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June 16

We went to a farm today where we were going to supposedly vaccinate 300 sheep and goats, and castrate 50 of them. I thought we would be there all day, we weren’t, primarily because we didn’t do that many animals. We vaccinated less than a hundred and we each castrated two animals. After working with cattle so much, sheep and goats seem so obedient. They received vitamins and we de-wormed. The shot is subcutaneous. My first castration of the day didn’t go so smoothly. The vessel that we crunch with the emasculator ripped before I crunched it. I must have pulled on the testicle too much. The goat was fine though. No excess bleeding or anything so that made me feel better. My second castration was the best one I have done while I have been here. Nothing went wrong and I was actually finished pretty fast. After finishing with the first pen of animals, we went to the second pen. This pen was a lot emptier, but was lacking a shoot from which to grab the animals. The herdsmen went after the little creatures with lassoes and practiced hands. The rest of us, we tried to build a human wall to corner them. Most sheep ended up escaping our little trap anyway. It was fun. Those caught were vaccinated and marked purple with a disinfectant. By the third time cornering them, they figured out where the gate is and most got out of the pen. The herdsmen went out to catch them as we left the farm.

We went back to Big Rock today. Delayna helped me get around with the rocks almost all the way to the falls again. Then Dr. Kirsten came and I held on to her shoulders as she swam and I kicked. I stayed at the rocks near the falls for a while. Then the group decided they wanted to go shower under the falls again. I held on to Justin’s shoulder and tried to swim with one hand and kicking. I didn’t go all the way to the falls because the current was getting stronger and stronger the closer we got. Chelsea and Catty jumped from the rocks. Going back to the rocks at the edge of the pool that surrounds the falls (man I really need to draw a picture) I told Justin I wanted to try on my own, but to stay close in case I needed help. Dr. Kirsten said that just as long as I don’t freak I would be able to do it. I went slowly back to the rocks, but I was able to “swim” there. I SWAM!!!! Not very far, but I got there. I rested my head on a rock and let my body float over the water. It was nice. It started to rain, then it stopped so we started getting cold. There is something new. Meanwhile Cora is climbing the rocks like there is no tomorrow and decides she wants to explore on top of the falls. It looked like so much fun, but I didn’t know how I would get back down (climbing up is a lot easier than climbing down). I asked Justin how that worked. He said that if I was a very good climber I could make it back down that way or I would have to jump into the water. He said he could wait for me at the pool and make sure I got back up once I jumped.  I haven’t really climbed before I got here, and I wasn’t jumping (I wish I did know how to swim very well though, so I could have jumped, I would have done it if I knew how). I had to miss out on the river that lay on top of those falls. Justin and Dr. Kirsten followed Cora though. And when they came back, they all had to jump. Cora says the right side of the pool from where they jumped is scarier that the left side they had done last time. Well that didn’t stop her from jumping in several more times from there. Going from the little pool under the falls back to where we left our belongings, I swam again. I started getting kind of nervous when we were in the very center of the lake so I held on to Justin for a moment until I calmed down a little bit. Then I let go and went again. It was so much fun. I just can’t help thinking that while other people’s adventures are exploring and jumping off rocks, mine are learning how to swim. Oh well, one step at a time. I still had a blast. After this, all the afternoon went by studying and reviewing our presentation on Friday and packing for our weekend trip to Sartaneja. Lesson of the day – don’t forget that although some animals aren’t as vocal, they still feel.


