I made it home safely after an amazing trip this past month providing healthcare in a third world country. A few things I've come to realize is that I, along with many people, take quite a lot for granted. This includes basics such as safe drinking water, flushing toilets, and emergency services that will respond if/when needed. However, I've also seen that these things are not a necessity to live a rich and full life. I have learned so much during my time in Belize, school-related and life skill wise. This has been an experience and adventure for the books! I cannot imagine not having had this opportunity of a lifetime. Until next time Belize 😘
17 July 2015
We took a bus today from Punta Gorda to Belize city. We made it but holy cow I thought we were going to die on that ride, hah.
13 July 2015
This is a quick sneak peak of our weekend at tobacco Caye
12 July 2015
We went crazy with Lisa's water camera, so pictures are to follow eventually! The island was so incredibly relaxing. We had absolutely perfect weather! Today, Lisa and I rented a two person kayak and paddles around the island. The water was super calm today so we spent a lot of time just sitting and watching the fish and trying to chase sting rays (which did not work well and probably was hilarious to watch from the shore). On our boat ride back from the island today, our boat driver toured us to bird island and Thatch Caye to look for manatees. We didn't find any, but later we ran into a school of dolphins!! We stopped the boat and they came over! There were about 10-12 of them that we could tell! It was awesome. The only downside to this weekend is hat we are all fried.. SPF 50 didn't even help us, haha.
Side note- the internet was out country wide here for a day or so and then really spotty because of storms. So if anybody tried contacting any of us, that's why we haven't answered
Saturday we caught an express bus to Dangriga to spend the weekend on Tobacco Caye, a tiny private island in the Caribbean. We had this hostel like place to ourselves! We took a tiny boat from Dangriga to the Island. It was the choppiest hour boat ride ever! We were absolutely soaked after busting through the waves. It was basically an ocean form of Splash Mountain. I cannot get over how blue and clear the water was there!!! It was beautiful. We could see the ocean floor from the boat! Once we arrived, we checked into our hostel and immediately change into swim suits! We had made it there by 10 am! I brought my snorkel gear, so the others rented their gear and we hit the water. It was amazing! There was a ton of ocean life all over! And the water felt so refreshing! So we snorkeled around the island since it was pretty small. We saw some pretty large barracudas, several sting rays, fish of all shapes and sizes, puffer fish, MASSIVE starfish, and plenty more.
The rest of this week was spent in the clinic and not terribly exciting. I explored around the town a bit, which was nice! And we discovered this adorable cafe owned by an American couple and had the best frozen hot chocolate ever. We also had some pretty awesome loaded fries- it was a nice touch of the states and a break from rice and beans and beans and beans and tortillas. Friday all of the students went into town for a nice dinner on the ocean and then bar hopping for 4 different July birthdays. We had a great time, but had a struggle getting up for a 6 am bus to Dangriga 😳. Whew.
We arrived in Aguacate at about 8 pm. This is where we would be spending the night.. In the clinic. We had enough small wooden benches that we could pull double up and throw our mats on for a makeshift "bed." As we were getting our sleeping arrangements together, we noticed the MASSIVE spiders in the corners. I mean they were the size of grapefruits. That was comforting. Also, the clinic only had windows and it was a very warm night. They don't typically have any air conditioning here. We fell asleep tying to not think about the open windows and all Of the insects and creatures you find in the rainforest jungle. However, mid night I was side swiped by a bat. Turns out the clinic was also infested with bats and all I could focus on after that was the flapping and squeaking they were making! However, we made it through the night and continued with clinic the next morning! Once we finished another busy day, we had lunch made by a local woman and headed back to Hillside!
Sorry I've been slack in updating! This week was a bit of a whirlwind! Monday my team worked in the clinic. It was a super busy day in there, but fairly uneventful. Tuesday was when the fun began- the start to our overnight mobile clinic! We packed up the can and headed out to San Benito Poite, one of the furthest villages that Hillside services in the Toledo District. The drive there twisted through literal jungle and mountains. We had to drive through, yes through, two rivers on the way there. It was an absolutely beautiful drive though! Once we arrived to the village, we unpacked and set up clinic. My first chart I picked up was actually SIX patients at once... 😳the mom and 5 of her children (those are not all of her children though..). Although we were very busy, the day went well. We packed up there around 6 pm and then headed to the second village, Aguacate. We were safer leaving because if it began raining we would be flooded into the village by the rivers we had to cross.
