It continues to rain here on Day 4, but Day 3 was Sunday and we had a little break from the rain. Five of us headed to the border of Mexico on five bikes we keep in Belize. Nothing fancy, just single speed wide wheels, but that means it takes an hour and a half to go up the slight grade and back to Mexico, about 14 miles, but what a glorious sunset appears at 6 AM as you ride back to town. Here is a picture of Tony’s last year, so you can see what a huge difference there is this year.
The Construction team worked more on the church addition that we will all go and see in place of morning devotions on Tuesday morning for our last work day. We will have devotions there on site and then disperse to our various locations for surgery and construction and villages.
The Surgery Team had another great day and transformed many scared faces to happy faces on departure from surgery. The patients here do not expect to have a painless recovery and they are very patient and grateful no matter how delayed their surgery schedule is during the day. The Surgery Team is full of a lot of new people this year, and it is incredible to see how they have bonded and formed a strong team in these few days. The local support has been tremendous from the hospital staff.
The Village Team had quite the adventure. General Schwartzkoff said that “no battle plan ever survives a battle.” We knew we had a long ride to Chunox Village which is out to the East along a beautiful lagoon and Sarteneja, which is a seaside village way up on a north east point of Belize. So the plan was to send two vans with eight people on each of the two Village Teams to get things set up. Then the four vans with 18 translators and the balance of our Village, Dental, and Physical Therapy Teams would follow behind. The advance teams left at 7:45, slightly behind schedule and the remainder at 8:15 AM.
The advance team made it onto the first ferry that is a hand crank ferry crossing the New River. This is just a few miles south of the hotel on a road that is not on most maps but is the artery feeding all the villages of Chunox, Copper Bank, Progresso, Sarteneja, and Little Belize. The advance team made it on the ferry with both vans and started across the river. Suddenly the crank started moving the other direction as the ferry staff informed us a surgar cane barge was coming and they had to return the ferry and drop the 2 inch diameter steel cable in the water for the cane barge to pass. This only happens once every two days or so with no warning. We felt privileged to see a tug boat pulling the three barges, but it did delay us. Then there was the mud. We mentioned the rain, but these roads can be muddy on the edges and our 15 passenger vans with big truck carriages have rear wheel drive. We got the first van hopelessly stuck in the mud. We tried to push it out to no avail. We had to use the second van to push the first van out of the mud bumper to bumper. It took two tries and of course we risked damaging the vans, but we made it out and miraculously no scrapes on the bumpers.
The advance team made it to the first turn and went right, passing through Progresso going South and then circling around the edge of Little Belize which is a Mennonite Settlement (one of three in Belize) and then on into Chunox. This ended up taking over two hours. We left the one advance team in Chunox (pronounce chewNosh) and headed another 45 minutes up a continually bumpy, mud plaqued road, crossing back and forth and picking a safe passage to Sartenaja.
We set up in Sartenja, but now it was 11 AM and the follow behind team of four vans got lost at the first turn past the ferry. They drove into Copper Bank, and picked up a lady who said she would ride them all the way to Chunox and even Sarteneja. So the backtracked to the turn and showed up in Chunox at 11 and 11:45 in Sarteneja. While this may seem discouraging, and that few patients could be seen in a day that had to end at 4 PM in Sarteneja and 4:30 in Chunox as the teams reversed and collected each other as they exited, the day was very fruitful. There were hundreds of patients seen and any number of life changing discoveries. Several cases would have been referred right to the emergency room back home. Like the young man that did not think he was all that very sick, but in fact may have tuberculosis. The team sent him to the hospital for a TB test. Another older man just wanted an inhaler. But, when we required that he come for an evaluation, he clearly had a life threatening medical situation. His whole family was there to learn how to help and love on him. We were touched by the family support that runs deep for this grandfather and so many others. We were glad we could be there in Chunox and Sarteneja.