Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Puerto Barrios, Guatemala?
I am in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. Puerto Barrios is a port town on the Eastern coast, sandwiched between Belize and Honduras. I have been here for just over a week. I still think about the heat constantly. It is stiffling hot and humid today, like it is every day of the year here on the Atlantic coast of Central America.
Luckily the MSF/Doctors Without Borders office is air conditioned. The hospital where I work and the house where I live do not have A/C. We have fans in the house, and big windows that allow for a cross breeze. But the hospital feels like a sauna. There is little ventilation. Some of the patient rooms have fans, but most of them seem to be broken. The patients in the hospital are grouped together in large rooms, like the traditonal "wards" in US hospitals. The beds do not have sheets. The patients lie on their dirty matresses and sweat.
The heavy rains are the up-side of the tropical climate. It pours here at least once or twice a day, complete with lightning and crashing thunder. Sometimes the din of rain splashing on tin roofs makes it impossible to talk. At work, we have to take a break from seeing patients until the noise lets up. Usually the rains come at night, when I am lying in bed waiting for sleep. Exotic bird chirps and rooster cock-a-doodle-doos wake me in the morning. The dirt roads in town are more like muddy bogs. I am learning how to drive the 4-wheel drive truck.
I am also tired of speaking Spanish. I used to think my Spanish was adequate. That was when I only had to talk to patients at work in New York. Now I have to speak spanish at work, at home, and on the telephone. I have to write my medical notes in Spanish, and read charts and reports. Nobody on my team speaks a word of English. I feel like a first grader who was sent to grad school by mistake. Grad school in the tropics.
What on earth am I doing here?