Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just Do It!

Living in Honduras continues to teach me so many life lessons. What seems to logical, practical and easy from my perspective may just not be so - when viewing life from another point of view. Just last week, I had a great experiential lesson on this subject.

I had been suffering from a severe itch, hives, rash skin condition for over a week, when Bob said: "Enough is enough, you need to see a doctor." Since there is no Yellow Pages to find a doctor in, one either asks for referrals from friends or pound the pavements looking for doctor signs. We had spotted two dermatologists offices on our walks around town, and Erin suggested a third, so armed with directions I head in to town on Friday. The first office apologetically told me the doctor was at a convention and would be back in 10 days, but try this one... Well, that doctor also was at the convention, and so was the third doctor I tried and the fourth. As a last ditch effort before abandoning the quest, I headed to the private hospital. Yes, they did have a dermatologist on staff, no she was not at the convention, and yes I could come back that afternoon for an appointment, as long as I brought cash.
I returned cash in hand at the appointed time. The office secretary asked for my name and birth date. When I told her my name, she looked quizzically at me, so I handed her my ID card. Who can blame her, Severinghaus is not easy to spell. Once she typed in my name, she looked up, and asked, what about your second last name? Most Hondurans have two last names - one from the mother and one from the father. Well, I only have one - it is long enough that hyphenating was out of the question when we got married. She repeated her question, probably thinking this Gringa just does not understand. She finally gave up, and I silently wondered if she wrote 'Gringa' as my other name to make it proper.... As I reflected on the interaction, I realized that something as basic as a last name is so differently interpreted and used depending on culture, country and family.
The doctor was very congenial and relatively rapidly diagnosed me with escobiosis. My Spanish English dictionary did not have this word, but fortunately she was prepared with a Spanish English medical dictionary - my condition: scabies. It is very simple she told me; "just wash all of your clothes, every piece of it, in hot water and dry it in the dryer on the hot setting. Tonight, put this cream all over your body, go to bed, and in the morning take a shower. You then need to wash the sheets, and towels that you use every day for the next week in hot water, and dry them in a hot dryer. Since you live with three other people, I strongly suggest you take the precaution by treating them as well, i.e. washing all their clothes, cream, sleep, shower, and change sheets and towels daily. In a short 7 days you will feel so much better. " Well, it does sound simple... but it is not. I wanted to tell her how impractical her suggestion was considering my current living conditions, but on second thought realized that she would not understand, and probably not care. If I wanted to get rid of the itch, this is what I had to do.
My little pila in the backyard can only handle a few pieces of clothing, and there is no hot water in the house apart from through the widow maker in the shower..... We only have one set of sheets for our bed, and not that many towels. So far, we have had rain almost every day, so it takes a few days to get the heavier things dry. Fortunately our sheets are thin, thin, so they do usually dry pretty quickly, but what do I do if it pours?
I am fortunate enough that I have enough resources to make this happen. We took all my clothes to the laundromat, and paid extra for hot water wash. Four hours later, I had completely step one. We have not seen rain for the past few days, and the sun and the light breeze has made washing the sheets every morning possible, some days they are dry before lunch! But it is taking extra ordinary time, energy and resources to make this happen - much more complicated than it sounded.
It has been a very humbling experience as it taught me that so many of my western ideas, suggestions, and resolution to problems and situation I see here in Honduras are just not practical for them to implement. Many minor ailments such as lice, bed bugs etc cannot be properly eradicated unless one follows a rigours routine of sanitizing and cleaning - yet when the laundry is done in the river, the water is hardly considered hot. When several family members share one bed, and not everyone is treated, how can you stop the infestation? When we suggest the addition of fruit and vegetables to the diet, but there is none to buy nearby, and the closest fruit stand is 45 minutes away with a bus, is that truly practical? Possible? Feasible?
Just Do It! sounds easy and quick, but behind the words hide reality with all its limitations and challenges.

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