks and months will consist of a lot of readjusting. Readjusting my body to American food again, readjusting to interacting with my own blood and my own “people.” Readjusting to having to be on time again, and not the “hora hondureña.” Readjusting to the rules and logic of the road. (If you catch me tail-gaiting, try to understand the craziness of the driving where I’ve been living, haha!) Readjusting to the hype of fast-paced life, and looking for work. Readjusting to the American health-care system. But most of all, I’m really going to miss my friends I made in Honduras. Right now that is the biggest thing on my mind. Fortunately for me, Virginia Mennonite Missions puts a heavy emphasis on making relationships and ministering in that way and I would say that is the one thing I know I did well at Hospital Evangélico and in Honduras.
In the past weeks I’ve been trying to evaluate things that weren’t so great. In past blogs I’ve spoken of the differences in culture, differences in work habits, and expectations. There were times where I felt like I was drowning in the differences and frustrations. To be perfectly honest, when I get to feeling quite sad about leaving Honduras, and the beast of an adjustment I am about to face, I just remember those hard times, and I remember that it probably is the right time to come home. I was able to say I finished my contract. I kept my word, and I stuck to it though I really wanted to quit on many an occasion. I’m glad I did. I think I reaped much more growth and maturity, and also respect from my friends/community in Honduras.

My fellow professional nurses who gave me a hammock for my farewell and a nice lunch, and of course best wishes.

As I took off in the plane today, my mind couldn’t quite get around the fact that I was leaving all of it behind: all of those crazy experiences, all of those painful experiences, but also all of the special people in my life to return to what should seem normal, but strangely seems like a “foreign country.” Now that isn’t fair is it?! To just adjust to living abroad only to return back to another place that now seems so strange. I have to say, the security control at the airport has even updated in just 2 years! It’s cool though, living without all of the modern commodities has made me 1. Incredibly amazed at the advancing modern society of the U.S., and 2. Much much more grateful to have access to them again. Recently I heard a statement “God is more concerned about your character than your comfort.” And as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And if you think about it, the good and fun times don’t do much for you. They might keep your morale up, but as far as character-forming, they really just serve you for the moment. So why must we suffer? I suppose for that reason: we must grow as human beings, and as Christians, we must grow in our faith, and many times that involves pain and suffering.
So I hope and pray that God will use these 2 years in my life to continue to grow, and to be able to do some good in the world, in my own country. Maybe my newfound knowledge of the 3rd world, maybe my interactions with Latinos, maybe my new perspective will be useful in some sort of future ministry. For sure I am not the same Malerie Rose Plank who left for the unknown 2 years ago. The Bible says that all things work together for the good of those who love God. I will end on that thought.
I appreciate your support and prayers these last couple of years. Your faithful financial support kept me from stressing that aspect. Your faithful prayers sustained me along with your letters and emails. I can’t thank you enough. My correspondence was not exactly 100% but thank you for understanding. It’s much easier to process it afterwards after the fire, and not so much while you are in the heat of it. So, I’ll try to write another post or two on the readjustment process! Phew, I think this blog has more photos than all of my others combined. That's what happens when you finally get a really fast internet connection! Blessings, and I hope to see you sooooon!!! Hugs!

Bible Study farewell with my gringo church community:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Medical Brigade

Greetings Everyone.

This past week I had the pleasure of joining a group of doctors, nurses, dentists, and other personal from Kurtz Humanitarian Initiative for Southwestern Honduras (KHISH) to help with a medical brigade. Never heard of a medical brigade before? This term usually refers to a group of medical professionals that go to an area with little healthcare access and provide the bare necessities to the people who live there. Sometimes they have a focus like general surgery, eyes, teeth, etc. It all depends on the focus of the professionals. Here's a pic of the team.

I joined them for the second week of their mission this year. The first week was ophthamologists doing cataract surgeries. I believe there were around 95 done! That is part of Vision Project Honduras. The second week (where I joined them) was spent going to two villages (the same ones they go to every year, for 8 years) and giving general consults.

