Saludos departe del equipo El Salvador (Nabil, Emily, Angie, y yo, Dalila)!
(Greetings from Team El Salvador!)
Our adventure started on Saturday when all four of us boarded the plane with a handful of personal carry-ons and about 5 full, 50 lbs. luggages of supplies for our clinics in Las Delicias! This is us leaving Flint, MI on Saturday morning. Snow was still on the ground though melting from the rain.
Since then, we have transitioned to a hot and sticky climate, needing sunblock, sunhats, sunglasses, plenty of water (and lots of mosquito repellant for me). It is green, beautiful, charming and El Salvador has been treating us well!
When we first arrived, getting through customs was tricky. We ended up each of us talking to our own customs agent. Mine asked me the usual questions of why I was there and how long I was staying when I noticed the parade of people just outside the door. I had to ask and the customs agent explained that they are not allowed inside the airport and that during the day the mass of people is much larger than the few 100 or so chattering and cheering all of us arriving at 9pm! The customs agent made me push a button, which caused the stop-light contraption to turn Green and that meant that my baggage was not selected to be checked. That is how the supplies and I got into El Salavador, offiically! Apparently, if the light had turned red, my luggage would have been searched and I would have to answer more questions, so I am glad I got the green light!
First stop from the airport was this eatery that sold tacos, burritos, and tortas for about $5. El Salvador's currency is the US Dollar, the tortas were pretty good and no one got sick, which was even better! Here is the shop who was crazy enough to be open so late for us starving travelers to eat!
We arrived to a warm welcome by our FIMRC director, who made us feel at home and usually manages to mix in a funny story to share. We are sharing the house with another medical student from Ohio and a recent university graduate looking into applying to medical school. We hear next week we will be sharing the house with 5 other people, so there is definitely never a dull moment!
- This is the outside of our guesthouse.
- This is our street view. It is in a gated community where there is a man standing with a gun who allows our driver to enter in and out as we please as he waves to our driver a friendly hello!
- This is our (Emily, Angie, and my) view in the morning.
- This is our bathroom and interestingly I learned that not all toilets have the super-duper flushing abilities of those I am used to, so all the toilets here cannot accept tissue paper! This location is also where I saw my first insect as I was about to shower. An ant about 1cm long!
- Here is the upstairs of our living quarters where we have a couple of bathrooms, multiple donated books, movies, and a shelf of scrubs for borrowing!
The next day we saw some sights as we went shopping for food and then visited a mall. Some areas looked quite different than others.
- Most of El Salvador seems to have beautiful plants everywhere, just a little dustier than normal, and of course over 20 volcanoes!
- For those people who happen to be very lucky, or save up to buy something here, there is a mall with very fancy shopping.
Where do indebted med students go to shop for food and supplies in El Salvador? Let's just say that I have seen many familiar companies that I know from the US.
With all of the shopping done and our stuff more-or-less unpacked. We prepared for our first day in clinic.
I would say it took us about 30 minutes to get from our guesthouse to the clinic, which doesn't include the time we drove to carpool with others today.
- Beautiful view and someone (of many people) selling land on the way up to the clinic.
- Our local clinic neighborhood landscape.
We followed a nutritionist who evaluated whether children were malnourished or not. She listened to the parents, and then taught the parents the importance of teaching children the value of eating vegetables and fruits daily, while emphasizing that sweets were off limits. Luckily the children that day turned out to be small, but making progress towards better health.
- Here is our nutritionist giving parents strict instructions on how to weigh their babies accurately! They are undressed to their dry diapers, put in a harness that is attached to the scale. The scale is activated as the baby is pulled down by gravity, which triggers the spring to move the needle that gives the reading, similar to what I have used to measure fruit in the US.
- The very non-private clinic office where we hear all of the noise going on outside and the patients waiting can hear everything we are saying inside!
- This is the exam room where we measure the height of the very adorable and overall-progressing-well-babies we saw today! That is also their supply shelf for the whole clinic!
- This is me and Eric-the-14-year-old-soccer-player who was nice enough to take some pictures of us.
- After that we walked to a different clinic. This was us sharing the road with a truck who was sharing the road with a cow and another pedestrian on the other side. Very busy street for an unpaved road!
We ate lunch at the other clinic.
- Beautiful flower-like plants outside the clinic.
- This wonderful lady cooked and served our lunch and we enjoyed our ground beef, rice, vegetables with lemon seasoning, and pupusa-like tortillas sitting on the bleachers.
- We made friends with the Iguanas. They are endangered here so they are captured to be released into the wild, though some residents joked that they were the nights menu!
Once that break was over, the Dr. arrived with our patients. It was also her first day, but she definitely hit the ground running! She saw many babies for follow-up and referred grandparents for potential surgery, while we got to practice some of our Spanish by gathering and explaining information. From this experience we can tell you that chickenpox is definitely not cured around the world yet, so make sure to encourage vaccinations!!
We ended the day with our favorite food of the day called Pupusas. These are traditional Salvadorean food that resemble pita bread, but chewier. They are made of rice or corn and stuffed with cheese, beans, mushrooms, spinach, "chipilin," and ayote, fried and topped with a delicious cabbage and vinegar sauce and a flavorfull tomato-based dressing.
- Here was part of the operation in progress.
Unfortunately, there was no room for dessert, but there is always room for a picture of a beautiful tree decorated with paper lanterns as we walked off our dinner. :)
Looking forward to tomorrow!!
P.S. Thank you to all of you who helped us advertise, spread the word, obtain funds, supplies! This includes our very own local Flint businesses of Target and Grill of India who also helped contribute to make this possible!