Tag Archives: rural

Magic and Miracles. SKYnet, New Friend in the Casita

Three plus years ago I moved into the Teotitlan del Valle casita when it was ready for occupancy after living with my host family. The question that nagged at me then and before was how would I get reliable Internet connection to write, publish photos, work and maintain a lifeline to family and friends in the U.S.A.

Honestly, it’s been a struggle. This is how we learn patiencia here in Mexico. It’s a great teacher.

Small but mighty "dish" pointing south from the edge of the rooftop terrace

Small but mighty “dish” pointing south from the edge of the rooftop terrace

The casita and environs are beautiful. Tranquil. I live out in the campo amid corn and agave fields. The village is slowly moving out this way. Across the dirt road, donkeys bray. In the corrals on adjacent plots of land, neighbors keep pigs and goats. They talk, screech, squeal, bump against the patchwork wood structure, jiggle the aluminum roof.

View from the campo with Teotitlan del Valle village in distance

View from the campo with Teotitlan del Valle village in distance

Building projects encroaching on the farmland are announced by the sound of hammers, drills and heavy earth-moving equipment.

In the cool of early morning, campesinos pick alfalfa. Brahmin cattle pull hand-hewn wood plows to prepare the fields for planting. The rainy season has started. Ojala.

There is no land line that comes this far out.  Telmex service is non-existent in these parts.  You need a landline to have traditional Internet service. Fiber optics? Hardly.

I’m lucky to have electricity and many of the comforts we take for granted like electrical outlets, lights, a washing machine (no dryer but the sun), running water that sometimes runs out when the water tank drains to empty, usually functioning flush toilets, a gas stove, refrigerator, ceiling fans.

Screen shot. Five bar connection, first draft

Screen shot. Five bar connection, first draft

Some years ago, to solve the Internet access problem, I got a ZTE wide band device that connects to my computer USB port to pick up a radio signal through the Telcel cell tower. Most of the time, it took 30 minutes to download one or two small file jpg photos when it worked. Cost: exorbitant. Reliability: Questionable.

Last year, I brought my jailbroken iPhone 4s to Oaxaca and converted it to a local smart phone to get and receive emails. To write blogs, take care of life and upload photos I went to the city or to local restaurants with decent wifi service.

Now, no more. Welcome my new friend to the casita: SKYnet. This is a satellite telecommunications that provides internet service. No TV or cable. Only Internet. The system was installed this last Thursday night.  I’ve had uninterrupted connection even through two giant rain-thunder-lightening-wind storms. I’ve had a Skype call with my son (no pixellated image). And, it’s FAST.

The "dish really looks like a small square plate.

The “dish really looks like a small square plate. Whole deal: 24” high.

Installation cost: 2,800 pesos (about $150USD at the current exchange rate) for the fast service level. Monthly fee is 580 pesos or about $32 USD. For rural villages without access to communication, this is a blessing.

I’m thinking you might hear from me more, from here on.

Years ago, when I worked with the graduate master’s and doctoral engineering programs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Dr. Hermann Helgert, a electrical engineer and telecomm expert predicted that it would only be a matter of time before rural parts of the world would have interconnectivity.

If you go to the SKYnet Facebook page, you’ll see all the small, remote mountainous Oaxaca villages that have access now, too. Ojala!

People say that Internet access is a great social and economic leveler and will help improve literacy and education. What do you think?


Multicultural Learning Experience for U.S. Nursing Student in Oaxaca

“I loved it!”

Kathy Ray, a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spent two weeks volunteering in the rural public health clinic in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca.  The learning experience was invaluable.  She developed what will be, she is certain, lifelong professional relationships with local nurses and doctors.  She improved her Spanish language skills and she developed a greater appreciation for Mexico.

The village has one of the better-equipped clinics in the region and many patients from smaller villages are referred there for their primary care.  Because of that, the patient census on a given day can be high.  The clinic has two general practitioners, a pediatrician, a psychologist, social worker, nurses and a dentist assigned for patient care.  It serves 8,000 village residents plus people from more remote rural villages.  They welcomed Kathy Ray with open arms.

Kathy loved living in the village and volunteering there.  “It was the first time in my life I have been on my own,” she said.  “I got married young and started raising children when I was 22 years old.”  She had never been out of the U.S. before.

What Kathy Ray was able to accomplish in two short weeks

She started a fun Brazilian exercise program, called capoeira, for teens and pre-teens held in the central plaza in front of the church.  The exercises incorporate music, games, dance, acrobatics, and martial arts (it is non-violent, she explains).  The children loved it, and she got several repeat participants. (You can see examples on YouTube.)  Pre-teens and teens everywhere are at risk for early onset diabetes and fun exercise helps overcome the risks.

Kathy gave rubella, DPT, and hepatitis-B vaccinations to children and adults, and shadowed the ob-gyn doctor.  She learned hands-on techniques, and also shared ways that Carolina nurses are taught to give emotional caring and support to patients who are in medical crisis.

“The nurses and doctors are all very professional.  I was able to shadow the nurse who was in charge of vaccinations and the OB-GYN doctor who cared for pregnant women.  I learned the techniques for vaccinating infants, children and teens, and learned to read ultrasounds to identify gender.  It was great.”

Kathy is a mature and wise 39 year-old mother of teenagers.  This gave her the ability and perspective to become a peer professional.

