Traditional female Navajo elders wear skirts. And not just any skirts. These are bright cotton skirts, with different horizontal ruched panels, giving the skirt a very full look. On top, a bright colored blouse, often in the same color family, just as often not. Some women wear scarves on their heads, tied in a knot under their chin, and many wear their hair a very specific way, which I think I’m going to struggle to define: think of a long ponytail, folded into thirds, then wrapped around the middle with fine cord into a long, thick knot-like-thing. I am doing absolutely no justice to the grandmothers here, and I hope they forgive me. It’s very, very cool.
Today at the clinic was interesting. Diabetes clinic was in the morning, a clinic that specializes in people who are having difficulty controlling their diabetes. So it was no surprise to the regular nurses that one patient tested a random blood glucose of 580, and another tested 560. Yes, I know. In most hospitals that’s a critical value. And yes, we sent them to lab and then got orders for insulin. We saw people as young as 23.
Over 40% of the Indian population over the age of 55 has diabetes. That’s compared to 14% of the general population. However, the people I see in the clinic know the risks they’re facing, and really do want to be compliant. One woman had her glucometer stolen when someone stole her bag, and she came right in to ask for another. It’s a huge public health initiative. However, I think the key phrase is “people I see in the clinic.” I think there are plenty of undiagnosed diabetics who won’t set foot in the clinic until they suddenly and finally find themselves in the ER. There are also plenty of people in denial.
Lisa and I went exploring on the rocks tonight, and while we were taking a breather and enjoying the scenery, we ended up talking about the Navajo creation story, about which Lisa knows far more than I. One major part of it is that Changing Woman bears twins, and she raises them as warriors so that they can fight and destroy the monsters that roam this world. However, they do leave a few monsters alive so that humans will always be vigilant. This story is still interpreted to be relevant today – there are still monsters: drug addiction, alcohol addiction, diabetes, abuse. And some parents still raise their children to be warriors – but not in the expected sense of the word. Rather, in the sense that they will be vigilant against the monsters of their time. I liked the applicability of the story.
In other news, the rocks. We went climbing on the rocks. It was awesome. When I move here permanently, I need to find someone who will come climbing with me. I absolutely must. Lisa described it as having a jungle-gym in her backyard, and that’s exactly what it is. We went exploring across rock faces and down into gulleys and scouted the best way up to the top of The Toes. We made it to the base of the cliff of the Toes, and scouted a good chimney that we think we can climb to the top. But it was raining intermittently and getting late, so we turned around and climbed home. I’m hoping she suggests an early morning weekend start, and we’ll get to the top. I like the fact that she’s so driven, and pushes me the extra little bit I need to keep exploring and not get all mom-like and worried that it’s raining. I’m too overprotective.
It’s too much like a postcard here. It’s just too beautiful. We climbed to the top of the outcrops and could see for miles and miles, past other mountains and valleys and gulleys and mesas within valleys within canyons, and flat plains with pale green plants and dark green juniper trees. And the rocks are so red, but not only red – red and while and orange and the colors just bleed into each other. One of the most interesting things here is how soft and fluid the shapes of the rocks can be. The rocks are incredibly soft – they break under your feet sometimes and crumble in your hands, and when you roll rocks down the cliff (little teeny rocks, not big rocks) they sound hollow. So with the wind and water constantly wearing at them, they become rounded and….human? I’m not sure what I’m getting at here.
The other interesting occurrence at the clinic today was the 40-weeks-pregnant woman who starting having contractions at her prenatal checkup. I got to help put her on the fetal monitor. I found the baby’s heartbeat on the first try. We bundled her into an ambulance and sent her down to Chinle. I hope she’s met her baby girl by now.