Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Journals from Belize: 2-3-12 morning

Photo by Ryan Bannan

Journals from Belize
2-3-12 morning

Our pace is not fast, but we are staying consistently busy.  Enough so that I have not found much time to write.  The days here have been surprisingly rainy and cool.  I am sleeping great so far and we are well fed, better than I had anticipated.  My conversations with the Mayan Health Workers yesterday confirmed how similar our struggles are.  Down at the heart of the matter we are more the same than we are different.   True, the developing world has far less than we do in terms of medicines.  However, the politics and mentalities are very much the same. 
Photo by Ryan Bannan

In terms of remedies people everywhere look to pills to fix their maladies.  It amazes me that people will take an aspirin for headache without first seeing that they are properly hydrated.  I have been approached time and time again for medicine while walking about the village.  Each instance I am content to give only advice and happily refer each person to Andreas the Laguna Village Health Worker.

Photo by Ryan Bannan
People seek other medicines besides just pills, however.  Everywhere we humans have basic needs, many of which frequently go overlooked.  We all want to feel successful, want to feel supported, and want to be needed.  We need to be fed and clothed, and we need to believe in progress.  Everyone I meet, every conversation I have further supports this notion.  I would like to get about the village today and learn more about the perceived needs of the community. 
People are looking to us for answers, but as I explained to Carlos earlier, we too have much to learn.  I attempted to explain to him that despite our high levels of material wealth in the U.S., we are lacking in many other ways .  We live much more isolated, more sterilized lives and are constantly finding ways to separate ourselves from one another.  I spare him the full diatribe seeing that he is perplexed by this concept.  Maybe his look is more of surprise. 
I am looking forward to working more with the Community Health Workers Carlos, Andreas, and Anna in the coming week.  They are intelligent, motivated, and have a contagious passion for assisting their communities however they can.  It’s inspiring.  I am also hoping to discover what local, traditional treatments are still being used in the villages around Toledo.  I spoke with Carlos about the role of Bush Doctors and was somewhat surprised that he knew nothing of the famous Bushman Don Elijo nor of his apprentice Rosita Arvigo.  I am curious how knowledge is spread here and I am curious about what the hot topics of conversation may be.  One thing is for certain, people are always talking about one another!
There are childish politics in play here as there are everywhere.  Andreas told me that people in Laguna Village frequently arrive at the clinic looking for pills and medicines regardless of their illness.  If medicine is not indicated or they don’t get what they want, they get upset and gossip and don’t return. 
It takes integrity to do the right thing not just once, but over and over.  I advise him to stay strong and be wary of letting the patient decide their own treatment.   I encourage him to educate his people on why and when to use medications.  I encourage him to explain to them the limitations of medicines, potential complications, and prolonged, undesired effects.  Alternatives too are important.  He is appreciative of the advise and seems comforted when I explain to him that we have the same type of problems in the U.S.  
Later in the night music booms from large speaker cabinets inside the block and tin churches scattered plentifully about the village.  The bass from the speakers echoes about the darkness for hours at a time lingering like fog in the jungle tree tops.  Each day here brings new challenges. Each day is full with meaning.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Journals from Belize: 2-1-12

Journals from Belize
2-1-12 afternoon

Cars that don’t exist in America; this is what catches my eye as I saunter to our Daihatsu Terios parked outside of the Belize International Airport.  I am half way through my second Belikin while we wait for our last man Breax Burns to arrive from Durango.  His flight seems to be running a little late so we go to check the on its arrival status.  “I’ve got opposable thumbs and a frontal cortex,” Randy declares as we continue our conversation about Man’s right to recline and I and I finish  the last few sips of my indigenous beverage while walking about the terminal.  Clearly I am not in Kansas any more and I like it.  Besides, there are palm trees and a warm breeze. 

We are minutes from finalizing the assembly of our team.  If our last member makes it through customs successfully we will be 11 strong.  Jono has spent months recruiting an experienced team of allied health professionals, and I am eager to get to Laguna to meet them, but for now we have time to kill.
While waiting for Breax to arrive from Durango Jono takes us hunting for “number plates” as he calls them with British sensibility.  We drive a few minutes beyond the airport in Ladyville to a dilapidated junkyard where a foreboding sign posted out in front of the establishment reads “If we are not open, no focking come here, your life may be in danger, nuff said.”  Below are two numbers to call for towing assistance.  The handwritten sign is full of comical misspellings, but the meaning is never the less clear, and looking around I am convinced the patrons of the yard are sincere in their message. 

