Monday, May 21, 2018

Guatemala, Day 1

Greetings from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. We arrived here last night after a long day that included two flights and a four hour van ride. Quetzaltenango is a fairly large town but its pretty out of the way. It's also at about 8,000 feet elevation, so I've been finding myself getting winded by just walking around.

Central Park

The view from the door of our school building.

Six weeks ago, the plan was for this summer program to be held in Nicaragua, where I've already taught on four separate occasions. Unfortunately, the political instability there made it inadvisable for us to go there, so the coordinators decided to move the program to Guatemala instead. Its time for a new adventure!

I am the instructor for the Engineering World Health (EWH) Summer Institute. We bring a handful of students from the US (mostly) and bring them to the developing world for the summer. The first month is "training" which means learning the local language and customs, and studying the basics of hospital instrumentation. During the second month, the students work full time at various hospitals around the country fixing broken medical equipment. The program is held in a number of countries, including Tanzania, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Uganda, and Rwanda. The program's founders discovered that although a lot of medical equipment gets donated to the developing world, it often falls into disrepair or isn't used properly. Our goal is to help address that deficit. Equipment falls into disrepair for a number of reasons - sometimes there's just on one around who can spend a day taking something apart and cleaning it; sometimes the instruction manual isn't in the local language; sometimes there's no manual at all and no one knows how to use it.

Every year the program size changes. This year we have ten students, one TA, one coordinator, and me, the instructor. The students tend to be mostly engineering students but really anyone willing to wield a screwdriver and apply themselves has the capacity to succeed.

I am staying with a host family. They speak Spanish with me and cook me three squares a day. So far the food has been pretty awesome. They get fresh corn tortillas three times a day! The mom has three adult daughters with families of their own and the grandkids are running all over the place this evening. There's also a little Scotty dog named "Bidoo" (as in "Scooby Doo") who likes to get petted. Lots of action. The weather is all over the place. During the earlier part of the day its pretty hot. In the afternoon it rains like crazy and then it gets cold at night.

Lunch! Soup, shredded beef, boiled veggies.

Dinner! Shredded beef empanadas. Delicious!

My new buddy, Bidoo.

Not much happened today. We exchanged some dollars and bought SIM cards for the student phones (which took forever), and then I worked for a bit on actual University stuff. I spent the afternoon trying to sleep off some general malaise which is probably a combination of a few nights of lousy sleep, a change of water, and altitude adjustment. Hopefully I'll be a bit more on my game tomorrow!

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