Sunday, November 7, 2010

Too busy! Too busy! (But how fast time flies when you are too busy!)

Kristen says...

Good goodness it's November! And not really even early November any more, it's November November!

And it's been almost a month! since I last Sorry.

Let's get you back up to speed on the Finks' life in Honduras.

1) The Month of Uncertainty ended well! I can go back to looking for curtains, because we will be staying! (Not that I guess our staying in Honduras was ever in doubt, it was more about whether we would be staying in our current (and a bit expensive) apartment if Chris had no job). On that note, can you believe we've been here for 4 months (July 6-November 6) and still have no curtains on our windows? Kind of sad, really. We have resorted to using a blanket in our bedroom. Curtains are actually hard to find down here, so I might just try to find someone who can make them for me...anyone know anybody who can help me out with that?

2) My sister Michelle and her husband Nate came to visit! They were here from a Thursday-the following Tuesday, and during that time they:
-visited the UN Day Celebration at my school
-visited Valle de Angeles (twice!)
-shopped at Mayoreo
-traveled to Amapala and went swimming in the Pacific Ocean
-(the boys) went to a cigar factory and (the girls) went shopping at the mall
So, maybe not the most exciting trip ever, but certainly nice to see them! Here are a few pics (because you know I love adding pics to my posts! :)

<-Michelle and Nate eating local fare at Mayoreo

Nate in the front of an Amapala "Taxi" ->

Dirty Dancing in the Sand?

3) Parent-Teacher Conferences! I always enjoy these on some level--it's nice to meet parents. It's also nice the way my school down here does them--we take a whole day (rather than 2 nights), and have them be student-led (meaning the students get to sit there and explain what's happening in class, rather than me doing it. MUCH better accountability for the students).

4) Medical Brigade! My school, the Discovery School, has a working partnership with an organization called Cape CARES. Cape CARES brings volunteer doctors and dentists to rural Central American areas where these types of services are not readily available. Because many of these professionals (and the other volunteers who come with them) have little or no Spanish-speaking abilities (like me!) our school provides translators in the form of students (and sometimes teachers, although this time they got me instead! :)

So, last Saturday Chris dropped me off at TGU where I met the Discovery School student I was to chaperon and the rest of the Cape Cares volunteer group. We left the airport in six 4x4 trucks. I was in the middle of the back seat of one truck with a future medical student, an employee in his dad's Massachusetts dental practice, and a veteran dentist. At first I wasn't totally crazy about being in the middle of the back--and then we went off the Pan-American highway and onto the "back roads" to Los Encinitos. (Click here for site-specific information.)

WOW. I have NEVER been on roads like that. I would have never imagined you could drive on roads like that! The ruts were, I am not kidding, 1 1/2 - 2 feet deep. I will never complain about the Honduran potholes again after that trip! Here is a picture of the ruts (it doesn't really show how deep they are, but maybe it will give you an idea):
It was a long ride, but passed quickly with good company, and the views!! Honduras is SO, SO BEAUTIFUL!

We arrived at the site on Saturday night, unloaded the gear, had a delicious first dinner, and went to bed early, to get ready for the people on Monday morning.

My role was in registration (which I was happy about, because I am a tad bit squeamish about things like blood and teeth), which meant I was "in charge" of pulling the patients' charts and making sure they got to the doctors in the correct order, with the correct patient. This was a little tougher than you might think, because the names were quite unfamiliar to me, and some of the people seemed to change their names from one visit to the next.

For example, one person on this visit might tell us their name is Aleyda Yamileth Reyes Godoy, but they might be in the computer as just Yamileth Godoy, or Aleyda Y. Reyes, or Aleyda Godoy Ramos, or something else even more different. So, if they didn't come in knowing the number they had been assigned on a previous visit, it was my job to look up their name or their birthday, look at all the information I had and find the person I thought most likely to be this person, then pull out the proper folder and make sure it was right. Then, after they saw the doctor, we put the files away. It was very interesting, but at times slightly frustrating.

Below are some pictures, the first of files ready for the doctors, and the second of me with the LAST! file I processed for the week:

Of course, my job was quite secondary to that of the doctors who were doing the really important stuff like cleaning, filling, and pulling teeth (or as we called it, limpiar, tapar, y extraction) or diagnosing illness, prescribing medicine, etc etc etc. Here are some photos of the medical clinic:

First the patients were triaged

and then were seen into one of the doctors' rooms

finally they were given their medicine and sent on their way.

The dental clinic was a bit different--5 chairs in the front room and 2 in the back. The front room was for cleanings and fillings, the back for extractions. To give you an idea, 240+ teeth were pulled in a 5-day period, 14 from one man's mouth alone!

