Monday, June 4, 2012


Yesterday Joseph and I got home from an amazing trip to Roatan, Honduras.  My wonderful mom came and stayed with the kids - thank you, mom!!!! - so it was just the two of us.  We traveled with a group of LDS dentists to run a free clinic on the island, doing all kinds of dentistry from extractions to fillings to cleanings and root canals.  The video above was made 2 years ago, on the last trip this group organized.  It was an incredible week full of so many beautiful experiences - I'm not sure I have the words.  So I'm going to just type up my journal entry from Saturday morning, which I wrote @ day break, sitting on the beach looking out at the beautiful Caribbean Sea.  And of course insert lots and lots of pictures!!!

June 2, 2012
Our last morning on Roatan.  We have had an insanely busy week!  Up @ 5:30 for a run or yoga on the beach, breakfast @ 6, leave for the clinic by 6:30 to see patients by 7. 
Those sweet, beautiful people of the island were always waiting for us - anxious for the work we could do, but I'm sure dreading it as well -- dentistry is often uncomfortable!  :)  The young children sometimes come with a parent; sometimes come alone.  The middle aged usually show up early so they can still make it to work for the day.  The old people have a tired and care worn look to them, submissive as we extract teeth and they spit out the blood that fills their mouths.  We rush from one patient to the next, knowing there is no way we can see them all, that some will be turned away, hoping they can squeeze in to the next days' queue.

{The line outside the church when we arrived to work on Thursday}
 {Joseph doing triage the first day of clinic - we saw staff from our hotel and members of the branch on Monday, then Tues-Thurs was open to the public; Friday we saw a group of orphans and children from the 'Jungle School'}
 {Once they've been triaged and learned a little about our church and had a lesson in oral hygeine the patients sit in groups according to the work they need done}
{welcome to the clinic!  8 dentists and about 30 other people turned the sacrament meeting room into a mega dental operation with 9 operative chairs (some of those chairs were lounge chairs from the beach!), 5 hygeine chairs, and loads and loads of supplies bought by the drs or donated by supply companies}
{Here's each of the 8 dr.s with their assistants}
And the waiting - waiting for anesthetic to take effect.  I look into beautiful dark eyes fringed with thick long lashes - usually they hold questions.  How long will this take?  How painful will it be?  And also a trust that brings tears to my eyes.  These people with their trials and survival lives, their obvious striving to exist.  They lay down and open to my "abre" and wait patiently for whatever may come.  I wish I could speak to them, learn what gives them joy.  They must have joy to outweigh the hardness of life on the island.
{this is the 3rd time Joseph's twin, Jacob, has come to the clinic; their older brother Jared has come to assist twice - we were the newbies :)}
We leave the clinic between 1 and 2 -- that 12:00 stop time always comes and goes unheeded as Diana (one of our coordinators) announces, "We have 12 more patients!  Doctors!  Who can see another patient?"  By the time we leave our backs ache and our minds and emotions are numb.  Yesterday we closed the clinic to the public and served a group of orphans and Jungle School children who had taken a ferry over from the mainland.  Diana and the members of the church congregation here organized it -- the children visited a medical clinic, played on the beach, and were fed and housed by branch members Thursday, and we did their dental work Friday morning.  Some were cheerful and plucky, others were terrified, yet brave, tears silently making paths down their cheeks ("lo siento," as my own eyes fill with tears).  They were all beautiful.
{on Friday, after their dental work was done, the children went up to the basketball court to play soccer (cause that's what church basketball courts in Honduras are for), and wrote us thank you notes with the sidewalk chalk}
{the 8 drs and the children they treated on Friday}
{the whole clinic staff - 8 docs sure need a lot of help :) }

When clinic is done, we drive back along winding, pot-holed roads, passing islanders who ask for rides with their outstretched hands.  After a half hour of this we are back at West Bay, back to the paradise part of this tropical.

 {Jared & Jacob}
 {Our resort was smack in the middle of West Bay - SO beautiful!!!!!!}
 {hermanos muy guapos!}

{where is my super suit?!  Slightly nervous about my first 'open water' dive....}
Joseph and I are now certified scuba divers!  We dove every day of the last week - 2 dives Monday afternoon, 1 on Tuesday and 1 Wednesday afternoon finished our requirements for certification just in time for a night dive on Wednesday.  Then 2 more dives each on Thursday and Friday afternoons with Sloan and Amy (one of the other Drs and his wife who have a vacation home on the island, fully equipped with boat and enough scuba gear for about 10 divers).
 {Joseph, Jacob & Jared were super excited to bring home dinner thanks to Sloan's fishing spears... after our dives on Thursday Sloan took us through the Mangroves - we even caught sight of a baby crocodile!}
 {These pictures are from Amy's (Sloan's wife) and Marco's (dive instructor) cameras - I think we may need one of those cameras.....  I'm the diver in the top right w/ blue fins - Jake's wife Jenn is next to me.  Jenn and I decided we'd better be buddies because our husbands are too adventurous for us. :)  It worked out to the benefit of all!!!}
{We stopped here on this island - that's the whole island! - to rest between dives and wait the allotted time before heading down for our second dive on Thursday - this place was littered with conch shells.}
{Can you see all the broken up conch?  The storms hammer them up against this point.}
The Caribbean Sea is utterly amazing!  I wish I knew the names of all the creatures we saw - schools of bright blue fish that swim in formation, black fish with vibrant blue outlining fins, white with black stripes, yellow with black dots that looks like eyes at the back of their bodies.  Shirmp!  SOOO many varieties of shrimp!  The cleaner shrimp will climb on your hand and give you a manicure!  The white shrimp with red dots sit on the tip of coral and plants on the night dive.  The lobster and crab scuttle back into holes and crevices when you get too close.  We saw rays, eels, barracuda, flounder, grouper (Sloan got one spear fishing and we ate him up for dinner, along with lobster tail!), even a nurse shark - 4 or 5 feet long - making serpentine circles in a little grotto.  And I swam with a gorgeous turtle, maybe 2 feet in diameter, at about a 100 foot depth!  I was right behind him, could have touched the back of his shell if I'd just reached out.  But I didn't want to be too invasive. :)  This is, after all, his turf, and not mine!!!
 {On Friday we stopped at this gorgeous private beach & dock for our break between dives.  Jenn made friends with a little crab stow-a-way, and Joseph caught a bitty lobster}
 {we swam through 2 caves on our first dive Friday - that's the big photo up there of the school of fish.  The boys had a grand time spearing the lion fish - they aren't native to the Caribbean, and don't have any natural predators, so it's a kill-at-will kind of situation.  They rather enjoyed it, hunters and gatherers that they are.... :) }
{dinner at Sloan & Amy's!!  Grilled lobster tail and grouper caught an hour before - it doesn't get fresher than that!!!}
It has certainly been a vacation of extremes and opposites, from poverty to paradise, disease to pristine.  I am left in awe and gratitude for a God who is present in all of it.  With all their trials and tragedies, I see God in the eyes of these people.  In the beauty and wonder of an entire world underwater - a world I didn't know could be so enchanting - God is there.  In the sweet smiles of the children, the laughter of orphans, the comforting embraces from their caretakers who have loved and nurtured these children and others like them for 30+ years.  God is Here.  I am so grateful I could be, too, for even just a short while.  I hope it will change me forever.