Tuesday, April 10, 2007

i'm sick of ants

they seem to have infested this country...la romana, san pedro it all.

getting back yesterday i put on a pair of shorts to find myself with "ants in my pants" the biting kind.....not pleasant

then, they seem to have taken up home in my computer as well because i keep finding them crawling over it while using it.....

i'm tired of ants and mosquitos. they're both annoying, and here they both bite

we'll start with today because that's what is fresh on my mind.....

this morning i started with shadowing a pediatrician. it was frustrating because he only spoke spanish. for the most part i'm fine following his conversations with patients, but when i want to know more in depth information i'm at a loss. it's interesting seeing the different ways that they present information to patients.

this afternoon was really interesting. in the past year i've developed a sort of side interest in women's rights of sorts. last quarter at school i did a paper about the economics of the sex tourism industry in the dominican republic, and i actually got to see this played out today. at the clinic where i am there are sex worker clinics every afternoon. today i shadowed for one of these. sex workers are required by the government to get tested for STDs every month. they each have a little booklet that they get checked. after i sat in on this session we went to visit "negocios" which means "businesses" in spanish. i wasn't really sure what they meant when they said "business outreach" until i asked the other student. before coming here she'd spent a month working with a sex worker organization in the capital, so she's had more experience with this stuff.

i was unsure of what to expect when going. i was with the other student. a woman who was or is a sex worker who now works as a health promotor, a guy from the public health department and another woman. as we pulled up to the house it was beautiful. we sat in the backyard with about six young women. the promotor gave education about how to use a female condom and then there was some other discussion. we found out that the women have come from all over the country to work here. they live on the premesis. after this house we visited two other houses. the last house we visited was gorgeous. there was a jacuzzi and a beautiful bar. at each house we sat and talked with about 6-10 young women. we found out that these were higher end houses which attract a lot of tourists. men pay about $100 and sometimes more for a girl at these house and then whatever tip they might give. we checked at the first house and the girl gets part of the flat rate and then whatever tips they might get. it was interesting to have discussions with the girls. most of them appeared to be very nice. it was interesting that some giggled when talking about female condoms like high school kids in sex ed might....when you consider their line of work. it was interesting listening to them talk very candidly about their "clients". i liked listening to the girls talk and picking up their different personalities. wondering what their life must be like. thinking about how they must all be close to each other. after visiting the three houses we visited a night club/car wash. car washs here are a little more than just washing your car. the night club was interesting because the girls live in what seems to be a dormitory type thing behind the nightclub. they started at 7 and we got their shortly before that, so many of them were already dressed for "work". the girls at the car wash seemed different than the girls for the night club, but i can't explain.

the worker speaking with them was interesting because i could see the empowerment she gave them. i also got a strong sense of togetherness that they had. while talking about using protection she said "your boss might be the boss of the whole business, but when it comes to your body you're the boss of your own business". she talked to them about how they are people who deserve to take care of themselves no matter what people might say bad about them. it was also interesting hearing her say "i'll let you go because i know you have to work" when i knew what their work was....

all in all an interesting evening.

this weekend was good. i spent it in the country with milagros' family. i got the taste of what it's like to be a woman in this culture at times. finding that the woman stays around with the family talking, etc while the men go out and visit with their friends, etc. i decided i like american culture in this regard a little better.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

this morning turned out to be another day in the clinic. i started the morning sitting in on a support group for HIV+ women, but the group really just turned out to be a nun talking about the importance of semana santa and serving others. it was actually interesting hearing the group talk about ways they could volunteer their time (a group of women who most of the world would think needed their time volunteered for). afterwards i saw patients. i saw a man being told he was hiv positive. i held a little baby down while we pricked her heel to test for hiv, and then i held a tiny little baby that the mother told me was three months old but that was the lightest baby i'd ever picked up. then lots of waiting....

while we were waiting a patient came back in tears because her husband had hit her. after they got her on their way to the hospital. as she left i asked consuelo if she'd be okay and her response was "i don't know".