9 July 2015
Sunday we went to Actun Tunichil Makal (ATM). Here we couldn't take photos so you will just have to google it (which I highly recommend!). We hiked for 45 minutes into the woods and across 3 rivers. Finally we came to the opening of the cave! We put our hard hats and headlamps on and went in! This was a true Indiana jones adventure!! We swam into the entrance of the cave and then climbed up the rocks. From there, we were swimming or climbing through tiny cave nooks and crannies. It was AWESOME! This cave was filled with Mayan ruins that had been left untouched. It was absolutely incredible! One section we climbed up this massive rock and took our shoes off to finish the climb in socks. This was to avoid damaging the ruins. We walked through several "rooms" that were filled with pottery and human skeletons. I wish I could have had a camera! Definitely one of the most amazing things I'm sure I will ever see In my lifetime!!
Thanks to Lisa for adding some photos from the weekend for me! It was definitely a trip for the books!!!! We were picked up Friday at the clinic in a big van and driven up to San Ignacio, Belize where our hotel was for the weekend. Carlos the Caveman had organized the entire weekend for us so that all we had to do was show up! Saturday we headed to the Guatemalan border! The day started nicely by a cultural breakfast once we crossed the border. Then, we continued about an hour to Tikal, the second largest Mayan ruins discovered thus far. We arrives and me tour tour guide, Luis. He was a trip! He was extremely knowledgable about his Mayan history and the theories behind the structures. This place was absolutely mind blowing! The structures were dated back to 300-500 AD!!!! THAT IS SO OLD! And they were stunning! We spent over 5 hours in the park walking around. Half of it wasn't even excavated! We finished up with lunch (or dinner because it was so late) on one of the lakes.
5 July 2015
The only photo from ATM.
4 July 2015
1 July 2015
The past two days have been spent in the clinic. Half of the group left yesterday for their overnight mobile clinic so the house has been pretty empty! Yesterday we decided to go swimming at this pool that is sort of close to here. Two Americans own the house and it looked like a dream house compared to the rest of the surroundings. The pool was an infinity pool overlooking the jungle filled mountains and you could hear the howler monkeys off in the distance. That was a much needed relaxing moment!! Otherwise we have had a pretty laid back past two days.
29 June 2015
That water had to be the most refreshing water I have ever plunged into. Holy cow, it felt amazing after the hot and humid hike up in the rain forest. The water was a crisp cold and a rock was right under the waterfall so you could stand there in the falling water. Finally we had to head back down so we could catch the taxi back to the bus station to get back to the clinic. We thought we were going to die in the taxi because the speedometer was broken and the guy had to be going at least 80... But we made it! And we are all back at the clinic only down an iPhone and a pair of keens. An adventure for sure 😳😅
We must have dug in the mud for at least 30 minutes and never found her shoe. So we had a ceremonial tossing of her other shoe into the river. She then walked barefoot into town where luckily a grocery store(which is the equivalent of our gas station stores back home...) happened to have old navy flip flops. From there we were exhausted so we showered and went to find dinner and then passed out for the night. We also happened to run into two of the PT students by complete accident! So Sunday morning the four of us decided to go to the Mayflower National Park to hike up to some waterfalls. Oh my word the hike was described as "easy..." Yeah no. And not to mention we are hiking with out backpacks packed with everything for the entire weekend! Part of the trail was just rocks and required rope to help hoist yourself up. Finally, we made it. I was dying. But at the top there was a beautiful waterfall with a swimming hole. We changed into swim suits and hopped in!
But while there, we met a British diver, Ben, who got left by a group and he asked of we wanted to go kayaking. Sure! So we had to walk to the end of the road and back into the lagoon (which looked like a swamp) and we rented kayaks. There were tiny red arrows on wooden sticks that served as "directions"... We definitely thought we would be lost out there. One section we had to go through a tunnel made out of mangrove trees and it was barely big enough to move the paddles through. If you hit the roots of the trees with your paddles you would see a ton of crabs that would scatter up the tree. We continued paddling and made it out to a little beach that connected to the ocean and got out and walked around for a while. When we got back of where we began, the worker wasn't there to help pull our boats in. So Lisa got out first and sank into the mud down to her knees! When she went to step up onto the bank, her shoe got pulled off and sucked into the mud... Knee length down...
