Sunday, May 26, 2013

The longest post EVER - el último viernes, sábado, y domingo

This blog post is coming a bit late due to a combination of spotty internet along with a busy schedule that doesn't leave too much time for writing. But I am determined to keep up with daily documentation! I've come this far so I have to keep up! Thus, this will also be the LONGEST post ever...just a fair warning!

Friday was our second day at Hospital General and our final day in the hospitals here. Mary actually went with Ryan to CRIQ (another physical therapy campus through the university) and Nanci couldn't stay with us for the day because she had to go to the Corregidora campus for other classwork so I was flying sola with the nursing students. Nanci stayed long enough to get the students situated on their floors and with their nurses and then she had to take off. At first, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do - I've never been in the "clinical professor" role! I sat down and realized I didn't have my book with me to pass the time so I played some Fun Run on my phone (practice mode only since there wasn't any internet access) then headed to the emergency department to observe. I saw Marcos from the previous day but he was busy with documentation so I didn't bother him. I was shocked to see some of the same patients still there from Thursday, but I guess with a hospital at full capacity there isn't anywhere else to have those in critical condition stay. Mary later reported this even happens in the U.S., though, so perhaps my shock was unwarranted - goes to show how I need more clinical experience still. After spending some time circling the unit and scanning some charting (so amazing how I can just pick up any and every patient chart here), I made rounds on the floors to check on the students.

Heather and Sarah went off their unit for a break and I joined them. We sat outside eating our granola bars and talking about how their day has gone so far. When I told them I was able to observe in the emergency department for a while, they asked if they could just do a walk-through to see what it's like. When I agreed to take them there, I was NOT expecting a paparazzi / celebrity-like, response from the staff! We had only made it about halfway around the unit when we got pulled into the middle of the pathway by Marcos and another nurse asking to take our picture. There were patients all around us, just staring as they were lying in their beds, so I said okay while crossing my fingers it would only take a second. However, what followed was a steady stream of various nurses and doctors jumping in and handing people their phones or cameras to snap a shot with the gringa enfermeras (us). There we were, just standing in the middle of the emergency room with patients all around us, with staff taking 10 minutes to get at least 50 photos with us. While we were flattered, it was also somewhat embarrassing. After thanking us, one of the physicians told us the department chief wanted to meet us so we shook hands with him and explained what we were doing for our May term in Querétaro. I'm almost positive the reason we got so much attention was because Heather and Sarah are super cute blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls :)

I brought them back to the unit and made some more rounds with the other floors. Hannah and Ellie B. were sitting at the desk with their nurses and Elli M. and Katie had paired up together with one nurse to help care for a very critical patient. When I went back to Sarah and Heather, one of the nurses gave them supplies to do a curación (cleaning) for a recent double-amputee post-op patient on one of his incision site so I stayed to assist them. We ended up not only cleaning his surgical site but we also changed his dressing, gown, and bed linens. I loved being able to converse with the patient in Spanish (even though he was slightly sedated) and provide direct patient care. When we finished, the patient's son thanked us for helping his father, which felt so rewarding. After we washing our hands, it was time to leave so the group gathered back together and caught the UAQ van that took us back to campus.

That afternoon Elli M., Ryan, and Katie came back with Mary and me. While they only intended on staying long enough to change their clothes and head downtown, they ended up staying for lunch and then we all played Euchre for hours. They helped us plow through some of the dinner leftovers and once everyone was full, we sat down on the patio upstairs outside and Mary brought out the cards. I hadn't played Euchre since high school so I was more than just a little rusty (along with Ryan) and the others had to walk me through the rules and strategies. It took a few rounds but eventually I got back into the groove and partnered with Mary against Katie and Elli M. They won the first game but Mary and I beat them in the second one. We'll have to go for the best two out of three in the airport or something on our way home!

