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Today was a crazy day. The End. Kidding.

The morning began with a cold shower and a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, juice, and fresh fruit. Absolutely delicious. We eat very well at the foundation house, a nice mixture of Dominican cuisine and more rational American fare. After losing all our audiology on the bus, we set to make the trip to San Pedro and CAES, which is essentially due east from Santo Domingo. It’s amazing setting the city come alive. Hustle and bustle everywhere. As crazy as it seems to anyone who lives in Memphis, the traffic is worse, much worse. Aggressive driving is the exception not the rule, horns are to be wielded fiercely, mopeds and motorcycles sneak along splitting lanes and filling bind spots, and the right of way is always YOURS.

The trip to San Pedro seemed to take a little longer than last year’s but we arrived in around two hours. The school looked much the same as Kat year, yellow buildings automating a school yard greeted us, kids and adults buying waiting, we were anxious to get to work as the children who are gearing impaired coke to school in the morning, then typical hearing children come in the afternoon. Jose, the founder, uses the afternoon as a private school to help fund the center. The Deaf program is free for the students. We had a few hearing aids that has been donated to fit, unfortunately they were older digital BTE’s only good to about a 75/80 dB loss. Based on last year’s experience I was doubtful about the number of kids we would find with a loss which would fit the hearing aids. Thankfully the students doing testing ended up finding a few that could fit them but at the same time it’s very frustrating having to tell parents we don’t have any hearing aids with us strong enough for child and his/her old aids are broken and we weren’t able to get them working again.

It’s kind blowing setting the difference in standard of care between the US and the DR. Equivalent access to health care is definitely not here. I think we’re all aware of it, but it’s not something that always sinks in. These kids would more than likely be receiving decent (better than they currently receive) audiologic care (and may not have even developed the hearing loss to begin with, one if the suspected factors is easy access to cheap but powerful antibiotics such as gentamyacin which is quite ototoxic).

Back to gasket thoughts, the speech students did some work with some students on sound awareness, some basic pattern detection, entry level aural rehabilitation. They were also able to discuss some language development with parents and teachers. In between power outages, we were running hearing tests. I was with the group doing replacement earmolds as I had some experience in that department last year. We were busy. While we only has a few hearing aids to distribute, we had a bunch of Insta-Mold. This is a wonderful product roughly more possible than ear impression material that use to make an instant warms, no send off necessary! Perfect fit for the Dominican Republic. They aren’t quite as durable as silicone or acrylic molds but they seal nicely and hold up fairly well. We were replacing a lot of earmolds while awaiting kids for the hearing aids. We were also able to resurrect a few non functional hearing aids but unfortunately had to give official time of death on a few others. Let’s just say Caribbean humidity is nit the friendliest to hearing aids.

There is amazing thing that kids do called growing. You might be surprised but your ears grow right along with the rest of your body. Needless to say, we saw a fair number of outgrown earmolds which we were able to replace (simultaneously eliminating some feedback problems as well). In addition, we were able to make moms in some kids and several adults who hoped to get hearing aids as they became available in the future through purchase or functions from other groups.

We eventually cleaned up the mess of otoblocks, earmold trimmings, and tubing scraps and made our way back to the foundation house. We were able to leave behind some various hearing aid supplies such as dry-aid kits and stethosets as well as several suitcases with of school supplies.

Dinner was waiting when we got back to the house and it was DELICIOUS. We eat very well at the foundation house. A cold shower followed and it. Was. Glorious. A cold shower had never felt so refreshing (except for last year on the trip and probably the rest of the week).

Tomorrow’s plans: visiting the rehab hospital and having a cultural day. This will more than likely include visiting a cathedral and some shopping in a market.

FOOD WATCH: one of my favorite parts. Lunch was chicken (possibly from the school itself), rice, beans, a cucumber-vinegar salad.

Desert needs its own paragraph. Jose served us some fresh honeycomb from a hive somewhere on the school grounds. I’m not a huge sweet eater nor do I use honey frequently (other than in my wing sauce) but this was incredible! It was overwhelmingly sweet yet softly refreshing and there was something about the raw taste of it.

I also learned from my classmates you don’t have to eat the beeswax. Oops.

Dinner was phenomenal as well: BBQ chicken (what better to feed to a bunch of Memphians, mashed potatoes, rice and salad. . All extremely delicious. Can’t wait to see what is for breakfast.


PS Make sure you check out our group blog