Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Trip Into San Mateo

Yesterday we went out into the community to visit people who couldn't come to us; community leaders and old friends.  It was hot.  The sun beat down.  We sweated.  The sun beat down.  We sweated some more.  Those of us who were over 25 began to develop swollen ankles.  The sun beat down some more.  Did I mention it was hot?  There isn't much shade because the land, terra firma, has been there less than 8 years.  Shade trees are still babies.  Nevertheless, it was a good trip.  There was a strong breeze that made the temperature livable.  Overall the trip was well worth a little discomfort.

We set out immediately after breakfast.  The school is fenced in with a security guard at the entrance.  This is us making our escape.

Here is Francis, the security guard, in his office.  His job is to keep out folks who don't belong and keep in the younger folks who do belong!  He is a gymnast in his spare time and a pleasure to talk to, only big and scary when he needs to be.

Just outside the school we stopped to have a look at a puddle, leftover from when everything was on stilts.  I'm told the puddle is 30 feet deep and there are crocodiles.

There are so many sights and sounds and smells.  The houses range from ramshackle buildings with additions tacked on to newer, well built homes.  The sounds are of people laughing and talking, vehicles bumping along the rutted roads, heavy equipment moving junk and sand, dogs barking, chickens squawking and wind in the low trees.  The smells are an odd mix of fresh salt breeze, stagnant water, sewage, and cooking food.  If only a blog could be a scratch and sniff.  If only my internet connection and recording device on my cheap phone were good enough to share a good sound recording!  A few pictures will have to suffice...

It turns out that this house with the purple curtains belongs to Maggie, the first person we stopped to see.  More on our visit in the next post.

Elizabeth and Sarah look on and assist as needed while Dr. Jim checks out someone with a health issue.

Next we stopped at Abuela's house.  Abuela is a licensed midwife and delivers between 50 and 100 babies every year in San Mateo and the surrounding area.  She worked in Belize city for two years to get certified at a time when only men were being certified, then she returned to San Mateo.  When she first set up practice, she did not have access to any obstetric tools.  With some help from Dr. Jim, now she does.  

We made several stops.  At one house a child had pressure urticaria, caused by an immune sensitivity.  You could literally write on her leg using gentle pressure and it would produce a raised red line wherever you wrote.  As a result of her allergies, someone had prescribed and provided an excessive amount of steroids for an ongoing allergic reaction.  She needs to be weaned off of steroids (don't stop cold turkey - it could result in death!) and start taking an over the counter allergy med instead.

At another house we met a mother, her two daughters and 8 grandchildren.  None of her grandchildren who were old enough were in school because of documentation problems and/or lack of money and/or lack of space.  The mothers asked if there was any way we could help to at least get the oldest girl into school.  She is smart and has been teaching herself how to read in Spanish.  It was hard to leave without being able to give a definite "yes" answer.  

All good things must come to an end and so does the island.  After only a few blocks, we came to the end of the land.  On the left side of this picture you can see a remnant of what living used to be like in San Mateo.

 Close up of the house on water, note the very narrow board "bridges" for getting around.

Lunchtime!  We all pile into a golf cart and head for home.  Golf carts are a primary mode of transportation on the island.

Left to right, Elizabeth, Kim, Mary Beth (who is blinded by the sun and trying to see whether the camera is even pointed in the right direction), Katy and Sarah.  You can see Dr. Jim's shoulder between MB and Sarah.  Yes, that's 6 people in a golf cart.

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