Sunday, August 4, 2019

Nos Vemos Merida

Nos Vemos Merida

Thursday was my birthday! So I am now 23 years of age. Pretty crazy right? I worked with the Aline and Mildred in the morning at the dentist office. Due to the lack of a compressor, we only saw a couple patients for revisions and then just chatted. I was able to learn quite a bit about dentistry and the process of becoming a dentist in Mexico as well as develop friendships with both of them. Also, they were so kind as they brought some brownies and candles to celebrate my birthday! After a quick lunch, I went out with the social workers again and we visited a few more communities. It ended up being out last day and we gave out nearly 40 Days for Girls kits! In the evening, we did some birthday celebration as a group. First some of us went and got some corn and tostinachos for dinner. That was followed by cake! They bought a super good (but also extremely tough to cut) ice cream cake from Dairy Queen! Then we broke a piñata and danced! Everyone who helped me celebrate by birthday and who wished me a happy birthday honestly made my day. I felt so loved and I am extremely grateful for my friends and family. They are the best!

Friday was a day of mixed emotions! It was time for everyone to say goodbye to their projects and the people we have worked with during our stay in Merida. At the hospital, we saw a couple patients but ate some food and chatted since it was the last day for Mildred and I. It was unfortunate that the week I was there, the compressor decided to break. Nevertheless, it was a great learning experience to be able to work with Aline and Mildred every morning for the last week. I was able to take a nice big nap that afternoon before heading out to dinner. Going out and celebrating would have been fun for the last Friday night but I was so physically drained that it ended up being a relaxing evening for me.

On Saturday we went to the ruins of Uxmal! They were a little over an hour away and they were way interesting.  We decided to hire a guide there and he was full of information about the Mayan civilization and Uxmal. However, I learned that a guide isn't always for me because I got quite distracted wanting to wander off and take pics, so I only picked about half of what he said. Next to Uxmal, there was a chocolate museum, the same one as in Valladolid! We each bought a chocolate cookie (or two) that they are famous for. Upon returning to Merida, we had a late lunch the rested for a bit. For dinner, a group of us went to Los Trompos. They have incredible Al Pastor pizza so of course we had to get it. That was followed by some DQ and a walked to Paseo de Montejo for the Noche Mexicana. It was really neat, with lots of street vendors and live performers.

On Sunday we went to sacrament meeting at 9 then came home to pack. After finishing packing, a group of people went to explore some caves but I stayed in Merida. We chilled at the Holiday Inn Express pool and ordered in some Dominos. It was a relaxed last day but it was good. It was a bit sad saying bye to everyone. The good part is I know it is just a "see you later" as the majority of us will be at BYU next semester and we will see each other around. 

 Tostinachos on my birthday!
 The official badge
 The Great Pyramid at Uxmal
 View from the top of the Sun Pyramid
 More ruins
 Last dinner in Merida!
Merida by night. Bye!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Beginning of the End

Beginning of the End

Monday was the beginning of the last week of our time in Merida. I can't believe how fast time has flown, it is honestly insane! Anyways, I had the great opportunity to start working alongside a dentist this week. Her name is Aline Rojas and she works at the Maternal Hospital, which is where four other students already were so it's fun taking the bus with them in the morning. Also, there was a lady named Mildred with the dentist; she is a dental health promoter and was in the hospital for only three weeks. Aline and Mildred had me do lots of observing and learning the first day so that I would be able to help the rest of the week. Since it is a maternal hospital, all the patients are pregnant women, typically already in their third trimester. In the afternoon, I went with Kim, Maria and Jake to work with the social workers in the little communities and teach Days for Girls lessons. We were able to give out about 20 kits that day! 

Tuesday I started a little earlier than usual so that I could spend more time in the dentist office. Mildred had to help with the paper work she is usually in charge of, which is filling out a little chart of the teeth and taking notes of which teach are healthy and which ones have cavities. Aline then allowed to help a little bit with some of the cleaning and cavity filling. I basically just help the little vacuum tool in place and help the blue light to seal the fillings. It was still great though! I have never seen so many swollen and bleeding gums before in my life. Oral hygiene is not a very big priority in Mexico. Some of the women were seeing a dentist for only the first or second time in their lives. If was a bit sad but I am glad that the hospital there provides free treatment so the women during the pregnancy. I did not work in the afternoon so Jake and I went and got out last haircuts before heading home. In the evening, we went out for sushi at a place that does discounts on Tuesdays. It was delicious as usual and very fun as almost the whole group went! It was also very sweet because they informed the staff I was about to have a birthday so they brought me some ice cream with sweet sushi!... A big bummer later than evening as Jake left early! He had been feeling sick for about a week so he and his family decided it was best for him to just leave a week early.

