How do they see us? Americans of East-Indian, Mexican, Korean, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Afghani descent; wearing scrubs of green, pink, blue, and orange – with and without sleeves; some darker than them, most definitely not? Do they see our smiles and the eagerness to know and share, or are they blinded by our prosperity, the healthy glow of adequate nutrition and good health care, properly fitted clothes and shoes, the confidence of relative wealth? We see friends in the making, but we look from a very different vantage point.
If energy had a color, it would be bright orange (tangerine burst?) today. Alex Ferraro (1st year,) is decked out to be fully visible as clinic coordinator. She will bring to the job the same joy she brings to everything she does – including eating. Ruby Langeslay (2nd year) has decided to add even more brilliance to the Nicaraguan day in sunshine yellow. I should have less trouble tracking her in the field as we close in on the prospect of completing interviews in all (approximately) 40 houses in Chaguite. Kevin Sethi (2nd year) has stuck with his basic blue – and predictably sleeveless – ensemble. Omar Shairzay, our first four-year team member, has always added texture and complexity to the team portrait. Deeply committed to a career in medicine, he has medical school acceptances (including at Dartmouth) in hand. His engagement with the clinic is strong; his interaction with patients is quiet and efficient.
We set a new record in the clinic today: 114 patients seen. More than ever before, the outpost this year has the continuous air of order. We have prepared for the work we are doing and every day those who take up their roles in triage, pharmacy, clinic coordination, physician translation, and field research are ready – properly briefed by those who preceded them the day before. It seems clear in the reactions of those we serve that we are seen as serious and purposeful. Absent this year are the frantic exchanges and negotiations for services that we cannot provide from those who clearly need beyond our capability. Through preparation and better communication, we have made more apparent what we can and cannot do.
The ambient hue across Cuje in March is brown, though sprinkles of green are tracing the treetops. Scattered spectacularly across the hillsides and valleys are leafless trees with striking yellow flowers. They seem to promise more abundant life and hope, yet the region prepares for the onset of even harsher times with still less water. In the field, we find time and again the breathtaking contrasts and contradictions of harsh realities, resilient and gracious people, simple pleasures, daily struggles for survival, easy and warm smiles, and hope for the future. The pure joy of a new baseball; the simple pleasure of a shared meal; love and regard returned in a pineapple.