June 15

It’s our Birthday (Cora’s and mine). It was funky responding to a “Happy B-Day” with another “Happy B-Day”.  Much of today was awkward. Walking down to dinner all the girls and Doctors we work with were saying happy birthday. I was saying thank you at first, but then I started kind of zoning out so I stopped saying thank you to some people and Cora said she felt like she was saying thank you for the both of us.  We de-wormed only about 10 cattle today. We were supposed to do 70, but for some reason we ended up doing only 10. Dr. Eduardo had me vaccinate this very cute puppy as a birthday gift, HAHAJ. After that, Justin took us to look at some Mayan ruins. It was so boring at first because the ruins hadn’t been excavated so all you saw were mounds under which if archeologists dug, they would find pyramids. Justin ended up letting us scatter for a bit at the ruins before going to lunch. Cora climbed a really cool looking tree, and as we tried to hide from the others for a little bit which didn’t end up working, we found some ruins that weren’t just mounds. They were small, but they looked like partially broken pyramids. Chelsea took a picture of us on one of them. After that we went to lunch. Directly after lunch we headed to Dr. Eduardo’s office to watch him amputate a dog’s eye that had popped out and had swollen and infected so much that it couldn’t be popped back in. I took several pictures of that. Cherry was into cutting open the eye with the blade to explore what is inside it, turns out its all gooey, clear, jelly. Well in this case, the jelly was a bit black. We got back to the lodge pretty early. I went to go read by the pool for a little bit. That book is getting so good. After dinner, I was taking some stuff up to our room when I saw many of the girls walking down. Chelsea even ran after me to ask if I was going back down. They made it pretty obvious that something was going on. I said I would. When I got down, they turned off all the lights and one of the ladies from the lodge stepped out of the kitchen with a cake with burning candles. It was yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It was so sweet that all the girls started singing to Cora and I, but Cora wasn’t sitting next to me which I think she should have been 😛 ;). I told her to move next to me, but she didn’t want to. It felt so weird. To say the truth, birthdays have never been my thing. Even from past birthdays when I have gotten a cake at home it just feels so weird. I never feel like I did something special to get a cake. Not like when you get kudos for doing good at a concert, or for graduating, or doing something that makes you earn the good comments. I did miss waking up to that cheesy singing of my dorkey family this morning though. Lesson of the day – just roll with it.

June 14

We worked with cows again today. I stuck my hand up a cow’s butt. That was awkwardly interesting. We had to look for the cervix and scoop it up in our hand. But while you had your hand in there, she would suddenly decide it was pooping time. I was lucky enough to not get sprayed with the stuff. Cora and Delayna were not so lucky. They looked a mess. Delayna was making these hilarious expressions as she had her hand in there. She would squint, then concentrate, then question, then be disgusted, then trip out, then laugh, then look like “this is so wrong”.  It was very amusing to watch her – made me laugh a lot. We also de-wormed the cattle. Two got out of the shoot so the men got on horses and lassoed them down while the herding dog barked at the cows to keep them from moving so much. It was so entertaining. And those horses looked so strong. I mean they must have been to be able to pull down a yanking cow that probably weighs more than the horse itself. The first shot Chelsea went to go give, the second I did. I went running to give the shoot, then was told that the cow was not ready so I ran back, then ran again when she was tied correctly, then girly ran it back to the shed once I vaccinated her. It was such a trip. Walking out of the pen was so slippery with the mud and rain and poop, eww. We finished around noon, then we went to go eat at this place that is a gas station, a convenient store but more to the supermarket side (the biggest store I have seen since I have been here), and a restaurant upstairs. After that we went to a tack store where we were looking at all the medications readily available over the counter. These are medications that in the US someone needs a veterinary prescription to buy and some only a veterinarian can buy. This makes it difficult for vets here to have a sustainable job, with everyone doing their own veterinary work. After that we went to go have ice cream made locally. I had Coconut. It was yummy beyond belief. The girls told Dr. Eduardo and Dr. Kirsten that it’s Cora’s and my birthday tomorrow. Dr. Eduardo told us he would take beers with him tomorrow. Coming back to the lodge some girls got in the pool. I decided to go in and try to learn how to swim. I still can’t swim, but I feel a lot more comfortable in the water now. I can do an X laying on my stomach and move my hands to stay afloat. I could also float on my back and although I had done it before at home, it was scarier here. I was still able to stand up if need be though. What I can’t get is this thing where you are basically sitting on nothing, but stay afloat by moving your hands. I can do it for a little bit, but always end up sinking. I think I will end up getting it though, thank you Cherry and Catty. I spoke to Sammy before dinner. It was nice to speak with her after so long. After dinner, I had a nice lecture of maya-mopan with Pablo, the night guard. He gave me this thing that people used as something to drink from. I was basically writing down common words and sentences. I am going to try to put one more into my vocabulary every day.  For now – bel in ca a ti wol yil (I am going to sleep). Lesson of the day – practice will get you to it (both successful AI and swimming in my case for today).

Oh yeah, and I forgot to say yesterday that I have had many people like the ATM tour guide ask me if I am Belizean. Apparently I have traits from here and a common name. When I bought the tennis, the man asked me if I am from India. He said that I have Indian characteristics and the nose diamond brings them out even more. Hmmm – interesting.

