Como Una Doctora

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Anshu, Dr. Lora, Emily, and I after we interviewed Dr. Lora about his unique experience as a diabetic in the Dispensario Esmeraldo Díaz in ensanche Simón Bolívar

I stepped into the living room and approached the mirror. I looked at myself, at my neatly pulled back hair and my scrubs. When I kissed my host mother goodbye she smiled at me and said, “¡ah mi niña! ¡Te ves como una doctora!” I smiled back with pride. That was exactly what I had been thinking.

Anshu and I waited in the galleria for the other students and for Tita, our program partner and the doctor who would lead our rotation at the Dispensario Esmeraldo Díaz. It was our first day of this rotation, and my first time donning scrubs since the beginning of the program.  Before touring hospitals and participating in service placements here, I always had an interest in healthcare and public health, but have never pictured myself as a doctor. Yet as I caught my reflection in store fronts and car windows on our walk to the dispensario, I thought to myself that maybe I liked this doctor look after all.

When we entered the dispensario we were introduced to the nurses and receptionists in the office right in front of the sala de espera. In the sala de espera patients sat figuring out their insurance and waiting to receive their medical records from the office. We then walked around the corner to the examination rooms. There we were divided into groups of two for our rotations. Emily and I would be shadowing Dr. Lora.

Dr. Lora greeted us warmly and pulled a chair up for me and Emily to share while he continued the visit with his patient.  He talked to her about her symptoms and previous care she had sought while we watched, trying not to be intrusive to her private visit. Then suddenly, Dr. Lora held up his stethoscope and blood pressure cuff and gestured at us to take the patient’s blood pressure. Emily and I looked at each other and then at Dr. Lora. “No sabemos como hacerlo,” Emily said. He thought that we were medical students and must have had previous clinical experience. Before this trip, I personally had never been present in a hospital or clinic unless I was there for my own appointment.

Dr. Lora patiently showed us how to measure someone’s blood pressure—the old school way that requires actual attention to the sound of the patient’s heartbeat as the barometer slowly returns to zero.  When he removed the stethoscope from his ears he looked at me and asked me to find him cotton and alcohol. “Uhhh ok” I thought to myself as I wandered the hall looking for someone to ask. The first person I ran into was in the kitchen and she directed me to the enfemera. The nurse couldn’t understand what I was trying to get for Dr. Lora so she came back with me to speak with him herself. She then returned with alcohol pads. Dr. Lora used them to clean the ear pieces of the stethoscope and then handed them off to us.

We took turns taking the woman’s blood pressure, squeezing the pump, letting the pressure dissipate. The woman sat very patiently while we practiced on her. When he was done with the examination, Dr. Lora referred his patient to another facility for lab work and asked me to fill out the forms for her. “¿Cómo se llama usted?” Such a simple question that leads to many confusing Spanish names that any Dominican doctor could spell with ease but leaves me in a small panic. I wrote the woman’s name down and thanked her for allowing us to be present during her visit.

A few more patients visited Dr. Lora that day. As each one entered I asked their permission for our presence during their visit. Dr. Lora took his time with each patient, something that I was surprised to see in a public clinic. I had heard that patient turnover at the dispensario was hurried. “Usted pasa mucho tiempo con cada paciente,” I said to him. Dr. Lora smiled. He told us how he thought that the most important thing a doctor can give to his patient is love. This cannot be achieved when each patient spends only one minute with the doctor. A doctor can’t be concerned with seeing as many patients as possible and about making a lot of money, it takes away from the true purpose of providing medical care, of having intimate access to healing people. He said that a doctor needs only to love his patients, and can leave the rest up to God– the money, the stability, the security.

Dr. Lora drove us all home from our rotation that day. As Anshu and I walked into our house I felt a great sense of satisfaction from our first day of the dispensario. I thought back to a class that I took this past spring in medical ethics. In the class we learned that for most medical students and doctors, ethical training does not take place in the classroom but in clinical shadowing from peers and mentors. I felt like I had just had my first lesson in medical ethics that morning with Dr. Lora. I still don’t think that I will be going to medical school, but I am so grateful for this opportunity to shadow and learn.

