Trip 148, Post 6

Posted on: 03/08/2007

Thursday 3/8, our final surgical day. When finished this week, our surgical team has completed sixty-nine cases, and our dentists treated well over a hundred people.

Among other things, we are rounding out the record of our mission here and collecting the last of the photos and stories documenting our work.

Today we follow the Cooking team , watching them wend through the maze of vendors in the open market where the locals buy their fruits, vegetables, spices and flowers. We visit several other shops in the city to purchase breads, coffee and meats. There is no one-stop shopping in Antigua and we are the better for it. The chance to meet and talk with the people here is a great method of learning a bit more about the local Guatemalans and their culture, gaining a small sense of how they move through their daily routines.

The cooks will serve our final full meal tonight; it’s no small feat to keep a team of 40 hard working folks full and happy. They are the first ones up in the morning (to start the coffee!), and the last ones finished at night. They’ve made friends with the vendors and merchants in the markets; now that they can find everything they need it’s time to leave!

In the afternoon, we visit Case de Fe to talk with three convalescing patients from the group brought down by Compaoeros en Cirugia. Casa de Fe (House of Faith) was constructed by FIP as a domicile for patients and family members coming into the Obras from such a distance that daily travel would be impossible. Prior to the construction of this facility, many people literally slept on the streets because they had no other support system available.

Casa de Fe is an attractively constructed two story facility designed for up to 100 men, women and children housed in dormitory fashion. For these temporary residents they provide a cafeteria, shower facilities and a small chapel. Casa de Fe was privately funded through FIP by donations from individuals and congregations. It is a wonderfully serene and safe environment used prior after the time of the patients’ procedures at the Obras.

One previous resident told the story of her first visit to the facility. When she opened the street-side door entering the courtyard she couldn’t believe this was the place in which they were to stay. "It is much too beautiful!"

April Green, the FIP Patient Advocate, is my interpreter. She in turn speaks with the CC advocate, who then translates April’s Spanish into the women’s native Keqchi. It takes a little longer to process the questions, but it’s also interesting to watch the common thread of understanding weave through the three languages and cultures.

We find out that prior to this surgical trip these women had never traveled outside their own villages. All three farm, raise their families, and had never been to a "big city" like Antigua (a city of only 10,000 residents!). They are certainly in unfamiliar territory. We learn a bit more about their lives and their loved ones. For the compesinos in these areas, there is no such thing as emergency or urgent care medicine, or even local access to basic health care. Clean, potable water is a rarity. Most patients seen by FIP have had their untreated medical conditions for a significant period of time.

Listening to all the stories in Antigua this week, the women at Casa de Fe, the surgical and dental patients we’ve treated, the Obras staff we worked beside and the local residents we encountered gives us a real sense of the very different ways our cultures move through daily life. The indigenous people from the pueblocitos have a stoic, elegant beauty and grace that belies the difficult physical conditions in which they work and live. The patients and families at the Obras calmly wait, sometimes for many hours, but at the end of a long day they still have a warm smile and kind word for us. When we are without our team translators, they tolerate our broken Spanish and amusedly coax us into some semblance of communication. They have an unmistakable and infectious spirituality.