Barrio Puerta Principe, where we've spent the last two days continuing the NPS de-worming and education campaign, is a sprawling neighborhood of nailed-together shacks. Led by Ramona, the NPS public health nurse, we wind further and further into the barrio along labyrinthine paths, often pausing to negotiate the best way across a puddle that stretches from the wall of one house to that of another. We notice that, by comparison, Monday's Barrio Filieu seems almost as spacious as a batey -- in Puerto Principe, the homes are smaller and built practically right on top of each other. But there's another important difference. Puerto Principe is in our own neighborhood. In fact, every day we walk down the street that bisects the barrio to get to our clinic or to downtown Consuelo. "We were in our backyard," says my teammate Carine Golfetto, RN, a nurse on CHOP's 4E/4S surgery unit. "We are so lucky here in this house -- it's gigantic. Yesterday we were less than two blocks away, and the difference...was huge."
We're getting a little more efficient with the charlas. Our Spanish is coming along. Myself, I'm getting a little more comfortable with, or at least used to, the idea that I'm entering people's homes and asking them to make huge lifestyle changes without the conveniences I constantly take for granted. We're actually ahead of schedule on the de-worming project, and it's a good thing, because Tomas (the storm, not, alas a new Dominican friend) has finally rolled into the area. As we were giving our last charla of the afternoon yesterday in a muddy clearing, the rain started pouring down. A few members of our audience (four women and a half dozen or so school-aged kids) gave a shout and scattered for shelter, but the rest stayed firmly planted. I'm not going, said one in Spanish, I'm listening! Her neighbor swatted her arm with the towel she'd been using to shield her hair, then used it to wave us into her house. Plastic chairs were wiped off with the same towel and we were invited to sit; a fuzzy old TV was turned off; and Olena Kucheruk, RN (research nurse in CHOP's Division of Endocrinology), and I finished off our talk for eight or ten women and kids in a space not much bigger than Eden's and my closet in Casa Roja.
The rain has continued to come down off and on since then, but our Dominican friends and partners braved a downpour last night to come to a reunion party at Casa Roja. The guest list included doctors and nurses from NPS and their families, Lara (the Global Health fellow) and her husband and adorable 10-month-old daughter, our ever-reliable interpreters, and even a few visitors from the Convent of the Divina Providencia, a group of Catholic nuns from Canada who founded the Centro de Salud that houses and oversees NPS. The food was provided by the inimitable Martina; the music was provided by our own Eden Kahle, MD and flutist extraordinaire, and by our friend Juan, a talented guitarist who is also a judge in San Pedro and the husband of NPS pediatrician Dr. Ingrid Jappa. (At least, they provided the music until the iPods were broken out and merengue beats sounded the start of Kitchen Dance Party #2, which lasted well into the evening -- because you can't very well leave a party in the middle of a tropical storm!)