Monday, November 06, 2006
We celebrated the closing of MSF-España´s Chagas Disease project in Olopa over the weekend. Six people made the five hour trip from Puerto Barrios to Olopa on Friday morning. Another ten people drove five hours from Guatemala City. A picture of Olopa is at left.
The goodbye party (despedida) started with a five hour ceremony. The guests included: the entire Chagas team, out of town MSF employees, the Mayor of Olopa, the District Health Director, and the composer of the "Chinche Pecuda" offical song (which recounts all three stages of Chagas disease in verse form). [If anybody knows how to upload a music file onto Blogger, please let me know. I will upload the song!]. The ceremony included a lunch of steak, vegetables, avocado, tortillas, and local liquor (a mix of rum, beer, orange juice, and 7-up). The food was grilled outside on a grill stuck into an extra-large sawed-off barrel. After the food was cleared, there were two live bands and of course plenty of dancing.
After the official ceremony, the Olopa team and out-of-town guests went back to casa Olopa, where (almost) everybody danced and drank for four more hours. I reverted to my old-self--I sat in another room and read Manson´s Tropical Diseases. Six hours of dancing is a tad excessive.
All and all, the Chagas disease project tested and treated some of the poorest children in an isolated part of one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. More than 8,000 quantatative immunoglobulin assays were done in a nearby lab. [It takes several weeks to get results for the same test at a tertiary referral center in NYC.] The good-bye party was an apt end to this impressive project.