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Próximo Paciente! Un Día en el Dispensario

By Michele Garcia

For the past three weeks, my three friends and I have spent a couple mornings a week at the local public clinic shadowing different doctors in their practice. Every Monday and Wednesday morning began with a walk through the barrio on our way to the dispensario (the local public clinic), getting to know our way around the neighborhood a little bit more every day. Upon entering the clinic and walking our way to the individual offices, we would pass the waiting room, always filled up with patients waiting to get their number to see the doctor’s. It felt a bit strange in the beginning because patients could always tell that we were not from around here and were most likely wondering what we were doing there. As such, I always wanted to make sure to say hello to them as we passed by, not only to be friendly but as a sign of respect, because after all, we are the visitors in this area.

Originally, while I did expect to have direct patient contact, I was not expecting to actually be able to help the doctor out with his patients- and in that, I was very pleasantly surprised. During my first week and a half, we mainly just observed different patients come in and out of the office. We were often encouraged to ask them questions, but in the beginning, I honestly could not think of much to ask other than how their insurance policy worked in accordance to that of the clinic’s. However, I did find out that through this clinic, if a patient does have the national public health insurance, they usually only have to pay a small sum. Still, there is a large population of the patients that do not have any health insurance at all, not even for little children. This was an interesting aspect that I continued to notice during my three weeks at the clinic as well as something that I would like to possibly further research one day. During my second and third weeks, I was able to get a little bit more hands on with the patients: I took blood pressure, saw a routine pap smear, weighed different children, and gave a basic check up on a baby. I was actually very happy to have been able to do all this, especially since I did not think I would actually be able to get hands on experience, as mentioned.

However, during my time here, I also noticed that for the most part, things moved rather quickly here. Due to the amount of patients that need to be attended to, most of the doctors could not and did not spend too much time examining each patient. On average, I would say that there was about ten minutes worth of patient-doctor consulting. We were told in advance that this would be the case in a public clinic, as it also frequently occurs in the United States, but it was a bit discouraging to know that it unfortunately operates in such a manner. Hopefully, these patients still find that they are receiving the proper care that they deserve.11402852_10206917224357195_6341695523944730953_o11402852_10206917224357195_6341695523944730953_o

Levitico 19:13

By Michelle Valentin

I had been in the Dominican Republic for an entire two weeks, eating anything and every thing that was placed in front of me, so I basically already considered myself Dominican. I thought I was in the clear and immune to any disease that could possibly cross my path- but I was wrong. After Googling all my symptoms, I diagnosed myself with a mosquito-transmitted tropical disease known as chicken-gunya (I’m pretty sure that is not the correct spelling but I just looked it up and it is taking too long to load so let’s just go with that). To this day the doctors at ANDA still refuse to admit that I had chicken-gunya but Google has never wronged me before.

The first few nights of my weeklong illness consisted of intense shivering, fevers, cold sweats, night terrors, and me calling out my roommate’s name “EMILY” every five minutes in this high-pitched, creepy voice that leaves my body every time I have a nightmare. Emily describes it as a “desperate shrill” to be more precise. Whenever she didn’t reply to my “SOS-ing” (as she calls it) at 3:30 am I panicked because I thought she had been abducted by aliens. But whenever she did answer she was incredibly helpful and willing to do anything possible to help me feel better (although she recently confessed that she low-key wanted to choke me every time I called out her name during one of my nightmares).

It had been five days, and chicken-gunya had taken a toll on my appearance to the point that I scared myself when I looked in the mirror that morning; the girls in the group even had the nerve to tell me I looked better in dim lighting. That same night the palms of my hands and soles of my feet were so unbearably itchy and tingly that I could not eat, write, or let alone sleep. Dr. Pichardo told me he thought I wasn’t gonna make it through the week- still unclear whether he’s serious or not. When he checked my pulse, he said I had high levels of “pitta” energy, which is a type of energy that has to do with fire and heat. Seeing that I couldn’t go a whole five seconds without scratching, Emily went on the hunt for anything around the house that might help soothe my itchy hands and feet. She suggested hand sanitizer, hair conditioner, butter, and even looked in the fridge for any food that might help my desperate itchy body. The only solution we could come up with was sticking my hands and feet in buckets of ice cold water- at that point I accepted the fact that I would probably have to sleep like this for my remaining time in the Dominican Republic. But then, like straight out of a fairy tale, a guardian angel wearing a white Real Madrid soccer jersey appeared at our front door. Ok, he was our neighbor- but he might as well have been God because seeing that I was desperately crying and scratching in the living room, he came back ten minutes later with magical medicine that made me feel better for at least an hour.

