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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dreams of Brighter Days

The music here is just wonderful. And it seems to come from everywhere. Walk around any village and you will hear it coming from multiple houses or floating across the valley. I've long been a fan of reggae/Caribbean music, but have never seen it up close as a way of life, of coping, of dreaming, of having fun. I was walking from the ferry to the Leeward bus stop to come home this evening and at one point a man walking nearby randomly sings out just one line of a common song. I am going to miss so much about this experience, this place, and the music is high on the list. 

This song has been one of the most frequently heard. It's by a couple of Jamaican artists and it's so darn catchy! I hope you like it, too.

But I am getting ahead of myself - and I am so behind on the blog! Let's see, last time we left off after scubadiving...that takes us to Walliabou!

Sunday, April 12, 2015
Some of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed here in SVG. Walliabou is one of the locations. In particular I know the early scene where they are about to hang Captain Jack on the pier was filmed there. Things look a little different now! 

It can be hard to get a van on Sundays as so many drivers take off. Shamin and I decided to give it a try and head further leeward to check out the movie set and a small waterfall park we heard about. As we started to head up to the gap, we found one of our new friends waiting for us. We met John Friday night and he is full of energy. The three of us got a van for $5EC pretty close to the site. We walked down to the beach and I could not believe the movie had ever been there. Apparently much of the set was destroyed in some flooding and a hurricane. Plus I am hearing conflicting reports on whether the government removed some of it or whether or not they just didn't do a good job protecting it. Either way, it's a shame that this site wasn't better preserved to be a tourist spot. 

Yes, this is pretty much it.

Building remains

After we spent a few minutes on the beach, we left just as a vanload of people were arriving to be baptized. We started toward the waterfall park. We didn't make it back to the main road though before a man came out of a building and started talking to us. This is a very common occurrence. He entreated us to come inside his building and that we would be surprised. This is a moment I probably would not have investigated if we weren't with a local! But we go inside this non-nondescript building and find a bar that is...well, surprising. The man said he goes by Shadow. He served in the US military and then came back home to retire a few years before the filmed Pirates. He had lots of photos and displays about the movie. There were also bras and caps decorating the place! Apparently at night it turns into a dance club and if you dance on the bar you leave something. We found SVG's Coyote Ugly. After listening to some reggae and hearing his thoughts on the government (they were critical) and hearing about how he is off the grid (he solar charges batteries to run his place and gleefully said he runs as much power as he wants with no connection to the government), we said goodbye to go to the park. 
The Shadow knows.

This was a small park that has a water feature, lots of shade, small cafe. It is free to residents and only $5EC for us. It was a nice oasis and we were the only visitors. At one point the employee was taking a nap, so everyone was relaxed! We walked around and John pointed out some different trees and picked us some cocoa. You can eat the sweet fruit off the seeds, but grinding up the seeds is how you get chocolate. 
Lizards everywhere!

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Cocoa in its natural form.

Underwater shot.

SVG selfie!

While we were relaxing I got a chance to read a local paper. Very interesting and always good insight into a community. There was also an article about the Cuban partnership to use a drug to treat foot ulcers caused by diabetes. We went to a meeting presenting this new offering on our very first day. 

We were super glad John was with us when he got a friend to pick us up to head home. We had waited for a van quite a while and Shamin had to get back to town to catch the ferry to Bequia. Thanks to his help, it went smoothly! It was a good day!

Monday, April 14, 2015
It's Monday and clinic time! I headed back to Barrouallie. I was able to participate in part of the wound clinic. Patients come to the local clinics to get their wound dressings changed. I saw a guy who had dropped a brick on his foot a couple weeks before and now had a massive wound. It looked so painful. Sr Allen had me take a photo, but I will spare you from it. 

Next I observed one of the Community Health Associates. She (I didn't write her name down and it has now escaped me) was doing foot care for diabetic patients. She cleaned and trimmed toenails, oiled and massaged the lower legs. It looked like a pretty nice treatment! There is no podiatrist in SVG, so you can imagine how important this preventive care is for diabetic patients.

The rest of the clinic I spent wrangling 4 year olds. We were doing a bunch of physicals so they could get checked out and start school in the fall. I did quite a few eye exams and it's a challenge in this age - you have to keep their attention while you go through the chart with both eyes and then each eye individually. And there was a lot of distracting activity in the clinic. I was tired for sure when finished!

After clinic I stopped for some groceries and then headed home. The walking, the sun and the children wear me out! :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Sr Allen had meetings and it is such an event to go to town and get the ferry to Bequia that I instead took the day to stay home, do schoolwork and job hunt. Unfortunately the internet was up and down, but I got a few things done. 