then we came back to san pedro where we did a really sad home visit. she's mentally handicapped and has a young daughter (probably a year or two old) who's incredibly disabled. we entered her room and i can barely describe it. as i watched her in pain i was greatly saddened. her body is covered with scaley skin and she has several abcesses near her hairline and sores in other places. i helped wash her and rub lotion over mostly her whole body and drain some of her abcesses. i wasn't sure what i could do for her really, so i tried my best to give her my love through touch (as cheesy as that sounds) while rubbing lotion as gentally as i could over her body. while we were visiting her her disabled daughter had just been left between a couple of chairs in the sitting room....she layed their alone making noises. her legs and arms were incredibly skinny and she just looked so unhealthy. i went out and just rubbed her back and stomach for a while hoping i could rub off some happiness and healthiness into her.

now i'm trying to take care of some stuff in san pedro. i tried making dominican food tonight and failed misreably. tonight's a busy night in the colmado because tonight's the last night of the work week due to holy week. i went back to the colmado to say i needed food because i'd failed at my dinner. they asked me how i made my dinner and then laughed at me when i explained....then offered to make me a sandwich. so i had a wonderful sandwich for less than a dollar. wonderful.

tomorrow we head to puerto plata for the holiday.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My mom sent me a list of requests for this blog including hopes, goals, etc for the samana project. Unfortunately that is not well developed at this point. Meeting with the peace corps worker we found that the Italian NGO in the area might have other plans for the building we had our eyes on. I also spent last week just sort of reacclimating. Hopefully, when I’m back to living in san pedro, Milagros and I can spend our evenings planning. Also, I’m planning in the next week or so while I’m living out here in the country on doing some prep for that.

Today was a good day. A long day, but a good day. I spent the morning shadowing with Consuelo. We saw a lot of kids today. I held one poor HIV+ baby for a long time today. He was adorable and a couple of months old. He was doing better. I’m such a sucker for kids. We also saw a patient who had had a rare skin condition where her whole body had been covered in scaly skin with pus dripping everywhere (pleasant picture I know) for about a year, but she is currently doing much better. She has just what looks like very bad acne scars on her face and she sports a wig to cover what little hair she has. The pictures I saw of her from before look very painful. It’s been an interesting experience being her about to start medical school before when I shadowed it felt like I was there to get a taste of things, but now I feel like I have to start remembering stuff so I can apply it as a physician one day. I’m learning about how to deliver medications, how to do an HIV quick test, and Consuelo has mentioned learning how to put a needle in a vein. Also, this is a good place to learn because I’m sure some of the things I see here I might never (or rarely) see in the states.

After the clinic this morning we got around to waiting for Consuelo to finish up her work, so we could go to santo domingo. We talked to her husband for a while. He’s really cool in a very nerdy way. He’s also a physician and an epidemiologist (they’d met while working with the CDC). He’s invented this computer program which I guess is the gold standard for epidemiology programs around the world called EpiInfo. So, it was cool today to get to learn how to use that software from the guy that wrote it. I’m learning that I like this epidemiology stuff….it picks the part of my brain that is the math stuff that I had in engineering.

While in santo domingo we visited casa rosada which is an orphanage for kids with AIDS. It was a beautiful place. It reminded me that I need to get Milagros to take me to where the kids of the cancer patient are. We then ran errands at the Clinton Foundation office and a pharmacy in santo domingo. On the taxi and guagua rides in between I picked Consuelo’s brain. She was born in Cuba and came to the states when she was 10. She worked for a while as an epidemiological outbreak investigator for the CDC. So, when they have an outbreak and they can’t figure out what it is they called her to come and try and figure out what was going on. This took also took her around the world as the CDC consults with the world health organization. Super cool.

Anyways, we ended the night with a dinner at Consuelo and Andy’s place. They also have a Dominican physician living with them who is incredibly nice. He’s been working at the clinic for almost a year now, and he just got back from a course in epidemiology in Guatemala. It was really great to get to meet and know these people. Overall, it was a good day. Tomorrow consuelo’s coming to a hospital in san pedro with Milagros and I in the afternoon. Then I’m not sure what the plan is. I just know I have no work until Tuesday due to Semana Santa (Easter….it’s a big deal here). Then next week I’ll officially start my rotation which I think will take me all over the city. Also, I’ll get to meet the big boss man who I hear is cool. He also used to be the head of pediatrics at Columbia University. We’ll see what comes….