She shared her perspectives about needed safety education materials

Even in the two short weeks that Kathy volunteered, she knows she made a difference.  She recommended that the clinic publish educational pamphlets for parents about unintentional accidents, including how parents can protect their children by encouraging the use of helmets, seatbelts, and to not to ride in the back of pick-up trucks (how many accidents happen).  Kathy saw she could influence and encourage safety education by reinforcing the message that “it only takes one person to make a difference.”

Kathy and I spent over an hour together in my office while she recounted her experiences during her two-week stay with a local family.  She has written about living in Teotitlan del Valle and being a volunteer nursing student on her blog: http://onceuponatimeinoaxaca.blogspot.com/

She has posted photos there, too.

Placing student nurses between their junior and senior years

For me, it has been such a delight to place nursing students in Oaxaca as part of a global study experience.  It has been four years since I started this program with the help of Federico Chavez Sosa.  And, it is beneficial for students to be volunteering in Mexico since many of our immigrants are from Spanish-speaking countries.  Teotitlan is perfect because it is safe, small, welcoming and we have a network of relationships there.  The village health professionals receive the benefit of smart, educated and dedicated nursing students to help.

“I was excited, but also nervous about going to Mexico on my own.  It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.  The relationships I developed will be life-long.  I loved the beautiful scenery, the visual imagery, the rolling farmland surrounded by mountains. And, I walked everywhere.”

“And, of course, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator was my bible.”

How did Kathy manage on a strict student budget?

She bought pre-cooked food at the local market, purchased prepared yogurt mixed with fresh fruit, cooked beans, rice, red pepper, and choyote squash in the house she was staying where she had kitchen privileges.  She drank the purified water and didn’t brush her teeth with tap water!  She didn’t get sick 🙂

“Every day, someone would come to the clinic with a frozen milky drink flavored with cinnamon (horchata) that we would all buy for 40 cents each.  That was a highlight of my day,” Kathy remembered with a smile.

Kathy will receive university credit for this experience after she writes and submits a paper under the guidelines of the global study program at the school of nursing.

Norma Hawthorne works with accredited schools of nursing to place talented student volunteers for two- to six-weeks in public health clinics in Oaxaca.  If you would like to discuss this opportunity for summer 2012, please contact me.  (The relationship must be with the university/college rather than with individual students.)







Oaxaca Health Clinic Welcomes Carolina Nursing Students

The School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill encourages students to develop the knowledge and skills needed to provide quality care in global environments and to recent immigrants to the United States. Students can do this by taking a summer course and meet requirements by volunteering with a nongovernmental organization or local health care agency in a global health setting.

One such agency is the El Centro de Salud in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. The public health clinic offers preventive family care as well as low-level emergency services for about 8,000 residents of the village. At the clinic, Carolina nursing students get hands-on practice in a cross-cultural learning environment.

Teotitlan del Valle is in rural southern Mexico, about 17 miles (about 30 minutes) outside of the city of Oaxaca in the Tlacolula valley. In this centuries-old indigenous village many of the older residents speak only Zapotec — the predominant language of the region — and only know a smattering of Spanish. The area is high desert plateau at about 6,000 feet altitude, nestled at the foot of the 9,000-12,000 Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range. There are 2,000 looms in the village, which is known for its fine textiles.

Since 2008, Carolina nursing students have spent several weeks during the summer before their senior year living with a family and working alongside local doctors and nurses. The program was established by Norma Hawthorne, director of advancement for the School of Nursing, who has a long-term relationship with a village leader, Federico Chavez Sosa. In 2007, she asked if a UNC Chapel Hill nursing student could live, work, learn and share in an intercambio – an intercultural exchange and the opportunity was launched.

Today, Mr. Chavez Sosa heads the committee responsible for the village’s public health, including the clinic – one of the newest and most modern in the region. He talked to us recently about the community health concerns articulated by the new governor of the state of Oaxaca, Gabino Cue. Women’s and children’s health is a high priority, especially pre-natal care, labor and delivery. Mr. Chavez Sosa is interested in having many more Carolina nursing students participate in the experience. He notes that the village values participation by Carolina students because of their knowledge, dedication and contributions.

Students receive academic credit for NURS 489 Practicum in Nursing: Global Health Experience. This class is specifically designed for students with an interest in traveling abroad so that they may learn about health systems and the nursing profession in other countries. The academic program director is Christine Harlan, BSN, RN, MA, (chris_harlan@unc.edu). Some financial help may be available to students through various funding sources.

A History of UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing Volunteers in Teotitlan del Valle:

2008 – Leilani Trowell

Leilani traveled the village by foot with local nurses to immunize children in their homes, did patient intake in the clinic, and assisted in out-patient procedures.

2009 – Lindsay Bach

Lindsay developed a diabetes education program for village women that included exercise and fitness as well as healthy food choices and recipes.  She had spent two years in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan before coming to Carolina for nursing.

2010 – Amy Faline Davenport

Amy was a doula and interested in women’s health, prenatal care, birthing and post delivery, and assisted in birthing procedures.  She had already earned the MPH and decided to become a nurse.

2011 – Kathy Ray

Kathy is pursuing her second degree and is the mother of three older teenagers.  The experience will give her an opportunity to brush up on Spanish language skills as well as preparing her to care for new NC immigrants from Mexico.

Photos feature Lindsay Bach, BSN, RN who graduated in December 2009.