The One About Pop Wuj

Two weeks down, two weeks to go in Xela, so I guess it’s about time that I talk about my school here!

I chose this school relatively arbitrarily off of a list of programs my medical school already supported, and I’m so, so glad I did. My school, Pop Wuj, has been fantastic and exactly what I needed to learn medicine and Spanish simultaneously.

My afternoons are jam-packed with Spanish. Each day from 2-6 PM, I receive one-on-one language tutoring, which is fantastic, because my learning is tailored to my specific needs. Typically, we spend an hour on grammar, an hour on medical vocabulary, and the remaining time either reading Spanish stories aloud or conversing. I’m probably a really difficult student, because I tend to be pretty shy at baseline, so when you add in the constant struggle of a foreign language, I’m not super talkative. Regardless, I’ve been learning a ton and I can barely imagine where my Spanish will be in two more weeks!

My mornings, however, are way more fun. On Mondays and Thursdays, we have medical lectures on tropical disease, nutrition, or other common problems in Guatemala, while the other mornings are dedicated to clinic.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, we run clinic at our school. It’s a free clinic, and patients line up even before 7 AM to secure an appointment with the doctors. The clinic is set up and runs similarly to those in the US, but operates on donated medicines from an American NGO, so when the medicines run out, it’s time for Plan B. Students are responsible for triage (taking vital signs and getting a basic history) and consults (the actual patient visit) with the help of two Guatemalan physicians who are actually around the same age as me! I have to apologize for not having pictures of the school clinic yet… it’s a busy place!

This Wednesday, I traveled to mobile clinic in “Alaska.” Okay, so obviously, I didn’t really hop on a microbus to Alaska (would I even be there yet?), but that is the nickname of a small community called Xeabaj that was forced to rebuild its entire community after a hurricane several years ago:

Again, the poverty was palpable; we traveled down bumpy, dusty, motion-sickness-inducing roads to the middle of nowhere and held our clinic in a one-room concrete building:

...I'm not really sure why we left ONE chair in the middle of the room.

…I’m not really sure why we left ONE chair in the middle of the room.

Here, we’re limited in medications (we were forced to prescribe an antibiotic that doesn’t cover skin bacteria super well for an abscess!) and privacy (lacking the ability to perform a pelvic exam, we had to treat a woman for both urinary tract infection and vaginitis). Working at a safety net hospital in the US sometimes feels like working with few resources, but this experience has been an incredible reminder that much can be accomplished with even less!

All in all, I was really proud of myself this week: I was able to get through all of my visits (along with my pediatric resident partner) with our intermediate Spanish levels. I’m confident by the end of my time here, I will feel confident enough to carry out a full visit on my own in Spanish. Mission (hopefully) accomplished!
Until then,