Guatemala Welcomes the Alpha Team
Saturday morning, the Guatemala team reconvened, and all had the shared question on their mind of “When will this start to feel real?” After months of fundraising and learning in preparation, the time for our medical service trip was finally here.
Suitcases and medical supplies were unloaded into a Regis University classroom, instructions were given, and the packing frenzy began. Pharmaceuticals, triage equipment, dental supplies, glasses and a whole bunch of burbujas (bubbles) were tucked away until we had 31 suitcases labeled, ribboned and lined up to go. Everything was packed in record timing, and the students had time to bond over Noshery coffee before we made our way to the airport. We also had to say goodbye to one of our team members at RU who did not receive medical clearance to join us this year. I know I speak for the entire team when I say that we will be carrying her in our thoughts on this journey, and using her positive energy to drive us. She will always be a part of the Regis University’s Guatemala Alpha Team.
Things were smooth sailing at DIA. The kind man who checked us in ignored the at times over 50 pound bags, and even allowed them all on the flight free of charge. A bottle of lotion and a can of bug spray were our only casualties through security.
After a brief flight to LA, we were reunited with Dr. Richard, our internal medicine doc who lives there. The time at LAX was tiring as we waited for our red-eye flight that took off at midnight, but everyone was in great spirits as they received their schedules for clinic rotations, played cards, and chowed on açaí bowls.
It was easier for some to sleep on the flight than others, but all of that was forgotten when we made our descent into Guatemala City. We were met with a sunrise of shades of blue, purple and pink, towering volcanoes, and slope-side villages. The excitement was really starting to set in.
Everyone made it through the passport check easily, but we hit a little bump in the road at customs. Every year, if something is going to go wrong, this is where we expect it. Three of the team were selected to put their checked luggage through scanners, and one of them was pulled aside. After a brief (slightly nerve-wracking) interrogation where they were asked “Why do you go to college?” and “Why are you bringing pharmacy medication when it says you are here for “tourism?”, we were through the airport and on the bus.
The four and a half hour ride was filled with joyful energy. Ricky DJed everything from classics like Bohemian Rhapsody, to mariachi and Spanish pop songs. Monse and Anakaren sang along with every word, and Kateri danced beside them. Kate, Tumi and Keanna competed to see who could get the best nap in despite the bumpy roads and loud singing. Zoe and Kye were engaged in a deep conversation with the Rabbi for the entire trip. Lorenzo was consistently called out for giving sass about the ridiculous things people said and did, to which he responded that he just has an RBF. Kelley read her philosophy textbook, and admired the mountains and chaos around her.
When we arrived at Cuidad de la Esparanza, bags were unloaded and clinic set up began. Dr. Richard’s clinic was placed in a room near the school, while pharmacy, triage and Dr. Lauri’s pediatric clinic were put in the new clinic building that is halfway built. Tables and chairs were shuffled around all over the community to create waiting areas, storage for meds, and examination areas for blood pressure and blood sugar. As the sun went down, we drove to the seminary in a 30 minute trip that should have taken 5 minutes. On the bright side, getting lost gave us a chance to see more of Coban.