Thursday, January 6, 2011

Broken Hearts

Thursday. Day 6. The only thing worse than waking up to an air horn is waking up to an air horn when you aren’t feeling the best and when the air horn decides to sound about 20 feet from your head about 7 times. I have already been plotting on how to destroy the dreaded air horn, however when presented with the alternative of “Who let the dogs out” blasting, I had to rethink. I have decided that the song would be better as I have heard my father singing a pleasant version of it oh so long ago. Oh, and did I mention that this happens at 6:30 in the morning?? I think that says a lot, especially for a college student.

Today I went to Las Delicias, and more specifically I had the chance to go work in the local clinic. For your information the clinic is free for the people to go to. We, and by we I mean myself and Christina, a senior from Villanova, were dropped off bright and early with a woman named Morena. Morena is a local that works in the village and helps convey information and check-up on the locals. She was bringing us with to observe as she visited the local pregnant women, or so we thought. At the first home a young girl instantly ran up to me and jumped into my arms. “Oh, this will be a nice relaxing break from digging trenches” I thought, even though I have taken a liking to pick axing.

I was wrong.

Within 15 minutes Morena taught us how to give a child an entire physical examination. Thank God for Christina translating. We were supposed to check for lice, bumps on the head, if the eyes were linear and able to focus, the ears, the nose (for misplaced objects), the mouth, the throat, the stomach and even the genitals. We were even told that sexual abuse was common, so if a child became agitated while inspecting down below we should probably send them to the clinic. Now, for someone who is not in med school this entire set of instructions seemed extremely daunting, especially when Morena informed us that she wanted us to split up and go house to house. It is important to note that I have not practiced spanish in 5 years. So, I felt extremely uncomfortable walking into random houses and using my limited spanish to say “Can I look at your child?” or worse “Can I touch your child?” and even worse “Can I take off your child’s pants to look?” Needless to say and to my delight I was not forced to split up from Christina.

Also important to tell you all now, I am not illiterate. Even though it probably seems like it. I type exactly the thoughts that come into my head and they typically come all at once. Hopefully this helps you to understand.

Now to get more serious, I was also able to see a pregnant woman, 8 days overdue, at the first house. She sat patiently as 5 of us were allowed to touch her stomach to feel where the head was and to listen to the heart of her child. Unfortunately the day did not go as well. At our second to last house a woman had us all sit down in her living room and basically began to tell us her life story. She had twin daughters, 9 years old, living with her and her husband had died 5 years ago. She had blood sugar levels around 340, which for those of you who don’t know is about 3 times higher than what it should be, meaning she was extremely diabetic. She began to sob as she spoke of her son, who was older than the twins, and who had gotten involved in gangs and abandoned them a few years earlier. She has no idea if he is still alive. The worst part about this was the fact that I could not help her at all and more so that I couldn’t even tell her myself that I was sorry and wished I could help. I literally could not do anything for her and that is a terrible feeling.

At the last house on our trip we met a young girl who was about 1 year old. She was slightly anxious to have 5 large gringos (white people) enter her home. I was the only one who was able to get close to her, probably because I was a girl. Even then she sat and allowed me to examine her head but grew uncomfortable and ran away to a woman before I could finish. The eldest woman in the home informed us that she has had a cough and then proceeded to show us a large rash growing on her vagina. As we began to ask questions we found out that this was actually the womans granddaughter and she had been dropped of with them on January 31st. The cough and rash had been there when they started looking after her. Immediately I got sick to my stomach. Not to say that sexual abuse had happened but the thought that it could have happened to this girl. We told them they needed to get her to the clinic and they said they will bring her tomorrow. I can only hope that they do. Another frustrating thing for a “doer” like me are situations in which all you can do is hope.

At lunch we switched it up and went to a church to play with some of the children in the area. This place essentially keeps these kids out of gangs. Another girl from AFLV named Bry (also from Minnesota yesssssssss) and I were able to make bracelets out of yarn with the girls. Later on we had the 13 year old boys following us around. (They were too embarassed to admit they wanted us to be their novias (girlfriends), but they did.) They could not stop giggling and it simply warmed my heart.

I have learned more in these few days than I ever dreamed imaginable, but to summarize…

El Salvador is a place that will break your heart a thousand times, but it is also one of the only things to ever make it feel whole.

Mackenzie Olson is a student at Washington University and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority.

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