Thursday, June 26, 2008

so it's been a whole week in my new "hometown"...for real? I can't believe a week has passed so fast. I arrived here in Siguatepeque, my new "hometown," and have since been...working. haha. How exciting. But it's what I asked for and soooo much more.

My first day at work was, well, rough. I obviously didn't know the workers too well yet and I had so many new material that they just wanted to get started on them before listening to what the new designs were like and practicing them. I guess I would be anxious too if I was working on macrame cords for the last 3 weeks. Despite some stress and confusion, I was able to get to know them better, how each individual works, how I could best delegate, etc. Within the last week, we've improved a lot and have made great progress on some of the new jewelry designs. Honduran spanish and slang was hard to pick up at first, and I still most definitely have my difficulties, but it's getting better and better. Now, I can finally understand a lot of the workers jokes and make jokes right along with them. That's how you know you're finally immersing into another language: 1) when you can understand and make jokes, and 2) when you understand everything they say on the radio.

I did have the fortune however to speak english yesterday, for the first time since I arrived. I met up with a few young women who are American and teach at a couple of the local bilingual schools. It was a nice reprieve--to not have to think so much when talking...and they had tons of great advice for me. One has a map of Siguat to copy for me, another introduced me to some new Honduran "cuisine" (aka another version of rice, beans, and cheese), and the other had loads to divulge about how she got "played" by several Honduran men who had several other girlfriends. Well, it is pretty machista here...even more so than in the DR which I didn't think was possible...but it's been the topic of conversation with many of my co-workers which has lead to some interesting insights about gender and empowerment. Naturally my conversations would lead to that, right?

For example, the staff and I were joking about something I had done and somehow the conversation got to how women are "punished" if they do something bad/wrong in the house. Henry, the farmacist, told me that women have kneal on top of a pile of sand or some other form of sand-like material and stay knealing until the man says she can get up. Evidently it's a Honduran "custom." Henry said women sometimes went weeks on their knees...upon telling me that, I immediately jumped up from my seat and said, "ay yo no...yo puedo correr rapido" (Ay not me! I can run fast.) I think my independent aura and refusal to accept subordinance has surprised people quite a all started when I asked if I could play soccer with the guys and they looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I am...but at the same time, I'm totally serious about it...haha. In the meantime, I'll be going to watch the guys game tomorrow and maybe I'll find a girls team or work my way into playing with them some time in the near future :)

Alright, well there's so much I could say in terms of experiences and stories I could tell, but at least this was a little update on my life here. My apartment is beautiful but sometimes lonely, the sound on my computer isn't working so that makes things even more quite. Until, of course, the gallinas (chicken/rooster) in the trees (seriously, they nest in the trees in my backyard!) starting crowing on the hour from 10pm to 9am...yeah that's not fun. Gilman, my lizard housemate, keeps me company though...and with time, I hope my apartment will be a great hang out place. It's right in the middle of town and across the street from this lovely bakery with wireless internet. Pretty nice :) Okay, well that is all for now. After the support group at the clinic on Saturday, I'll be headed to San Pedro Sula for the annual feria and then I'll be there for my birthday on Monday :) So, in the meantime, just looking forward to all that is to come! Hasta entonces, cuidense mucho!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'm here...por fin!

Hello all!

Well, I've made it to Honduras after one intense week of jewelry-making training. Now I have all kinds of jewelry skills you wouldn't imagine...and my perfectionistic tendencies are serving well for quality control...haha. Anyhow, I've arrived in San Pedro Sula and have spent the last 2 days meeting the patients and staff and learning all about the different programs at Siempre Unidos. They have several prevention programs that I'm really interested in and hope to be a part of in my "free time." Tomorrow though I head to Siguatepeque where I will live and work at the clinic and jewelry workshop that employs several of the HIV patients. Though I haven't yet made it to Siguat, I've already had some crazy and emotional experiences.

Personally, I've had a roller coaster of emotions, of the stress from the last month graduating and preparing for my new life in Honduras and then along with the disappointment I felt when I arrived here and in all honesty, didn't really like it (the environment, the accent, the food). But I realized I've been comparing it a lot to the DR and though I didn't fall in love with the country right away like I did the DR, I still need to give it time. Also, I'm not here to fall in love with a country, I'm here to work, to learn about the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS, and the lives of those health workers trying so hard to help and minister and treat their patients. I'm here for work, for experience, for the daily grind (thanks to all those who have helped me better understand that). And today, I had an interesting and intensely real experience that helped me accept that even more...

Though I met several people and patients yesterday, today I had the opportunity to sit in with the nurse and be a part of the medical outreach. Since I worked in a prenatal HIV clinic in the DR, I thought it would be relatively similar, just reviewing their status and giving information and such. Well, it was a lot more intense than that. With all due respect to this man and his family, I have to say that for the first time in my life I watched a man almost die of AIDS today. The young man was brought in by his daughter and sister, after he collapsed on the floor. He was diagnosed with HIV several years ago but hadn't followed his treatment regimen and had fallen seriously ill about 2 weeks ago, but didn't want to see a physician. When they brought him in, he was so weak and frail. He could hardly walk or talk or even respond, his eyes were somewhat glazed over, he was sweating from fever and wheezing as we moved him into the clinic bed. The Siempre Unidos clinic is really an ambulatory service and so he had to leave immediately for the hospital, but as his family went to call a friend to pick them up and the nurse left to prepare an injection, I was left alone with him in the clinic room. I wasn't sure how to react, what to say. I'd never sat beside a man literally about to die of AIDS. What was he thinking at that moment? What should I be thinking or doing at that moment?

And then, he began to reach into his pants. I started freaking out; I didn't know what was about to happen until he began to pee all over the hospital floor. Ah, okay, ya entiendo. Yet still, there I was, alone with this suffering man as he peed. Not gonna lie, a little awkward on my second day, but then again if you gotta pee, you gotta pee, even if you are practically incapacitated. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how the man is doing now. A staff member carried him into a taxi to go directly to the hospital. We gave the family a packet of Pampers for while they'd be waiting there, just in case. He didn't look good, and who knows how long it was/will be before the doctors actually saw/see him at the emergency room. Perhaps I'll never know...but, for now, I'm saying a prayer.