What on earth is litte esther doing? I'm cutting toe nails. That's right, I decided that for one day, one of my women's groups (who are receiving the stove and cement floor projects) would get their very own FREE special treatment at a Guatemalan beauty salon, complements of me, Esther, the salon owner (products sponsored by mum's Burts Bees delivery a few weeks ago). I know what you're thinking, I'm crazy!!! Maybe I am... But every great idea has to come from a touch of dillusion right? So that's right we did it, with the help of two other women, we set up shop in the house where we regularly meet in the village, and went at it.... At the first station, the women washed and soaked their hands and feet, and then applied a home-made hand/feet scrub (made of sugar, olive oil and water):
They then proceeded to station #2, where I cut their finger and toe nails (Still got that first picture stapled to your brain shutter right?), this was the toughest part... And I gotta admit, I shed a few sweat drops, some of these women's toes had probably never been cut in their life. Some of the toenails were rotting, some were so thick I couldn't even cut trough because of the thickness, some had funguses and just plain old weird things. I don't want to gross you out, I just want to make you understand some of the hygienic conditions that we often take for granted in our American sterilized world that's all. Was I grossed out? Not really... Was it hard? Yes. Many of the feet and toe nails were disfigured by the lifestyle these women endure. These women remind me of war generals, holding the fort in the barracks, cooking on dirt floors, hauling wood, constantly cleaning, and taking care of the little soldiers. What was hard for me was holding their hands and feet, being so close to them, and yet feeling so distant from them, being useless to do anything other for them, but to make them feel nice for one day.
Station #3 - Wash away the home-made scrub and apply lotion (the now worlldy famous coconut Burt's Bees, holla mum!) I kept trying to explain that only a little was necessary, but the women were too cute, taking huge chunks of the cream at one time, soaking their arms in coconut goodnness:
Those are some of the 60 somewhat-odd women, two hours later, smiling happily heartedly for one day. So you get your answer right? I love my job.
Among some of the completely ridiculous things that happened to me in the last week were my health promoters feeling-up my bum-bum. Yes, you read correctly, and I didn't misspell either. Their one year training is almost coming to an end, and they have been begging me to learn how to inject. Yes, that's right, I said inject. Obviously, I was hesitant, but after thinking about it long and hard, I decided heck why not? they're committed, they're few in numbers, and heck, I'm not gonna do it, I'll get a nurse to show them. Well joke was on me, because Ms. nurse wanted me to be their bum dummy so they could learn exactly where to inject on a butt cheek:
Conclusion: Hem, awkwardness = confianza at its best (ie/ when health promoter jokingly drums my buttcheek a few times)
Hot dang, sharing shameless shame is fun.
On a more serious note, one of the little soldiers I've mentioned here and there is little Juan Carlos. I met little Juan Carlos over a year ago randomly in one of my villages; at the time he was about to turn two and weighed only 14 pounds. He could not walk, could not eat, he was non-responsive. Dad was a drunk and mum did not speak much Spanish for me to communicate with. I spent an entire day running around trying to get them help with different agencies; the hospital wouldn't take him because he was not "acute" enough, while another agency could not give him the formula he needed to get better (bureaucratic bs I won't bother going into). All that could be given to them were bags of food at a later time (which was never given).
I worried alot about the little fellow, wondering if this family would just disappear off the health center's radar; I thought that little Juan Carlos would just become another marked grave. This was a really tough time in my service because I realized how useless I was to the complex problems that turmoil Guatemala and poor rural families.
I found the family again randomly in July while doing house visits for my stove and cement floor projects. I was ecstatic to meet them again, but Juan Carlos had not gained that much more weight... Here is a picture of him during that time:
The mother agreed to participate in the project and came to every single health lesson (she hasn't missed one to date). Meanwhile, I came in contact with a new nutritionist who began working in my municipality, and we agreed to have her come with me during a house visit. Words are alot easier than actually coordinating work in Guatemala... That never happened, and I still kept bothering the NGO who works in the village about him; they told me that medicine was being given to him, but the last I had seen him last month, he still looked in bad shape.
Then, yesterday, I decided to pop in the family's house during lunchtime to see how the little soldier was doing, and this is what I saw:
Juan Carlos was smiling, trying to talk, attentive, looking at me, looking at everything around him, trying to play with my camera, calling for food, EATING food! I don't think I could ever make you understand how happy I was, how happy his mother was, as she spoke the most Spanish I had ever heard her talk to me in my life, talking about he's going to start walking soon, and how much better he's doing after finally receiving medicine. We talked a bit more about her children, and she explained how she has 5 children, or rather she had 7 (as she let out a small laugh), but 2 died. And that's not a laugh because she doesn't love her children, but because that's just life and death in rural Guatemala. But this time, I know she understands that it's different... Juan Carlos is going to get better, he's not going to die. Juan Carlos is up to 18 pounds, he'll be three on December 27th, and I'm still thinking of a present to get him on his birthday... Any ideas? Let me know!
Ok novel is almost done, I swear. I ran into the nutritionist today, by chance. And I told her the great news about Juan Carlos, and she just responded simply with something like this, " well when you told me about him, I contacted the NGO and was able to get him started on the formula treatment (basic mix of peanuts and chocolate formula), so thank YOU for not letting go of him." And it was as simple as that, a matter of life and death in the hands, words and contacts of the right people.
It's 7:44pm, which means novel must end so a tired brain can rest. Thanks for letting me share the shame.