Xela Day One: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

As part of setting up the POP-WUJ Clinic in Xela, Guatemala with an electronic medical record, I have headed down with a team of ten other volunteers to the city of Xela in western Guatemala. I’m going to document the trip and the work we’re doing down here by a series of daily blog entries chronicling our trials and tribulations setting up and installing FreeMED there. I’ll post pictures as soon as I get the chance to upload them to Flickr.

Day One: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

We left Connecticut last night around 11:00-11:30pm, and picked my sister up in upper Manhattan a few hours later. Along with us were a few Rackable Systems servers, kindly donated by SGI and some laptops donated by my employer, as well as an assortment of donated medications and medical supplies. Shelley flew out on a separate airline from us, but we all ended up arriving in Guatemala City around 12:15 pm local time.

From there on in, we took a chartered bus/van the 170 km from Guatemala City to Xela, through the mountains. It’s pretty poor in a lot of these areas, but what struck me as odd were the armed guards at convenience stores and banks, as well as the razor wire surrounding those same banks. There were also a lot of stray dogs, some in packs, some idly following people around looking for scraps. The “chicken buses” were old US school buses which had received chrome and paint jobs, usually packed with riders, even to the point of having the overflow spilling out the doors. Our driver Pedro was very nice, and took us to a restaurant on the “Intra American Highway”, which served delicious food.

American Airlines lost one of the bags, unfortunately containing the primary server. I’m planning on deploying the workstations we brought with us and doing any additional wiring which may be required. After that, if the bag hasn’t surfaced, I’ll promote what was supposed to be the redundant backup server to the role of being the primary EMR server and will proceed with the remaining steps of our installation. The POP-WUJ crew is able to give me help doing translation work for the EMR, as well as fleshing out the necessary functions of their day-to-day workflow. Hopefully, we can fine-tune the system to work like a well-oiled machine.

It looks as though choosing Rackable Systems is going to pay off, as I’m most likely going to finish up configuring the backup server using the serial console “roamer” port with my handy USB to serial adapter and null modem cable.

Thanks to Google Voice and Google Talk, I’m able to communicate with friends and family back in the states without breaking the bank, and they can contact me. On the downside, I miss my wife, and I’m sure she, along with the dogs and cat, misses me too.