Bob and Maria are the people who own the house and apartment that Mary has rented and stayed in the past two years for this May term. However, they have since stopped doing long-term rentals for their properties because Maria was diagnosed with cancer and has been undergoing treatment. Due to the extensive work that goes into short-term rentals, they switched to long-term and were unable to have a place for us to rent this year. However, Mary has developed a close relationship with them over the years. They invited us over to their house (as they do for Mary each year) so Friday evening went over to their casa for drinks and appetizers. It was only a few minutes from downtown and our casa so we walked on over. Their home is gorgeous! When they let us inside we stepped into their large and open entryway that led straight into the courtyard, where there was a table set up with lots of food. Maria said Bob makes a mean margartita, and with that description how could I not accept one? (She was right, by the way.) We sat and chatted about our time in Mexico, how Bob and Maria have sold their home in West Virginia and settled in Querétaro completely, a little about myself, how Mary and her husband have been doing, etc. It was so peaceful to relax and sit around the table, casually talking while the sun began to set and with a wonderfully cool breeze. Maria gave me a tour of the house, which they had renovated and re-designed when they bought it years ago. It was absolutely beautiful with original stone walls (it used to be a convent), a very Mexican / Spanish-inspired kitchen with lots of colors and tiling, high ceilings, and just lots of open space. Mary and I had such a great time catching up with them and I'm so happy they invited me to come along with Mary for the visit.

Later that night I met up with some students and their host siblings in La Plaza de Armas. First we headed to a bar and had some beers to commemorate our last Friday night here in Mexico. Afterward, Elli M. and Sarah headed home for the night while Katie, Hannah, Ryan, his host brother Alex, and I went to La Mulata for some dancing. While we ladies were surprisingly let in for free, the boys were charged 120 pesos each! If we had known they'd have to pay so much we wouldn't have gone in, but they have separate entrances for males and females so we didn't even see each other and find out they paid so much until we were already inside. Unfortunately, the music for the night wasn't very interesting and there were tables spread across the dance floor with people sitting. We stayed until about 2am and were kind of disappointed with how the night turned out. We officially decided last week at Barra Habana where we went salsa dancing was the highlight of our time experiencing night life here in Querétaro.


Saturday was a very long but very fun day. We started off by meeting at the university at 8am and were happily greeted by a giant luxury bus. Mary had been fighting all week for us to get a larger bus for today since our trip would require lots of time in it (nearly four hours each way) so we didn't want to get stuck with the small minivans and economy vans we've been regularly getting here. Her advocacy definitely paid off and we all gladly settled in the big, comfy, plush seats in preparation for the ride. The Mexican students that came with our group included Sindy (with Heather), Alex (with Ryan), Eduardo (with Hannah and Katie), Mini (with Elli M.), Esme and her family - husband Hugo, daughters Pili and Carol (with Sarah and Ellie B.), Nanci, and Nanci's friend Sandy. It was a big group!  In preparation for the long, winding drive through the mountains, I took TWO Dramamine tabs as prophylaxis for my motion sickness before we drove off.

Our first stop was about two and a half hours away, into the Sierra Gorda to see las grutas de Los Herrera (the Herrera caves). There was a huge parking lot with a small cafetería that held baños (at a cost of 5 pesos to use...) as well as a bunch of swings and little huts with grills for picnics along the hillside. On the other side of a metal bridge that crossed over the entrance into the caves, there was also a small playground. Mary bought the tickets and everyone enjoyed the (cold!) hour-long tour through the caves, where we walked through 7 different "rooms" and our tour guide pointed out fun figures that the rocks have formed that give each room a different name. Despite people all around me talking, I loved listening to the quiet of being underground - it was very peaceful. After we finished our tour and took a serious amount of group photos, we hung around the area a bit and played on swings, walked around the hillside, and just enjoyed being outside and looking around at all the surrounding mountains.The weather was wonderfully cool with clouds blocking the scorching sun and a constant breeze that even prompted me to keep my long-sleeve zipup jacket on. Such a difference from the city where I'm always sweating! I was very content with the change :)