Some dental clinic pictures:

Of course, being in the registration office I saw a lot of names, but didn't get to interact with many of the actual people, something that I know the student I chaperoned and the doctors and dentists I worked with really enjoyed. There were a few exceptions.

One was this girl:
Now, I realize this isn't the best picture in the world, but it does do a nice job of telling a story. See, most of the people I saw in the course of my work were people who had something they wanted. For example, they'd already seen the doctor and they wanted to go to the dentist, without having to wait in line at the gate. Or they'd already seen the dentist and they wanted to go to the doctor. Or they needed their number again. Or...something else. And of course, they were asking for all this in Spanish, of which I know little.

This girl, however, was different. She wanted something, yes, but it was a legitimate something. She came into our little shack alone and tried to explain that she wanted to see the doctor. I looked up her chart and found it was already gone. We asked her questions, over and over, and at times she seemed like she just couldn't answer. The reason, we found, was because she was, not in technical terms, tongue tied. Literally, whereas most of us can stick our tongues far out of our mouths, sometimes far enough out to touch our noses, this girl's tip of her tongue was attached behind her teeth, affecting her speech, I assume to a certain extent her ability to eat, and many other things.

I took her up to the triage nurses, and through discussion with them and the pediatric doctor, found that she was up for what would surely be a quick but painful and bloody surgery to free her tongue. Have I mentioned she'd been living like that for 11 years?! The dentists performed the surgery (one of 3 they did during the week--another was on the brain!) and she graciously allowed me to take pictures of her sticking her tongue out for the first time in her life. Cool!

Another patient that caught my interest I don't have a picture of. He came into the compound with a cane and the particular walk of a person with prosthetic legs. The skin on his arms looked like it had been splashed with bleach. But he was there, something I found amazing after hearing his story. He had lost his legs trying to achieve what is called down here the "Sueño Americano," the "American Dream". Since moving down here I have seen art depicting the long and perilous journey from Central America to the United States, and have heard people describe the toll it has taken on friends and family. This man, however, was the first I have encountered face to face. His legs, by the way, were lost to a train. He is now living, obviously, back in Honduras, and works on a vineyard.

And, here is another patient that I want to share with you for no other reason than he was absolutely adorable. We saw him twice, once on the first day when his mom brought him to the dentist, and the other on Wednesday when he came back to finish the work. I give you, Sandros:
Seriously, how cute is this kid? :)

The week wasn't all work, though. Each morning at either 5:30 or 6:00 a group went out walking in the Honduran countryside. I was only able to go on one walk, for various reasons. The first half of the week I was fighting a major cold that was working to move into my chest (thank goodness for being with the doctors!! They fixed me right up!) and the second half of the week I had to start early to have patients ready for the doctors when they started in the morning.

The one walk I did go on, however, was to the top of MontePedro, one of the peaks surrounding the compound. It was a beautiful walk both up and down, and I got some spectacular pictures (thanks again, Michelle, for bringing my good camera down with you!!)

As you can imagine, I had a bit of a field day taking pictures...there are more, I assure you!

Anyway, I had a nice time--I'm not sure it is something I would like to do again, but it was fine for what it was. The doctors, dentists, and other volunteers were fabulous people, and it was nice to know that I was, in some small way, making a difference for people in this fabulous country. It was also a nice chance to catch up on some reading (I read 2 books while I was there, "Trans-Sister Radio" and "Water For Elephants") and to practice my Spanish. The guy I was working with spoke no English, so it was either try Spanish or stay silent. As you may guess, I am not very good at staying silent. :)

So, that's the long version of what I've been up to lately. Planning for a week's absence from school took a lot of time and energy before I left, and now I am back I will have to dedicate a lot of time and energy to getting caught back up, but have not forgotten my goal where RS is concerned, and I'd really rather break my fabulous experiences up into many short blog posts, rather than one gigantor one like you've (hopefully) just read.

That's the plan...but we'll see :)

Thanks for reading, will look forward to your responses...?



  1. My wife has a non-profit called Mi Esperanza ( They have a maquila where graduates work making a variety of textile products. I'm sure she would be glad to help go pick out fabric then get the curtains made at the maquila. They did all the curtains at our house and do great work. Nice thing is that it gives work to someone who really needs it. My wife is Lori and her # is 9858-6208.

  2. Mark! Thanks! I will get in touch with Lori very soon, this is just what I have been looking for!!

    By the way, I feel very badly that we haven't gotten together with you has been on our minds, but we seem to be bad about follow-though. I will talk with Lori about dinner or drinks sometime soon when we discuss the curtains!

    Thanks so much, KF

  3. Hi Kristen! I've really enjoyed reading your post and photos...landscape is beautiful! I will bring with me some curtains then ;)
    See you soon!

  4. Great post. Kristen. I feel like I know what you did, and enjoyed the pictures, too. What an experience!

    Love you! Mom


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