Thursday, June 19, 2014

All in a Day's Work

Pictures of mangoes and coconuts before they are ripe.  I thought that the papayas were plums.

Working at an orphanage that isn't yet done with a nutrition center and physical therapy clinic that is.  Apparently in the 1990's following the civil war in Guatemala people were coming in and literally taking babies from their families then paying whoever brokered the "adoption."  There was a freeze on adoptions from Guatemala for a time and thus large quantities of red tape that need to be cut through in order to build and operate one.

Spiders that surprise you on your way out of a river following a swim should NOT be this big!

During the civil war in Guatemala, people were fearful of the police, firefighters, and other public employees.  Now those in civil service professions are attempting to give back to the people, at the clinic we visited yesterday, the police personally escorted a grandmother and 13 year old girl from the mountains to the clinic.  The girl was born with spina bifida ( a common occurrence around here) and she was never treated, in early childhood she got a leg infection and her leg was amputated.  She was then taken from her neglectful mother and now lives with her grandmother.  Her visit to the clinic was for the purpose of evaluation by the physical therapist and prosthetic practitioner to be fit for an artificial limb.  Amazingly enough some of aspects of this system seem to actually be geared towards helping the child rather than the abusive parent. 
It is possible to play on a soccer field that is actually a field and play extremely well even in bare feet if you live in Guatemala, but the Americans out there today didn't do have bad in sandals.

 Swimming in a cold river at the end of a hot day feels incredible!

 In Guatemala, laundry is usually done by hand and then hung out to dry.  The hanging out to dry I get, who would want to run a hot dryer in a small house in this climate!  Our interpreter told us today that she has friends who do their laundry by hand even when they own a machine because they think that it is easier, jeans are said to be the easiest because they can be scrubbed with a a brush.  By the way, most everyone wears jeans around here.
 It may look like all that I do is sit around and hold cute kids and smile, but really I am working, trying to give the students as much experience as possible is one of the main reasons I am here.
I am here to personally tell you that three shots of rum in a large glass of pineapple juice ties the end of the day up in a nice ribbon of relaxation, ah....

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Guatemala Trip Day 2

Today was our first real therapy day working in a local clinic.  Although a typical day at the office does not usually include
 Lizards that skitter across a window like this or
moths that are the size of bats who even I, who fear insects never, do not want to see disturbed.  Aside from the intrusion of local wildlife via broken window pains and ill fitting doors, there were some real highlights.
This little guy was a real joy, he gets around by scooting on his knees, but is learning to walk, he love to play games and engage with others, but cannot say much of anything.  His mom has a heart of gold.
Active, active, active, I will say it again, "active!" This kid could really get around.  If you could slow him down long enough, he could repeat just about anything that was said to him.
This little girl has quite a story, she received a donated wheelchair that is far too big for her and thus she tends to lurch right out of it.  Today she was "fit" for a "new" wheelchair, refurbished might be a better word for it, notice the car seat strap in front.  At least now mom will be able to get her around on the bus without having to carry her or have her fall out of a wheelchair.
This was our first evaluation of the morning.  A little girl with expressive and receptive language delays, it would be awesome to see her for treatment once a week, but this is Guatemala and we had to make do with passing on recommendations to the grandmother.
Our group translator holding her namesake.  If you stick around here long enough, you may get a baby named after you.

The similarities between American parents and those that we encountered today were amazing.  It didn't surprise me that all of the parents who brought their children to the clinic for a speech and language evaluation cared deeply about, loved, and wanted the best for their children, what did surprise me was the similar responses to referrals and home recommendations.  Some parents came in today deeply concerned that their child, at age 5, could not trill his "r's," they were worried about all kinds of things including possible diabetes?! Another mother excused her child's lack of meaningful language at age 5, saying that he used his own made up language at home and his cousins and grandparents all understood, so what is the problem?  If anyone thinks that kind of thing doesn't happen in the states, guess again.  Then there were the well educated, professional parents who came in with their nanny and we were a bit nervous to present our findings, that the child definitely needed further evaluation for Autism Spectrum Disorder, to them.  They were both relieved and distraught when we made the referral, relieved because they had done a fair amount of research on their own and they were not all that surprised and distraught because they were losing that hope.
I wish that I could speak Spanish, our Spanish speaking students and interpreters were busy running here there and everywhere.  At around 2:00pm we got word that 50 children with Autism were going to descend on the tiny clinic in about 30 minutes.  We made a plan and descend they did, it took us under 5 minutes to figure out that not all, not even most of those children actually had Autism.  Which was good, because 50 children on the spectrum in one location at any time can be a challenge for even the most seasoned of therapists and not so good because the children present had a whole host of other speech and language concerns that we had to sort out and make appropriate recommendations to parents.

When  we were all done, we rode home in a Hearts in Motion van that did not have air conditioning with a driver who successfully navigated through  fruit vendors selling bags of mango and papaya in the middle of the two lane road and parked the van precariously close to another vehicle without hitting it yet again so that we could get ready and unwind from an extremely productive day by doing this.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

First Day in Guatemala:  Ten Things that I have Learned Today

It has been a fantastic start to this adventure with Hearts in Motion here in Zacapa Guatemala.  After arriving at 1:30 am following a three hour drive from the airport yesterday and an early start this morning, our first adventure was to visit a daycare in a nearby town.  The best part of my morning was this little sweetie taking an uninhibited seat on my lap.  Things that I have learned so far:
1) Toilet paper cannot be flushed in Guatemala, we have been instructed to throw it in the wastebasket as there have been many earthquakes and the fragile septic system can no longer tolerate toilet paper.
2) There are a number of single mothers in Guatemala as getting married is quite expensive.  It is not unusual for a man to have more than one family.  Thus solving the irony of the daycare worker's explanation of how the children were making father's day gifts today at the daycare, father's day in Guatemala is June 17, and in the next breath telling us that most of the children were in the care single mothers.
3) Special education programs last as long as the parents need their children to go someplace during the day.  Today we visited a special education program and were conducting speech and language "evaluations" on some "children" that were in their late 20's.  One little guy ( a five year old child) had a left ear congenital atresia and possible progressive hearing loss in the right ear, he is otherwise in all ways a typical child and is in the special education class because he was reportedly made fun of in the regular school classroom.
4) None of the children that we "evaluated" today were even close to being as impaired as most of the children I have seen in special education classrooms in the United States.  One reason is that more impaired children tend to be kept at home in this country and do not attend school.
5)  I use the term "evaluated" in quotes as between grabbing interpreters (a couple of whom are speech and hearing science students in our group), managing the small bug infestation that was the outdoor classroom tables at snack time, and complete lack of structure that is the school day in Guatemala after 12:30pm, I didn't feel as though I was conducting a very informative or helpful evaluation or leaving solidly thought out notes for the next group of volunteers.
6) I found out that the teachers in Guatemala graduate high school, go to a year of technical training, and then begin to teach.
7) More schools need to be built to replace the crumbling old ones that are often sites for vandalism.  This is frequently done through private donations as the Guatemalan government is inefficient, of course, that was no surprise.
8) There is not warm water or hot water for showering, the water is  "tepid" that is how it comes out and that is how it stays.
9) Moleskin has many uses besides patching blisters on sore hiking feet, one of them being to patch bathroom window screens.
10) The people of Guatemala will root for any team playing against Mexico in the World Cup games.