Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vive el Santo!!

Mila (daughter of Maria), Maria (pension owner), Senaida (host mom)
Salud (w/ empty bottle)
I wanted my birthday to slip by under the radar this year because 44 sounds old even though I feel like I’m 27 (except after playing basketball for 2 or three hours). So I didn’t tell the Volunteers in my area or anyone else in my community. I just wanted to do my work, go home, and go to bed early and let it pass unnoticed.

But someone in my community had written it down somewhere and remembered. In the morning, I got a call from my host mother and the woman who runs the pension where I eat lunch and they sang me the Spanglish version of Happy Birthday. I was pretty surprised and a little moved (almost single tear) that they remembered. They told me they were going to throw me a little get together in the evening. I didn’t want them to go through the bother but it would have been rude to decline.

I worked all day doing recycle charlas (talks) in the high school, went to Palpa to run some errands and came back to the house. My host mother cooked me a nice supper. Couldn’t tell you what it was exactly - chicken in an improvised sauce with rice. It was delicious. Maria from the pension and her daughter came by as did Jess and Nikki, a couple of nearby Volunteers. Thank goodness Temito came by so I had some male company and wasn’t completely outnumbered by women.

After eating, we listened to some Salsa music, bullshat, drank some beer and homemade wine, and listened to Jess and Nikki play the guitar. When we were winding down the festivities, the mayor sent over a half a case of beer.

It was a really nice, low-key evening on my birthday here in Rio Grande and my host family and friends made it special. Facebook nation also remembered and I got ton of warm wishes.

Other male friends in my community heard that it was my birthday and told me I wasn’t getting off the hook that easy and that there was beer drinkin’ to be done this weekend. Maybe I’ll celebrate a little more during Opening Day of the cockfighting season this Saturday!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mercy Missions

Not as bloody and gorey as I had imagined.
Pre- and post-op team.

Patients lined up in the hall waiting their turn.

Peruvian surgeons removing a tumor.

Earlier this month a group of 13 doctors and nurses from the Detroit area came to do a surgery campaign in the town of Palpa about 10 minutes from where I live. The campaign was organized by the local Rotary Club and several Peace Corps Volunteers translated for the doctors and nurses.

The last time I was in an emergency room (when I wasn’t the patient that is) was when I was a freshman in college. I took a buddy of mine who’d slept with his hard contacts in to the university’s quack shack. His eyes were swollen shut and he was in a lot of pain. He laid down on the examining table and the doctor opened up his eyes to put in some drops. He cried out in pain and a lot of tears poured down his face. I felt light headed, my knees buckled and I would have passed out had I not found a nearby chair and a promising career in medicine ended before it began.

So I was a little apprehensive about going into an operating room to translate for patients who were having surgery but were awake and able to talk. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle actual blood and guts. But it wasn’t that bad and I didn’t even come close to fainting. A helpful pointer from one of the nurse antesthetists was that blood was just red water.

The campaign was very well organized by the local Rotarians and all the patients showed up on time and waited their turn patiently (even though cutting in line is a bit of an art form down here). I did have a couple of people pull me aside and ask me what kind of strings I could pull to squeeze a family member in but I had no pull.

One lady showed up who didn’t have an appointment and happened to catch the lead surgeon on a break. She asked him to take a look at a lump on her foot that hurt when she wore sandals. The doctor said he could remove it. Then she got greedy and asked about a tiny lump on her thigh. The surgeon poked around and asked if it hurt. She said no so the doc said to not worry about it. Later that afternoon she changed her story and told the same doctor that the lump on her thigh hurt but the doc called bullshit on her and told her he would only operate on the foot.

The next day she came back apparently having told the organizers that the docs were going to remove both lumps and sat there kind of smug. When they called her name she got up with a big smile on her face and went in. Her face quickly changed when she realized that a couple of Peruvian doctors were going to do the surgery instead of the Americans. Her face went from “Hell yeah! I’m going to see U2 live in concert” to “godammit this is a shitty U2 cover band”. She only had the lump on her foot removed by the way.

Weird shit I saw. A tumor the size of an orange on the back of someone’s neck, a hernia that was so bad the guy look like he had elephantitis of the balls, an infant with an extra thumb (teach him to pitch don’t have it removed) and a man with a hair lip that had never been repaired.

Thanks to Mercy Missions for coming down to Palpa and for all the good work. Enjoyed getting to know you all and look forward to seeing you again if you come down in October.