My job as a nurse was spent taking blood pressures and temperatures. I also was used in helping with translating between the doctors and the patients. I'm not sure what the final count of patients seen was. I know it was a LOT! I found that most people come through as actually somewhat healthy, usually complaining of "cold and cough" or "stomach ache, headache, fever, knee/back pain, lack of appetite, dizziness, etc." Basic stuff. And we realized most of them were not actually experiencing it in the moment, but were looking for meds for when they were. Which I suppose is fair, when there is like nothing out there for when you do get sick, or if you don't have the money for it. It's kind of tricky for a bunch of gringos though, who in the U.S. are some of the best in their specialties, to come to Honduras and work with the least educated, materially-poor in the country. I'm just talking about the difference in their environment and the patients/culture they work with. We gave out a lot of Ibuprofen, cough medicine, de-parasiting meds, vitamins for all the children, etc. It often feels like a big old band-aid placed on top of a huge wound. But in many senses, a bandaid is better than an oozing wound without an treatment at all. Plus many are helped beyond that. KHISH has a relationship with an amazing Honduran doctor, Dr. Moreno, who quarterly comes into these same villages and monitors/follows up those with diabetes and high blood pressure. Others are monitored for epilepsy, congenital heart problems, etc. Dr. Moreno has no financial interest in this, I don't believe, which really speaks to the kind of person he is. I was blessed to get to work with him and really, all of the volunteers, including the bilingual Honduran translators from the capital city Tegucigalpa.

Probably the most impacting thing for me was my involvement is the case of a little boy named Jose David, 11 years old. He was walking around in the clinic with his mom and little sister there too. He was trying to sell green mangoes. He had his elbow and leg wrapped with some dirty gauze. When we tried to get him to sit down so we could look at his wounds, he ran off and pouted. Finally he let us look at his leg wound. We cleaned it, and realized it was obviously infected. I, knowing what I know about the cleanliness in the hills of Honduras, was sure that the elbow had to be worse. Supposedly he had had surgery beforehand and they had put a pin in his elbow, as it had been broken. It had not been immobilized. The mother had been changing/cleaning the wound daily. But how is a young single mother from the country going to really know how to assess a wound and know what to do when it starts oozing pus? Dr. Barbara decided he needed antibiotics, and some gauzes, etc to send home. At that time his mother had already gone home. So I got to go to his house to give the antibiotics to his mother. I had made a goal with that visit that I would get Jose to show me his elbow. I was afraid it was going to be a disaster. In the end, he calmed down, stopped running away and let me look at it. Turns out he was just embarrassed! He wasn't afraid of the pain, he was embarrassed of his ugly elbow! So when I unwrapped his elbow, the pin was sticking out of his elbow, he had some tissue growth in a little ball around it, and a nice little pus leaving the wound. I cleaned it, and told his mom that if it was at all possile, she needed to get the boy to the hospital. I had no idea if she had the money to even pay the busfare there or not. I asked our leaders if we could just take him with us that night to the hotel, as we were going to make the trip to the hospital the next day anyways. But then you face the problem of "do it for one, you have to do it for all, where do you start?" So in the end, I really hope that the momma could get Jose to the hospital to get it debrided, etc. I'm not sure what truth I take out of that. That poor people are just 'out of luck,' that Jose was lucky for my help (yeah, not really, I wasn't able to do anything), or that maybe his mom felt good for having the attention of people who really cared for her and the health of her little boy. Who knows??? Whatever it is, WHAT an experience for me. It surprised me, yet at the same time, after 2 years, not too much really surprises me anymore.

That week was significant for me in other ways as well. For the first time in a long long time here, I felt valued for my abilities. I felt appreciated for my knowledge of what I know about Honduras, for my Spanish speaking abilities. I felt valued for who I am as a person. I felt loved and accepted into the group. It could be that I was just happy to be immersed in people who understand me again, since they are from my culture. I felt cared for, I did not feel taken advantage of or exploited. I enjoyed the company of the gringos and the Hondurans. Phew. Talk about serious relief. Too bad I didn't have this week a couple of months earlier. But I know that God's timing is perfect, and it was at this time for a reason. And I am thankful.

Others news: I am heading home in less than 2 months. How's that for crazy?! So obviously, I am going to ask for your prayers in wisdom for me to know what to do with myself when I get home. For cultural re-integration, for wisdom in knowing where to look for a job, and which direction to take with my life. It's such a blessing to have options! I look at the people I just was with in the villages, and I realize they have no options or opportunities. So as it is said, "to whom much is given, much is expected."