June 13

– Last night we had a thunder storm. It was so loud and resounding, but nice at the same time. We got another downpour this morning. As we ate breakfast I enjoyed so much the clatter of the fat rain drops on the tin roof, the sound of the water creating puddles, and smacking the huge jungle leaves this way and that. At the edge of the roof, where the water rolls down, it looked like a waterfall.

We went to the college today. We were all hiding under our umbrellas, but as we walked on campus, I figured it was ridicules’ to be hiding like that from such glorious rain. From one part, the leaves kept hitting my umbrella, which I could have dealt with. On the other part, when I took down the umbrella and felt a sprinkle a little on the heavy side hit me, I loved it. We were no longer under a thunderstorm, but a sweet rain.

Lecture was on reproduction and artificial insemination since that is what we will be focusing on this week. Lecture made me awfully sleepy after the first couple of hours. I was desperate to keep myself awake and not be rude to Dr. Eduardo or Dr. Kirsten by falling asleep. We had lunch in town. I had a very good smoked ham salad. Then I went to buy lace tennis. I found some super cute white and yellow tennis in the third store we went into.

Coming back to the lodge meant working on our presentation for this Friday. I worked on it for a couple of hours; Cora is working on it now. Lesson of the day – sometimes rain can breathe a new breath into you, so don’t avoid it at all costs.

June 12

Today we did the ATM tour. ATM stands for Actun Tunichil Muknal. On our way to the cave it began to rain which made me kind of sad, but it cleared up. Then the car started malfunctioning. Soon it went to a complete halt. The guide was able to turn it back on, but it only drove on for a couple of meters more. I was so glad that I could see a building not far from where the car went completely off. If it would have stopped in the middle of the jungle I would have been worried. Anyway, we all walked on to the building which turned out to be where our tickets were going to get checked anyway. We waited here for a while and met a couple of parrots on the premises. We then hitchhiked with another group that was headed to the ATM cave as well. We hiked for like half an hour in the middle of the jungle, crossing the river several times, until we came to the entrance of the cave. I’m glad I had a live jacket on. For what the tour guide said was the first ½ kilometer of the tour, we were in water. Whenever actual swimming was required I pretty much floated to where I needed to get. I also decided to take these Velcro strap on shoes which are pretty comfortable, but turned out to be disastrous for the trip. They kept on coming undone. Delayna had a very good idea about how I could tie them. That worked well, but I still felt like a dork. We climbed and hiked on these huge boulders inside the cave. Inside the cave, it was like Carlsbad Caverns, only a thousand times better. There were so many crystals that shined when you put the light of your helmet on them. We squeezed through tiny openings and jumped from rock to rock. Oh it was marvelous. And everything was pitch black so you really depended on your helmet light to see. In the water, we saw some shrimp and catfish, and other little fishes too.  On dry land, we saw the underworld. When we climbed to the top of a ledge, we all took off our shoes and continued the hike in socks. Then we got to the main chamber. We had to step on only the ridges of the pools. In these pools, there were numerous potteries left behind by the early Mayan civilization. In one of the pools, not only were there pottery remains, there were also human remains. There was a skull of which the guide identified belonged to a middle aged man. Some bones were scattered around as well. Again, I was bait for a sacrifice. J From this chamber we climbed onto some other boulders which led to a ladder. The ladder took us to another chamber, but this chamber was fenced off. Unlike the first chamber where the human remains were in danger of being stepped on by a careless tourist, the second chamber was better protected. Upon reaching the top of the ladder you are greeted by who the guide referred to as Princess. I don’t think she was a real princess, but it sounded exciting. Anyway, her whole skeleton was pretty much intact with the exception of her missing rib cage. It was such a Kodak moment. From here, we repeated the whole tour, but backwards to get back to our world. Again we hiked back to the car (another car had been provided to us while we were in the cave).  It was so weird. I didn’t feel tired at the end of it, but for the first time while I have been here, I briefly slept in the car ride on the way to the lodge. Most of us slept actually which is a huge surprise since all the roads here are rocky and extremely bumpy. Once at the lodge, it was nice to lay back and read for a little bit before dinner. I have to read to complete trilogy of “The Hunger Games”. Lesson of the day – lace tennis are a must in this country.