I had been feeling homesick since the start of my chicken-gunya episode, and at one point I even considered going back home to New York. But it was at that moment, when this beautiful Good Samaritan brought me medicine at 11 pm, without ever meeting me before, that I realized how lucky I am to have so many people around me that care about my well being. As much as I miss being home, I decided to let go of my homesickness- because the Dominican Republic has became a new place that I can also now call home. I’m so grateful to have Dr. Pichardo, Tita, Noemi, my host mom, and the rest of the girls on this trip because they all kept checking up on me to make sure I was alive. I feel like I have this new little family here that I never thought I would make during my Global Health experience.

When Dr. Pichardo saw me at his office, I was able to experience another side of holistic medicine that I had not seen before. I had been a bit skeptical in the beginning, but seeing his methods in practice has really helped give me a better idea about what holistic medicine entails. This week we had our first rotation at ANDA, which is Dr. Pichardo’s clinic. I learned so much about Ayurveda and holistic medicine in one day, and I’m stoked to see what’s in store in the month that we have left in the Dominican Republic.L

The Power to Heal

By Emily McNeill

It was week three and between vomiting, diarrhea, fevers, and mysterious rashes, sickness was wrecking havoc on the group. In response Dr. PIchardo proposed a retreat centered around sanación or healing. After a short bumpy guagua (bus) ride, we arrived to our rural oasis in Bayaguana, We settled into a cozy log cabin surrounded by woods and other greenery with an accompanying cascading river.

The next day we started learning about and participating in different methods of holistic healing, including meditation, yoga, foot reflexology, acupuncture, and tea making. We split into pairs and groups to act as both recipients and practitioners. But before we began, one of the shamans from ANDA, Dr. Pichardo’s clinic, encouraged our participation by saying “We all have healing hands. We all have the power to heal.”

This statement struck me. For most of my academic life, I have been on the journey to becoming a doctor. I have been studying, observing, and volunteering in order to eventually have the ability to heal and cure others. But this ability has always been elusive, something that I can only achieve through hard work, drive, luck, prayers, and if accepted, four to six more years of formal education. I could not have healing hands yet because I knew nothing about the art of curing and the nuances of disease.

In the United States, the knowledge and power of healing is reserved for a small and elite class; doctors who have both worked through the system of medical education and have been chosen by it. When we are sick, we quickly seek the attention of these white-coated individuals, placing our trust in their expertise in that which we are ignorant. We believe that with their help, we can decipher what is happening to our bodies and learn how to fix it. The site of healing is the clinic or hospital and the source of healing is the medic. Without the doctor, we are more or less impotent in the face of illness.

But during our retreat, we all became healers and nature became our clinic. We all experienced renewal and release as we both completed and participated in the various practices of holistic medicine. The time away from the city to pause and introspect put us back in touch with a balanced state of health. With a bit of direction and more reflection we all have the power to heal. The art of healing is not a secret knowledge or a bounded gift, but an innate capacity within us all.

Energía

By Anshu Guar

“Cereeeeasa.”

“Maango.”

“Chinhoola.”

The voice of persistent vendors filled the air, some reaching farther than others. We walked along the narrow sidewalk along street side tiendas and garbage filled gutters.

To my left was a yellow walled cafe that served Chinese food. To my right was what I had mistaken for an ordinary street, the only sense of order amongst the moving vehicles being their increased tendency to honk and swerve rather than stop. The way people drove here reminded me of India. I turned away from the chaotic road towards my own steps when I noticed him.

His body was dampened with mucky gutter water. Black and white hairs clumped awkwardly in all directions. Each step he took was small and painful. I kept walking with our group to catch the next guaga, my mind falling a little ways behind. We were on our way to the Bonjee concert, a weekly festival in Santo Domingo, with a live band, tasty street food and a bountiful moments of Latin dancing. I had been looking forward to going all semester.

