Catlin Gabel / OES Guatemala Collaboration
A note to let you know that we returned safe and sound from Chajul, Guatemala. This will give you a taste of the purposes of our research trip.
Our arrival was a bit late, and through a miscommunication, Nicolás had waited for us at the Catholic church in the plaza of Chajul until 9:30pm. Thinking we weren't arriving, he saddled his burro and began his decent to “Tierra Caliente” at 4:30am, walking the 4 hours over the 6,000ft. pass, back to his humble home in Pal. Nicolás just lost his third son after being kicked in the head by a horse. They live far from definitive medical care so he didn't survive the 20 hour journey on a makeshift stretcher. We felt awful arriving just 3 days after his death and for the miscommunication that lead to the purposeless 8 hour round trip for Nicolás. Despite it all, he and his family received us with open arms and welcomed us to sleep around Miguelitos' shrine. We brought a framed picture to add.
Translating from Ixil to Spanish to English, Dr. Andrew Zechnich and I saw around 14 patients in the tiny clinic in Pal alongside the very capable Pedro Alberto, community health facilitator, and saw much of what we expected; pulmonary issues, infections, stomach and head aches. One 9-year old boy showed all the telltale signs of an appendicitis and was urged to make the 10-hour trip to the hospital in Nebaj. We left all the medical supplies that we could carry down and were deeply impressed with how effective they are with such little resources.
We returned to Chajul on Sunday evening, waking early Monday to begin investigating the stove projects that reduce the wood needed and the smoke produced in the one-room homes of Chajul.
Christina Meyerhoff on behalf of OES and a collaboration that we are exploring, in hopes of bringing students from both schools here in the future, organized a friendship bracelet project between CG and CEMIK students. Not surprisingly, the students here have a knack for weaving and were ecstatic about sending their creations to our kids.
Generous medical supply companies donated as many sutures, gowns and lidocaine as we could stuff in our bags, and we presented these to the medical team at the Centro de Salud in Chajul. They especially appreciated the donated, non-invasive Pulse Oximeter worth $2000.
This experience has been profoundly transformative. Notions of wealth and connections to place are completely transformed while walking with contemporary decedents of Mayan Ixiles, visiting ceremonial sites and sharing meals.
Spencer, Andy, Christina and Joan
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