Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Odds and... well just odds

I'm ushering in a new world on our couch right now. It's a world where Stephan is acquainted with social websites. We've established some of his statistics on Facebook, and have started reviewing the lists and lists and lists of available friends for us to make. He's thrilled, and by thrilled I mean sitting there with his head in his hands begging me to go with him to the bar.

Join us! I'm under Anna Koruba on Facebook, and I'd love to be your friend. Stephan uses my account (are you surprised?), so all photos/ information/ communication for both of us go there.

Yes, we can go to the bar now.

After I tell them one more thing. Today we tried to jump right back into triathlon training by swimming/biking/running a half sprint triathlon. 1/4 mile swim, 7.5 mile bike, 1.6 mile run. We didn't make it, and I was not happy by the end. So we went to the grocery store to look for Midol (sorry Mom & Dad). I ran to the pharmaceutical aisle, Stephan to the feminine products aisle which was located between cat food and paper towels. Well, world, I was in the wrong aisle. As Stephan walked toward me I, in my delusional state, said, "you were right."

You'd have thought he won the lottery. He found the first store clerk he could find to announce proudly that, "Larry, you wouldn't believe the words that just came out of my wife's mouth. Are you ready? You're standing up. Get a chair, you might faint. Are you ready? She said, I was right." My girlfriend happened to be standing there and heard this. She turned to me and said, "Wow, you're getting weak huh?".

I guess it's time to Cowgirl up. To the barMr. Slave.

Monday, July 28, 2008

From His Side

Me: Stephan, what do you want to say to our adoring fans?

Him: I hate your cat.

Me: [can't type, laughing too hard] Come on, something better.

Him: The thing you forgot to tell them about the trip to Ingomar was that it lowered my blood pressure. For the first time since puberty my blood pressure was below the normal 120/80. This basically means that keeping me from camping is actually a death sentence. What do you say to that?

Me: [insert dramatic eye roll]

Him: Wanna ask me if my life insurance is paid up?

Me: You really think it was the camping, and not just the distance in miles away from anything resembling work?

Him: Nope. It was the camping. A scientific certainty. Apart from the blood pressure thing, did you tell everybody that we're going to start a ranch this fall? Or, as I like to call it, the geriatric 4-H program.

Me: I keep forgetting about that on purpose. What about it?

Him: After we register our brand we'll buy three impregnated cows, care for them through the winter, help them calve, fatten up their offspring, and hopefully sell them off in the fall for a little money.

Me: Our backyard isn't big enough, and I don't think the dogs want to share our bed.

Him: They're not pets. They'll stay at Fuzz's, he's a bachelor, there's room in his bed.

Me: Ok, I'm tired. Bedtime.

Him: I still hate your cat.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weekend Plans

We spent the weekend at a rodeo and camping in the tiny town of Ingomar, Montana. It's actually smaller than Plevna, which amazed us. The town has no running water, and only one outhouse per gender. Seriously. No bathrooms. No hotels. No school. One bar, a small shop (don't ask me about the $150 sweater), and a rodeo arena.

My overall impression of the experience was that it was dusty. Very dusty. The first time I got to look in a mirror I noticed there was dirt in all the creases of my body, neck, elbows, eyes. My eyes watered mostly the whole time, tracing clear paths of skin down my dust-covered cheeks. What I saw of the rodeo was really neat. The street-fest afterwards was cool, since we'd camped in the center of town and the live music was fantastic.

The only thing this town is known for is the bar, the Jersey Lilly. It's historic, literally, on the list of Historic Locations in Montana. The food was pretty good, the drinks were cheap, the fights were broken up quickly, and the peanuts were free. The baked beans have been written about in various food journals, and a Google search will give you plenty of information.

I'm hitting a wall trying to write more about it, so you'll just have to check out the photos on Flickr. Me, out.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Overheard: At the Computer

Him: Uh, there's something wrong with the quilting story.

Me: What?

Him: There's no mention of the super hero.

Me: Super hero?

Him: The husband who selflessly gave up sleep and a happy wife for a whole weekend. The man who, despite his rough and ready tendencies, took up needle and thread, and quilting pins, and batting and binding to save the day.

Me: Uh huh. Do you want me to blog about this right now?

Him: Oh, no no no. Don't tell the world how wonderful I am. Let me suffer in silence.

Me: Uh huh.

Friday, July 25, 2008


I love my friends!! Here are some photos of the finished quilt!!

