A Full Saturday

What a week! My day in clinic yesterday was a bit rough. I returned to the pharmacy as the only official volunteer dispersing meds because another volunteer was sick. In the next few weeks, the clinic is expecting a massive shipment of meds from the mainland (four entire cargo carriers have been stuck in the bureaucratic quagmire of Tegucigalpa for the last few months). The clinic administration thinks that the pharmacy does not currently operate well enough to be able to handle the huge arrival. As the only volunteer pharmacist present, I was given firm feedback yesterday that differed significantly from the instructions I had been given when I arrived and in the last few weeks. It was a frustrating situation, and I felt like a lot of blame was thrown around. I took a moment to compose myself outside and then finished the rest of my shift, trying not to internalize the situation too much.

The rest of the afternoon refreshed me after my tough morning. Michelle and I made a delicious lunch, chatted for a while, and then headed out into the big blue. It was the best snorkeling yet! On the swim out, I noticed a flash of white in the corner of my eye. It was a gorgeous eagle ray undulating through the water above the reeds. Its back was slate grey with quarter-sized white spots that blended in with the designs of sunlight playing on the ocean floor. The rippling of its wings revealed the bright white of its underbelly. Michelle and I chased after this magnificent creature until it outpaced us and faded into the depths.

We also got to see two octopi, one of which actively snacked on the innards of a conch shell right in front of us. Both would be about the size of a soccer ball if their tentacles were wrapped around their bodies. They both remained partially in their burrows while we watched them, surrounded by old conch shells.

I got to see another mid-afternoon meal: a little moray eel jabbed its head into a sandy crevice, gobbling down some little creature. The eel was beige with little white spots and a pure white crest down its back. I hovered over it, watching sand poor from its gills as it attacked and swallowed. In the coral mound next door, we spied a shy puffer fish about the size of a watermelon with big, dark eyes and little fins that whirred about like propellers. It was so innocent and cute!

Michelle, Tammy, and I each separately saw the same thing: a fish that was long and shiny and swam right under the surface like a barracuda, but had a thin, pointy snout. We wondered how this large needlefish (the identity we hypothesized for it) different in size and shape from its look-alike. We decided to head back towards shore and, just as we rounded another mound of coral, we saw both—a needlefish and a barracuda—within five feet of each other! They were similarly long, but the needlefish was slightly paler, thinner, and, obviously, much sharper in the snout. The barracuda had a darker sheen to its scales and that typically gnarly looking mouth. What a perfectly timed demonstration of their differences!

After a low-key dinner, Megan, Maia, Tammy, Robert, and Jenna joined Michelle and me for Movie Night. We enjoyed piña coladas, freshly baked cookies, and kettle corn while we watched Casino Royale. The lovely conclusion to the day helped me recover from the morning’s stress.

Today, I knocked out a major chunk of my SCUBA certification—finished the academics, took the final exam, and almost all of the closed water dives. The skills I learned in the last part were definitely unfamiliar—just breathing underwater through the mouthpiece was weird! It felt so good to approach these challenges boldly, trust myself that I didn’t need to freak out, and succeed on the first try for almost all of them. And I cleared my ears without even really thinking about it!

When I got home, rain was poring down and the power was out. There’s nothing like sitting on the couch with a cup of iced coffee in hand, watching the rain fall into the ocean and listening to its patter.




2 thoughts on “A Full Saturday

  1. Hi Han
    Wonderful posting full of interesting challenges in clinic, beautiful snorkeling description, and fantastic scuba achievements! Can’t wait to see you and get a tour of you Roatan-a-Hanna life. I am so proud of you and ALL you are doing!

  2. Han, I’m sorry that you had that stressful situation, but I know you handled it thoughtfully and maturely. You’re right to try to look at the situation objectively because it sounds like this will be a good story for you to tell of how you felt the challenges that the healthcare system in Honduras faces on a personal level. xoxo

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