Our group had been waiting for a minute or so when a white minivan arrived, the corrador (who collects money from passengers) hanging on the edge the door repeating “Parque. parque.” We began piling inside, four to a seat. I looked back towards for a second before stepping in, not so subtle whispers of “Americanas” circulating the overcrowded space. The image of his crumpled wet body beckoned to me, haunting me at the same time. Just another piece of trash in the gutter.

The next morning was the first day of volleyball camp. Volleyball always appealed to me as a child. I started playing in elementary school, but never made it past the B team. A five minute walk from the barrio, the neighborhood in which we lived, a group of kids (mostly girls in either high school or middle school) practiced every day after school. I played around a few times the week before, during which I was reminded me how I never learned how to spike a ball or serve the ball overhand. I was impressed by how well each player complemented each other and how much I had to learn about the movements and coordination.

The camp marked the beginning of their summer. Something about working together in a physical sense as part of team always felt energizing to me. I was excited for the much needed exercise to justify the copious amounts of delicious food that Nairobi, my host mother, had been feeding me. Also this was my chance to learn how to actually play and especially how to spike to ball.

I walked to the school with Patricia, my host sister. At 21 years old, she is bronze, sweet and fierce, boasting a small frame, yet toned body. I always ask her how she stays in shape to which she laughs and says, by eating a lot. Upon entering the school there lay a small patch of grass, followed by a fairly large area of ground identifiable by the structures it contained. On the side closest to the patch of grass were the two hoops indicating a basketball court. On the other end of the school were a couple of nets held in the air, signifying two volleyball courts. A rather bulky tree overflowing with an oddly shaped green fruit claimed half the land of the second volleyball court. The schoolyard was contained inside sand colored walls of concrete decorated with various clusters of graffiti.

By this week some of the kids who had not spoken to me before recognized me and began asking me questions. What was my name. Where I was from. What I was doing here. Patricia filled in whenever I could not understand their rapid Spanish. Somehow the topic of race always came up in my conversations here. When I told them my parents were from India, one of the girls asked me if I was vegetarian. I nodded. Patricia started explaining how I was actually vegan, and do not eat any products from animals – including milk and eggs.

“No comes carne?” You don’t eat meat?

They looked confused.

” No.”

“Y no comes pollo?” What about chicken?

Their eyes widened.

“Pero no tomas leche tampoco?” But no milk either?

They look around at each other, shocked.

“Porque?” Why?

“No me gusta causarles dolor a los animales.” I don’t like to hurt animals.

At first everyone either thought that I was “loco in the coco” (my roommates expression for absolutely insane).. But Patricia surprised me when she explained my dietary choices to everyone in a way did not make me seem completely insane. She spoke as a matter of fact, that if she sees the chicken being killed in front of her, she would not be able to eat it.

“No me gusta tampoco.” I do not like it either.

We continued taking brief breaks after each drill, refueling our bodies with a relieving moment in the shade and ice cold water. About two hours into the camp, we working on returning a spike in a low squat stance. My quads were on fire when I heard a gasp that gave me an excuse to stand up, relieving my muscles. Every once in a while a ball went flying in some direction of the vast schoolyard and someone would go to retrieve it. This time two or three girls had collected in the area by the concrete wall. I joined them, nosing my way in between a few shoulders to see what was up. My heart immediately sunk and I held my breath.

A familiar furry ball of black and white appeared trapped underneath a rock. His crumpled wet body squirmed to break free.

“Meow. Meow. Meow. ” Every breath was an aching yelp. This month old kitten, separated from his mother, was fighting for his life. The signals from my brain to my muscles were suddenly cut. I watched motionlessly as one of the girls slowly lift the rock. When he was finally freed from the rock’s weight, he had little energy left to move. He lay there face down in the leaves, the slightest rise and fall of his back indicating mere life. This time I could not walk away.

“Anshu!” Patricia yelled, waiting for me to come finish the drill. By this point, I was the only one left by the wall. I scooted a nearby trashcan towards the isolate spot to guard him from any other stray volleyballs that could easily crush his weak body. Only for the next hour, and then I would return, I promised to both him and myself. We continued the drill followed by a game. My mind, in synch with my rapidly beating heart, was especially alert. I cringed every time a ball went anywhere near his direction, sprinting after it as everyone watched amused by my newfound energy and determination.
When camp came to an end around noon, I immediately started walking over to the spot behind the trashcan.