Once we got off the bus, we hitch hiked into the town (which is the total norm here, not like in the US where you are picked up by a rapist serial killer). We were dropped off at the Funky DoDo which was the Hostel we would stay at for the night. We had made it there by 830 am! From there we decided to take a tour. We wanted to do one of the hiking tours but had just missed the shuttles and they didn't want to come back for just two of us. So instead we did a snorkeling tour! We ended up being the only ones for the tour, so the captain picked us up at the hostel in this makeshift cut off convertible crap car.. Stopped and picked us up burritos for lunch, and then drove us about 20-30 mins out to his house where his boat was docked. We then got on the boat with the captain, his 27 year old son, and his 8 year old grandson. We were off for our private island snorkel adventure! The boat ride was super relaxing and you could see the water becoming more clear the further we went.
This weekend we were supposed to go to Lime Caye which is a private island. So we all got up Saturday at 4 am (would have been later but the power went out during the night so our fans quit working and the house became a sauna...). We then caught a 515 bus into Punta Gorda so we could be at Garbitts (the marina) on time! We arrived at roughly 545 am and we're greeted by the captain. It was then that he informed us that he felt the water was too rough that morning and he wasn't going to take us... Bummer. So instead we decided to catch a bus and salvage the weekend. So at literally 559 am we ran out to the curb and flagged down the 6am express bus heading north. Most of the group wanted to go to Placencia which is the more touristy beach area. However, Lisa and I were up for more of an adventure. We decided instead to continue north up to Hopkins which is more of an outdoorsy, jungle beach area. We were let out at the junction 5 miles out of Hopkins.
Today went on a mobile clinic out to Conejo Creek village. It wasn't terribly busy today, so we ended up playing with some id the kids. These girls were adorable! They just wanted to see photos of themselves on my camera. I have so many cute pictures that I cannot wait to upload to the computer! We went to leave and I smiled and a little girl asked me if I brushed my teeth. I said, "yes, I do!" She asked if I did every day and I said "yes, don't you?" Her response was, "well miss, we don't have toothbrushes." So I went into our mobile clinic and found a bunch if toothbrushes to give them. That's something I know I take for granted every day. A toothbrush.
25 June 2015
So while in San Jose, I went to do a home visit for a lady who couldn't make it to where we were set up. This is what it looked like for me to walk to where she lived.. I basically hiked part of a mountain and then went through a small river and then up anther hill. In the rain. Lol. Was crossed by a huge snake and then I passed the village women bathing in the upper part of the river.
This is once we made it to San Jose! The clinic was a tiny building where we each took a corner for "the exam room." Another room did exist for more private exams. This river is where the village bathes and washes their clothes.
Today we went on another mobile to serve a villiage called San Jose and Na Luum Ca. It was an hour and a half van ride on dirt roads half flooded after the nights rain. We had to get out at one point not sure if we would actually make it through a section where the river came up over the road over the bridge.
24 June 2015
Today we learned how to use a Lepob. These are traditionally used by the women here to carry their children from birth until 5 years old. They will hang their babies in these on their forehead so that their arms are available for the chores.
23 June 2015
Today we went on our first mobile clinic to Barranco. 10 of us rode in the back of this can for an hour on dirt roads with huge potholes. The village was tiny, about 130 people total. Most of them are older because the young people have to leave the area to find jobs. Definitely an eye opener!
22 June 2015
These aren't the best photos, but this was the Punta Gorda hospital. They have their "ER" that is basically a drive through archway. Currently there are no working defibrillators or EKG machines in the entire hospital.... 👌🏻 there's also only a handful of doctors and no specialties. All of the specialities are referred out to a different town. Definitely an eye opener.
21 June 2015
The coolest place to sit is up on the third floor where you can attempt to enjoy a breeze!
We decided to bike the 10+ miles from Eldrigeville to Punta Gorda city.. On rusty bikes with Semi-flat tires. I must say we feel accomplished to have made it there and back!
20 June 2015
The big building is our clinic and where we will be staying. Beyonces is the closest restaurant where we will eat if we do not cook.
We flew from Belize city to Dangriga, Placencia, and then to Punta Gorda, our final destination. We flew via a 10 passenger puddle hopper plane. Lisa and I could touch the pilot from our seats. And then he asked if we wanted to take turns sitting in the copilot seat. Success for a crash course in plane flying! I'd say we nailed autopilot. ✈️😎. We then took a van for a tour ride around Punta Gorda and finally made it to the Hillside Belize clinic where we will be staying the next several weeks.
Our flight landed in Belize City and then we made it through customs just in time for our short puddle jumper plane!