wan·der·lust [ wóndər lùst ] (n):

A strong desire or urge to travel, to understand one's very existence

14 Jul

The faces of Guatemala.

Ruth

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Humberto

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Jose

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Dona Nicolassa 

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Saida 

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05 Jul

What finishing a Spartan Race means to me.

So I’ve said earlier that my tumblr would serve mainly as a travel blog, so that I can update my friends and family on my adventures. But once in a blue moon, I’ll reserve a spot in this blog for truly special, meaningful, and defining moments. And this particular moment happened to be a few weeks ago.

So I’ve made it no secret that I recently ran my first Spartan Race a few weeks ago. I say funny things like, #barelymadeit and #almostdied, post awesome pictures on social media, but it’s really not meant to be in a boastful and pretentious way. Few people truly know what finishing that race actually means to me. Now, I don’t want to ruin a totally badass moment, but this post is just to offer some perspective into why finishing a simple obstacle race could become such a powerful, life changing moment. 

I think in addition to the sense of accomplishment and pride I had after the finishing the race, I also felt fulfilled, successful, liberated, and strong. But most of all, and most importantly, to describe how I feel about crossing that finish line in not-so-clever twitter lingo AKA hashtags: #fuckwhatyousaid #immabeaightttt, #provedyouwrong. 

To clarify, I am so used to being labeled as a certain kind of person, or being a certain way, so much to the point where sometimes I find myself unconsciously labeling myself. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism after being criticized all the time, you kind of get into this habit of always defending yourself. You’re conditioned to feel like you will always disappoint, so you prepare people for the worst parts of you even when they never gave you a reason to. I have the ability now to be whoever I want to be, yet at times I don’t even give myself that chance. I’m so used to being labeled a certain way that I have subconsciously accepted all of these qualities as part of my identity. But you know what? We are so unbelievably lucky. As people, we have the ability to grow, to mold and shape our identities, to forge new roads, and to rewrite our own life’s script. We can be, and aspire to be, whoever we want to be.  

These past few months have given me the opportunity to really try to learn (and accept) who I am as a person. And through this beautiful, sometimes painful process, I get to be whoever I want to be, and not who or what anyone says I am. Finishing that race was about so much more than running 4+ miles through a freakin’ mountain and subjecting my body to brutal pain (although my elementary school gym teacher, Mr. Plunkett, would be SO proud). It was about me realizing that I severely underestimate myself, and don’t give myself enough credit for the amazing things that I am capable of doing. It was about me realizing that I, in fact, can take care of myself. To finish any kind of race is liberating, but this race was liberating on a much deeper level. I felt free. The weight of everything I was ever told I couldn’t do, wasn’t capable of, about who I was and why I wasn’t good enough, suddenly disappeared the second I crossed that finish line. 

So to end this post with some not-so-clever, possibly inappropriate hashtags:

#fuckwhatyaheard #imaboss #whocaresifimshort  #vi3tpryde #swerve

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02 Jul

The past few months.

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Dancing all day errrrrday.

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Traveled to a third world country. 

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Baby sister graduated. 

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Weddings, bridal showers, and bachelorette parties galore. 

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Finished my first Spartan race. 

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First time in Atlantic City!

Perfection. 

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20 Apr

Guatemala - On my way home!

The last few days have been a blur. JP and I toured the public hospital in El Benítez, a small city close to Flores on Tuesday. It was incredible. In Guatemala, there are private and public hospitals. Private hospitals are extremely expensive and only those that have insurance or can pay out of pocket can go to them. Public hospitals are open to everyone, as they are funded by the goverment. Obviously, public hospitals are at a severe disadvantage and the level of care seen at these places are less than ideal. Patient´s sleep in the halls in their hospital beds because there aren´t enough rooms. Apparently a month ago, the doctors went on strike because they weren´t getting paid enough by the government. But of course, there were some positives. The NICU and pediatric unit was probably my favorite part of the hospital. The director of the hospital, Melvin, is an orthopedic surgeon. He was such an incredible host, even though he spoke very limited English. I never thought I would have to carry an entire group of people with my subpar Spanish skills, but thankfully taking 5+ years of it really had its benefits. Senor Sanchez would be proud of me.

The other two members of my team, Sandie and Kristen, arrived on Wednesday. Sandie is an ER nurse from Washington who works with JP. Kristen recently graduated from nursing school and is joinng the army next month. I love having them around and we are so much more productive with 2 extra people. Meeting my team has been such a special experience and I consider each one of them to be a part of my family now.

