Joyabaj is a half hour closer to where we’re staying than Las Lomas, so our total daily commute is only five hours. However, it’s still too far away for other medical groups. Before we could start, though, we needed to deal with another pressing issue.
We made a stop in Santa Cruz, the capital of Quiche. We’ve made the stop four times in three days, all for the same reason. Toward the end of the first day we began to run out of Ibuprofen. Now the group needs to restock our supply.
“It’s hit or miss,” said Carla Seitz, a nurse with The Children’s Place in Bethany who has been filling prescriptions throughout the trip. “Last year it was all coughs and colds, this year we’ve seen barely any.”
So the group has restocked medicine every day, hoping to get enough to last through the trip. The money for the medicine is provided to by Volunteers in Mission, the organization which helps organize such trips. With similar problems inflicting people throughout the region, a loss of medicine would drastically influence what they could provide.
Las Lomas is sort of a suburb of Joyabaj. Joyabaj itself is much larger, but no richer. Trash litters what would otherwise be a perfect mountain landscape. The locals threw everything on the ground of the packed dirt roads. Ducks drank from puddles of water in the courtyards of houses. Trucks spewed thick black smoke as they inched down the hills towards the main town.
The building we set up in was made of cinderblocks and cement with a sheet metal roof. Many of the homes in the area seem to be similar. The advantage of Joyabaj is that most of the people we speak to already know Spanish, which is incredibly useful when I began translating prescription instructions again.
Most of them understood me as I tried to give them instructions. Much of the morning was spent combining the medicines we purchased in Guatemala with the medicines we brought with us. Carla said she’d make sure to bring more of these medicines this time, but the next time they come they may find themselves with a completely different set of symptoms.
There were more children this time. They crowd around the door, peering in as we begin to set up. This time, the pharmacy is in the same room as the triage clinic, so the translators do their best to keep the room from getting crowded. It doesn’t help much, those waiting in line believe that crowding in will get them into the doctor faster. The same people repeatedly try to jump in line, often directly into the physician’s waiting room, before they’re guided outside to wait their turn. The children rushed in as soon as they saw the toys, grabbing them almost as quick as we could bring them out. The adults as well began to grab toys for their children, whether they were around or not.
The dental clinic began with a child screaming before she was given anything. That seemed to scare away everyone else who needed their teeth to be pulled. However, the people are just as appreciative as ever for the care. As I was counting out pills for a proper dosage, one of the children, a little girl named Maria Isabel, walked behind the pharmacy table and hugged everyone there. She held the hug for as long as she could, giggling through her teeth as she was given a toy and her mother the medicine.
Several young boys gathered around as Carla’s husband, Scott, took photos of them. They rushed to the camera, to look at their picture. Children seem to be initially shy in this region, particularly those in the more remote locations, but take a picture and they’ll instantly become good friends. Bring out toys and they’ll crowd around for hours.
Maria Isabel’s grandmother, made lunch, beef with a savory brown sauce and corn tortillas. Their home seemed larger than most and Maria Isabel smiled as she showed me her room and played with her toys. Her grandmother, also named Maria, made sure I washed my hands and repeatedly told me to eat good.
It was one of the best meals I have had in Guatemala.