“Dejélo!” Leave him. Patricia said to me.

I was afraid she might not approve. The girls from volleyball formed a semi-circle facing me, an intrigued audience, waiting to see what would happen next. In my attempt to think on my feet, I told Patricia I wanted to take him to see Dr. Pichardo, the holistic doctor we were working with for the summer, without actually considering whether he would want to see a stray handicapped kitten I picked up off the street. Patricia held her ground, pursuing every method to convince me to leave him behind.

 

You should ask Dr. Pichardo before just showing up at his door. If there was nowhere for him to stay, our street with all the dogs would not be a safer place than this school. If you take him his mom would be searching for him.

Somehow the thought of leaving him behind for a second time frightened me more than anything else. But Patricia was persistent and almost had me convinced when the volleyball coach mentioned that if I left him he would probably end up in the trashcan. Patricia tried to say otherwise, but after hearing that nothing could stop me.

“No puedo,” I urged Patricia, apologetically but with authority. I can’t. Left with no choice, she grudgingly agreed, making it clear he could not enter our house. I nearly knocked her over with a hug, before running over to the concrete wall. He still lay face down in the leaves. I carefully scooped him up with a few leaves that had fallen from the unknown tree and held him close to my body. With little idea of what would happen next, I silently celebrated our small victory, praying for the best.

We all walked out of the school together. Everyone was fairly surprised that I had gotten my way. If my parents are right about anything, it is definitely their conviction that I am stubborn and headstrong. On the way out of the school one of the girls spotted a cardboard box filled with empty bottles.

“Espera ,” she told me. Wait. A few others helped her empty the box, which they presented to me. It was my turn to be surprised. I gave a gracious smile to the same people who thought I was “loco in the coco”, carefully placing him inside.

ANDA, the holistic medical clinic, is just a rocks throw away from the house we live in. Once we arrived at our street, I parted with Patricia to go seek out the options. Above the clinic is a two room apartment where Tim, Alicia and Noemi – our program directors from Cornell – live. Their outdoor balcony seemed like a safe place to start. Sometimes we would come hang out there before going to our medical rotations. I made my way up the narrow windy staircase to the balcony and silently placed the box on the floor. Over the course of the next few hours as people walked in and out was a myriad of reactions.

Faces twisted in disbelief.

“What did you do?”

“Are you serious?”

Disgust.

“What is that?”

“Oh my god, are those fleas?”

Curiosity.

“Where did you find it?”

“Is it alive?”

Concern.

“Let me Google what it can eat.”

“You should probably put in a T-shirt in the box or something to make it more comfortable.”

“Let me get some water.”

Excitement.

“What should we name him?”

Pity.

“Aww poor thing.”

Doubt.

“You can’t just pick stray animals off the street . . . they could have rabies.”

“It’s not going to survive.”

Dr. Pichardo was the person whom I had the most hope in, but he was also the person I was most afraid to ask. If he did not have an answer, I really had no idea what to do. Inside the box there was little sign of life. The slight rise and fall of his back had grown even more subtle. I tentatively made my way downstairs. Dr. Pichardo was standing outside in his signature black button down shirt and dark pants, a cigarette slid in between his two fingers. He always looked so put together, a combination of clean cut and rugged.

“Hay un gatatito . . .'” I stuttered, my Spanish failing me. There is a . . .

“Un que?” A what?

 

I tried again, explaining there was a kitten upstairs who needed a little bit of help. His copper colored forehead creased in confusion. Apparently the word for kitten is gatito, not gatatito. When we finally cleared the confusion, Dr. Pichardo gave me a bright smile.

“Vamos a ver.” Let’s see. I sighed in relief. We walked upstairs together, and I pointed out the box. Dr. Pichardo peaked inside. I braced myself to hear that this cat was already gone and there was nothing to do. Instead he surprised me by reaching into the box and gently taking the tiny weak body into his hands. Even I had been cautious of actually touching gatito, who looked like a soiled furball of disease. I borrowed my roommate’s baby wipes to get the muckiness off his coat, but even after persistent scrubbing he only looked slightly more sanitary.