This past week in in Guatemala is what they call La Semana Santa, the week before Easter. It is literally the biggest holiday in Guatemala. While coming in the middle of a holiday week has been a little disappointing because we aren’t seeing as many patients as we were expecting, it has been such an enriching experience, personally and culturally. I´ve been partying with the locals every night. It has been a little intimidating, only because I am the only outsider at these parties. But these experiences are so incredibly rewarding, and challenging. I think everyone needs to step outside their comfort zone, because at the end of the day we grow so much from it. The Guatemalans are such wonderful people, and I am so excited to come back one day.  

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14 Apr

Guatemala - Day 2

Last night was rough. I woke up at least ten times with chills and body aches, felt nauseous all night long and barely got any sleep. When I woke up, Dale was having issues as well, and we both decided that it was probably the fresh produce we had the night before for dinner. Dale had it much worse than I did, as she was practically unable to move the entire day and was rapidly losing a lot of fluid. 

We couldn´t make it to the clinic in the morning. My body felt like it was run over by a truck. Everything hurt and I wasn´t able to keep anything down. I was able to muster up the strength to head to the clinic for a few hours, while Dale stayed behind to get some rest. We treated one woman who came in with a flare up of gout. The next woman presented symptoms consistent with a UTI, so we gave her cipro 500 mg to take BID, for one week. The last patient was probably the most interesting case we saw all day. He had gotten into a bar fight the night before and had a full thickness laceration on his forehead. At first glance we thought we would only have to butterly the wound with a bandaid, but we soon realized it was a much deeper laceration than we had initially thought. JP and I made the decision to suture the wound. Using an insulin syringe with a 27 guage needle, we injected expired lidocaine (that was the best we could do) and gave the young man two stitches. He was such a trooper. It was such an exciting experience for the both of us, as neither of us have done anything like that before. I wasn´t able to make it past that patient, so we decided to leave the clinic for the day so I could rest. 

When we returned to the hotel, Dale was in worse shape. She was losing fluid fast and couldn´t even move. She eventually made the decision to fly back home, so we drove her to the airport. Since we last heard from here, she is back home in Atlanta, and doing a little better. I now am roommate-less, unfortunately. But I hope that she feels better and recovers quickly. 

I came on this trip not having any expectations. Thankfully my parents used to take my sisters and I camping all the time, so living like this doesn´t phase me. But being in a foreign country and camping are two different things - this experience has been very exhausting and rough on my body. There have been times where I have been close to passing out, simply because of the intense heat. Water and gatorade have been my best friends thus far. All in all, I{ve been challenged, mentally and physically here in Guatemala, but to be here with these amazing people makes it so worth it. 

With all my love, 

Sandy 

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14 Apr

Guatemala - Day 1

So I know I´m late, but time has been limited and I only have internet access via a sketchy internet cafe down the road from my hotel. 

I guess I should start by describing my current living situation. The village of El Remate is a remote area right outside of Flores. The hotel that I am staying at, Hotel Sunbreeze, is more of a cabin (although I do have my own bathroom). I get my own complimentary porch and hammock! There is no AC. You can´t flush the toilet paper. There is no hot water - the most you get is lukewarm, which is fine considering it´s been 100 degrees every day here. The shower head has these electrical wires connected to it to heat the water (my roommate Dale got shocked the other day). There are horses, chickens, roosters, dogs, and pigs running around everywhere. All in all, it is perfect. 

I am here with two other people, JP - who is leading our trip, and Dale,an ER nurse from Atlanta, GA. We started off our first day taking a tour of the clinic. A few people showed up so we tried to help them as best as we could. It´s amazing how much we take for granted sometimes. Finding clean supplies to treat people was extremely difficult, but we managed.

The hardest thing for me about this trip is that there are no doctors. The clinic is currently run by JP, Dale, and myself. We are in charge of diagnosing and treating patients, something that is way beyond our scope of practice in the states. Anne, the owner of the clinic (a very lovely Canadian expat, but more on her later) told us that we will most likely have to suture people as well, as it is machete season around here. Thankfully, both JP and Dale are ER nurses, so they are experienced and are exposed to much more than I am. 

Sometimes we are so caught up in our own lives that we unknowingly shelter ourselves. We forget to just stop and appreciate the beauty around us. This trip has given me that opportunity, and I will cherish it forever. 

I wish I could upload pictures, but because of the lack of internet access, it´s been really hard. Hopefully I will get wifi access soon….

With all my love, 

Sandy 

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11 Apr

I took myself out on a date tonight. While I spent most of the day touring Antigua with some pretty awesome Canadians I met this morning, there’s just too many pictures and things to talk about so I will save that for another time.

People who know me well know that I love food. Love might be an understatement. I crave the authentic stuff and seek out mom and pop shops. I had been debating for awhile on going to Kacao, this authentic Guatemalan restaurant a few blocks from my hotel that was recommended to me. Because Guatemala City is extremely dangerous, and because I also found out today that the famous owner of the restaurant, Humberto, was murdered last Monday, I was hesitant to go and was considering just eating at the hotel buffet.

