January 24, 2011
Happy Monday from Costa Rica
Hola from Costa Rica!
After an eventful weekend of tourism, we were back to work bright and early this morning. This week we are running a mobile clinic in an underserved area of Santa Ana (a suburb of San Jose), which also happens to be the place where we live. Apparently, there was a movement a few years ago to help a group of unfortunate families in San Jose to obtain better housing. These families were given new homes in Santa Ana, which is a safer and nicer neighborhood to live in. However, this move didn’t solve all of the problems of this population, and so many of the people who live in this particular area are still very poor, unemployed, and/or sick. And, interestingly, the move makes them farther away from work opportunities in downtown San Jose and leaves their children in a district where the school is quite far away (and still not very good). We are set-up in a building which is in the process of becoming the equivalent of a soup kitchen, which is called a “comedor” here in Costa Rica. We forgot to pack a few key things, but were able to make it work for the day and we’ll bring more supplies tomorrow. I worked in the waiting room and pharmacy today, but it sounded like the patients had different health concerns than the population in Alajelita, so I’m excited to see some more variety of the medical kind. Dr. Stedem also explained that there is a large population of handicapped persons here, so I am interested to learn about the difficulties that such minority groups face in Costa Rica and the ways the health system, government, and foundations like FIMRC can help.
We parted with the Harvard students on Saturday during our weekend of adventures and were greeted by a new volunteer, Joe, a junior from Princeton, this morning. The additional volunteers were very helpful in coming up with ideas for evening and weekend adventures, and they definitely provided some great ideas and lots of energy and extra bodies for the health education programs and day-to-day activities in the clinic. I hope we were able to teach them a few things about some simple medical terms, conditions, and medicines, and that perhaps we opened their eyes to medical school programs like LMUV. I didn’t speak much with Joe today since he was in the doctor’s room with Claire, but I’m sure he’ll get the hang of things. And after Joe, I hear that we’ll be getting two more students during our last week here.
We had Spanish session #4 today and I think I am picking up on a lot more—certainly much more than last Monday! But I can tell that my brain has its limits—while I feel like I can understand WAAAYY more than a week ago, it seems that my vocabulary hasn’t improved much, or that I am now stuttering and speaking more slowly than ever. But it reminds me of learning the new “language” of anatomy in my first year of medical school. There is a time-period where you are taking everything in, then it needs to simmer in your brain, and then, finally, your mind puts everything together and you can understand and speak the language. So, hopefully all of that happens within the next week ;)
And finally, I’m sure you’re dying to hear all about our weekend adventures. On Friday we (all 7 MSU and Harvard students) drove to a resort near Jaco on the Pacific coast (about 2 hours away) and got to swim at two beaches and several pools. We went back home on Friday evening and went out dancing at a local salsa club. On Saturday morning we made the three-hour trek to La Fortuna, where we got to see a waterfall up-close, gazed at the volcano from afar, and went canopying (a.k.a. ziplining) through the jungle. The Harvard students went back to San Jose that evening, and left for Boston early on Sunday morning. We stayed the night in La Fortuna and took a public bus back to San Jose onb Sunday afternoon. It was an exhausting weekend, but the experience was well worth it.
Harvard kids—good luck with starting your new semester!
Families—we’re still alive and kicking!
Classmates in Peru—hope you’re having as much fun as we are!
Everyone else—Pura Vida!!!
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