There was also a nice rainstorm. We hit several days in a row where there was more rain, but most of the day is clear. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 
Today I got to go to clinic near home in Questelles! Sr Allen and I met at the local primary school and did physicals on the 6th graders. This is a requirement before they can go into secondary school. 

We set up in a computer room on the second floor of the school. She took the mattress from the office and placed it on a table. Sr Allen brings her otoscope and other supplies. The students are all very polite and a little nervous. I try to reassure them they are just getting an exam and no shots! Sr Allen and I took turns. I would do an exam while she charted hers and vice versa. 

Circumcision is not the norm here. Part of the exam included checking for phimosis which is when the foreskin doesn't retract. A couple of the boys only had a very small opening just large enough to urinate through. If this conditions continues, they will eventually require surgery. You can also do stretching exercises and steroid creams in the early stages. Doesn't sound too comfortable though. 

It was nice to have a clinical experience so close to home and to see what the school was like. The kids meet in their homeroom at the start of the day and they sing their prayers. There is definitely no separation of church and state here. Very different! All the students also wear uniforms whether it's a public or private school. I think it makes them look sharp.

As hot as it is the kids wear multiple layers. Most wear a white tank top (which they call 'vest') under their shirt and the girls all wear 'tights' (which are actually like hot pants) under their jumpers, plus a white button-down shirt. All the layers done seem to bother them and the tights let the girls be active in their skirts. 

Inside a classroom. No kid pics as I couldn't get parental permission.

One side of the school. The two buildings are separated by this courtyard.
 Most of the kids were very healthy. A few had asthma or eczema. A few had a lot of ear wax. I did lots of teaching about eating fruits and veggies as well as brushing your teeth and how to care for your ears. It was a good day!

I'm going to sign off now. It's getting late and I have my last clinic day tomorrow!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Stop - SCUBA time!

Friday, April 10, 2015
Before fun, there is work! That is actually why I am here, right? Today I got a van at 'the gap' (this is the name of the little area in Questelles where the petrol station and van stop are) and headed to clinic in...Vermont! The clinic here is the only one I have been to that has a name different than the village. This one is called Retreat. I didn't take a pic of the building as there was no name painted on it. 

Oh, and stepping back to Layou, I forgot to tell you about my impromptu diabetes education. When I arrived at the clinic, the staff nurse was surprised to see me and know that Sr Allen was coming. She actually called Sr Allen to see if she should start her end of the clinic or not. She usually does vital signs and get blood glucose readings. I have met no one that has a glucose meter at home. The patients come into the clinic once in a while to get it checked. Anyway, she was concerned that patients would just leave after she got their readings and not wait for Sr Allen. So Sr Allen gets on the phone with me and tells me to go to the waiting room and do a diabetes education session with everyone! Um, ok! Sure, I know all the stuff backwards and forwards, but here I am in front of a group of strangers with cultural barriers. But I sucked it up and went out to talk to them. I introduced myself and told them we were going to talk about diabetes. I started by asking questions and initially got blank looks. Slowly they started having an exchange with me. We were connecting! We talked about the different problems caused by high blood sugar and everyone said they knew someone with partial limb loss or other damage caused by diabetes. It was going really well! They seemed interested and not just like - who is this white woman and why is she talking to us. Partway through my 'talk' Sr Allen arrived and joined in. We talked about healthy eating, exercise and more. Then it was time for clinic!

Ok, back to the present...or at least the day I was talking about. In Vermont we were to do an asthma clinic. I arrived before Sr Allen (this usually happens in part because I pad a lot of time in case I get lost or it takes a while to get a van). An older woman who was on the van with me showed me where the clinic was - as I said there was no sign. 

Vermont is the most tropical area I have seen so far and has a river running through it. In 2013 there was a devastating flood and some of the bridges are still being rebuilt. 

It started raining and since the nurse had not arrived to open the clinic, the patients and I took shelter under a couple building's awnings. 
Part of the village of Vermont

I don't know the river's name.

So pretty and wild.

When Sr Allen arrived, it turned out no asthma patients had arrived yet. So we did another impromptu education session in the waiting room. There is no HIPPA here. Sr Allen just asks people - who here has diabetes and who has hypertension? What she actually says is roughly 'who has de sugar or de pressure or de both'? People just raise their hands or share verbally. Privacy does not seem to be a concern, which makes sense when you live in a place where everyone knows everyone. I don't imagine there are many secrets here.