Also, as I close up here, pray that I will make good decisions. That I will be able to sell all of my furniture, fridge, oven, etc.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this post, and that this reflection was not only beneficial to me as I process the last week. Blessings to you, I always welcome your comments!!! :)
Hugs, Malerie

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weddings and Christmas and all such things

I hope you are finding yourself well as this Christmas season approaches. Perhaps you are making cut-out cookies in shapes of stars and bells and reindeer and dipping everything possible in chocolate! I am actually craving a bit of that right now. Here at Christmas time here and there you might see a decorated tree in a business or store, or a string of lights in a random tree, but decoration is quite limited here. I will try to document Christmas better than I did last year, so you all can see the traditional foods, and events of the holiday.
Traditionally on the 24th, people tend to make a bunch of food, and invite friends over and stay up until 3 or 4 am. Always with lots of firecrackers set off all night. It's a mess, and a lot of fun! I've had several invitations this year, and I feel quite honored. I thought that maybe they were out of pity for the poor foreigner who had no where to go. But recently a friend corrected me, and told me not to take those invitations lightly. If they invited me, it's because they really would like me to pass the 24th with them. That was a nice realization. My tendency at this time of year is to feel slightly lonely being so far away from family and my normal traditions. But this year I have intentions of spending it to the max with the special people in my life, knowing that I probably will not have another Christmas in Honduras.

So a couple of weeks ago I was taking care of a patient at the hospital. The family lives up near the lake and they have a coconut farm there. They gave me 3 of them! Pealed and mature. Teachers receive apples from their students, secretaries receive pens,....I receive coconuts!! How great is that??? I had to look it up on the internet on the best way to crack open the coconut. I think I mastered it! :)

Other exciting events: This past Saturday I got to have the honor of being a bridesmaid in my good friend's wedding! She is a friend from church and also a compañera from the hospital. It was a lovely, small, simple wedding. I'm amazed at the differences. Mostly in the "feel" of the wedding. For the typical American, it might seem chaotic and unorganized, but as I went through the steps of the decorating, the rehearsals, the getting ready and dressed up...I actually appreciated the relaxedness of it. Several things: my dress was not done until Friday evening. We didn't have a rehearsal the night before because people "couldn't make it" for whatever reason. One of the groomsmen didn't arrive until 15 minutes after the wedding was supposed to start....but you know what? There was hardly any stress about it. Well, obviously because it's cultural, people expect all of this to happen. To me, I just sat back in awe. It was inconvenient for me to have to come back to the sewer's house 3 times, always in a taxi since I have no car, to get the dress. But other than that, no one was getting mad at anyone, and I saw little stress in the family. It was nice. I enjoyed myself quite a lot.

We also had our annual Christmas party with the nurses that live on campus and the nursing students. It was lots of fun as always, with pizza and other yummy foods, movie, Christmas card making, and of course the decorating of the tree! I think it's a nice time that the students can relax, let down their hair, and have a good time! I am glad as that I was asked to help once again this year. This is a tradition that a retired doctor (84 years old that still makes rounds at the hospital, incredible!!) started years ago with his wife, who has since passed away about 6 years ago. I think more than anything, he continues the tradition in honor of his wife. I only feel bad because I know that none of us are able to put out the feast they used to make together, and that in some part, the doctor feels sad as well as joy at this event, remembering his wife. But I know the girls really enjoy the tradition, and I do too.

Anyways, I hope and pray that your Christmas will be blessed and lovely. In Bibile Study we have been focusing on the verse Luke 2:14 when the angels appeared to the shepherds saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." What does that mean? Peace to men on whom his favor rests? What significance does that have? Favor, being those who have accepted Christ? What significance does Peace have? Back in those days under Roman rule, I'm sure peace meant a lot to those being oppressed. But peace is SO important on a personal individual level too. Christmas time can be such a beautiful time of sharing and caring, and warm fuzzy feelings. But I know for many, Christmas is a very lonely miserable time of the year. Perhaps in the year a loved one has passed away and this is the first year that he/she is not there. Perhaps the year has just been a bad one in many different ways, and one feels unrestful, and lacks anything close to peace on a soul level. Perhaps one has health problems that limits them from fully enjoying the holidays and festive times spent out. I think that peace on earth is the best thing one can hope for. So that is my prayer for you. If you do not feel that peace, I hope you can find out why, and confront it, so that you may have it. And you could pray for me as well, that I may find and feel Christ's peace during this time. I think we all have something that keeps us from feeling completely at peace with life, and as many of us profess, the only way to true peace is through the prince of peace, Jesus Christ.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! Thanks as always for your prayers and support. As I am missing home, I also am counting my blessings, and thanking God for each of you!
A hug sent from Honduras, Malerie

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reflections on the week

This is Margarita, a third year student, in the medicine room. She is wearing the uniform that all students must wear.

