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Following the Locals

February 2, 2012

By Simon Chambers

Ask my wife and she’ll tell you that I have a thing about being on time.  I build timelines at home to make sure I’m out of the house early for any appointment to allow time for the subway to be late, or any of the other things that seem to conspire to keep me from my appointed rounds.

My obsessive/compulsive nature about timeliness gets challenged when I’m traveling to visit partners for PWRDF.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a day where we weren’t at least an hour or two behind schedule by the end of the day.  There’s not a lot I can do about it- our agenda is generally much more important than my concern with punctuality.

So I’ve had to learn to go with the flow (when I’m in the field- not so much at home yet).  And today that worked very well.

Today was all about following the locals.

We’re traveling in two vehicles: Jose and I with three staff from Kinal Antzetik D.F. in Mexico City in one car and staff from Kinal Antzitek Guerrero (our local hosts) piled into a pick up truck ahead of us.

The truck ahead of us makes seemingly random stops to pick up or drop off people, to run into a store, to pick up a hitchhiker and his son, etc.  Sometimes we sit behind them wondering why we’re stopped, sometimes we get out and join them.

Today, we had three very interesting stops in our day.  The first was just after we crossed a bridge as we drove through the mountains to the village of Rio Iguapa.  We pulled over, got out of the cars, climbed over a barbed wire fence (shh! don’t tell anyone), and had a picnic breakfast beside a lovely river.

The second was as we left Rio Iguapa heading towards Buenavista for a late lunch.  This time, we were invited to visit a distillery where local people make alcohol from sugarcane.  It was a quick stop, but interesting to see the various steps of the process.  As we pulled away from the stop, several of the Kinal Guerrero staff were eating sugarcane they’d picked up at the stop.

The third stop was outside a house along the highway.  The doctor who is traveling with us walked back to our car and told us that this house was the home of a woman who was sent home from the hospital when she was in labor and was hemoraging.  Despite the efforts of a local doctor, she died delivering the child, although the child was OK.  Shortly after her death, her husband passed away from grief, leaving six children as orphans.

We met the man who is taking care of the children, and heard a bit of his story in our few minutes pulled over to the side of the road.

So, today I have learned to follow the locals.  And to let go of my concern for time.  Well, almost.  It’s almost time for my next meeting, and I should get to it!

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