Stepping off the airplane in Guatemala City, we were welcomed by a warm breeze, heavy with the perfume of tropical flowers. Over the next days, we made our way first to San Lucas Tolimán to meet up with our Guatemalan team-mates and then on to El Rodeo, the town we are teaching in this year. We had the opportunity to see a small portion of the incrediblebeauty and diversity of the country. Our route took us up through the highlands of cool pine forests, patchwork fields of vegetables and corn, and small towns clustered on ridges. Then we began to descend along a tortuous highway, through forests and across rivers. The air warmed and the vegetation became tropical. We passed through fields of food-bearing trees – bananas, coffee, cashew, and citrus – and clusters of houses almost hidden by crotons, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and datura trees.
El Rodeo, in the department of San Marcos, is in the foothills, halfway between the mountains and ocean. Tomorrow is the final day of training for the 28 participants in this week’s course. Our students are comadronas, the traditional birth attendants of the Maya people, and bomberos, the volunteer firefighters who also provide the local ambulance service. These students are bright and highly motivated. They learned surgical hand-washing as a way of preventing infection; prenatal care; how to identify the pregnant woman with risks who should not deliver at home; and the care of women during labor and delivery. We discussed, and practiced in great detail, the management of various complications during labor, including hemorrhage, convulsions, and shoulder dystocia (where the baby becomes stuck in the birth canal after its head is delivered). This is “hands-on” learning at its best.
Tomorrow we discuss emergency planning; we have already had great discussions between the comadronas and bomberos about improving communications and timing around emergency transport (there are two hospitals that people use here; one is one hour away, and the other is 1.5 hours away). Our final themes relate to contraception and breastfeeding.
We expect to have a similar number of students next week from other nearby villages. Stay tuned.
We’ve added some photos of our time in El Rodeo to Flickr–check them out!