April 23rd, 2007

The Hectic Month


Sooooo, what's going on out there in the great wide world? I've been around the world (or at least the country) and back in the last month and haven't had much time to think about the old website here. So here's my attempt at an update:

As you guys know, I left Veragua in the last week of March to help out at an eye surgery medical mission. Well, it was a great experience, and I learned as much as I helped. This is what I did: We arrived on Saturday, I a little earlier than the others (including even the doctors), though we didn't do anything except eat dinner. The quick orientation scheduled for Saturday night never happened, so the other two volunteers and I showed up bright and early Sunday morning unsure as to what we were supposed to do. That's alright though; we figured it out anyway.

As translators, we were basically floaters, moving in and around the clinic as we were needed. Doctors and nurses and other eye team volunteers would call us over when they couldn't understand the patient (often) or when something needed to be explained to the patient. At busy times (again, often), we the translators felt a little frazzled. I've never talked so much in my life. My voice was literally hoarse at the end of the days. But I give props to the eye team for their Spanish skills. They defended themselves quite well at times, especially by the end of the week.

I had a lot of fun chit-chatting with the patients who came from villages all around the Santiago area, sometimes as far as 3-4 hours, for evaluations. I feel like we got to know some of them quite well. Even more fun, though, was seeing some patients enter surgery not even being able to count fingers right in front of them due to dense cataracts, and leaving surgery seeing, in some cases, with the eyes of an 18 year old. The results for the cross-eyed patients were equally astounding. A 5 year old girl, severely cross-eyed, would leave the recovery room looking like nothing had ever even been wrong. For these experiences, I thank the doctors for taking the time from their busy lives to change someone else's. I know the patients feel the same way.

The unfortunate truth is that we couldn't help everyone. The doctors were performing surgeries mainly for cataracts, strabismus (cross-eyes), some plastic surgeries, and whatever else they thought they could tackle. While almost 200 surgeries were performed in 5 days, the doctors still had to choose the most serious cases, and good candidates were sadly turned away, asked to return next year for reconsideration.

It was a quick and exhausting week. But in all honesty, it was as much a vacation for me as it was work. Sometimes you have to change things up a bit lest they become the mundane every-day. At least I was saying that as I left Santiago that Saturday. The following three weeks would prove to be equally far from the routine.

I didn't make it back home that weekend as I had planned. With my bag full of well-worn (read: smelly) clothes, I headed to the capital. I camped out for a couple of nights before I left for El Seibo to do some training presentations for the new group of volunteer trainees. I put the washer and dryer at the Peace Corps office to good use, and with a pack of fresh clothes, made my way out to El Seibo in the East.

In El Seibo, two other volunteers and I presented on topics ranging from battery maintenance to computer repair to the use of web pages. I suppose in a way the training sessions were also the first examples of my volunteer service coming full circle. I recalled receiving the same sessions from other volunteers who have now already left the country, but now it was I who was the veteran. It may sound trite, but I really can't believe it.

After a few days in El Seibo, I headed back to the capital for the night only to end up staying the next day as well to get my mid-service medical exam out of the way. I'm healthy as a horse, thanks for asking. I finally made it back home on Thursday, almost a full two weeks after leaving originally. Neal, another volunteer, actually beat me to my house. He stopped by Veragua to hang out for a few days.

The next week was a short one. I left Veragua once again for the capital, this time to get my mid-service DENTAL exam out of the way. No cavities, thanks for asking. The exam didn't take long and I took off for San Juan in the West the very same day.

After a short visit with Ed in San Juan, I headed a bit further west to Las Matas de Farfan for "Geek Weekend", a bi-annual meeting of the, you guessed it, IT Education Volunteers. A short weekend in Las Matas, one final night in the capital, and I was thoroughly pooped out with travel. Living out of a bag just isn't any fun. Sometimes you just need your own bed and your own routine.

Needless to say, I'm home now, getting into the routine once again. While I was gone the cat, Pokey, had her babies, though I've yet to see them. I've been told to expect to see them walking around any day now. Tonight is the first class of a new course I'm giving on computer installation, maintenance, and repair. I'm not free of travel quite yet though: this coming weekend is committee weekend, and the IT Volunteers have enough to do to make the trip necessary for me. And not too far into the future (just 4 weeks!), Corey is coming to visit, and then my parents and sister. By that time it will already be summer break, my last one in this country. I've got to make it a good one!

Things are going OK all in all. I'm glad to be taking it easy in Veragua and looking forward to some fun visits coming up. I've been in Veragua a year. Baffling, isn't it?

Peace



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