I’m a little back-logged because I was without wifi and unable to write for awhile, and I want to be sure to not leave any details out, so I’m going to write each post about three of my days as to not overwhelm you with information! Get ready because a lot has been going down.
On Tuesday the 15th, we had a lecture at the PAWS Clinic where we learned about large animal diagnostics. After we had lecture and went into town for lunch, we went to Whistling Ducks Farm to practice performing a physical examination on a horse. This was my first experience being so close to a horse where I was reaching into their mouth and such, so I was a bit nervous. When we got to the farm, the farm owners were having trouble wrangling a stallion. Evidently, they suspected he had a mouth disease, and they didn’t want it to spread to the rest of the herd. But there was a mare in heat, and there are a very few things that can get in between a stallion and a receptive female. But once that settled down, my roomie Sidney and I were assigned the horse November Thunder. He was a fairly large horse and we performed the physical examination as we were taught: from head to tail. I also got to use my CVS brand thermometer to check the horse’s temperature!
After finishing the physical exam, we observed an in-field spay of the farm owner’s dog. It was really interesting seeing the surgery done outdoors on a wooden table, but the table was cleaned, and the procedure went on smoothly. After our time at the farm, we made a pit-stop to a local man who had called Dr. T about his dog who had TVT, or canine transmissible venereal tumor, which was really cool to see first-hand.
The next day, we went to a sheep farm where we administered injections into the herd. We worked in pairs where one person would hold the sheep and the other would administer the drug. Due to a previous injury, I wasn’t able to pick up any sheep which sucked, but I was super fortunate that I wasn’t forced to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with and my partner was able to pick up the sheep instead. After that, some people performed a castration and the rest of us got to observe. After the sheep farm, we stopped at a spot along a river on the drive back and it was beautiful. The river was moving kind of quickly so if you went into the water with your whole body, you’d start to float away.
That night, we were invited by the Health, Belief, and Ethnomedicine course to the house that they were staying for dinner. Their house was beautiful, and they put a lot of work into the dinner. They made this sort of vegetarian stew with all local produce. I had a little bit of the stew, but then I noticed I was starting to have a bit of an allergic reaction to the mangoes that were in the dish. But! It was okay, I went out to Hode’s after we got back and was able to have a nice meal.
Thursday was the first day that the stress of being abroad really hit me. To start, a cockroach was in my room the night before, and my roommate and I couldn’t find it. So we went to sleep and left the lights on so that he wouldn’t come out (since cockroaches come out when it’s dark). So my sleep was really light because there was a light on. I also had really bad cramps and it was really hot out. That’s something I haven’t really been talking about because I think I’ve been trying to block it out. Every day has been in the high 90s with close to 100% humidity. As soon as I leave any room with A/C, I start sweating from every part of my body. I’ve never sweat so much in my life. But anyway, it was hot, I was hurting, and Thursday we were going to a cattle farm. Beef cattle are more aggressive than dairy cattle, and we had to administer vitamins and de-wormer to a herd of 70 cattle. Before they lined up all the cattle for the injections, I had the opportunity to perform a castration on a calf. Dr. T walked me through what to do by explaining what ligaments to pull at and what to clamp, but it was me who used the scalpel, popped the testicle out and everything.
The cattle were corralled into a narrow passage way that allowed us to administer the injections into the back rump of the cow. However, these cattle wanted to get away, so they would push through the narrow path already full of cows, sometimes even jamming themselves underneath other cows. The first injection I did was for a calf, and it ran when I got near and I nicked my finger with the syringe. I was so mad at myself because it was already an unfortunate day and now I was bleeding. But I got it cleaned up and was able to give injections to other cattle. We worked in rounds and we were rotating in giving injections for almost two hours. After we finished all of the cattle, we administered injections to the horses that were on the same farm. The horse that I worked with was much calmer. The one was an oral injection and the other was intra-muscular.
The day was long and hard, but Ruben has taught us that in Belize, when you work hard you play hard. That day that started off as one of the worst days of my trip turned into one of the most memorable. We went to Barton Creek where we went on a cave canoeing. We were taken by a tour guide through a cave that Mayans used to come into a view as a path to their hell. We passed human remains and there were bats circling all over on the ceiling of the cave. When we were far enough into the cave the, our tour guide had us turn off our lamps that we were given. When everyone turned off their lamp, we experience total darkness. This was the first time in my life that I have ever not been able to see my hand in front of my face. Thinking about it scientifically, it was crazy to me that there wasn’t a single light ray to bounce off of the surrounding area and onto my retina. We sat there in silence for a few minutes and took the darkness in. It was kind of annoying because being in a group of 14 means that people were laughing/ couldn’t keep quiet, but this trip has taught me to take only the good and forget the bad.
After we finished canoeing, we had a beautiful lunch nearby, and they were able to swim right outside the cave. Some people in my group even jumped off the nearby cliff into the water!! I’m really fortunate that we are able to learn so much during the day but still get to experience the natural beauty of Belize while we’re here too.