Wednesday was another early day with the dentist. Everything was going great until we reached her last patient and halfway through the check up, the compressor broke, leaving us without any electronic tools. Luckily we were able to finish the check up but we had to turn away a patient because we didn't have the ability to fill her cavity. From the hospital, I went to a lunch with instructors from the community center I was working at the previous two weeks. They made some pretty good food then they were kind enough to also have a cake for me! The sang a birthday song then mashed my face into the cake (one of my favorite Mexican birthday traditions) hahaha! But there were two cakes so everyone was still able to eat some.

Los del centro de desarrollo eran muy amables y también animados para poder celebrar mi cumpleañps conmigo. La verdad son muy buenos ellos. Luego, fue muy padre tener la oportunidad de trabajar con una dentista y ver como hacen las cosas en Mexico. No es grande las diferencias pero si es un poco diferente. 

 Hospital Materno Infantil
 Working with Doctor Aline
 Birthday celebration, sushi style
La mordida!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

You Are the Gift

You are the Gift

Sharon Eubank gave an amazing devotional at BYU in Spring 2018. It is entitled "Turning enemies into Friends". It is very inspiring and touches a few different topics, including the opportunity to serve others by simply being friends and loving others as our brothers and sisters. It really touched my heart and changed my perspective a little bit on serving others. When it comes to service, I truly enjoy doing a big physical activity or buying something to donate to someone/some organization. It simply makes me feel warm and like I have made a difference. Though that is still a good thing to do, Sister Eubank really opened my eyes and made me realize it isn't the only way to serve.

I have been blessed to apply the principles and lessons she taught during my volunteer experience here in Mexico. Besides a few water filters (that were donated, I did not purchase), my service has been sharing my knowledge with kids and adults here in Merida and simply being there for people. The place where I have made the biggest impact and have been the biggest gift for people was in this last project I was assigned to in the Centro de Desarrollo Juvenil Melchor Ocampo. Though I thoroughly enjoyed helping with the PE/recreational classes and giving lessons on health topics, my favorite part was simply befriending the kids and doing my best to make sure everyone felt like they were loved and cared for. The kids took a few days to warm up to us but after a few days they were so loving. Arriving in the morning, many kids would run up to me and greet me with my name followed by a hug or high five. At break time, several kids would ask me to participate in games of hide-n-seek, tag or basketball. As we would play, one by one more kids would ask to join in on the fun. It was so pleasing to see the joy in the kids' faces as we would run around together.

I feel I especially made an impact on the lives of a few little girls. Two little girls, Adalis and Miriam, seeked me out later in the first week and we became instant friends. They both seeked lots of attention and wouldn't let me put them down once I picked them up. Often time I had them both in my arms for long periods of time. Ironically Miriam started out hitting and kicking my leg but ended up constantly in my arms. Adalis was a little angel. By the end of the second week, she was reminding me that we were best friends and she wanted to see me again next summer and she loved me a lot. It was tough saying goodbye to her, to say the least, as I grew to love her dearly. Another girl was Naty. I could tell she was a bit of an outcast as she seldom had friends to play with during the break time. I would take time to have conversations with her and invite her to participate in the games as often as I could. On the last day she wrote me a little note and gave me candies to remind me that we were also best friends and that although we may never see each other again, she will never forget me and the time we spent together. It also broke my heart a little to say goodbye to her.

Through this experience, I really do feel like I was the gift to these kids I was able to work with. Me being there for them and showing them love and care is better than anything I could have bought them. Me encanta trabajar con los niños y sentir sus espiritus tan dulces y inocentes. Estoy seguro que quiero trabajar con niños en mi carrera y ser dentista pediatra. Estoy muy animado ser un tio en Octubre y tener un sobrinito! Sé que lo voy a amar muchisimo.

