Monday, April 5, 2010

Life in the Deep South

I’ve been so busy these past couple months with Haiti earthquake relief, going to my old site to build a couple more stoves, participating in an eye medical mission, doing my final medical tests, working on Tim’s library, and even getting engaged! Time has flown by and it’s almost time to leave. It seems like I just moved to the south a couple weeks ago. When I wasn’t busy doing any of the above mentioned things, I spent much of the past six months working at poor, one-room schoolhouses in the surrounding mountains that are attended by mostly Dominican-born Haitians. An American priest is my project partner, and together we visit nine elementary schools by frightening motorcycle rides to teach basic hygiene and nutrition principles as well as to share different teaching methods with the teachers. It has truly been a challenge, but I’ve learned to be creative. These schools have next to nothing in materials, and the teachers attempt to teach grades pre-K through 8th grade at the same time. School is only in session from around 8am-noon Monday-Thursday. The teachers don’t show up about half the time for any reason, usually due to rain. And most of the kids don’t regularly attend either. I asked the teachers about this, and they said that they are most likely looking for water or doing other tasks for the family (cutting firewood, cleaning, taking care of sick family members, etc).

Since I am in charge of visiting nine schools, I haven’t been able to work with the same group of students for more than a few hours every 1-3 weeks. I’ve learned a lot about the lack of education in the extremely rural areas of the country. I wish I could just build nice schools for these kids and fill them with teachers who show up to teach everyday, but I know this will take time. At least they have a start. I don’t know how much of an impact I am making on the kids or teachers, but I pray that at least a few of them have benefited from my visits. If nothing else, I was able to share my love and compassion with them. And hopefully some of them are now washing their hands and brushing their teeth more often!

My living situation here in the deep south isn’t too shabby. I am now living in two where I eat and one where I sleep. My host mom is a wonderful cook, and I sleep in the house of her crabby, 77-year old mother down the street. The Caribbean Sea is literally a one-minute walk away from the front door, so it’s nice to peak out the window every morning or go for a walk. My fiancé, Tim, now only lives about 30 minutes away from me, so I’m a happy girl. Both houses have generators, so it’s been nice having power most of the time. I think I bring bad luck though. The electricity has been breaking a lot more lately and the generator at the house where I sleep is often discharged. That means really hot, sweaty nights with no fan to cool down. Running water has been a major issue since January, so I’ve been learning how to really conserve water. I even admit that I’ve gone 3 days without showering on numerous occasions. One time it was 4. Gross! Fortunately, there’s a clean river about a 30 min walk away, so I go there to bathe sometimes. The living situation gets to me sometimes, and I’m able to calm myself down by telling myself that it’s not forever. I can’t help but feel guilty for thinking this though, considering that the majority of the world lives in conditions even more difficult. I’m not sure what else I can do to change the world, but I know that God is leading me to do His will.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this entry, I participated in an eye medical mission a few weeks ago. About 80 doctors, surgeons, and logistics volunteers flew to Santiago for a week to see over 800 patients. They performed about 300 surgeries on eyes and some skin issues. Tim and I worked as translators in registration, the screening rooms, pre and post-op surgery rooms, and even the surgeries themselves sometimes. I was born cross-eyed, so it was neat to learn everything about the condition. In fact, I even witnessed the surgery being done on a two-year old to correct his crossed eyes. I had this same surgery when I was two! The work and dedication these volunteers showed that week were amazing. If you would like to visit their website, it’s Pictures from their 2010 trip should be up soon.

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