Las Minas/Totagalpa. March 10, 2009. Soyoung Hwang (’11, 1st year; aka !Zoing! – which I think means “always healthy” or “never sick” in Korean, but maybe not) has emerged as a symbol of endurance and determination. She left Williamsburg with a head cold, headache, and general malaise and literally has not felt good for the entire trip – but you’d never know it. If we need personification of “no whining,” we have it in this new team member.
We partnered today with the doctor from the clinic in Totagalpa. She held a clinic for mothers (pregnant and with very young children). Yet again, we asked too much of our physician partner, not taking account of the fact that each “patient” we admitted in fact was two to five patients: a mother and her children. We saw about 65 patients, conducted 15 interviews, and feel very confident of our interview schedule. Kevin Sethi (’10; 1st year; aka “Kermit”) has mastered clinic operations and, as the only male undergraduate on the trip, has earned the formulary as a roommate. (He and I celebrated “Dia Hombre” today – though that wasn’t well received by our teammates.) He is remarkably warm with the children and pretends to torment and intimidate while evoking shrieks of laughter and joy. We broke out the bubbles today to provide a little entertainment while we waited for our partner physician to arrive.
Ruby (“Rupert Rubenstein”) Langesley (’12, 1st year; one of the newest of our “newbies”) is competing to become the team navigator. With an unerring sense of direction (at least for pizza), she gets us to and from our evening trips for dinner. She was spectacular in the clinic today, helping to bring order when things became very complicated as we put together our primary care operation with the clinic for mothers and babies. She “squeezed” and weighed babies, putting herself at some risk of parasite infection.
The day ended with an interview with the Mayor of Totagalpa, the municipality that includes Cuje. He formerly was the Director of the Totagalpa Clinic. He is smart, thoughtful, appreciative, and keenly aware of the prospects and problems of groups and organizations that want to help. There is nothing artificial about his appreciation of our determination to understand the community as part of our effort to solve problems. He quickly engaged the underlying logic of our project and its methods and was very encouraging of our continued efforts.
Jackie Ramirez and Gabi Arias led the interview with the Mayor and were supported and recorded by Margaret Summers (’11; 2nd year) and Allison Corbett (’09; 3rd year; co-leader). “Marge” is a little “OCD,” though we’re no longer allowed to talk about the focus of the obsession, and among the sweetest of souls in the universe. She models unqualified caring and cannot bring herself to utter or endorse even the most harmless of remarks that may be taken as critical of others. Don’t misunderstand: she has an incisive and critical mind and quickly finds the flaws in reasoning and the presence or absence of evidence for any inference or suggestion. Allison has been here from the beginning. She’s a little more comfortable with the intuitive than she is with the empirical, and she brings an appreciation of the subjective and cultural that is carefully honed by significant experience in Cuje.
It’s been a long day, and tomorrow starts early and ends late. We’ll run the clinic, interview a project director from the Mayor’s office, and close the day with an interview of the Medical Director from the Totagalpa clinic. We are making good progress and our plans and methods continue to bear fruit. If the corn flakes hold out and the car tires remain inflated, we’ll be back in full force tomorrow.