Wales, Alaska~ Medical Field Trip, Day #3

1/9/14:
Got up and washed my hair in the bucket! Bucket shower

There is no running water in the clinic, but there is a chance they will get running water by this summer. No homes in the village have running water. Just a few buildings, like the school, and the “Washeteria” an ablution block, where locals can pay for tokens to take a shower. Honey buckets are still used– a 5 gallon bucket for a toilet:

Honey bucket openThese days are great and rewarding, but exhausting! I feel tired and I’m glad today’s my last day for now. Even the amazing Clinic Travel Clerk (CTC) this morning said, “We are so glad you are here—you help us out so much. …But I will be glad when the doctor visit is over, because you keep us all extremely busy!” 🙂 I take that as a good thing… (?) 🙂 I got to see lots of great patients today, mostly elders. I love, love, love seeing the elders, because they tell me stories of their past, their history and culture. Most of the time they embrace the changing times, but still lament parts of the loss of culture and traditions with the modern change. They see a huge shift in this generation that is losing so much of what they valued. I had 2 elders that couldn’t make the appointment today, so we scheduled 2 more patients in.

The highlight of my day: doing a home visit, for the oldest, sweetest lady in the village~an elderly Inupiat woman in her 80s. She still lives alone in her home up on the hill, in the oldest part of the village, where the villagers used to live in sod houses. She has two entry ways, and her door opens towards the direction of the sea. The first entry way is covered in ice inside. The second is warmer. In each, all of her storage, extra possessions are stored up. Inside, clothes line criss crosses her dining room area, where she sits for tea. She is hunched over with severe arthritis, with bowed knees also from arthritis. She now stands about 4 feet tall.

Communication is difficult, and when I speak slowly, loudly and enunciate each word, she just stares at me. I’m not sure what else to say. Her caregiver, who is like a son (who takes care of her, cleans and maintains her house, and checks in on her for a few hours at least twice a day) helps me know the right English words to use. Her mother tongue is Inupiaq, and this is what she understands best. Her son states he lost his Inupiaq when he left for a time. Most of the middle aged generation lost their native tongue when they left to serve in the military, or were taken from their homes, or left for other reasons. They speak in a slow, accented English.

She is kind and patient and smiles throughout the visits. She is one of the beautiful elders left of this generation, and everyone here respects and adores her. I wish I could paint a picture of her!

2 thoughts on “Wales, Alaska~ Medical Field Trip, Day #3

  1. Pingback: Big Day!

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