Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's August Already

     We just returned from another remote site visit, and this one was really remote.  We went to Coban and Telemann.  We left on Friday morning after loading two Vans (Everests) with everything we need for three days in a makeshift clinic.  We take two compressors, three folding dental chairs, dental unit with hand pieces, instruments, sterilization tubs, gauze, cotton rolls, anaesthetic, etc.  We took another Senior Missionary couple and their son with us: Skip and Vicky Standage and Jeff.  The Standages are serving in Public Affairs and they went with us to see what we do and also because they were covering the publicity for a Choir visit to Telemann.  Jeff came because he starts dental school in a couple of weeks and wanted to get this experience.  They were very helpful assisting at chairside, helping with dental education, and sterilization.  So add to all this equipment, seven people and all their luggage and
you have an idea of how tightly packed we were on this trip.   We had to tie the chairs on the top of the car.
   On Friday afternoon we went to the central market in Coban and wandered through the street market.  All the venders sell their stuff and expect us to barter and we are not good at that.  We mostly just walked around and looked at the people dressed in their traditional clothes.  This was the weekend of the Daughter of the King Festival, so there were tons of people.  We then went to McDonalds for dinner.  We Are all very nervous about buying anything to eat on the street.

     The next morning we went on a tour bus with a guide and just our group of nine to a place called Semuc Champey.  It means something like the disappearing river describing the river that flows rapidly until it spills into a large lava tube and flows underground for about three miles until it surfaces again.  Above the river flowing beneath are five spring-fed pools.  This is a popular recreational site for tourists and residents, but the park wasn't crowded because it is so remote.  The ride there is 2 1/2 hours and half of the drive is on a narrow, steep, windy dirt road.  The countryside is beautiful.  The hills are covered with corn, corn and more corn.  The terrain is so hilly and rocky that harvesting is done by machete; absolutely no tractor or harvester could possibly get to that corn.  The hills are never-ending:  just hills behind hills, behind more hills.  The foreground is bright with a hundred shades of green and then each hill fades until they disappear into a bank of clouds.  We haven't yet been able to take a picture that shows the beauty.  
     We were all exhausted when we finally got home from that excursion, but some still wanted to go to the Daughter of the King Festival.  Wayne and I chose not to go.  They supposedly had narrowed the contestants down to ten, and they would be answering questions having to do with their particular culture - from their city or tribe.  I figured I would not get too much out of the talking portion of the program because they would not be speaking English or even Spanish, but the language of their Mayan village.  The few who went to the pageant said it was very long beginning with a parade of each of the 145 contestants wearing their native costumes and being introduced by a very verbose MC.  They left at 9:00 and they hadn't started the final ten part by then.  
     The next day we got up and ready and headed to a neighboring town to go to church.  We spent about half an hour lost in this little town.  We did pass a cattle auction and the market place.  Both were interesting.  I love the adventure of getting lost.  As we drive through the towns we see the people.
They are as beautiful as the scenery.  They live life in a very simple way.  They carry produce or wood into town to sell and then carry what they need to eat for the day back home when day is done..  Woodcutters carry huge bundles on their backs reminding me of Grimm fairy tale characters except the men here cut the wood with machetes.  We saw one man about 25 or so with his son who was probably 4 both carrying their machetes as they walked along the road.  It is interesting how people just appear from out of the woods.  Sometimes the path isn't visible nor the house, but there they are with a bundle on their backs or heads starting for town. 
     Church was wonderful and the members there were friendly and very happy to have guests.  We continued on to Telemann, arriving at around three.  We checked into our hotel, changed our clothes and went to the church to set up the dental clinic.  We took all the chairs out of the chapel and set up three dental units and a sterilization station.  It's an amazing transformation.  We ate dinner at the only restaurant we could find that we trusted - Pollo Express.
     Monday through Wednesday are our work days and we look forward to them with mixed feelings.  They are long and grinding, but the people are generally very grateful, and we feel the spirit of sacrifice while we sweat away in the hot confines.  We close down about 5:00 to 5:30 and tell the rest of the line to come back in the morning.  When we arrive, there is already a line outside the door.
     As we progress during the three days we go from Prospective Missionary checks and repairs and extractions to members and their problems.  Finally we go to non members and their families and the last half of Wednesday is devoted pretty much to extractions; relieving suffering and infection.
     One girl came in with pain in her upper centrals.  She had large cavities in both that together made a hole about the size of a BB.  We just couldn't let those teeth go, so we decided to restore them.  You can see the happiness in the patient's face in this "after" photo.  That was one happy smile.  In contrast we had another beautiful 20 year old girl who came in with almost the exact same problem.  She said she had pain in her front upper four teeth, but when Wayne tested and examined them, he could find decay in only three of the teeth.  One was perfect.  When he told her that, she insisted that all four were causing her pain and she wanted them pulled.  He finally pulled the three decayed teeth and left the one good one.  She was upset.  She wanted to have a gold bridge put in that is so common in her culture and a tradition amongst her people. Now I was the one really upset, because I know that eventually she will be a toothless old woman like so many we had seen those three days.
     Some will come in and say they want their teeth cleaned, but we tell them no and look in their mouth to see what is really wrong.  Usually 5 to 10 cavities, 4 broken teeth, and red, swollen gums.  So we ask which one hurts worst and see which one looks most likely to make them ill, and we take out three or four.  Demoralizing in one way, but efficient and necessary.  Okay, it's demoralizing and heart breaking.
We have to steel ourselves against the depression that comes with doing half a job.  Our resources are not infinite and our time is limited in an unlimited needs world.  One does his/her best.  In three days, we three dentists treated 174 patients.  We had ONE patient with perfect teeth - straight, clean, and without decay.  I made an announcement and everyone in the clinic clapped and cheered.  When we call an end to the event and start cleaning up, you think you'll refresh and move quickly.  Not so.  It takes a couple of hours to bubble again.  I don't think I've been so mentally and physically tired since I put up hay in Wyoming.
     I have to tell about the hotel we stayed in:  The Hotel Posada.  There were four rooms attached in two duplexes.  Wayne and I had a room with two double beds and so we used one to put all our luggage on.  There was a TV and air conditioning and screens on the windows. The beds were a little stiff, just a mattress in a wooden frame.  The funny thing about the beds was that the owner made the bed with the top sheet upside down.  The sheets had a lacey top which she carefully aligned with the bottom edge of the mattress.  Then up at the top she folded the bottom of the sheet like it was a bedspread, and then put the pillows on top.  We sprayed the room with permethrine and slept well. Annalee and Leeann both had bites on their legs the next day probably from fleas or flies.  The shower was a cold flow of water - no spray at all and was slightly above cold.  We took the fastest showers we could.  The toilet plugged up twice in three days.  The property where the hotel was located was surrounded by farms each of which had roosters.  One morning I woke up to the first of endless cock-a-doodle-dos and asked Wayne what time it was:  3:10 am!  That night after a hard days work we came home to a revival meeting next door.  They had preaching and singing and even a band.  Finally at 10:00 we heard the final "Hallelujah!,"  we were glad to join in for the final "Amen," and finallywent to sleep.
     Just one more thing.  On the Last day in Telemann, we were lucky to be there when a choir from Utah came.  It was made up of about 30 people;  men and women old and young.  About 12 had served missions in Guatemala, 7 had sung in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  The one whose brainchild this choir was had served a mission in Guatemala and then went to BYU where he majored in linguistics and music.  He decided to work on translating some Mormon hymns into Kekchi, the language many of the people of Guatemala speak, and then touring Guatemala and sharing the best-loved Mormon hymns with them.   The church was already creating a hymnbook in Kekchi, so it was icing on the cake when the choir performed in Telemann and then presented this new hymnbook to the District President.  The music was beautiful! There was a sweet reverence even though they sang in the City Municipal Center with open walls in the middle of the crowded town.  The people were drawn to the music and probably surprised to hear Americans singing their language.  By the end of the show all the seats were filled, and people were standing all along the edges.  One "tender mercy" was that it did not rain during the singing, which would have been disastrous because the roof of the building was corrugated tin.  If it had rained, as it usually does every evening, it would have been impossible to hear the music.  As we were leaving the show and walking to Pollo Express, it started to rain loud and hard.


