It has been a few weeks since we have returned from Grenada. I have settled back into my apartment, studied for an exam and surprisingly adjusted back to the cold and snowy weather of Ann Arbor. It’s almost as though our trip to Grenada was in a different world, a different time that I now feel disconnected from. But what cannot escape me are the daily reminders of the clinic, the people and the environment we were in. It was truly a unique experience to immerse ourselves and feel so welcomed in a new culture. But at the end of our experience what surprised me most was how open they were, and how willing people were to talk with us. While we came to Grenada to help their communities, I think there is a lot we learned and can bring back to the United States.
1. Grenadian hospitality
The people are incredibly kind. From the friendly honks to waves to saying “good morning/afternoon/evening” to anyone in sight, it was a pleasure being around people who value this aspect of human life. In big cities and even here on campus, people walk past each other and do not acknowledge them unless they know each other. Also because their community is relatively small, everyone knows everyone. Working in the clinic we saw how this looked in patient-doctor relationships, which can be very beneficial when you have that long-lasting trust with your physician.
In addition, it reminds me how valuable human connections are. We live in a very technology oriented society where facebook, twitter, and instagram are just a few of the many ways in which we connect with one another. But this is not the natural way of human connection and it takes away from the experiences talking to people face to face. I hope this aspect of human connection does not disappear from Grenada as they continue to develop and connect themselves with more developed countries. This also impacts health in the sense that everyone knows each other’s “story” and has similar mentalities about health and cancer. For example, screening is associated with cancer so many people stray away from screening in fear of what it can lead to. In the sense of interventions, it is important to consider these mentalities as an avenue to influence behaviors.
3. Use of natural resources versus processed food
While we did take note that their diet is lacking certain nutrition, I was fascinated in how they found and made use of everything that has grown on the island. They were very knowledgeable about the plants and trees that grew and what they could make out of them. Living in a more built up area of the United States, we do not pay attention to what grows naturally and certainly most of our food is processed in some sort of way. I try to be careful of what I eat in order to avoid eating some chemical or having a diet soda with aspartame. It was admirable to see how Grenadians take pride in not only their island but in what they grow and produce. Since the island is small, most people are involved in agriculture and understand the importance in what they grow.
It is important to go back and keep learning because what we did in one week is nowhere near enough time to assimilate and understand every aspect of Grenadian life and how this impacts overall health.
In just a few days we saw a lot and learned a lot that we can take back to the states. Just because the United States is developed certainly does not mean what we do here is applicable or a “better” way of life in other countries. I am happy to have gained a new perspective: to be reminded to be a little friendlier, participate in the community, and be resourceful about what our environment offers. I hope in turn that we made some impact with the Planned Parenthood Clinic. Even if the impact we have is small, starting with the conversations we had and questions we have raised, I will still call that a valuable success.