Monday, April 02, 2007

what a change....

so....this past weekend i went to samana. it was really nice to get to see some of the people i knew from the year before. i also got to go to the beach twice. there was a fight for what house i was going to stay in...oh and it was wonderful to see the new bathroom in one of the homes.

last night milagros and i dyed easter eggs for the first time. i think she really enjoyed herself. i gave them to the people that run the colmado, hector, and rosa. the people in the colmado looked at me like i was crazy, and i had to get milagros to explain things for them.

today i officially started in la romana. this morning i shadowed in the clinic. my "rotation" hasn't quite been set up yet because this week is easter, so things are pretty much shut down half of the week. easter's a big deal around here.

today i moved into a new living situation which i'll be in for the first two weeks of my rotation in order to get to know this area/the students here. it's beautiful here. i'm in the country and the house i'm staying in is nice. we even have a hot water shower and wireless! it's very quiet because there's really only me and one other girl here. other than that i won't see people except for the girl taht cooks breakfast for us except at work. this i don't know how long i could do, but i think it will be good for me for a couple of weeks....a good way to relax.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

i'm sitting here without light really. the power's been out for a bit, but we now have a backup battery. it only powers half the house, so i've got the computer and modem plugged into it plus the radio and a lightbulb...that's all i really need, right? anyways, today was nice. i went into la romana in the morning for rounds at the clinic where i got to see a presentation about genital ulcers, yay! then i came back here ahead of milagros. while she was gone i made more friends with the kids in the neighborhood. i am expanding beyond the kids of the gomero to other kids....some of them now know that my name is not "americana" or "cosita" but that it is raquel, and others only know me as "cosita". i gave out some little play dohs that i had and some peeps. they were a huge hit. then i sat and talked with the kids for a long time. probably a group of 6-10 kids. a lot of times i was lost as to what they were saying to me because they all speak so fast and they all speak at the same time. plus, little kids don't really understand the whole "i don't speak their language thing". it's funny to see the littlest of the kids growing up some. they can now talk with me a lot more, and it's kind of cool. after milagros got back i went to find neftali at his job, but he wasn't there. i ended up running into one of hector's friends in the center of town. back up here i hung outside the colmado a little. it was mostly familys around, so i just sat and watched and at times talked with my neighbors.

everyone asks how long i'm here. one of the changes in my neighborhood has been the addition of a "basketball hoop" to a lamp post that i can see from my door. it's fun to watch the kids playing, and i'm tempted to join except for the fact that i'm completely inept at basketball. in fact they're still playing probably because it's getting dark and there's no power in their houses.

tomorrow we're off to samana for the weekend.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

i'm here...por fin

hey all....
i'm here safe and sound (for any of you who worried). after a long trip with 16 hours worth of layovers i've arrived. it's wonderful being back, and at the same time it's kind of weird. it's almost as if nothing has changed, but again looking at things yesterday driving into san pedro i felt as though i was seeing things for the first time. i remembered the place but didn't quite remember the feel of it. six months doesn't do too much to a place. the still guy still sits outside of the grocery store asking for money. the same woman still sells barettes on the street. the same guy still works at the pastele place. anyways, it's nice. i got to say hello to all of my neighbors. i just gave the little kids at the gomera play-doh which they were excited about. with a big warning not to eat it.

last night i ended up translating. some missionaries were visiting and did a presentation about hospice at a small church. as we got to the church that was in a poor neighboorhood they started pulling out sound equipment. it was pouring rain, and rain kept leaking through the tin roof. they set up a microphone and starting telling the neighboorhood to come and enjoy the presentation. i got up and warned people about my spanish and then continued to translate. at times i got stuck pronouncing a word or not knowing a word. i could see some of the people laughing at me in a friendly way. but at the end i was proud of myself. the people at the church were cool, they were very down to earth, so i think milagros and i will go back.

all in all i'm glad to be here. i do miss you all!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

going back...

so tomorrow's the big day...
heading back to the DR

i leave tomorrow morning around 11:30, fly to detroit, then to newark, getting into newark around 9pm. i'll then spend the night in the newark airport and leave again at 7 the next morning finally arriving in santo domingo at 11:30 on tuesday.

i'm excited....