This week I did my monthly 4 nights of night shift in the intensive care unit. In Hospital Evangelico, the ICU also serves as recuperation post-operation. I really enjoy that unit because it challenges my clinical skills and my assessment skills. Although some nights are terribly boring and a huge struggle to stay awake (if I only have 1 patient who sleeps the whole night) but this week I actually had some "happening" nights, which several large post-op surgery patients, a few who were there for closer observation. One of my patients only passed there 2 hours, because it was just a quick operation. Let me tell you about her.

I had heard that a woman had come into the ER with complications post partum, or after having a baby, so they had to take her to surgery to stop the bleeding. In Honduras, the folks without much money go to a health center (centro de salud) because having a baby will cost them a whole $8.00. Or, 150 Lempiras. If it is a normal partum, that's just great. But in the moment of complication, it's not the place you want to find yourself because there are not doctors, nor oxygen, they just have nurses attend the birth. So when we get these folks from the centro de salud, we know they have little financial resources. Which matters in the Honduran health care system. Many times that means sending them onto the public hospital in Comayagua, because Hospital Evangelico is a private hospital.
As they were passing the patient from the transport bed to her unit bed, I thought to myself, "woah, this patient has got to be like, 15 years old." No no, this patient was barely 13 years old. This tiny little girl had just had a baby, no wonder there were complications. She was so emotionally flat. I couldn't figure out what was going on inside this little girl. She was neither scared, nor admitted to any pain, nothing.
So in that moment, I had this emotional outrage. What in the world was the 13 year old doing having a baby? Of course I immediately thought "wow, curiosity with ignorance really can be a problem." But then upon talking to my coworkers, they explained to me that sometimes in the rural villages, this girls get sort of "handed over" to get married to older men. What?? this is 2011, do people really do that? I don't completely understand it still, nor do I know what the situation really was with this little girl. But her mother was there with her, of course the man who got her pregnant was not. The baby also had had some trauma to the face during birth, and therefore was not tolerating the bottle very well. Her mother acted like this was completely normal, for her 13 year old to be a mother. I felt like it was a young raising a young girl, raising a baby. We had to transfuse 2 units of blood, and I realized that this mother had no idea was what going on. It was a difficult situation for me.
At that point I realized it was just better to see the situation relatively, and not try to figure it out, nor let my feelings get the best of me. There were some serious factors at play here: poverty, lack of education, lack of opportunity, and culture. Perhaps they were just happy in that situation, and it wasn't quite the crisis that I thought/think it was/is. I know that happens in the U.S. too. But there is at least good health care to deal with the situation. Anyways, just some reflections.

Other than that, I've been just fine. Pretty much working, and trying to spend quality time with the girls at the hospital, and my friends from outside. This Christmas will be the annual Christmas party for all of the señoritas/students and nurses, that I'm sure I'll get to help with, which is exciting.
I am looking forward to Thursday, which of course is turkey day, or better known as Thanksgiving. My cousins are planning to come up from Choluteca to visit me, and we will hopefully spend some time going to a national park nearby and enjoy some nice nature hikes and maybe even camp.
Anyways, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! May it be a time of realizing our blessings, and thanking the Lord for everyone of them. I personally am thankful that I will never have to have a baby in a centro de salud. :) Blessings.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dia del Medico, and other happenings

1. All of the doctors who attended the dinner.

2. Me and our wonderful pediatrician. We all swear she's an angel. She sees a lot of sick children daily, and is on call for every cesarean section, and any emergency that she is called her.