We drove a few minutes down the road to the extremely hilly town of San Joaquín for lunch. Mary intended on having us eat at a restaurant they went to last year called El Burrito but it was closed when we arrived and we couldn't figure out when (or if) it would open later that day. We walked back down and up some hills in search of a restaurant to have lunch, which turned out to be way more of a challenge than we anticipated, considering everywhere we looked either only served breakfast (no thanks) or wasn't open at all. Finally, some of the students went on a search and discovered a great restaurant called El Torito that had well-priced food. I'd been craving some good old American food lately so I ordered a hamburger and French fries and was SOOOO glad I did because it was DELICIOUS (and cheap at only 30 pesos = approximately $3 USD). I wasn't even the least bit ashamed to eat the whole thing!

It was a good thing we ate to our fill because our next destination required lots of energy for hiking. We had been planning on going to see some nearby waterfalls called Cascadas Maravillas about a half hour's drive away. However, we ran into a bit of a problem when we found out our large and luxurious bus wouldn't be able to make it through the winding roads to the town we needed to go to. After Nanci did some talking to locals, Mary decided to have us take two pickup trucks to the town - with us riding in the back! It wasn't like we were just sitting in the back cross-legged and hanging on for dear life, though. The trucks were obviously meant to hold people since they had benches on each side and railings to hold onto during the ride. I think this made us all feel a little better and more confident jumping in the back...a little. The ride to the town turned out to be awesome, though! It was actually COLD for us to ride in back (again, a nice and welcome change in my opinion) and we were able to see the most gorgeous views of the mountains and clouds. I didn't feel unsafe at any point of the ride :)

We ran into another small hitch when we got to the town, though. There was a rope strung across the street and people at a hut demanding money for entrance. We hadn't been told about this so we were all a little wary and thought back to when some random person charged us 3 pesos each at Bernal to use the bathroom - I had later gone back and nobody tried to get me to pay, pretty much confirming our suspicion that the bathroom was actually public for anyone's free use. Anyway, Mary paid for everyone nonetheless and we actually received very official looking tickets so this was probably a different situation. Probably. The drivers made a stop at the top of a hill which turned out to be the beginning of a very long 2-km walk down to the falls. Luckily the clouds kept things cool, but my quads were screaming after 20 minutes of constant contraction as I walked downhill. The signs said it would only take a half hour, and I didn't time it, but I'm almost positive it took longer (45 minutes? An hour?) than that to make it to the waterfalls. Once we reached them, though, it was well worth it - it was so pretty! The water was crystal clear and Hugo and Esme said it was super clean because it came from so far up the mountain. Some people walked down further where there was a manmade pool with filled with water from the falls and jumped in (I didn't join them). They said that while it was freezing cold, it was also very refreshing and clean. We spent a good chunk of time enjoying the falls, dipping our toes or fingers in the water, and taking photos in effort to capture the beautiful scenery. The walk back up was PAINFUL (more so than the walk down) and I'm just grateful my calves didn't cramp up at any time during the hour-long trek back up to the top. Heather, Ellie B., Hannah and I had left a little before the others because we knew it'd be quite the hike and wanted to take it slowly with plenty of breaks along the way. The clouds kept us nicely covered and shaded even though we were dripping sweat anyway. I can't imagine what it would be like to try to hike down and up underneath a scorching sun! I'm so glad we didn't have to find out. We made it up before the rest of the group with little Pili, Eduardo, and Nanci quickly following. As the rest of the group trekked up the last upward stretch of hill, Pili began shouting the encouraging words, "Sí, se puede!" which means "Yes, you can!" It was so cute and I think everyone brightened up a little with that!

After everyone made it back up (some of the Mexicans even did so in their jeans, sweaters, and layers of clothing = impressive) and our legs were officially shaking and / or like Jello, we piled back in the pickups for the ride back. It was a good thing we were in the back of those trucks because we all needed to cool off AND air out (we all completely sweated through our clothes) before getting back on the bus for the three-hour drive back to Querétaro. I'm almost certain everyone fell asleep at once and stayed that way for the remainder of the ride (I know I did). My legs were so stiff after sitting and lying in the same position sleeping for three hours that I'm really surprised I made it off the bus at all.