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All the kids at the Center!
 Sisters, Ximena and Ariadna
 More of the great kids!
 We felt famous for a day haha
 Still going with pictures. Loving it!
Group B!
 Sunsets in Campeche along the main avenue
The Campeche Crew

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Que Lindos!

Que Lindos!

Monday was a great start to the week! Well for most of us. Jake wasn't feeling too hot so he stayed home and rested for the day. At the community center, I helped the PE teachers with a couple different basketball games. It is quite notable that kids here don't really know too much about basketball and they don't practice it either. However, most of the kids really enjoyed having a new experience with it! It rained quite a bit that evening so we ended up mostly relaxing that afternoon then went and found a yummy pizza joint for dinner.

Tuesday was a teaching day for us. Over the weekend, a bad storm hit the east side of Merida so most of the playground area for the kids (except the basketball court) was trashed for few days. So they asked us to prepare a lesson for the little kid groups on this day. It was a basic lesson about washing hands and eating healthy. However, the students at the hospital that though basic, the topic of washing hands is super important so many people here do not. We showed some videos and did some interactive games to get the kids moving. They seemed to be extra rowdy but it all worked out.... Tuesday was also Calvin's last day so he wanted to go to the zoo. A small group of us went. It was fun and I still enjoyed it the second time! Afterwards, he wanted to eat some sushi since we found a place that is 2 x 1 on Tuesdays. That was my second or third time at that restaurant so sushi is really growing on me hahaha. Calvin will sure be missed because of his fun and upbeat energy! He is such a stud but I am excited for him because he will be visiting his mission with his family so he left early for a good cause.

Wednesday was another fun day for us as Jake and I were in charge of organizing activities for each of the age groups. We had the little kids play a variation of tag and do a little obstacle course while the older kids played Knock-out (aka Lightning) and dodge ball. The kids really seemed to enjoy it and it was satisfying to see the kids laugh and have fun during games we organized and planned. On the bus ride home, we had a spontaneous dance party of the bus with the other volunteers from the community center. The bus driver probably thought we were a little crazy but it was way fun! After eating some lunch, Sawyer, Jake and I went to the temple and enjoyed a couple hours there. We left a little earlier than we had wanted to because our professor, Randy Page, was in town. He took us all to dinner as well as our coordinators, Linda and Leonor, from UBELONG. We had a wonderful dinner at a place called La Catrin, where we also watched a little light show!

Thursday Randy decided to join us at the community center to observe what we do to help out there. Thursday was a good day because we played with the kids in the morning then taught more classes after the break so he was able to see both sides of our project. The kids enjoyed another couple videos and even learned a dance on how to control and express emotions. Thursday was also our double duty day so in the afternoon we also went and visited some communities outside of Merida. However, due to weather and timing issues, we were unable to actually do any teaching. It worked out because we were then able to make it to dinner with Randy and the rest of the students once again.

El principio de la semana fue medio raro para mi. No sentía como mi mismo por que me faltaba muchas ganas de trabajar y estar con mis amigos que he hecho aquí. Sin embargo, gracias al ejercicio y el consuelo y ayuda que solo Dios brinda, solo duré así unos pocos días. Sé que el templo es un lugar donde se puede encontrar mucha paz y felicidad si lo pides.

 Classes with little Paris!
Group B!
 Merida Temple at sunset
 Restaurant La Catrin
 Tug-of-war (sporting my Iron Man pants)
My future adopted daughter, Adalis 💖

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Cursos de Verano

Cursos de Verano

Friday was a blast. It was probably my favorite work day thus far. It was three straight hours of playing/watching kids, laughing, running and just having an unforgettable experience. The community center put on a little superhero rally for the kids so many of them came dressed with a costume or shirt or hat that was superhero themed. The kids were then divided into 10 different groups and dispersed among five different games. We were manning the tug-o-war station and it was great! The kids would get tired pretty fast though because it was so hot outside! So we would have to do a couple rounds then take a water break then come back together and do another couple rounds. We as volunteers/leaders would jump in and help from time to time if one team was losing really bad. After the events, we all met under the shade in the back and awaited as they announced the scores of each team and the winners. I just had an amazing time playing with and helping kids. I made some cute little friends during the events! Little Miriam started the day kicking and hitting my legs for attention and we ended up as best friends as I would pick her up and swing her around. Then there was Adali, who from the start of the day would search me out and ask me to hold her. I just love working with kids and being able to interact with them. They are such simple and sweet spirits... Friday evening was a fun yet pretty relaxed night as a group of us went and saw "The Lion King" in English! It was honestly pretty great and I would recommend it to anyone, especially if they haven't watched the original in a while.

