Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I made it!!!

Hello!

This is WAY overdue…my apologies…we just got back from a 8-day trip working with some of the health promoters in their communities. I will write about my work and the trip in the next few days…the note below is something I began writing ages ago, but never sent. I am pushed for time tonight to finish this and get to the computer with internet access before it closes. Please excuse any mistakes…AND...the line is super slow here...so I am not sure I can include any photos...

It is Wednesday night; May 21…we have been in Riosucio for 5-6 days. Our trip from Apartadó was blissfully uneventful. Despite waiting for a few hours for our boat to leave, nothing unanticipated happened: nothing broke down; we didn’t run out of fuel, the crossing of the Gulf of Urabá to the Rio Atrato was as calm as it has ever been.

It feels great to be back in Riosucio. Its energy and people make it unique. I am now staying in the home of Alan and Julie, both colleagues in this project. I lived with them during my last visit here. John and Susan are here working as well; they are visiting from Mexico and Guatemala (during their vacation). I have mentioned them earlier, and I am glad there are here. We are sharing a 3 bedroom apartment. Gregory, the 2 year old, has many friends in town that play on the partially enclosed (completely safe) balcony. Despite what sounds like a crowded situation, living is easy; I enjoy my days and the company.

Realizing that I have only just returned and knowing that my views will change and undoubtedly become more accurate, I wanted to describe Riosucio as I am seeing it again with fresh eyes.


Riosucio has a pulse all its own. Currently it is raining and after 9 o’clock. Without straining I can hear the rain falling on our tin roof, a group of men smacking dominoes on the playing table across the street, the amplified speakers playing vallanato music a few houses away. This morning different speakers began playing religious music before 5 a.m. Then when I was drinking coffee on our balcony at 6:45ish a large man walked down the street verbally berating the owner of the early morning music. The ironic part is that it happens every morning.

People live very closely here, not just in location. 11,000 people living next to a river which frequently floods. There is a cell-phone tower and fairly consistent electricity, but water is a commodity. The river is used by the majority for bathing, washing laundry, using the bathroom, and even drinking. This photo doesn´t quite do it justice, but here you go. The closet-looking things on the rafts (balsas) in the photo are used for privacy for the toilet, there is also a woman washing something on the balsa nearest the camera.


It is more accurate to say drinking water is a commodity. The seasons are just changing, we are moving from the dry summer to the rainy fall/winter. It does rain daily and the river is slowly rising. Right now, there is 1-2 blocks of solid ground/mud next to the river, and the remainder of the depth of the town is under water.

People are anticipating that what is left will be submerged in the next few weeks. The walkways to reach homes and to go shopping are planks balanced above the water. Before the angry gentlemen walked under the balcony this morning, I saw a woman, with her hair in curlers, wrapped in a towel, with her recently-cleaned laundry and dishes in her arms walking on planks from the river back to her home.


Before I forget, I wanted to write a quick blurb on traveling to poorer countries. I am certainly not an expert, but every time I get re-acquainted with living outside the U.S., I forget the interesting subtle differences that soon become normal and lose their interest. On a resourceful level, it is true, clean water does dictate so much of our habits here. We buy our drinking water in 12 liter hard plastic jugs and fill our pitchers and glasses directly from that. We have gutters on the roof which drain rain water into a 2000 liter tank. This tank has alum in it which acts as a water clarifier (settles out the large impurities and dirt). We use this for cooking, washing dishes, and bathing. Any water that we cook with needs to be boiled as well (there are other animals that use our roof too). So it works great for coffee, tea, pasta etc. If we use the rain water for washing dishes, then we add bleach to it first. Finally bathing…to save water, we stand in a large plastic bin. We have a small bucket filled with rain water and we repeatedly dip a small bowl in the water to get wet, then to soap up and eventually to rinse. The soapy water that we stand in is then brought upstairs in buckets and used to flush the toilet (pour the water into the front bowl). I don’t want to go much further along this line…but there are a few notables…toilet seats are a rarity…more cracks and crevasses to keep clean, I guess… ...go on...I know, but when I thought of that phrase, it made me laugh, so I kept it in…The other interesting thing is that nothing non-human goes in the toilet. There are small trash cans for everything else. I guess they are much kinder to their sewer plumbing than we are at home.

I sleep under mosquito netting every night. It keeps the mosquitoes and biting bugs away, and hopefully keeps me healthy. On a neat note, when here in Riosucio, we no longer have to do laundry by hand...though it isn´t quite what you´d expect...here is a photo of me wrestling with my laundry...

Alright…I am going to run to the computer place…I hope this finds you happy and healthy…I think of home often, but all is well…

bg

7 comments:

Degns Of Our Lives said...

Wow! Boy, are we spoiled! Let me know if you need anything! Toilet seats? cndegn@yahoo.com

Bakers4 said...

While reading your latest post I could only think of how shallow we are as Americans. It sounds like your haveing an enjoyable time.Stay well and good luck. Guess what... Ezra made it to the 25% on weight!! God Bless

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Good! It is so nice to get to see what you are doing so far away. We miss you as our doctor and friend. Kaleb has not had to visit the office since you left, and I wonder if our new doc will enjoy having his/her seat hid each time! You look and sound happy and healthy...Take Care.
The Saunders

Allison said...

So glad we didn't get any toilet photos, wasn't sure where we were going with that one. Love you, al

Ryan & Dani Oldroyd said...

Dr. Good. Just wanted to say that Brooklynn misses you as her doctor, but you are doing a wonderful thing. It is neat to read about all your adventures. I spent about 3 months in Honduras years ago and it reminds me a lot of that country. Hope you continue to do well.
The Oldroyds

Angela said...

Hey Dr. Good! We sure miss you, and hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Little Ella is doing well, and I just want to make sure to thank you for all your help with her. You were great!
The Wellmans

Hartleys said...

Hey, Doc. Good!!!
We miss you, but we are secure in the knowledge that you are well.
Conor turns two in a week. Sarah is GREAT!!! She played Beethoven (Ode to Joy) for her recital and was SUPER!!! John passed 8th grade!!! whew! Your new life sounds adventursome, if not challenging. Best of luck to you. Enjoy your time, it will be over before you know it! With love, John, Tami, John, Sarah, and Conor