I'm gonna be busy this weekend putting together an article (or maybe two!) about the Honduras trip! If anyone has any suggestions for what I should include, let me know.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Making a Bee-Line

Sorry, cheesy title. Yes, I made a quilt. I started Thursday night when I made Stephan cut all the pieces I needed. Friday night I started making squares, Saturday was filled with quilting from start to finish. Sunday I drove a beer cart for a few hours and came home and crashed. Monday morning I worked from 6 am - 11am, then again until 11pm that night. Tuesday was D-day, so I quickly decided on a pattern for the squares, sewed them together, and dragged the quilt top into work to beg for advice. Tuesday night was intense. We squared up the top, measured the back and the batting, then pinned it. Stephan was a great help through all of this, and he didn't even yell once.

I sewed some quilting lines in to keep the three layers together for the plane rides, then we left the house at 12:30am. The rest of the quilting was done in spurts at Aunt Chris's house, as was ironing and sewing on the border. I wish I had a photo of the finished product. It looks really great with the purple border on it- less like an ice-cream. It matches Luci's room perfectly. And the best part about it is that I have enough fabric left over to make one more square for myself to remember it by!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"... and grapes since these are gross."

So... 12 days may be a new record for my avoidance of anything internet-related. Of course you had plenty to read over and over about Honduras. There were a few more stories in there about my first ride on a 4-wheeler, Stephan's cow-watering duties for three mornings in a row, and how his underwear ended up in the neighbors' front lawn as I tried diligently to put the laundry on the line in 60-mile-per-hour gusting wind.

But, I was quilting. Yes! Me! Quilting! Photos will follow. the quilt was gifted to my new Goddaughter, Lucienne Rose who was born on the Fourth of July (cue Oliver Stone). She's beautiful. Perfect? As Pete, the dad, said, "better than most," and I have to agree.

We safely got to and from Ohio this weekend, photos to follow. We're home now, safely (did I say that already, Mom?). Stephan works the next three days in a row so we can go to a rodeo and watch our friend fight bulls. I've got tons to talk about, but even more laundry than I could imagine.

And if you do stop at the grocery store, you should get grapes, since these are gross.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Weather and Stuff

So, yeah, the weather in Southeast Montana continues to baffle me. It's hot. Really hot. Stephan's folks bought us a kick butt air conditioner to help cool the house and it's working wonderfully (though I'm scared for the electric bill next month). I take the dogs to the lake as often as possible to try to convince Besa that the water will help her not want to die. But, alas, I do not have Stephan's strength to shove her off the end of a pier.

And, since you asked, my soon-to-be Goddaughter was born on the 4th of July (isn't there a song like that?)! She weighed 8lbs... something and was a few inches long, or so, I wasn't paying attention. I was just SO happy that everyone was healthy, kicking, yelling, eating, and very happy. We're off to Ohio next week (can you believe it?) for the baptism.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Honduras: Stephan's Story

I asked Stephan recently what he thought of the trip, of Global Medical Brigades, and the whole situation in Honduras in general. We had a pretty long discussion and what follows is a summary (since he won't type, and refuses to tell me about it all again).

Overall he thought the program we were a part of was pretty solid. Since it was run by Hondurans who know what the communities need it was straight-up helpful. They seemed to have the system worked out very well. They get energetic college students to do a lot of the fundraising and volunteer-gathering. The program appeals to students studying pre-med, public health, Spanish, and international development. It's a great resume builder, and a short enough time commitment to be accessible to many students.

Once in-country they have American Students pretty well figured out. Transportation was foolproof, we were never allowed out on our own. The dorms we were staying in were very clean with running water, and protected by gates. We were fed often with food that was just local enough to know we weren't in Kansas anymore, without being so foreign as to cause complaints. They provided access to beer, wine, souvenirs, cute orphans, fresh towels and laundry, and a chance to hang out at the end of the day.

Obviously, the entire program could be run a lot cheaper if the help didn't come from so far away, with such elaborate living arrangements. Granted, if the locals Hondurans were helping out the American donations wouldn't be nearly enough to cover the operating costs. It's a trade off. But when you think about it, the medical program is simply plugging a hole that the government can't fill. It's stopping the bleeding without addressing the cause of the injury in the first place.

Recently, Global Medical Brigades and the Sociadad Amigos de los Ninoa have started to expand into true development work- affecting the long-term sustainability of the communities they're working in- with projects like building stoves in smaller villages and educating children at Flor Azul (a working farm that teaches boys 12-19 business skills, English, and gets them through high school).

Both Stephan and I are very impressed with the amazing amount of wonderful work they're doing down there. We would recommend the GMB program to anyone who asks about it, and feel that the time and money we put together was very well needed, and put to very good use.

