Veggie Voyagers

Couple travelled 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces between 7/07 and 5/08 running their 1987 Ford truck on straight veggie oil. The blog continues with a focus on the natural world and energy politics from a personal perspective

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Guatemala Vista Hermosa

Guatemala is in its dry season as it is each year when I visit. As usual, the days were grueling and the people’s lives were difficult but this time I had a significant contrast so I want to blog twice. The before and after the Lago Atitlan experiences.

This year there were 9 nursing students from the University of Victoria who went with Wendy Neander, MSN, Amy Baches, RN (Amy is Pueblo Partisan’s in-country representative,) and myself. We work with a remarkable nun named Sister Sarah who has a wonderful clinic called Daniel Comboni, in Mixco, which is a poor fringe of Guatemala City. She’s trained health promoters in the communities that surround the city, even further out. Those communities were originally squatter settlements during the war and now they’re permanent even though they often lack navigable roads and have jerry rigged services for water and electricity. Some people buy propane but many can be seen with piles of wood on their heads, slowly but surely destroying the forests that once stood on the mountain flanks where people now live so precariously.

In each community (El Bosque, Las Limas, San Franciso,) we did adult and pediatric “consultas” and women’s health (pap, pelvic and prenatals.) My area is the women’s health so our exams were always in a dim curtained room either on a low bed or a kitchen table. Even though we did six clinics during my 10 day stay we only did 45 paps because it is such a slow go to do a good history, work with the student to perform the exam then do all the necessary health teaching and follow up.
What I want to convey is that women’s lives are very hard in Guatemala. Many do hard physical labor, like washing clothes all day by hand, or carrying heavy things on their heads up and down the steep dusty slopes, or they commute to “fabricas” where they have no bathroom breaks. These women often can’t read and write, have no sense they have a right to any relaxation or pleasure, and are physically strained by headaches and body aches from their poor fluid intake and nutrition, their lousy shoes and lack of preventative knowledge. These women just don’t have a chance in life.

One example is this beautiful woman who I met at Sister Sarah’s clinic. She has big deep open sores on her ankle. To get to Sister Sarah’s clinic she had to hike up a long hill, wait standing, then take a crowded bus, then walk more downhill to the clinic… To heal the ulcers she will need to keep her wounds clean and have frequent dressing changes, for weeks. Sister Sarah will train someone in her community to do the dressing changes, but how will she recover if she has to work to live?


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