Mary and I walked back to our house and concluded that we were both starving since we hadn't eaten since our lunch in San Joaquín, before we had burned off all our lunch calories and then some hiking to and from the waterfalls. Without even bothering to shower or change clothes (at least for me, since Mary ended up putting on a different shirt), we walked downtown to a nice Italian restaurant called Di Vino that she had gone to last year and raved about. We each ordered a well-deserved glass of wine, a pasta entreé (gnocchi for me and ravioli for Mary), and crème brûlée with fresh fruit. It was hands down the BEST meal I've had thus far, though this could be somewhat skewed since I was famished from our long day of travel and the strenuous hike from earlier that day... We walked home completely stuffed (we joked about having to be "rolled outta the restaurant" from ingesting so much food), each took showers, and then crashed into our beds for the night.

All in all, well-enjoyed day :)


Today (Sunday) was a VERY welcomed day of sleeping, after our busy and energy-filled Saturday. I didn't wake up once during the night and slept until 9:30am - a full nine and a half hours of solid sleep! Montse and I had made plans to go to San Vicente, a nearby town about 30 minutes away that specialized in leather goods, to do some shopping. She had said she'd pick me up around 11am but called me in the morning to switch it to 1:30p. I later found out that she switched the time because she went out to breakfast with her boyfriend, another nurse, when he got off work :) Mary originally wasn't planning on going with us, but when the time switched, she (and Jonathon, the other professor from school, who flew in just this morning) decided to come along. Montse picked us all up and we drove to her house, where we met up with her sister, Abby, and Abby's boyfriend, Alan. We then piled into Alan's car (Montse, Mary, Jonathon and I squished in the back) and made the drive to San Joaquín. We stayed for a couple of hours, browsing the shops filled to the brim with purses, boots, jackets, wallets, and other items made from leather. Mary bought a pair of soft leather gloves for only 12 pesos but eventually decided against some of the beautiful jackets she tried on. I found a bag that I liked but couldn't justify the price (or suitcase space!) so I left empty handed. Jonathon, Mary, and I did try some homemade ice cream from a street cart with the flavor piñón (pine nut), which sounds kind of gross but was actually REALLY good. Montse enjoyed an elote with chili powder and cheese on it, which I tried and found tasty.

Alan dropped Jonathon, Mary, and me off in the downtown area so we could confirm our reservation for our final group dinner tomorrow at the Fin de Siglo restaurant. We then went across the street and I bought a bag of Mexican "Gloria" caramel candies to that I'd tried at Bob and Maria's to bring home. Afterward, we decided to eat dinner at the American time of 6pm and went to San Miguelito (the third time going there for me...). We walked around after we finished eating in search of a Día de Los Muertos figurine for Mary but to no avail. We also were disappointed on our walk back home when we wanted to take Jonathon to our favorite panadería for some daily galletas (cookies) and found it closed for the day :(

The rest of the evening was spent writing this WHOLE blog post on the patio, doing some laundry, and basically taking things nice and easy on this relaxed, last Sunday here in Mexico. Tomorrow Nanci is going to teach us how to make traditional Mexican medicines during the morning / afternoon and then we are having our final dinner with the students and their host families along with Bob and Maria, Montse and Keta, and Ruth and Angel. I can't believe we are really in our last days - it feels like we JUST got here! While I'm sad to leave and am going to have a difficult time saying goodbye in a few days, I must say that I am looking forward to going back home to Husband and enjoying a beautiful Michigan summer filled with beach days, settling in our new rental home, running, catching up with friends, and starting up my job doing nursing research at school. Let's just hope summer doesn't go by too fast!

Thanks for staying with me during that doozy of a post. I'm hoping my next one won't include a summary of more than one day and be so extensive!

Hasta luego :)

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