Saturday was a good day, though it didn't exactly turned out as expected. The original plan was to go to a water park just outside of the city and spend the morning there. However, we ended up taking the wrong bus (which was definitely my fault) and wound up at Progeso, the little beach town about 45 minutes north of Merida. Instead of figuring out a way back to the water park, we decided to spend the morning at the beach, which I think ended up being the better decision anyway. We rode on a little banana boat for a bit then just relaxed on the beach and in the water. A couple of us left a little early to go to a wedding reception while the rest stayed for lunch in Progreso. The wedding reception was in a little event house that even had a pool for the kids!! They served a couple different varieties of tacos and Coca-Cola for lunch so that was very satisfying. About halfway through the reception, a mariachi band arrived and started playing! I don't listen to a whole lot of mariachi music but I feel like that is a must at any wedding reception in Mexico. As we were about to leave, a lady from the hospital offered us a ride then as many amazing Mexicans would, she offered to take for ice cream. We gladly accepted (well maybe mostly I did, because I love ice cream hahaha). It was some very delicious and very fresh sherbet! The lady, Karla, then proceeded to give us a small tour of the close-by streets and we ended up in a beautiful park called Parque de las Americas. It had stone pillars with the names of countries from Canada to Chile carved into them. They also had a huge amphitheater (as seen below) where concerts and shows are often put on. We didn't walk around for too long before we were overtaken by some rain. Once back at the hostel, we met up with the rest of the group and just left to walk around Merida at night. Once the sun goes down, it really isn't that bad.

Sunday ended up being a pretty relaxing day. We went to the 9 a.m. services at the church and they even had a Young Single Adult class for us. The teachers were really inspiring and touched a few different topics. What really hit me was their analogy of turning on an old stove, the ones that use to use a little pilot flame. They made the point that on a mission, we feel the flame (of the spirit) super strong and feel invincible. But it is common to have that flame shrink, sometimes to the size of even that little pilot flame. It is important that we do all that we can to keep our flame bright and not just as a pilot flame. Church was followed by some card games and a nice little (actually quite long) nap. We left in the evening to a mall where we had previously found an ice skating rink. Upon arriving to the mall, we were actually pretty hungry so we got some sushi. Sushi isn't typically my go-to meal but this was some dang good sushi! By the time we finished, the mall wasn't going to be open for much longer so we walked through a few stores before heading home instead of ice skating. 

 Getting ready for the Superhero rally!
 Receiving Merida goodies
 Loving the kids!
 Wearing the Flash mask
 The Lion King!
 Riding a little banana boat on the Progreso beach
Parque de las Americas

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Day in the Life of a Global Health Intern

A Day in the Life of a Global Health Intern

Kim, Jake and I received a change of projects again this week. We were sent to the Centro Integral Juvenil, a youth center on the far east side of the city. Previously we have been working in the afternoon so it was nice to be switched in the morning. With that being said, here goes a play-by-play summary of my days while working in the centro juvenil.

5:45. a.m. - Wake up and get ready for a run. 

6:00 a.m.- Go on a run in the relatively cool Merida morning. Running on the streets this early in the morning is nice because they are super crowded yet. I typically go running with one or two other volunteers. 

6:30 a.m. - Return from the run. Get showered and clean up for the day.

7:00 a.m. - Breakfast time! Breakfast typically consists of eggs, toast, cereal and a variety of fruits. 

7:45 a.m. - Leave for the bus to the centro juvenil. It is about a 10 minute walk to our bus stop then we wait for a few minutes before the bus takes us on a 25 minutes drive. 

8:30 a.m. - We arrive at the centro and Jake and I go to the back field to help with the recreational and physical activities. There are four different age groups. We have a set of games with play with the younger two groups then a set of games we play with the older two groups. The kids love being outside and having the ability to run around for an hour. They are seriously the cutest little people!

