This week I was able to take some time while seeing patients to learn some new words in Spanish. Instead of just moving on after I had explained a concept or an object that I didn't know the word for, I asked the patient what the word was in Spanish. I repeated it. They corrected me. I repeated it again and many times I asked them to spell it. I wrote the words down and later entered them into my vocab notebook. In thinking back to the near 50 conversations I had with patients this week, I remember learning cane, rash, scar, shovel, since, suppository, spit, wheezing, worn and much more that I have already forgotten but I am sure will come up again soon.
I saw many adorable kids with "el gripe," the flu. It's been going around for weeks. I remember one 3-year old boy with red cheeks and sad eyes who clearly articulated that he had a cough and fever, while most kids just stare at me while their mother does the talking. When I bend down next to the toddlers to check their throat and lungs, they have such varied reactions. Some scream fearing I am going to give them a shot because pain medicine shots are very commonly given in the hospitals here. Some little ones clamp down their mouth when I try to look inside, pulling back and throwing their head around to avoid the tongue depressor. Some just look at me curiously with wide eyes, responding "si" (yes) to every question I ask directly to them. Some twist to watch me when I put my stethoscope on their back, squirming in their mothers lap or pulling at the scope. I think I’m going to find a fun toy to distract the ones that need it. I love working with the kids. They have such vitality, many of them not slowing down regardless of how sick they are. They run around the clinic with a big smile, exploring everything while I’m explaining the treatments to their mother. Even here in a place that is poor and oppressed, the children offer hope.
I also enjoy seeing the grandmothers. These are the people that hold the families together. Many generations within a family have lived together in the same home their whole lives. The grandmothers generally walk slowly and with support of a daughter or grandchild, carefully stepping up into the clinic and shuffling into the plastic lawn chair where I often ask them to repeat their full name multiple times as I struggle to spell it correctly for our records. Their tanned and deeply wrinkled faces held in a constant smile, they begin to tell me what ails them, pointing often to their stomach, low back or other joints. Many have very few teeth so it can be difficult to understand them. I am glad they are patient as I often have to find a creative way to ask the same pertinent questions multiple times. They are so excited to see what natural medicines I have brought back from our dispensary for them, often checking to make sure I’ve covered all their ailments as I show them the little bags of pills and bottles of tinctures, explaining how they are to be used. They leave with sincere gratitude, big smiles and sometimes a kiss on my cheek.
Although I am honored to be working here, I also welcome the weekends as a much-needed break for my mind and time to myself. Today, I was able to sleep in and spent much time reading, reflecting, praying and walking around the yard observing the many beautiful fruit trees we have. I even climbed a ladder to knock down a papaya from a tree. Not nearly as graceful as the Nicaraguans who climb barefooted and twist them off by hand, but it worked. Tomorrow I will attempt to hike volcano Concepcion again. A last minute trip to Managua canceled our last attempt. The clouds were rolling in tonight at sunset so we may have another downpour while we sleep. We are hoping for clear skies early tomorrow morning for the ascent. I will bring plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen, as the top is very exposed. I am praying for rest and rejuvenation tonight and a great hike tomorrow to start off a new week.