My friends in the United States, I apologize profusely for not updating this grand literary work that is my blog since January 17th. I have to explain that I have been the busiest person to live in a 300 person community in a third world country ever. "What in the world have you been doing, Melissa, when it takes you an hour to travel 30 kilometers, the equivalent of which is fifteen miles?" I'll tell you exactly what I've been doing, and in LIST FORMAT, as stolen from my good friend Deborah, whose blog you can view from the link on the right.
The First Health Gira: Santa Fe
For five days sometime in late January (I don't remember what days, but that doesn't matter anymore) I participated in a health gira in Santa Fe, Darien. What is a health gira? It's where a group of Christian missionaries come down to perform various medical routines that the people of Panama and especially of the Darien may or may not have the access to. As one of six or seven handy Peace Corps volunteers that live in the region, I was given the task of translating. So, for eight hours a day for the duration of five days, I stood in an operating room, holding the hands of the patients who were unsedated, save some vicodin and a topic anastethic, telling them to "don't move!", "look toward the light", "how many fingers is the doctor holding up," and translating various prayers. It was a really good experience, as I got to witness the opthomologists actually take out the cataract (or rather, the lens inside the patients' eyes which are fogged by the cataracts) and replace them with some sort of internal contact lens. It was really, really cool, I got some first hand experience in medicine, and I met some really great people, including my boyfriend (cue the collective gasp of readers around the globe), whom I will talk about later.
Checking out the eyeballs.
Get that cataract out!
Muchachas Guias training!
I participated in Muchachas Guias, or girl scout, training. I am now qualified to be a girl scout leader in Panama. There's not much more to comment on than that.
The Wounaan Congreso
The Wounaan are one of four indigenous groups in Panama who live in a Comarca, which is almost like a type of reservation. At the congreso, they did things like elect new leaders, hold traditional dance competitions, talk about ways to integrate their culture into the greater Panamanian community, and sell their traditional crafts. I got painted with a substance called Jagua, for the second time now, wore a paruma, which is like a wrap around skirt that almost every Wounaan woman wears, and sat through hours of meetings that I didn't understand a word of, because they were held in WOUNAAN. Go figure. Pictures.
That's Jagua. It lasts about two weeks. One of those is my foot.
I got canned heat in my heals tonight...
Another Health Gira!
Directly after the Wounaan Congreso, I headed to another Health Gira, this time in Platanilla, which is actually really close to where I live. This time there were no surgeries, and instead of being held in a Centro de Salud, which is ALMOST a hospital, it was held in a Subcentro de Salud, which is more like a gym with a room for pap smears off to one side, and a pharmacy on the other side. I translated a lot about urinary tract infections, high blood pressure (and accidentally scared the hell out of one woman, by telling her that if her blood pressure of 220/100 didn't go down soon, she would die, end of story...such bedside manner), and diabetes. I also got my pick of the pharmacy that the Church of Christ volunteers brought down, so now I am the proud owner of two boxes of Viactiv multivitamins, a bottle of Omega-7, and about ten bottles of Tylenol PM is liquid AND pill form.
And finally, here is my brief explanation as to who this guy is I am dating. His name's Jorge, he's a doctor, he's thirty, he's also studying for his MBA, and he lives in Panama City. The soap opera story of how we met is he's the Director of Medicine and Personnel of the Centro de Salud in Santa Fe, his mother was getting the Cataract Surgery done, I was holding her hand while she was on the operating table when he waltzed in with his lab coat, surgical mask and hat and began translating for me (because he speaks some English!!!). Don't be jealous of that ridiculously amazing story. Yes, I asked if he had children or a wife/girlfriend, and the answer was no to both questions. Here is a picture of him giving MMR shots in Platanilla.
He's also 6'2", which makes him about a foot taller than the average Panamanian man. Clearly, the most important aspect to this relationship.