9:50 a.m. - There is a 30 minute break for the kids to rest and eat a snack they bring from home or buy from a vendor outside of the school. This is a great time for us to also rest then talk and connect with the kids. So many of them are fascinated by the opportunity to talk with a white person and even learn a few words in English. 

10:20 a.m. - Jake and I continue or participation with the recreational activities. 
*On Thursdays this changes slightly. After the 9:50 break, we give health/nutrition lessons to the kids. This is a great opportunity for us. 

12:00 p.m. - The activities are done and we wait for the kids to be picked up by their parents. Once all the parents have arrived, we are able to take the bus home. By this time of the day the sun is pretty scorching hot. The big difference between the AZ heat and Yucatan heat is that it is always humid here. I would say the sun is stronger in AZ but the heat is more suffocating here due to the humidity.

1:30 p.m. - We arrive back to the hostel and eat a hardy lunch. The lunches are great because the cooks at this hostel provide us with a variety of dishes. This is a good time for a little bit of socializing with our friends and fellow volunteers who are at other centros or hospitals. 

2:30 p.m. - A nice nap is in order after a busy morning and yummy lunch. Once the nap is complete, I work on a little bit of homework and hang out for a bit around the hostel.

6:00 p.m. - Dinner time! On most days, we go in groups to local restaurants close by the hostel. This also includes a little bit of time to just walk around and explore the city.

11:00 p.m. - Bed time!

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 Playing kickball with the kids
 The branch of government we have been working alongside
 Working in the little community of Molas
 Gotta love a Torta de Pastor!
 Jake teaching kids about staying healthy
Mis niños! 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Celstun by Noon

Celestun by Noon

Friday was another solid day! Jake and I started the morning by going to find the family of one of his sister's converts. So a little bit of context here, Jake's sister served her mission here in Merida and one of her converts passed away. She wanted to send them a little gift so she had Jake pick something up. Therefore, we were acting as the delivery men. First we knocked on the wrong house and met a very friendly man who apparently thought we were missionaries. He let us in and we talked for a solid 15 minutes before it came up that we were in the wrong house. We eventually made it to the right house and were able to talk with the wife of the man who passed away. She and her son were still quite sensitive about the passing as it happened only a few weeks ago but her testimony is so strong. They are sealed in the temple so she knows they will be an eternal family. In the afternoon, we went and passed out more kits in the comunisarias Tamanche and Chabetkal. At night, a group of us went dancing! I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it but it ended up being a fun time! It was a lot of salsa dancing with just a little bit of reggaton.

Saturday was a day trip to Celestun, a stunning beach about two hours from Merida. Most of us were up pretty late the night before either dancing or watching movies. Therefore we ended up leaving around 11:30 and arrived for lunch. We spent a few hours at the beach and wandering around the little town. The beach was very calm, with absolutely no waves and very few tourists. There was also a pier where several men were fishing! The city was also very peaceful and not very big. It was refreshing to go to a small little town and not be at a beach or city where vendors are calling out from all sides. The ride home was then full of card games and group games.

On Sunday, we went to the 10 o'clock services at the church building right next to the Merida Temple. The members were very welcoming and seemed excited to have a group of gringos. Sunday was also Jake's birthday! We were originally going to go to Izamal, "The Yellow City", after church but no one really felt up to it as we were all pretty tired. We ended up just celebrating Jake's birthday. Perla and Kara went and picked up a couple cakes then Lily and I went and bought a piñata with candy. Before eating the cake, we ate dinner at Texas Roadhouse because Jake was really craving some good American food. We then sang him his birthday song and gave him his cake. We had him do the "mordida", which is taking a bite out of the cake. What he wasn't expecting was Lily and I smashing his face into the cake as one must do while celebrating a birthday in Mexico hahaha. He was thoroughly stunned to say the least but now he has been introduced to a small bit of the Mexican birthday tradition. 

 Celestun, a small coast town
 Part of the beach at Celestun
 If you zoom in, you can see Sawyer strolling along the beach
 Marquesita (it's like a crunchy crepe)
A nice American meal at Texas Roadhouse