For all my love of wild places, I’ve never been in an equatorial jungle…until today. As we drove south to Chiquimulilla from Guatemala City, the temperature and humidity crept up and we shed jackets, cardigans, long pants and socks. With the change in climate came a change in vegetation. Sugar cane, coffee plants, and banana trees replaced the pines and corn that are so prevalent in the north. Spices like cardamom thrive down here, and I bought a bag of the most wild looking fruit I had ever seen from a young boy on the road. The air is damp, heavy and smells of plants and soil; everyone has a “sheen” to them, and you move a little slower. I started to wilt until I was reminded to drink a lot more water than usual which helped immensely.
We stayed with long-time friends of Nancy’s, Dennis and Sari. They live in a compound that they open up to a variety of groups from health care professionals, like ourselves, to more traditional missionary groups. For me, to stay in a place like this was like a dream….the dream had some scary bits, but a dream nonetheless. The main gathering spaces of the compound were open to air….three walls and a corrugated metal roof and one side open to the outdoors. Our individual rooms were typical 4-walled rooms with a door, but all the other spaces were an indoor/outdoor combo. For example, to get to a bathroom you had to walk outside (under a roofed corridor) to either another building or another part of the compound. And they had THE BEST shower ever here. There is no hot running water, which initially freaked me out, but when its 90+ degrees with 90%+ humidity, you don’t exactly miss it. The shower here is sufficiently indoor/outdoor enough that you feel like you are showering out in the open in the jungle but really you have a decent amount of privacy. The jungle tucks you in on one side, and painted murals on the low walls create an air of whimsy on the others, and it is heavenly. It was also here in Chiquimulilla that I first tasted hibiscus tea. It is a deep jewel red and can be served hot or cold. The taste is hard to describe, but a sweeter, planty version of cranberry juice sort of maybe gets close. Bottom line, its delicious.
Our purpose for going to Chiquimulilla was to conduct a focus group with as many local midwives as would come talk to us and answer our questions. It was possible no one would show up. Instead, 8 midwives took a day off work, traveled many miles in the heat and humidity and very likely had to pay for transportation…all to sit down and share their experiences, their needs and their wants with us. After the focus group, we met with a local nurse from the Ministry of Health. Both these meetings resulted in a wealth of information that will help us tailor our future trainings to the unique needs of this community.
Our meetings ended mid-afternoon. Knowing my love of the ocean, Nancy planned a brief trip to the beach to round out our day. It’s about a 15 minute drive from Chiqui to where you catch the boat to Monterrico. It’s another 15 minute walk through Montericco until you get to the black sand beach where the waves crashing ashore last made landfall on some of the most remote South Pacific islands in the world.
This was my favorite part of our trip, so I have a lot to say about it. Tune in tomorrow for Day 6 Part 2: Boats in the Jungle