After talking to the patients in the waiting room for a while, some asthma patients arrived and we started clinic. We saw an older woman with well controlled asthma and several children. Most were well controlled, some less so, but almost everyone was using their inhalers incorrectly. Most people are using both their long and short acting inhalers only as needed - which does not work for long acting. Most of the kids also had improper technique. We did assessments on each patient and took a lot of time doing teaching and inhaler demos. A young schoolteacher in Questelles had actually died at home from an asthma attack the week before and Sr Allen used this example to stress how important it was to carry your inhaler and use it properly. 

Apparently a local past-time is burning stuff in your yard and this is difficult for many asthma patients. Fortunately there is little other air pollution here. 

After I got home from clinic I took a little nap and waited for Shamin to arrive from Kingstown. She came onto the mainland to finish her dive certification and did part of it Friday. The plan was for me to go into Kingstown with her Saturday and dive some as well. 

After she arrived, we headed up to 'the gap' to check out the local scene. There are several bars and a pool hall that I had not been brave enough to check out on my own. So we went to get some beer and meet some locals. 

We attract so much attention being white. Almost everyone seems to want to meet us and say Hi. Some are more shy and you see them glancing looks and listening to our conversation. But everyone is completely friendly. We bought a beer and then went to stand outside and chat. Brief rain would pop up time to time and everyone just moves inside. Later we headed down to the pool hall which has one pool table. Tat, the owner, is friend's with my landlord and she also serves foods like sweet potatoes and yams. 

I haven't played pool in so long and was not as good at it as I am at dominoes. :) And it didn't help that I attracted an admirer that was staring and getting too close to me. The other patrons told him to back off, but he was too intoxicated to reason. I didn't feel physically threatened at all, but it was not a pleasant experience. A nice young man named Ziggy tried to intervene, to no avail. Thankfully he eventually passed out sitting on the bench and was no longer a problem. After he passed out, the owner Tat then put white pool chalk on his face to get him back for how he treated me! It was so funny! We also met John Asquith, saw Marcos 'Melody' one of the men that helped me get the van to Layou, met a guy called Black who works at the market here, and met a tall rasta guy called Heavy D. Heavy D turns out to be a huge Duke basketball fan and made Shamin and me give him our autograph. He was so excited to meet someone from Duke! I have a surprise for him next time I see him - I'm going to give him the Duke basketball shirt I got at the game I attended. We also met a musician who plays reggae and calypso who said he was big in Germany in the 70s and 80s. So many characters! It was a fun night! We walked home in the dark with no street lights and Ziggy escorted us home.
Shamin, John Asquith and me

My would be paramour unconscious, Ziggy, Shamin and me
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Time to get our scuba on again! What an amazing time! I did a short dive with Shamin and her instructor, Dave from Indigo Dive, and then hung out on the boat while she did some skills checkoffs. After that and an appropriate 'surface time', the three of us did a dive of about 45 minutes to about 50 feet. It was just such an experience. I can't imagine walking on the moon could be better. It's like being on a beautiful alien planet. I got to 'hold' an arrowhead crab (which is spider-like because it's thin), saw lionfish (an invasive species), a lobster, schools of small fish, and lots of coral and seaweed. So fantastic! Here come a lot of pics as I had such a hard time picking my favorites.
International dive flag.

We dive at Turtle Cove. There are no turtles though.

Clear water!

Instructor Dave asking us if we are ok!
Dave and Shamin

Dave and the arrowhead crab.

Arrowhead crab and me.
I don't know what any of this is called. :) Do you?

That fish at the top looks Photoshopped.

Shamin and Dave practicing 'buddy breathing'.
Back on the boat for a break.

Back for the second dive!

Dave relaxing.

Hiding lionfish.


Right after this last picture, Dave offered to take a pic of all of us, but my camera battery had died. :( Maybe next time!

After diving, we made our way by van back to Kingstown and walked around for a bit. There was outdoor music from the gospel festival. We also stopped by the grocery store. 

Then we headed back to Questelles. We went upstairs to my landlord Smoker's place. He is called Smoker because is a lightening fast football (aka soccer) star. He used to play all around the Caribbean and other places and was named Saint Vincent's best player. He is a super nice guy. We went to get his advice about getting a van to the set of Pirates of the Caribbean the next day. Getting a van on Sunday can be tricky as a lot of drivers take the day off. 

I was surprised to find our new friend Black had been by to bring me some fruit! The bananas are usually only available at the local market a couple days a week and I had talked to him about trying to get some soon. He surprised me with a gift of bananas, two papayas and a bunch of limes. How nice and what a great way to end the day! 
Yummers! Thanks to my new friend!
Next post - Pirates of the Caribbean set and waterfall!

I hope you are enjoying my posts! Please feel free to post in the comments if you have questions or would like to hear anything in particular about the culture here!