Greetings! Woohoo! I finally figured out how to put pictures on the blog!
It's crazy that we are already in the middle of November. Man, these last couple of months have gone fairly quickly for me, I don't know about you. In Iowa this time of year, it gets cold, we get out our sweatshirts, hats and coats out. Actually, here in Honduras we are doing the same, it just doesn't get quite as cold! :)
I have found myself busy with work and surrounding events. This month we celebrated "dia del medico," or Doctor's day. This year I actually got involved, as time slipped up on us, and we about didn't get anything planned. But a few skits, a few songs sang, a nice delicious catered meal, and we had her done. A bit of a stressful week as it was all last minute, but it turned out okay, and I think the doctors enjoyed it.
I also got myself involved in helping lead a girl's group from church. It's just a few young girls that get together. We eat, we do a little Bible study/discussion, maybe a craft, and have a time of prayer. I do pray that this group, however insignificant it might be, will be of help to some of the young girls as they grow up in a society that has a lot of pressures to look the right way, a lot of sexuality in the society, and just lack of programs that encourage healthy self-esteem.
Other than that, I got to take a trip to the coast to look at another missionary hospital here in Honduras, which is a bit newer, more rural, etc. It was a nice experience to see another model, and talk with other Americans doing health work in Honduras.
I am also starting to really examine my life and decide what is the next step, as my term ends in February. As of now, I am planning to go back to Iowa, spend time with my family, hopefully find a nursing job there, and we'll see where God leads from there. I appreciate your prayers in this matter. Where does one place herself after 2 years in a completely different culture? Where and doing what? I ask myself, what do this 2 years mean for my life in the future? Will they impact my career decisions?
It's the holiday season, I am missing my family again, would have enjoyed a trip to be with them for Christmas. But it was a tough call, being that my term is almost coming to an end. All things one has to take into consideration. I am trying to focus on making the last 4 months good ones. I want to spend as much time as I can with the people I've learned to love, and try to focus on the present, instead of worrying so much about the future. I suppose the future will come soon enough.
Blessings to all of you! I hope your Thanksgiving is a good one!
Love Malerie

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Close calls

So I try not to blog about the gloom and doom of Honduras. And I hope you won't read this as such. But I do want to share some of the thoughts I had yesterday.
I was reminiscing in my head yesterday as I left my house walking to go pick up some shirts I had left off at the house of the Señora who sewed my uniforms and has done some altering. Turns out I was supposed to call her to let her know that I wanted them done (even though I had left them there 2 months ago. I guess she figured I just didn't want them sitting around my house?? I don't know. But it was annoying, but kind of predictable, didn't even make me mad.) Also, my bike tire is punctures, and due to my lack of iniciative to get it fixed, I've been walking and taxing more, unfortunately. (mental note, GET THAT TIRE FIXED!) So anyways, I was walking past a health clinic on the road, and I heard an intense wailing and saw some family members sitting a lady down on the bench outside. I figured someone must have died. About an hour later, I climbed into a taxi who mentioned that a girl had been hit by a car and had died. It just struck me as strange. I know that Siguatepeque is small, but how did I have the casualty of figuring out the story behind that woman's wailing? The previous Saturday I was on my way to meeting some friends for dinner, and had driven in taxi past a pretty bad car wreck. But didn't really think much of it. When I arrived, I realized that those girls in that wreck were on their way to the same place I was going. The girls were in a taxi that had a drunk taxi driver in it that made a bad decision in driving. (imagine that.) One of the girls had a serious fracture of her pelvis, and had to go to the hospital. Later she got flown to Miami because the break was too complicated for any orthopedic doc here. She's a lucky girl that she is a foreigner and had good insurance. No Honduran could have done that.
I realized that it seems like these sorts of things are just much more "in your face, and close" than what I experience on a daily basis in the U.S. I have to say, that young 17 year Scottish girl had a super attitude about the whole situation. She plans on coming back to finish her year of teaching when she is recuperated. I'm not sure I would have had such a good attitude. Just incredible. No evil comments about the drunk taxi driver. I don't know if she was a Christian or not, but I have to say, that was quite a challenge for me.
Another instance: last week at the San Pedro Sula airport there was a shooting, and 6 were killed. That same day, my friend was flying back to Honduras from the U.S. He was there as it happened, thank God he was not caught in cross-fire or what have you.
I guess it kind of just blows my mind all of the tragedies in life that can come at anytime. It might take your life, or maybe not. But God has been so great with me. His grace has covered me from any sort of danger/assault thus far.

