- OMG BREAKFAST. I have NEVER seen so much food just for breakfast. Let alone so many options for vegetarian people! There were vegetable smoothies, fruit smoothies, yogurt, cereal, crepes, tacos, soup, 20 types of bread, and so much more! I have never feasted in my life that early in the morning as I did that day <3
- We spent Saturday just walking around, exploring Antigua! We had looked up places to go and sites to see before we had set out, and so we started the day by seeing the Santa Catalina Church and the San Francisco church. However, we soon became distracted and decided to just roam around aimlessly and see where our journey would lead us!
- It led us to a chocolate museum! There was actually some pretty cool things in the museum...it sold chocolate soap, chocolate shampoo, and even chocolate condoms! Ahh, the creative side of Guatemala never ceased to amaze me :)
- Next, we decided to go to the market. After much haggling with local street vendors, we got many goods to bring home to family and friends!
- Soon, it was time for dinner, and so we joined the rest of the group. We didn't have to worry too much about the quality of food and water here, so thankfully, our health was safe!
- While everyone else decided to go to a salsa bar, we decided to call it a day and go back to the hotel., where we packed for our departure the next day and got a good night's sleep!
LEAVING HOME TO GO HOME
SUNDAY MARCH 19TH
- WE GOT TO EAT BREAKFAST AGAIN. Enough said.
- We left for the airport in the bus, and we found out that Parth had lost his phone at the hotel, which was a real bummer. At the airport, it felt weird leaving the country, because this country gave us the feeling of a home away from home. The experiences we had with the people here were unforgettable, and some of these experiences you can only have with family. All in all, I wish we had a longer stay, but now, it was time to go. On the flight itself, I had to take Dramamine, and so I passed out for most of the flight. Same thing happened from Texas to New Jersey, but I was finally able to call my parents using data! Although I missed Guatemala, I felt comfortable being at home in New Jersey.
- Unfortunately, the journey was not over. I realized I had left my backpack filled with all the souvenirs I had bought at the EWR Airport, and so, my dad went back to the airport to claim my bag…I was so happy when it was found! It was a reminder of all things beautiful in Guatemala, from the people to nature to our tour guide, Guadelupe (Lupe!)
1. Based on the readings, lectures and observations during the course, please explain your insight into the sociocultural, economic, legal and political factors influencing healthcare delivery and practice in Guatemala.
Healthcare and delivery is severely based on the citizen's socioeconomic status. Although we read about it in the articles, it was amazing to see it occurring firsthand in the country. In the cities, you could tell the people had easy access to healthcare - there were pharmacies on almost every block, and hospitals every couple miles. Contrastingly, the people in the Mayan community had never seen a weighing scale. It is shocking to even imagine this divide, but unfortunately it exists, and that is due to sociocultural, economic, legal, and political factors. Many do not respect the ways of the Mayan indigenous community, thinking of them as inferior, unknowledgeable, and even incapable of success. However, being the community myself, I completely disagree. With the right access to education, these people can not only enlighten themselves of the issues surrounding health but also inform others around them. Simply put, with proper access comes proper health.
2. Based on the readings, lectures and observations, what are some of Guatemala’s health policy implications on issues of health equity and social justice?
What is interesting to see here is that Guatemala has a health care system that is functional and that can deliver. However, this healthcare system only delivers to those that can afford it. Through our readings, it can be claimed that the wealth distribution is VERY uneven, and this reflected in healthcare too. If a person is poor, he is not going to receive the same quality of care as the person next to him who has a chain of hotels in Guatemala City. What is even worse is that the quality of healthcare isn't dependent on wealth but also social status. The indigenous people are looked down upon in the country, so they too don’t receive the same quality of healthcare. Oftentimes, they receive no healthcare at all! I really believe the government should do something about this discrimination.
3. What similarities and differences do you see when comparing Guatemalan culture to your country of birth?
I was born in India but raised in America, and so I have many MANY comparisons to make! Guatemala, in terms of people, culture, and environment, is VERY similar to India. Most people walk, use a bike, or use rickshaws/Tuk-Tuks. The economy is heavily based on agriculture and tourism, as is Guatemala. Bargaining, the shops, the local versions of American fast food chains, all remind me of India. Some people in Guatemala, such as the people of AMA, remind me of America. These people were so kind, kind enough to take time out of their busy lives to make sure our stomachs were full. This is actually also a difference. I would say strangers in America are not as kind as they are in Guatemala. They care, yes, but not to the extent of pleasing others. The hospitality I experienced in Guatemala is unparalleled to anything I have experienced so far. Interestingly, one time, I was talking to Lupe on a bus ride about the seriousness of Mayan herbs, and she said that actually, many universities in Guatemala are taking the knowledge of Mayan healing very seriously, and thinking to use it alongside normal medicine. I find this interesting as even in the United States, people are going crazy over the healing properties of ginger, garlic, turmeric, and other spices, while I've known these spices as household items in the kitchen my entire life!
4. What was the greatest barrier/challenge related to this experience? How did you attempt to overcome the barrier/challenge?
For me, communication was the greatest barrier. I had almost no experience in speaking Spanish. I was afraid that this would hinder my experience before applying to the program, but in reality, it only made it more meaningful. I tried to overcome the barrier/challenge by speaking in Spanish as much as I could, and also by asking Lupe of what certain words meant. Through words such as "Quantos?", I was even able to successfully bargain in Spanish! I think, honestly, this is the best evidence of my "mastery" of the language. If you can bargain and bring an item down to less than 50 % of the price without even knowing the full range of the language, the possibilities are endless! I was very proud that day, and this motivated me to keep talking in Spanish, whether it was with the drivers or with the kids from the community. I still am trying to improve my Spanish, to the point where hopefully, I will be able to communicate with patients.
5. What did you learn about yourself as you interacted with the team and the Guatemalan people?
I learned gratefulness as I interacted with the team and the Guatemalan people. When you're in school, you get so swept up by the competitive nature of the environment around you that you lose sight and lose hope of the kindness that exists in the world. In Guatemala, a stranger will take time out to cook for another stranger. In Guatemala, I stranger will push you and keep encouraging you to take one more step a daunting hill, and if you're not feeling well, they'll give up whatever little whatever they have to make sure you feel better. Who does this? In our world, where can this kindness be found? Oftentimes, it is not even found in our own families. We have become so selfish that the condition of the person next to us does not even occur to us. Guatemala shredded all this pessimism. The kindness I have seen, the care, the friendly teasing, the family experience I have received on this trip is what I am grateful for. Friends will come and go, but the family we have bonded with in Guatemala will always stay with us. And so, I say thank you to every member of our team and the people of Guatemala for showing me what true kindness is, and to make sure I spread this kindness in the selfish world of ours so that the life of another beautiful soul may be enlightened!