Program in Physical Therapy Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education, Carol Beckel’s 2nd reflection from Belize:
Since my first trip to Punta Gorda, Belize, I’ve stayed in a variety of places. During my first trip I stayed in the guest room with my beloved friends, the Sisters of Nazareth Novitiate. For the first 10 days of my second trip I stayed again with the Sisters, but this time moved to the Novice House in a much simpler room. I admit I was weak that trip and felt very isolated and as the Sisters prepared for a 10 day SILENT retreat, my mind became frantic and I quickly made “alternative arrangements”. I moved into the “doctors apartment” at Hillside as it was open. I quickly adapted to solitude with the option to visit with staff and students for companionship. The toughest part was being left to my own terrible cooking…luckily you can get the ingredients for spaghetti in Belize.
During the next two trips, I stayed in Abby’s House which primarily houses the students completing clinical rotations at Hillside. I enjoyed my two years with the students acting at times as an advisor, den mother, and squabble settler. I learned so much from the students and learned much about community life.
This year when I arrived, I headed toward the front door of Abby’s House only to learn I would be bunking in “The Tree House” with the Hillside nurse. I was immediately struck with a moment of “awe”. In the past three years, this was “sacred space” for the nurses serving at Hillside. I would be invited up occasionally for a meal or a chat, but I generally left the space alone. The building is not an actual tree house but a comfortable 4 rooms in two buildings connected with a breeze-way. The entire structure rests on 30’ stilts.
I am bunking in the room I always considered the “kids room” because during my first year it was the bedroom for the two children of James and Hannah, the husband and wife nurse practitioners who were the medical directors that year. To reach this room you first enter the screen door and wooden door into the kitchen. You next go through the kitchen door that leads to the breeze-way, go through the door to the front bedroom, the first door to bathroom, the second door to the back bedroom and there you are, in your bedroom! I was a little tired the first night that I was led through this maze. When my suitcases became stuck in the 6 inches between the bathroom sink and shower I had to laugh. Losing 30 pounds this past year seemed even more important in that moment!
The good news is, I can exit my bedroom by one door alone and then head down the back steps. I do this some mornings to avoid disturbing my housemate since I am a Beckel and I naturally wake up at insanely early times. Eventually though, I have to open at least one door to the bathroom or a door to reach the kitchen. And of course, being in a jungle with lots of rain, EVERY door sticks and requires a bit more persuasion to close.
Each day I try to stand in my bedroom in the morning and think through exactly what I need to take for that day. Am I driving today – I need the truck keys. Are we working the Education Center – better take my laptop and cord. No matter the extent of my planning, though, I inevitably reach the kitchen only to moan that I forgot my medicine, my water bottle, my wallet, etc and I reverse my trek.
I am now taking this on as a mini-mental challenge each day. So far, I would give myself a “D” at best. Tonight I told my housemate I was going to my room at 7:30 to respond to e-mail for a bit. I was back in the kitchen within 5 minutes to retrieve a water bottle for the night. I don’t really need the water right now, but in case I do in the middle of the night, it will save me a lot of work to have one inside the 4-door gauntlet.
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