Stephan also tells me that I've written everything there is to write about our trip, and that I should go back to talking about steer-riding and rodeos. If you have any more questions please feel free to comment on the blog or email me. Again, the photos can be found here and the GMB website is here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Honduras: What We Did There Story

Day 1: Arrive after traveling for 21 hours. Sleep. Eat dinner. Pack Meds.

Packing Meds: There were dozens of suitcases filled with all different types of medicines and creams and vitamins. We spread out signs on tables around the room for Antibiotics, Antiparasitics, GI, Heart, Asthma/Allergies, Pain Relief, Vitamins, Topicals, and Donations. All the medicine bottles were stacked on tables, under tables, near tables, etc.

Yeah! Done! No? Oh.

Medicines then had to be grouped in grocery store bags by generic name and amount. The 400mg Albendazole had to be separated from the 200mg Albendazole from the 200mg Metformin. 2-4 people each took charge of one type of medicine. The sorting seemed to go quickly.

Yeah! Done! No? Oh.

Next we had to sort medicines by dose. Cue the little sandwich baggies. My first experience with this was working in the vitamin area. For vitamins we poured 30 vitamins into a little baggie, sealed it, then wrote the name (adult vitamins, children's vitamins, prenatal vitamins) in Spanish the expiration date, and the directions (take one pill every day for 30 days) in Spanish ("Tome una pastilla cada dia para 30 dias"). Rinse. Repeat. For the first Brigade we needed 400 baggies of children's vitamins and 300 adult vitamins.

Some of the instructions were more complicated, "chew two pills after eating when you have stomach pain," "take 2 pills every 4-6 hours as needed for pain." After all this was done the little baggies got put back into the grocery store bags, labeled, and shoved back into the suitcases. The suitcases were labeled with what type of drug they held, and then loaded up onto the back of a truck.

Yeah! Done! Yes! Bedtime = 12:30am

6:30am the next day was breakfast. We left on the bus at 7am, arrived at the site at 9am.

I already explained triage - the job I did where we asked what their symptoms were and if they had any allergies. We sent the kids under 12 to be weighed (many medicine doses depend on your weight), and those over 35 to get their blood pressure taken.

They left triage and waited in the line to be seen by the doctors. We had two doctors and Stephan doing physical exams. I was too busy to see much of that process, but it involved very few actual procedures. Sometimes Doc Mike would take ear wax out of ears, or redress a wound, or clean out a sore. Mostly, though, they just looked the person over, and the docs would write on their papers what the diagnosis was, and which medicines they needed. The first day the docs spent about 2-3 minutes with each patient. And you thought American healthcare was fast!!

They left the doctors to wait in line at the pharmacy. This is where most of the kids who didn't speak Spanish were hanging out. They'd get all the papers from one family and start filling the prescriptions. Each patient had their own grocery store bag with their diagnosis/prescription paper in it. The bag would get filled with vitamins, tylenol, antiparasitics, whatever the docs had written down... as far as it could be read. There was lots of running around, running into things and people, and asking the pharmacist just what was needed in particular situations.

That first day I know we ran out of adult vitamins. I'm sure we ran out of other stuff too. That was hard. How do you tell a mom that we're out of children's tylenol and have nothing else to treat her baby's fever? It would be another month before another brigade came through if they were lucky. Sometimes the pharmacy was a sad place to be. We would throw in some donated items when they were appropriate (toothbrushes to people with toothaches, sweaters to babies who were sick, combs to people with lice).

Once the whole family's bags were ready to go the pharmacist or another person who spoke Spanish (one other student that I know of) would go out, find the family, and explain each and every medicine to whoever it was for, or whoever in the family would understand.

Yeah! Done! Yes! We left that site about 4pm and packed more meds that night. Rinse repeat, two more times, as needed.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Honduras: Hardest Day of my Life Story

The second day of the trip was our first "brigade". I'll get more into the details of how things worked later. Lots of people are asking me what I thought of the whole experience and the story of my first day pretty much sums it up.

I had assumed that I'd be working as a massage therapist who happened to speak some Spanish. We arrived at Santa Rosa #1 about 9am and immediately had to divide into teams. The first team needed to speak Spanish fluently, as they would be doing triage/intakes. I looked around for people to volunteer for this job. One girl did, but no one else. I didn't think I spoke Spanish well enough to do this, but since no one else claimed to speak it at all, I tentatively raised my hand.

We sat side-by-side at a short desk with two pens and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Our job was to greet people, take their forms from them and ask them a series of questions.

1. Are you allergic to any medicines?
(1. Esta alergico a alguinas medicinas?)

2. Are you currently taking any medication?
(2. Esta tomando medicinas ahora?)

*3. Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
(3. Esta embarazada or dando de mamar?)