But like I said, I love food, I wanted to treat myself, and I wanted to go on an adventure. It was still light out so I decided to walk there. While Kacao was only a few blocks away, those were the scariest 5 minutes of my life. I made sure to put on my best (meanest) NYC face, took off all of my jewelry, and thankfully made it there alive.

There is something quite liberating about taking yourself out to dinner. It makes you feel free, strong, independent, and fearless. I made sure to put on a pretty sundress and ordered the best ceviche I’ve ever tasted. I had a glass of sangria in addition to a huge bowl of ice cream. I made sure to keep my main course as authentic as possible, so I ordered what they called “Guatemalan Lasagna”. It was basically home made corn tortillas layered with shredded chicken, salsa, vegetables, and 5 different kinds of cheeses. All in all, it was fantastic.

While Guatemala City and Antigua have been amazing and relaxing, what I’m really excited for is flying to El Remate tomorrow morning. That’s when the real work starts. The dirty, gritty, outdoorsy, roughing it through the rainforest experience is what I’m really looking forward to. I am incredibly blessed and so excited to start making a difference. See you all when I get back!

With all my love,

Sandy :-)

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09 Apr

Guatemala

I decided to revamp my tumblr for a few reasons, but mainly to make this somewhat of a travel blog, so that I could keep those close to me updated on my travels while I’m abroad, whether it be for volunteering or for cultural and personal enrichment.

I’ve spent the better part of the last 4 years trying to live up to the expectations and impossible standards of others. Somewhere in between trying to prove that I was responsible enough, reliable enough, tall enough, pretty enough, punctual enough, GOOD ENOUGH, I had to ask myself - what does Sandy want to do? Who does Sandy want to be? These are the answers I’ve been looking for, and I hope that eventually I will find them with a little persistence, love, and faith.

What I DO already know is this: I am kind. I am caring. I have a warm and fuzzy soul. I love to dance, sing, laugh, and cry my heart out. I am a closet vocalist, intermediate pianist, multicultural dancer, creative artist, eclectic chef, loving nurse, and I give the BEST hugs. I am the eldest sister of three, a devoted daughter, and a loyal friend. And most of all, I will always stand by you when life gets hard.

I also know that I am an imperfect person. I’m sensitive, careless, and emotional. I’m immeasurably type B and extremely forgetful, oblivious to social cues, and talk way too much sometimes. But despite all of these so called flaws, I also know that I have a lot to offer to those that are willing to receive all the dedication, warmth, and kindness I have to give. I hope that one day, someone will be able to look at me and love and embrace my soul for all the love, hugs, and quirkiness I have to offer. Until then, I will nurture myself, grow as a person and as a woman, invest relentlessly towards my happiness, and continue to love those around me as selflessly as I can.

They say your 20s are all about finding yourself, and recognizing who you are as a person. With that being said, I have always wanted to do humanitarian work, especially internationally. As a nurse I knew that my skills and innate compassion give me the ability to impact the lives of others at such a profound magnitude. I want to live a life of adventure, passion, and selflessness. Life is often too short to not do the things you love and to not pursue your dreams. As some of you may know, I recently got accepted to do a mission trip in El Remate, Guatemala, where I will be consulting at a medical clinic called Ix-Canaan (translates to “Guardians of the Rainforest”). It is an amazing opportunity: I am only responsible for half of the round trip flight, whereas the host organization, One Nurse at a Time, funds the rest (which includes airfare within Guatemala, food, and hotel expenses). The program, Jo’s Nurses, is aimed towards getting nurses to get over that initial hump of volunteering. I applied because I knew that this trip would change my life forever. I will come back a better nurse, friend, sister, daughter, and person. I’ve always believed that the beauty in being human and living life is that we have the ability to learn each and every day from the people we interact with. This is why being a nurse is so incredibly rewarding, because everyone has a story to share. It is because of this belief that I continually challenge myself to explore the world and what it has to offer me. I challenge myself to listen, to learn, and to love. I always use to tell myself that I was going to save the world one day. And I’m officially taking that first step. I want to be fearless. I want to be free. I want to love like I’ve never loved, and give as though I’ve never given.

Guatemala will be my first of many mission trips to come, as I’m also headed to the remote villages of Zambia, Africa this coming August. I’ll try my best to keep you all updated on my journey through El Remate, although it may be hard to get wifi in the middle of the rainforest.

Until then, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I help those whose happiness comes from life’s small pleasures. People who do not have much, but are rich in spirit, faith and love. Because in the end, personal wealth is not a measure of how much money you have, or how many brand name items you own, but rather it is a measure of your happiness, the love you have for yourself and others, your dreams and passions, and the difference you make in the lives of others.

With all my love,

Sandy :)

 

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16 Mar

(Source: nursenurse)

01 Mar