Prayer concerns:
-Continued guidance from God to help me know what steps to take next.
-Pray for the south of Honduras. They have gotten unstopping rain for the last week, and have had some serious flooding. People are out of their homes, and the roads are wrecked. Pray for safety, for provision, for hope, protection, and the stopping of the rain. My cousins are there, and say that their church folks have been staying under the roof for 3 days now. It is not an enclosed building. So just pray for them too.

As always, thank you for your continued prayers. I had no doubt they are being heard. Blessings, Malerie

Monday, August 29, 2011

August brings the heat

Greetings my friends,
I received a wonderful email this week from a friend in Iowa that was quite nice, but kind of put me to shame because she said, “I just finished reading your last blog, but that was from two months ago, so I would love to hear an update!” I realized that yes, it is indeed time to give an update.
Really things here continue on as routinely normal. I am doing the normal shifts of sometimes shift A: 5:45 am-2:15pm, or shift B: 1:45pm-9:30pm, or shift C: 9:00 pm-6:15 am. Though nursing here seems to be a different world, there are some things about nursing that are universal: stinky shifts! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop complaining about the stinky shifts we end up working. Weekends, holidays, nights, etc. Should have picked a different career, I guess. I continue also in my shifts to do some supervision of the especially new first years on the floor.
My recent accomplishment at the hospital was a day of education with the nurses and students on Diabetes. One of the other professional nurses and I gave an interactive day of exploring Diabetes as an illness with a focus on nursing care and education of the Diabetic patient. It was kind of tiring for me, especially as the night before the first day (there were 3) I got a nice head cold that threatened to wipe me out. Upon completing the third day, however, I had a nice feeling of satisfaction, knowing that one year ago, I no way could have done that with my less than adequate Spanish at the time. We got good feedback, and one always hopes that the theory will be put into practice. Also, as a college grad from EMU, we always learned the concept of empowerment. I could be talking idealistically, but I like the idea that perhaps a few more nurses are a tiny bit more “empowered” to educate others on the diabetic diet, exercise, self-cares, etc; even if it is just their own mother or grandparents, etc.