Dr. Pichardo held him up at eye level, carefully examining his physical state, as if he was one of his patients. He pressed down firmly down on various parts of gatito’s body, to assess what was wrong. Even though it was difficult to see his fragile body responding in pain, I was both certain and grateful that he was in safe hands.

“Hay inflamación en su intestino.” There is inflammation in his intestine. Dr. Pichardo showed me the slightly raised pink area on his ashy white belly.

“Puede sobrevivir?” I asked. Will he survive?

“Veremos.” We will see.

 

I watched as Dr. Pichardo set him softly back in the cardboard box, placing his hands, fingers apart, just above gatito’s still scrawny body. He closed his eyes, the slightest crease of concentration forming on his forehead. Seconds turned into minutes as Dr. Pichardo remained motionless in this position. I paused to admire this man in front of me who cared for all walks of life, no matter what form, what state of health one was in. A little voice broke the silence.

“Meow.” The last sound gatito had made was four hours ago when he was trying to escape from under the rock. Dr. Pichardo smiled, picking him up from the box and placing him on the floor. One paw moved in front of the other, his hind legs dragging on the floor. His back legs looked dysfunctional, but he was walking.

Hold up. What had just happened? Here was this abandoned kitten who had made zero signs of movement or speech, barely breathing, unable to lift the weight of his own head. Here he was walking and talking on the cream tiled floor. Here he was taking sips of cloudy diluted milk water out of a small dish. Here he was, drastically better, by some invisible force.

“Sus manos son magicos,” I told Dr. Pichardo, nothing short of wonderstruck. Your hands are magical.

 

“Energía,” Dr. Pichardo stated, offering me a one word explanation. Energy.


He flashed me one more smile before going downstairs to check on his other patients. He said he would come back to check on him whenever he got a break. I waited with little gatito, who was exploring the floor with his front two paws. Dr. Pichardo mentioned his spine might be fractured. I wondered whether I made the right decision. What if I left him in the school? If a ball did hit him and knock him out? Perhaps that would have been better than prolonging his pain. But what if he could survive? What if he just needed a little bit of care to get him back on his feet?

There was no way of knowing. All I did know was when I saw him for the second time, helpless and vulnerable, I could not just walk away.

When Tim showed up to the apartment, he said that gatito could stay for the day but had to leave by night. He was allergic to cats. I went on a rampage asking everyone who came to mind, including my neighbors, for a safe place gatito could stay until he got better. After making little progress, I took the partially soiled cardboard box that was his temporary home in my hands and claimed a spot on the street right next to the black windy staircase.

I had been looking forward to go to an outdoor yoga class with everyone in the evening. Instead I sat on a piece of concrete next to the little creature who consumed my thoughts. What was he feeling right now? What would I want if I was in his place? Certainly not to be the middle of this street with menacing bark offs, radio played at an unbearable volume that vibrates the ground, and the obnoxious grumble of passing motorcycles. Yet a garbage filled gutter or under a rock in a desolate schoolyard did not climb at the top of my bucket list either.

I lightly rubbed my finger against his damp lackluster body as the smoggy sky darkened. A few people who had been hanging around ANDA came around towards the black windy staircase where I was sitting.

A pale skinned man with kind gentle eyes and ash colored scruffy hair was one of the first to approach me. Miguel. He peeked into the box, offering me sympathetic smile. I nodded silently. Without warning, he came close to gatito, with a something sharp in his hand. I defensively blocked the box, pushing his wrist away.

“Que esta haciendo?” What are you doing? He looked taken aback.

“It’s a healing rock,” he told me in English, with his hands up, revealing a glistening charcoal crystal.

“Oh.” I moved out of the way, embarrassed. “Por favor,” I insisted. Please.

Not the least offended, he came closer to gatito again, with the rock closed tightly in between his index finger and thumb. Miguel placed the rock above gatito’s head, his eyes closed with the same deep concentration as Dr. Pichardo’s just a few hours earlier. The small circle of people who were standing around ANDA and reformed around me and gatito. I sat in a trance. This whole healing energy thing . . . where did it come from? Why had I never heard about it before? What was it?