June 11

This morning was all about spay and neuter. We went to an animal shelter where they fix all the animals they get involved with. Today, I think 17 were scheduled to be fixed. On dogs, the anesthesia is injected IV. In cats, it is injected intramuscular. We all got to help with several surgeries each. At first, I think we all second guessed or tried to be too careful with what we were doing. But we got the motion of things. I was excited when I was able to do an IV injection. Turns out I got the needle in the vain at first, then as I pushed the anesthesia in, I also pushed the needle in. Some of the anesthesia ended up going into the muscle instead which meant it took a little longer for my patient to drop, but in the end she did. Neuters are a lot more hands on for us than spays because we don’t go fishing for the ovaries, one of the doctors has to do that. Neuters are pretty much, well they are called, a closed castration. You remove the testicles just like in bulls, but you do it through a notch at the pelvic area. We did get to see two abortions. The first was a dog who no-one had any idea before of her pregnancy. When Dr. Eduardo was fishing for the ovaries, he was surprised at the size of them. As he took the ovaries out, 9 puppies where in the uterine horns. The spay was completed so it was pretty much an abortion and spay in one. The next abortion was in a cat. The owner had no idea, but Dr. Eduardo and his assistants felt the kittens before he made the incision. Again, he made the notch and looked for the uterine horns. Cora ended up getting splashed with amniotic fluid as the bag was burst. There were 4 kittens in the horns. After the spay, we were all allowed to open the individual baggies that held each kitten. I cut it open and was amazed that at about 2 weeks of pregnancy, the kittens were noticeably kittens. They had paws, and a tail, and a nose, everything was recognizable. I also saw the umbilical cord, although now that I think about it, I have never seen a belly button on a cat or dog before. Where does it connect to? I will have to ask Dr. Eduardo. Once the spays and neuters were complete, we got to meet another patient by the name of Prince Hairy. He is an adorable little dog who has TBT, a sexually transmitted disease. This disease is a cancerous tumor that grows at the inside tip of the penis in males and inside the uterus and out the vulva in females. Prince Hairy has gone through 5 chemotherapy treatments and still has the disease. He will get one more treatment and if that doesn’t finish off the remaining tumor, he will probably be put down. It is a slow and painful death if he is left to live out the rest of his days. On our way back to the lodge, we stopped by a farm in front of the race track. A female horse had hives.  For dinner we went into town. I have to admit that once we were walking on the road I was a little apprehensive about how good of an idea it was for a group of girls to be walking the streets of Belize at late hours. But we were actually alright. We all stayed together and the town was all lit by stores. When we finished eating, Roxanne put all our left-over’s together in a bag to give to stray dogs as we walked back to the lodge. Lesson for the day – always carry a flashlight with me.

June 10

We started the morning by going back to Whistling Ducks to check up on Molly after her spay. Turns out she had gone to hide after we left and removed all the stitches. Dr. Eduardo went in and re-stitched her up, but used a different stitch this time. He sewed her up from inside the muscle (not the same stitch we learned yesterday) so that no matter if she bit at it again, she would not be able to remove the stitches again. We then headed to another farm that raises race horses. The horses we saw were two half Appaloosas and two Arabians. The Arabian male was gorgeous. When the owner took him out he told us all to back off, then was surprised he was behaving. Apparently he is normally a feisty one. So we got back in partners and did a physical examination on them. Dr. Kirsten then floated their teeth. Dr. Eduardo and Dr. Kirsten asked us if we wanted to try floating teeth. I didn’t want to hurt the horses so I opted not to. After the horses, we were supposed to go horseback riding for two hours, but Dr. Eduardo got an emergency call. We all followed him into the Traditional Mennonite community where everyone drives buggies, has home-made clothes, and have a long beard. I wanted a picture of them very badly, but it would have been rude. Anyway, in this community there were two cows that needed veterinary care. One had a vaginal prolapse. Dr. Eduardo cleaned the uterus, pushed it back into her body, sewed her up, and gave her a vitamin shoot. Apparently just as long as the uterus in inside the body, the swelling will go down on its own. After this we went back to Barton Creek but this time we went from behind. Cora, Delayna, and I went with Dr. Kirsten on the way to the creek on this really cool wooden bridge over the river that shook when you jumped on it. Cora jumped, no one else did. Anyway, there was a cabin and hammocks and a rope swing over the water where everyone was jumping from. The water was pretty shallow and Delayna and I spent most of our time there trying to catch a fish with a bag again. We still have no pet while we stay here. Now if Cora and I could only come up with a topic for our presentation next week. Lesson of the day – a plastic bag and some corn chips are not enough to catch fish.