Has it been a week already!?
I can´t believe that I´ve been in Teotitlan for over a week! It´s very different here than in the city. First of all, the weather completely changed in both places at the same time, so it just feels different. It´s cool and rainy right now, it´s delightfully refreshing. Teotitlan is also a small village, whereas Oaxaca is a very modern city. I mean, we have running water, light, electricity, 400 plus cable channels and all other modern conveniences in the house. Burros also roam the streets, the neighbors have pigs, roosters wake me up at 3 am and little sheep bah at me on my walk to work. I have yet to take my camera out, although I can´t imagine I would draw any more attention to myself by doing so. I am probably a full head taller than everyone here and people already recognize me as the foreigner that volunteers in the clinic. One woman saw me and invited me to her home to see her weavings and drink juice. I have given anti-parasite medications to all of the school-age children and they wave at me in the street. I am fascinating to small children and have never had so much attention focused on me, probably ever. I was walking home in the rain today and two people stopped to offer me a ride and I knew them both.
I arrived on Sunday and already posted that story, so I guess I´ll start with last Monday.
Monday June 7th
Today I had to go to Tlacolula to get permission from the central health office to volunteer at the clinic. It´s a slightly larger town about 15 minutes away and apparently I should not miss their market on Sunday. The process was relatively easy, just go up and down a few (or 6) flights of stairs and get the appropriate people to sign, date and stamp forms. After I get my letter we go to the Centro de Salud and I´m introduced to the clinic director and the director of nursing. The letter basically says that I´m going to be volunteering in the clinic for a month. It feels a little weird, because I´m not really sure that they even knew I was coming, although the central office knew I was coming earlier in the Spring.
Tuesday June 8th
My first real clinic day. I don my bright blue scrubs and walk the 25 minutes to the clinic. It´s really nice here in the mornings and I enjoy the fresh air. When I get to the clinic I´m told I´ll be working with Blanca, the nurse who also speaks English. I hang out for a while and wait for her. She orients me a bit to the clinic and shows me how to check people in. Every clinic has its own unique process and this one is relatively straightforward except there are certain programs where you have to fill out certain lines in certain books, which it turns out poses a problem for me sometimes. I also spend some time doing clinic busy work, which involved individually wrapping tongue depressors. I tried to ask in a way that didn´t sound like I was complaining why they sterilized tongue depressors and from what I understood of the answer, it has something to do with the union? It was then that I started to feel less confident about my Spanish language skills.
I felt pretty good about my Spanish after my two intensive weeks in Oaxaca City. However, talking with one or two people who are used to speaking to foreigners is different than trying to figure out what five different nurses are saying while they talk all at the same time. That´s something that´s challenging to me even in English! At one point I asked a nurse to speak a little bit slower and she was like ¨Sorry, I can´t!¨So, someone else repeated it in Spanish. It´s a little better now after a week. I also think that people have realized that they need to get my attention before they start speaking to me otherwise I need it repeated. I can communicate relatively effectively with the patients though, except, well, this leads me to my next story on Wednesday.
Wednesday June 9th
One of the things that many people here have found intriguing is the fact that I (and most Americans) only have one last name. Everyone here has two, their paternal last name and their maternal last name. So on Wednesday I am checking in an older woman and ask her her name she tells me her two first names and then the last name Martinez. I ask for her other last name and she says Martinez. This is weird to me because I interpret it as her only having one last name, so I go through the card file looking for the one last name Martinez. Of course there´s nothing there. So I ask again, and she says Martinez, I must have looked very confused at this point and I said ¨only one?¨and her husband is like ¨NO! Martinez doble!¨Meaning her last name is Martinez Martinez. I felt really dumb. People also look at me funny when I ask them how to spell last names like Jiminez or Alavez. I just want to make sure I get it right.
Yeah, so, the other nurses in the clinic are fascinated by this whole one last name business. Juanita was asking me a bunch of questions trying to understand the other day. She started with ¨So whose last name is D—? Your father´s? But what about your mother’s?¨I replied that I just only had one last name. ¨Why?¨I was like ¨I don´t know, it´s a patriarchal society?¨ Then she wanted to know what would happen when I got married. I explained that I could take my husband´s last name or keep mine, or hyphenate, but that a majority of people in the U.S. take their husband´s (or so it seems). She was absolutely fascinated by this and my only explanation again was the patriarchy. Her next question was about the children, whose name do they have!?! I have had some form of this conversation at least 3 times in the last week. Also, everyone seems really interested in when I am going to marry my boyfriend and have children. I get asked this question daily and have now changed my response from ¨I don´t know,¨to responding that they can ask him when he gets here. Just a warning in case someone is reading this.
Wednesday was also the day I got to sit in on some prenatal visits with the OB-Gyn. Essentially the visits here seem to consist of asking if the mother is feeling okay and a very detailed ultrasound of the baby. It´s very medically oriented. I was also told that they consider 36 weeks full term, 38 weeks post-term. Today when I asked the doctor what they did at 40 weeks he said they sent women to Oaxaca for a c-section. He got pulled away before I could ask him if they tried induction, but I am very curious. For those not familiar with the U.S. standard it´s typically 37-40 weeks (or 38 depending on who you talk to) is considered term 40-42 is considered post-dates and then most places induce at 42, some at 41, it depends. Automatic c-sections are reserved for breech or malpresentations, placental problems like previa, or severe pre-eclampsia.
Thursday June 10th
I spent most of Thursday in the secondary school handing out anti-parasitics to teenagers. We were also there to catch them up on their Hepatitis B vaccines. Let me tell you, teenagers are the same here as they seem to be in the U.S. You can feel the angst and see people in their separate groups, the cool kids, the nerds, the mean ones, the smart ones, the rebels. Oh, and all women of fertile age get free folic acid and there´s a census of the distribution as well.
Friday June 11th
Friday we did the same thing at the primary school. The kids were so funny. Some of them love the anti-parasite drug and some were practically in tears because they didn´t want to take it.
That´s all the blogging I have in me for now. I have more stories for another day!