February 25, 2010

Lilavois 23

This afternoon we went to a barrio called Lilavois 23 - probably one of the worst hit areas I've seen so far. Most streets here have tons of destruction and then one or 2 buildings totally fine then more destruction and so on. Lilavois was almost total destruction. There was probably 1 building standing for every 10 that fell. Lots of piles of rocks and concrete and a thin coat of dust over everything. One of our translators, A, lives in a tent city near Lilavois. He was the one who told us about the animals in Lilavois 23.

We pulled up to a farm and a man opened the gate so we could drive up onto the yard in the middle of the rubble ruins of his former home. A herd of gringos in a pickup truck seems to draw attention, so after about 10 minutes, there was a small crowd gathering on the road. And about 5 minutes after THAT, the crowd came back with their animals in tow. The man who opened the gate for us had several animals running around his yard, including pigs and goats. Goats are pretty resilient, hardy creatures, very loud, and very difficult to catch. Once they caught on to the whole Catch-Deworm-Release idea, they were doing acrobatics around the rock walls to avoid MC, the farmer, and the small group of children chasing them.

We sort of broke into 2 groups - MC and helpers and JE and helpers. RB stayed in the back of the truck (probably a good idea since she was the smallest and cutest and therefore, probably the least likely to survive a Haitian guy attack. Although she's training for a marathon... she could definitely out run them!!) She distributed supplies as we called for them - 5cc of Pyrantal here... 1cc of Ivermectin there. JG and MP were animal wranglers (god bless them, cos I can't fight with some of these huge ass goats) and I got my share of cats in rice sacks. On a side note, I love feral/wild/crazy barrio cats, and I don't know why everyone else is so opposed to them! They are way easier to treat than a huge ass angry dog, and I get extra excited to see them, since they are nearly impossible to catch, so when someone can actually get them into a rice sack for treatment, KUDOS!! A woman and her daughter (probably 7 or 8 years old) came with a very cute kitten named "Mimi". I really wish I spoke/understood more French/Creole so I could communicate with the people. I thought my Spanish was limited, but when put in a foreign situation, "Gracias" and "por favor" seem to roll off my tongue like spit. My head is going in about 20 different directions... every situation requires me to think in English, translate to Spanish, speak in Spanish to the translator, wait for them to ask a question in French/Creole, interpret, translate to Spanish, speak to me in Spanish, and then my brain translate to English... no wonder I've been asleep by 9pm every night!

There was a hysterically funny guy in Lilavois 23 who spoke English and was a VERY enthusiastic interpreter! We had to get to Camp Charlie by sunset, but told him we would return tomorrow to visit more animals. I was dying of thirst, and there was a woman on the side of the road selling sodas and candies. MC was brave and got a banana flavored soda :-x but I got a Coke. Yes, it was in the refillable glass bottle with no cap, but Coke is like battery acid and I'm sure kills off any cholera or giardia prior to ingestion.

There was a guy from Lilavois (a friend of Andre I think??) who lived a few hundred yards from the farm. He invited us to his house/tent for coconuts. As delicious as they were, I fear THAT would be the one thing to give me cholera! And apparently, you can't or shouldn't whack your machete on the ground, since that dulls the blade. Good to know.

We treated 2 pigs, 12 dogs, 3 cats, 22 goats and 1 chicken at Lilavois, and are going back tomorrow morning to treat some more. All of these numbers are approximates, since no one is really keeping track. A goat here, a dog there... pretty close.

We had to be at Camp Charlie by sunset, as the soldiers told us that's when the dogs come out to the soccer field and are easier to catch. We got there just as the sun set below the mountain, and were armed with tranquilizer guns to catch these dogs. There were a few soldiers playing soccer on the field with about a 1/2 dozen dogs. Apparently most of the dogs were already sterilized (by whom?) and were very friendly. It took a few minutes to get everyone organized and ready to shoot the dogs. There was a black and white male that was reportedly sick, so they wanted him to get caught first. Of course, he was the most difficult to catch. MC got a dart into him then MP chased him like a crazy man with the rabies pole. The dog started running through the fences around the camp, and MC soon found out the fence separated the Bolivian army base from the Brazilian. Apparently a large gringo with a tranq gun in the shadows of the Brazilian UN tanks gets attention, and he soon found himself surrounded by Brazilians with automatic weapons, trying to explain in Portu-Span-Glish that he was a vet.

After that, the dog was TOTALLY gone, and our best bet was to calm down and regroup. MP got us an invite for dinner at the Bolivian mess hall - spaghetti and hot dog with red juice and bread. Yum.
I swear I was more excited than I look :)

We never did catch the dog, but I made friends with one of the soldiers and got a ride back to camp in the UN truck (I was hoping for the tank, but oh well :) with the armed guards. It was suggested that we not drive in the dark without an escort, so the Bolivians were happy to provide. Although between you, me and the wall, they were too busy asking me questions about New York that a late night ambush would have slipped right by. Sorry guys... ;)

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