In all seriousness, our first day was wholly a travel day. The travel adventure began at 0400 for some of us and others at the slightly more reasonable time of 0700. The day did not end until 1900, Guatemala time, which is 2100 for those of you reading on the East Coast – which roughly equates to 14-17 hours of travel, depending on who you’re talking to from our trip. We flew into Guatemala City and were ushered onto a bus by Sofia (She’ll make lots of appearance on this blog, I’m sure. She’s our fearless leader and organizer from CEDEPCA – the organization we came with) and Oswaldo (He’ll also make lots of cameos – he’s our bus driver and we all love him. PS you say his name OsValdo). We quickly learned that things didn’t really run on a schedule as what was supposed to be a four hour drive to Cobán became a six hour long trek down a well-loved road. Our hotel was lovely (see picture below), dinner was delightful (think well-seasoned eggs with onions and tomatoes with some plantains and beans), and then we all crashed.
This morning we met with the ministry of health and the nurse who’s in charge of all the midwives here, Erica (she’s also in charge of TB, but that’s a different story for a different group). We talked all about our role here, educating, and how the midwives have historically been viewed in this country. As a future midwife, it was fascinating, but I won’t bore you with all the details. I do think that it’s significant to let you know that the midwives deliver 45% of the babies born out in the community, which is an impressive percent when compared to the out-of-hospital births in the United States (according to one source, it’s roughly 1-1.5% of births). These midwives do this with limited resources and the closest hospital/back-up provider about two hours away (if they can find a car).
After our meeting we got back into the van and drove two hours to the city of Chisec. Parts of Guatemala seem so untouched, like humans have never stepped foot on the majority of its land. I keep mentally comparing it to Jurassic Park because it has the same level of lushness and similarly impressive mountains. It’s crazy to think about the Mayan people walking these mountains that felt so uncomfortable to drive along. The cities and neighborhoods themselves are obviously impoverished, but a few of us have noted that in spite of the poverty, they feel exceptionally clean and friendly in comparison to other countries we’ve visited. As we drove along the roads we could see two of the major commodities in the country – corn and coffee. The corn is essentially grown over every square inch of available land and comes right to the edge of the road with the occasional rectangular house breaking up the jungle. On the other hand, the coffee is grown in beautiful lines or concentric circles up and down the mountains. It looked like my version of heaven – caffeine and order. Chisec itself is much lower than where we stayed last night (and when we return to Cobán on Thursday, I’ll give you the scoop), and it’s hot and muggy. Imagine Florida during the dead of summer and you’ve got the weather we’re staying.
Tomorrow is the first day where we actually get to meet the midwives and all of us expressed excitement at the thought tonight during our reflection time. Don’t worry, we do this every night so I’m sure you’ll get to hear all about them at some point. Anyway, it’s almost 2100 my time (2300 Eastern), so it’s time to go tuck in bed, watch an episode of Arrow (no, I’m not kidding), and set my 0630 alarm.