Miguel stood back up. He shuffled around in his pocket and pulled out a another rock, looking at me for permission. I nodded. Instead of reaching into the cardboard box, he reached for my hand. A little confused, I sat in silence as he placed the rock against my skin. After a moment, Miguel let go and looked at me with wide eyes.

“You have a lot of magnetism. A lot of energy,” he told me, astonished. I half laughed half cried in response, suddenly face to face with the absurdity of the situation. Everything was bubbling up at once. The fear of what would happen to little gatito. The oscillation of reactions towards his life, a life no different than yours and mine. The magic touch of Dr. Pichardo’s hands, which he called energía. The turn from feeling isolated on this noise-filled street to suddenly be surrounded by the peace and love of these compassionate people. And then to top it off, this complete stranger telling me that the same thing he had in his rocks and that Dr. Pichardo had in his hands, I had in me.

My stomach churned with perplexed excitement.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You have the power to make things happen. To transfer your energy to things you want,” he explained as if the answer was as simple as day. I let the idea settle with me. Using my energy. To make things happen. Things I want.

“Want to try something?” Miguel asked me, already rustling in his pocket for yet another rock. How many did he have in there? I nodded. With no explanation, he put the rock on the center of my forehead, asking me to concentrate. A cool planar structure tingled the surface of my third eye. Immediately I felt something between us. Me and the rock. And then we were one. A spiraling horn formed from my third eye, growing outward. The background changed from the fiery earth to starry skies while the horn stayed intact.

When I opened my eyes, Miguel was standing a good five steps away from me. I could have swore I still felt him holding the rock against my forehead. I looked around the lively street that for the last few minutes I had departed.

“Well . . .” Miguel prodded. Still dazed I glanced at him uncertainly.

“What did you see?” he asked curiously. I told him, a horn. Like that of a unicorn.

“Ahh un huelo,” he responded knowingly. He asked me which way it was facing, which I thought was a strange question to ask.

“Out towards the sky,” I said. What other way would it be facing?

“You have dreams that you can achieve. Inside you is the power to accomplish anything you want,” he told me without blinking an eye.

Later that evening, Johnny, who helps clean around at ANDA, agreed to keep gatito in his place until he recovered. He was the next victim of my hug attack. I was relieved that gatito would not have to spend the night alone on the street. I realized it did not matter what may have happened to him. What matters is that even in his rough state, he would live with dignity, amongst the positive energy of warmth and love.

Perhaps if I had not seen this energía manifest itself before my eyes, in giving gatito life and working its way inside my head, I would have dubbed the whole thing, including Miguel’s profound interpretations, as “loco in the coco”. Instead I smile in accord when I look at the sign upon entering ANDA which reads:

“Aquí nos creemos en milagros.” Here we believe in miracles.

Oye! Mira!

By Sally Stoyell

One of the things that keeps life interesting in my house is the presence of Elsa’s granddaughter Zoeth and two children she baby sits during the day, Eddy and Bryli. Zoeth, or Zoe, is seven, almost eight, Eddy is two, and Bryli is three. They are almost always there when we wake up, and don’t leave until later at night. Much of our time at our house is spent interacting with these three characters. I really enjoy talking and playing with Zoe. As a seven year old, must of what she wants to tell us is not that complicated, so I understand her much better than some adults. She is also really patient with me, as she learned on the first night that my already loose grasp of the Spanish language quickly disappears when she talks fast or tries to use slang. Every time Zoe or one of her friends sees Michelle or I walking down the road to our house they run at us and give us big hugs that almost knock us over. I love seeing how excited Zoe gets to see us. On days where we are busy with program activities and only come back for meals, Zoe always asks if we are leaving already. She loves to teach us her secret handshake, brush our hair, dance for us, or just ask us bunches of questions. One of our first nights in the DR, after dinner Zoe and her friend Laura decided to put on a show for us. They pushed our chairs back from the table, insisting that we were separated so that we could concentrate on them. They started out rapping to some popular song and ended up dancing along to it, even showing off their twerking abilities as they get into it. Over these past couple of weeks, Zoe has really started to feel like the little sister I never had. She even gave Michelle and me matching bracelets to remind us of her. She can be in the way at times, as all little siblings are, but she is really mature for her age, and I know she really loves having us around.

