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A Visit to Agua Zarca

Monday April 23, 2018

As is customary, the team spent almost four hours yesterday solely on preparation. We spent the afternoon counting and packing a variety of medications such as Tylenol, Tums, and Adult/Pediatric Vitamins to use throughout the week at different clinics in the mountain villages. Our Inventory Manager, Joel, not only facilitated this process but also took lead in the Tetris-esque challenge that was loading the team bus after the aforementioned sorting had been completed. We treated ourselves to dinner at a local restaurant after a long day of preparation; the food was fantastic, though not quite as impressive as Shaun’s seemingly limitless bank of fun facts en route to the restaurant.

Today was our first trip of the week to a mountain village. Some of us were nervous. Most of us were excited. All of us were preparing for the rough and bumpy bus ride to come. As the white bus progressed further up the mountain, the scenery began to change; the air became dryer, the roads transitioned from gravel to dirt, and notable patches of dust clouds appeared for all to see. Upon arrival to the village, Agua Zarca (community partner with Warwick Memorial United Methodist Church), we were greeted by villagers of all ages. “Hola” and “Buenos Días” became comfortable phrases to exchange with the residents. For those of us whose knowledge of the Spanish language stems from old school courses taken many years ago, there unfortunately wasn’t much more we could say to some of the villagers without an interpreter at our side… but is spoken language really the lone method of communication? Of course not!

In the case of limited, or complete absence of, comprehension of each others’ spoken languages, some of the medical team and the villagers turned to body language as a way to convey thoughts and feelings. This leads to the question, “What does gratitude look like?” Does it look like a hi-five after a dental procedure? Is it a handshake coupled with a genuine smile? Is it the reciprocation of similar action, such as clapping or a warm embrace? Through body language, it became clear that these people were grateful for our service. It was an even bigger honor to be part of the team that served them.

The smiles of these playful children, of children who’ve not grown up surrounded by the technology available to us, were contagious! Our team members often found themselves kicking a soccer ball, hitting a beach ball, or blowing bubbles (and boy did they love those bubbles!). In the words of my teammate, Dr. Marvin Williams, “Some of the happiest children in the world aren’t at Disney World.”

Jan’s devotion tonight, in honor of a recently deceased loved one, laid out a metaphor for life using a train ride. We board the train at birth. We meet our parents at this time, and we believe that they will always travel on our side. Eventually, however, our parents exit the train, leaving us to experience the remainder of the ride on our own. As passengers continually board the train, some may be of significant importance (e.g., your friends, spouse, or children) while others may go unnoticed. Some passengers may exit your train at unexpected, or unwanted, times. Ultimately, a successful trip, albeit with inevitable complications, is heavily focused on your relationship with the other passengers. Given that we do not know when we will be exiting the train, it is important to cultivate and maintain a positive relationship with each passenger. This requires that we give the best of ourselves. It is in this way that we leave a lasting impression on the other passengers. We should want to leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life without us. Let us aim to live each day with the intention to improve the life of another.

P.S. For those hoping for an update on Nury’s story from the previous journal entry, the surviving twin that received medicine from FOBF has shown significant improvement (per the attending physician) and might possibly be released from the NICU in the near future!

-Jacob Watkins

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