I’ve been in the country less than an hour and already I am comfortably uncomfortable.  Jono our fearless leader is tall, confident, and fully aware that he looks a bit tourist like in his flowered black button down and sandals.  In no time he has found his way into the yard begins sifting through stacks of rusty license plates in search of a keeper.  Once found, a quick $10 Belize seals the deal.  We march back out to the Terios which is parked out front.  It positioned facing the road for rapid retreat if necessary.  I consider taking a picture of the sign then make a quick look back at the two men inside the junkyard scowling at us and decide otherwise.  After all, my life could be in danger…nuff said.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Busy Return

After escaping my life here in the states for over a week while in Belize I find myself in a scramble to get caught back up.  There are forgotten bills to pay, laundry and gear clean up, forthcoming seminars and all the myriad other trivial pursuits that all easily melt away while on expedition.  It has not been easy readjusting to a way of life that charges at a far more rapid pace.  In Central America it had taken some time to adjust to "Belize Time" a way of life that followed a more natural and progressive rhythm.  Communication is sparse, timing approximate, and priority is based on true necessity. 

It took a bit to understand that if someone did not show up for a meeting or was hours late, it was not that they did not care about our activity.  Rather, something more important had come up.  It's a simple way of operating.  If you go to town with someone from the village and they fall ill, you go with them to the clinic and stay with them until they are able to return.  If no transportation is available, you wait with them until some can be arranged.  If this means you miss a meeting, so be it.

This is but one small example of the type of commitment people of Belize have to one another.  One night while deep at rest I awoke to the trumpet like moan of a horn.  The next day I learned that it was a distress call.  The men of Aguacate arose from slumber to go search the "bush" for a teenage boy who had not returned home.  Unsuccessful in the dark, the search was resumed again the next morning and continued until he was found.  Hilaria, the village health worker and I were asked to evaluate the boy for injuries.  We found him at home surrounded by dozens of concerned community members.  It was clear to me that although they were uncertain of what to do, they were ready and willing to help with whatever was needed.  It was a powerful moment, one that I was honored to have been invited to join in.

Over the next several weeks I will attempt to share in greater detail more stories from working with the people of Belize.  My hope is to combine my journals and pictures here on this blog to better outline the amazing time we spent together sharing cultures and ideas about how to live.  As my last few days in Aguacate slowly but steadily passed by, I found myself holding back tears at the thought of having to leave.  My new friends in Aguacate taught me much about living each day with a commitment to community, to family, and the desire to live a whole and happy life. 

I am certain that our presence in the villages as well as the trainings we did with the community health workers contributed substantially to the improvement of health care there.  I am also certain that as missionaries of health education we have brought back as much, if not more, knowledge as we had delivered.  This is the beauty and necessity of cultural diversity; the opportunity to share across borders different perspectives of life that will hopefully allow us to find a middle ground. My hope is that experiences like this will lead us to discovery a healthier, more balanced, and sustainable way of life!  Thank yo all so much for making this mission a success!    -Bryan

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Its Go Time!

Atlanta Layover:  I'm starting the day tired.  We got crushed at work yesterday and as usual I saved a bit too much for the last minute.  Things that got spared...thank you letters and various assundry other e-mails, paying bills (I did get rent in), and that sinking "I know I forgot something" feeling while waiting to last Typhoid pill..the one's that's still in the fridge...back at the house...the one that required a dozen phone calls to area pharmacies and was apparently the last box in Asheville according to the secreraty at the health department.  Oh well, whats done is done and were on our way!  Most remarkably, I so far havent been charged for the behemoth 80 pound drybag o gear I checked.  So all is well!  I've got a few more minutes to update then Were off to catch our connector to Belize City.  I've aleady run into my friend and colleague Randy Howell.  He's a bad ass P.A. from Roanoke and a fellow A.C.W.M member.  This moment of synchronicity and the anticipation of our destination reminds me of why I spent so much time rollin the wheels.  Were off!  I'll write when I can.   -B