Things I am looking forward to that are coming up: In September I plan on taking a trip to visit my dear friends in Nicaragua Adam and Marisa, who are doing MCC for 3 years there. I am also hoping to stop in Choluteca, Honduras to visit my cousins Mark and Melanie who are serving there along with their children. I have found lately that I need some time spent away from Siguatepeque, and some time to reflect on my time here with people I know and love, and people who understand me and my culture, including my Mennonite beliefs. So I am definitely looking forward to a little time on the beach away from the routine of my daily life.
I also am looking forward to a missionary conference at the end of September with the missionaries of Honduras. The guest speaker will be Elizabeth Elliot’s brother, who supposedly is really great. Hopefully it will be a good time of encouragement between other foreigners serving in Honduras, and a time of restoration, and refocusing. I have high hopes. I often downplay the importance of rubbing shoulders with people who are like you when you are in a foreign land. Although I have enjoyed the independence I have here as the only VMMer here, I often feel very solo, and am thankful for the input I have of other Christian expats here.
Some struggles of Honduras: There are a lot, but to list a few of them.
1. The everlasting fight against lack of water. I will never ever EVER take for granted a hot high pressure shower. Most of the time, it’s a cold bucket bath for me. It’s frustrating. But I live in Honduras, why should I be any different from any other Honduran who occasionally has water.
2. Ever-present cultural differences. One becomes aware of how great cultural differences can be whether it be in friendships, in interactions with the opposite gender, in the professional world, or in church. Especially in the healthcare field, one finds the typical myths a people/culture has. I am going to share some of them with you further down. It is so hard sometimes to accept habits and beliefs of a different culture when they are directly contrasting to your own or seem to be just hokey.
3. Danger. I get tired of the restraints this puts on my life. I have to watch how much money I carry with me and if my purse is appropriate for where I am going. One has to plan pretty far ahead if you want to do something fun some night, because once it’s dark and you don’t have a car it is a rare time you will find anyone who would venture out with you. Hondurans are more wary than Americans actually.
4. A lot of exposure to death. I have never been exposed to such a high rate of murders. Weekly you hear of this or that assassination, etc. We have a lot of emergencies come into the hospital with wounded patient from knife wounds, machete wounds, or bullet wounds. Many of them die and I get tired of them. It’s one thing if they are in a gang; one expects those sorts of things. It’s another thing when someone comes in having been shot by someone who was robbing them for their cell phone or what not. Even worse is when someone tries to step in to help someone else getting robbed and they get shot. The violence is just ridiculous here. Human life is not valued, and people don’t think twice to take a life. It’s quite a shame. It’s this huge cycle of: poverty, lack of sanitary facilities, illness, and lack of education. This leads to young, single mothers, delinquent children, crime, drugs, and more poverty. When one looks at the big picture, it can seem like a pretty desperate situation. So much needless death, however, can be quite disconcerting and troubling and quite angering as well.
5. Seeing high rates of very very young and single mothers and children conceived between people who had no intention of investing their lives into making a child’s life beautiful. It seems like one after another is born into a situation with little opportunity to better oneself, maybe to a mother who may or may not be able to care for the baby. The thing is that there is so much emphasis placed on having children in this culture. It seems a little whack to me that people ask me if I have children, but not if I am married.
6. Living with machismo. I already posted on this one pretty heavily in another post.
So talking about interesting cultural beliefs, here are some of the popular ones amongst many:
-A woman should not eat rice or eggs or cheese (amongst others) after giving birth. Neither should she bathe for 40 days afterwards. (wrong, wrong, wrong. Sorry, there is no cultural sensitivity here. Those are all just bad ideas. Hygiene and a balanced diet are very important post-partum.)
-On newborns, many of the women believe that you need to put a red bracelet on the baby’s ankle or wrist to protect it from the “mal ojo” or the evil eye. This is to say that someone could give your baby the “evil eye” and make your baby sick. Many also bring along a “fajuelo” or a piece of cloth to wrap around the baby’s belly and umbilical stump to do, well, I still don’t know what it’s supposed to do. But you can buy factory-made fajuelos and people from all socio-economic levels use them. Our pediatrician advises against them.
-About anything can “hacerte daño,” or “do you harm.” Wearing a bra to bed, washing your hands with cold water after ironing, eating this or that, having a fan or the A/C turned on.
-People have all sorts of beliefs and tactics to elevate your hemoglobin and hematocrit, lower your blood pressure, fix your problem with “sugar” or Diabetes. My favorite is the case of “embacho.” Again, not exactly sure what it is, but when someone is sick with gastro problems, or stomach issues, or I don’t know what all, you can go to someone to “sobar” you. They give you a bitter drink (pulgante) which is a laxative, and they do some sort of massage. The funniest thing about it all, I actually came close to really consider trying it. If you’ve kept up with blogs and Facebook status updates, you will see that in the last 1 ½ years I have had a heck of a time with gastrointestinal infections. It could be that I don’t wash my veggies well, or that I ate something bad off of the street, or drank contaminated water, or who even knows? But one time I just was not feeling better, felt bloated all of the time, and it wouldn’t go away. I went to the gym, and ended up feeling better after exercising a good bit. Most doctors say that “sobando” is completely bogus. But some people swear by it, having been helped by it when no modern medicine did. But as our surgeon at the hospital says, “If you think it will help you do it, or think it will “hacerte daño” don’t.”

I find myself at times being slightly pretentious and rolling my eyes at these “stupid myths.” But I imagine that sub-consciously I have a good bit of my own stupid myths that I believe. Can anyone list any of these that we have as North Americans in our growing up and beliefs?

Other things I am learning have to do with personal growth. I am relearning the immense mercy and love of God. I am learning that God is not indifferent, and his justice is so great. Every step I make is important to him, and he wants to be present in everyday of my life. In times of doubt and anxiety, God is right there beside me wanting to hold my hand so that I am not alone. His mercy is so great to cover a multitude of sins, and his love extends beyond that to not only forgive but redirect me back into the path he desires for me. God is also teaching me my worth, and my value as his daughter. That is a wonderful thing as well.

Prayer Requests:
-That I can continue to find purpose in my work at the hospital, and look for the daily blessings of living here.
-I only have about 6 more months here. Pray that the Lord will begin to open doors for me in the path he desires for me to go for my future.

Feel free to post any thoughts you have on this post. I love to read them! Hope you are all well. Thanks for reading! With much love until the next time, Malerie