Andrea said...

Awesome update! So good to hear from word the jungle.

What a challenge it must be to try and meet the needs of everyone who needs help, knowing it can't be done. What a blessing you are to the people of Guatemala.

We love and miss you!

Jennifer said...

The video clip worked for us! I loved seeing the little girls up front following the conductor and trying to lead. Just like my girls thousands of miles away;-) I love reading your blog post. You are such adventurers! It makes me so excited for you. I am so glad you saved that poor girls smile!!! LOVE YOU! said...

Elder y Hermana Wilcox, Finally took time to find and read your blog. Was so fascinating to hear of your adventures. The Lord's work is done is so many different ways. I feel so grateful for your sacrifices and example. Know the Lord is blessing you. Rosie Jasso returned from NY NY. Gave great reports. She had a great mission and served in difficult circumstances. The stake is holding. We are calling 4 new members to the High Council. Bro Puefua moved to Utah; Bro Tevaga needed to be in the Ward. Umberto and Ilsa Cuello are moving to Seal Beach and Alma Mills is finally moving to the West side. Stake conference is in two weeks. Trying to get all the spots filled. Kristie will be teaching seminary as Sally's work is too demanding at present. Martha Kendall continues for another year. She is a marvel. We miss Jen and Michael. Haven't settled on Michael's replacement yet.The Summer YSA conference was a great success. Merle Fox was called as counselor in YSA Branch. Our prayers are with and for you. Thank you for you service. Warmest personal regards. Larry & Kristie Larsen