Even as I write this, Zoe is peeking her head into our room to say hi, and the two little boys rush into the room. Eddy immediately starts pushing buttons on my computer, so I pull him into my lap. He yells out “Oye! Mira!” to get my attention, and then looks around for something to show me. “Piscina!” he yells, and points at the plastic pool in the closet. They stay for a few more minutes before Zoe shoos them out to let us do some work in peace. The little boys are much less mature than Zoe, being two and three, and a much more common interaction with them is distracting them from touching my stuff by tickling them. They are fascinated by my phone, and love listening to the audiobook I am currently reading, even though they have no idea what it is saying. They are intuitive enough to figure out how to take pictures on my phone, and I have quite a few selfies of Eddy and Bryli as they steal my phone. Just like Zoe and her friends though, Eddy and Bryli run up and hug us every time we return home, and I know they love having us around too. Even though they bug us endlessly, life around here would be much quieter without them. They bring an excitement to the house that only little kids can, teach me about growing up in the DR, and make me feel like I am part of the family even after only a few weeks here.

Ven acá– a la cocina

Croquettas prepared by Shravya’s host dad, Cyprian for Tim and Alicia’s last night at in the Dominican Republic

By Shravya Govindgari

It’s a rainy day in the barrio- one of the first real rains since we arrived here two weeks ago. Not the kind of rain that trickles down stingily but instead the kind that floods the streets, cleansing all the dirt, drenching every uncovered being, and finally bringing in the long awaited cooler breeze.

The sound of pouring rain fades into the background as Annie and I walk into our pleasantly lit apartment. My host-mom, Doña Carmen, all smiles welcomes me with her usual “¿Mi hija como fue?” and a warm hug and kiss. I answer “muy bien.” She smiles and hustles us towards our room to relax for a bit. I slowly shuffle towards our room, my roomie walking in front of me. Before we enter our rooms and collapse on our beds in front of our beloved fan, our host-dad pops his head out of the kitchen at the end of the hallway, and says “Ven acá,” beckoning us towards the kitchen with an excited expression on his face. Curious and completely unaware of what he is inviting us into the kitchen for, we make our way. As soon as we are both inside, he declares: tonight you both will make croquetas for dinner. I will barely touch the food. Ironically enough, he says that while standing next to a plate of what looked like three big burritos that have already been prepared. Regardless, considering my past failures in the kitchen, I was excited to turn a new leaf and prepare dinner. I immediately turn to my Spanish translator and multiple-time Life Saver of the Day award winner, Annie, looking to confirm that “croquetas” in Spanish actually do mean croquettes and that our host-dad didn’t somewhere throw in a joke about how he is just pulling our leg and we are not actually going to be making dinner. Upon confirmation, we both get prepped to learn.

I soon learned that the “burritos” were actually dough mixed with onions, and green and red peppers, kneaded and divided into three large chunks, which I perceived in my hungry state to be burritos. Our host-dad shows us how to break tiny chunks of the dough and roll them into croquette shape between our palms. As Annie and I get to work molding the dough into bite-sized chunks, I hear Doña Carmen call for us on the other end of the house. Our host-dad yells: “ellos me estan ayudando,” –they are helping me. Laughing in disbelief, she enters the kitchen and tells off her husband for putting us to work without letting us relax. Our host-dad, whose intentions to teach us how to cook were reinforced after the last lesson where I broke an egg instead of cracking it gently, with a serious expression on his face replies that we are learning. Doña Carmen still unconvinced leaves.

While we keep working at the rather huge chunks of dough, our teacher is hustling to heat oil, prepare breadcrumbs for the crust, and make us juice from papayas all the while sharing with us his love for and history with food. Soon the oil is hot, croquetas are ready to be fried and before we know it, we are sitting in the cool breeze of the rainy night, eating hot croquetas. And for once, I am not wondering how these delicious rolls of happiness were made thanks to my host-dad.

A collaboration among the Cornell University Global Health Program, the Committee on US-Latin American Relations, and Dr. Ángel Pichardo Almonte