*Asked to every women between the ages of 12 and 60

4. What are your symptoms? What do you have?
(4. Cual es sus sintomas? Que tiene?)

The first woman approached me and I gave her a big smile. She sat, I took the paper. I asked her the first question. She stared at me. I asked again. She said yes. I asked which medicines she was allergic to. She stared at me. I wanted to cry. I called "Pichi" over to me (he's a helper with GMB who is native to Honduras). He asked her the allergy question 4 more times before she understood it. And, no, she didn't have any allergies to medicines.

She then began rattling off her symptoms in words that I could swear were Dutch because I didn't recognize a single one of them. In my ear Pichi began translating for me: cough, cold, headache, bellyache, hair going away...

I got through the first hour with Pichi speaking in my ear. I wrote in a small purple notebook every word that I didn't know (cough = tos, cold = gripe, headache = dolor de cerebro, stomach ache = dolor de panza, etc.). Sometimes Pichi would get frustrated and grab the pen from me, lean over to the notebook and in bold letters write a word and its translation. He left after a while, rolling his eyes.

We worked for 3 hours in a row. Sometimes it would be only one person in front of me, sometimes one mom with 8 kids. Each person had their own form and their own list of symptoms. The line never stopped. I spoke to about 150 people between 9am and noon. Finally someone told me to take a break, it was lunch. Everyone cleared out of the room- the volunteers walked to the pharmacy for sandwiches. I stayed behind in the large classroom.

And I cried, and cried, and cried. My Spanish wasn't good enough to do this. There were so many people still outside the gate. So many sick people. So many sick babies. So many pregnant women, young women, fevers, colds, coughs, parasites, poverty. So many smiling children. So many toothless old men and women. All their faces rushed past my eyes even when they were closed. We had a whole afternoon left to go. I wanted to quit. I wanted to get out of there, go somewhere air conditioned and not so humid. I felt like I was failing, not good enough, just guessing at the translations. What was I doing here??

Then the break was over. I looked down at the journal I was writing in- the only words I'd managed to print out were the list of swear words that I kept repeating over and over. I thought the day would never end.

Despite totally freaking out in a way I'd never known possible I still made sure to wave and give a gigantic smile to every person who walked in the door. I'm guessing it was 375 people who spoke to me that day. I smiled at every one of them, and gave them my full attention. It was nice to see the nervousness melt away when they saw a smile. They looked so scared, unsure of what was about to happen. But a smile is international, and the only thing I felt I could truly give them.

When the day was over I crawled into my seat on the bus and wanted to just sleep, or cry, or get drunk. I did all three that night, and got up and did the same thing for the next two days. I never really felt comfortable with the language, but I wasn't as tired the second or third day. Am I glad I did it? Oh yes. Wow, yeah. It's always nice to find yourself completely outside your comfort zone rocking it out... or at least getting by.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Honduras: The Luggage Story

Everyone gathered at a downtown apartment to load up all the medicines and supplies into empty suitcases at 8pm the night we left. We had a 50lb weight limit per checked bag. Arriving at the airport we realized that a scale at the apartment would have been a good idea. We spent about 30 minutes rearranging the weight in each large bag. In the end, everyone checked 1 or 2 bags, all full of supplies. There were two more smaller bags that were checked containing the large liquids of people traveling (since TSA doesn't allow more than 3oz of liquid to be carried on, things like shampoo, lotion, bug spray were in the checked bags).

(Do you see where this is heading yet?)

We arrived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras without any problems. We had just one more flight to get to Tegucigalpa. The small plane had 2 propellers, and not much of a luggage hold. Many bags were stacked against the door to the cockpit. It was a rough journey, lots of bumps. We arrived at Tegucigalpa in one piece. Yippie! We waited for the little luggage carousel to drop off the bags... and some were there.

Six were not. What was missing? A suitcase of vitamins, orthopedic supplies, and one of the small bags with liquids. Stephan and I personally lost shampoo, bug spray, razors, his pocket knife, and a $250 water purifier. Ours was also the bag full of orthopedic supplies like ankle casts, walking casts, shoulder splints, and large amounts of disinfectant.

Last we heard no one knew the whereabouts of the luggage. If you're reading this from Honduras, we'll pay the shipping. Please send our stuff back.


HERE are just 48 of the more than 100 photos I took on the trip. Stephan told me that if I took more than 200 I wasn't paying enough attention to living in the moment. So this is what you get.

The kids on the trip are promising to gather their photos in one place and I'll post that place as soon as I can find it.

We're home!