Friday, May 21, 2010

This Post: Proverbs Party in Puerto

I just finished reading through Proverbs. Here are some of my favorites:

"The way of a man may be tortuous and strange, though his actions be blameless and proper."(21:8- JPS Tanakh translation)

Some people are just weird, and it's cool. Take Neco, for instance. After someone in the group had their cell phone stolen, he informed us that he had visited a seer down by the wharf and he knew who had taken it. That person had until the following day to return it, or Neco would denounce him as a thief on public radio.

"Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without good sense." (11:22)

I'll keep that in mind.

"The lazy man says, "There's a lion in the street; I shall be killed if I step outside!" (23:13)

This reminds me of when the entire city shut down business because the government was changing hands, on the off chance that a riot might break out.

"Giving a straightforward reply is like giving a kiss." (24:26)

A conversation between me, Lee, and Jaime, the dance teacher at Maureen Courtney:
'We call him Alfonso because he lies a lot.'
'Why "Alfonso?"'
'Because he lies.'
'Why do you call him "Alfonso" because he lies?'
'Because we call everyone who lies 'Alfonso.'
'Because they lie.'

"Visit your neighbor sparingly, lest he have his surfeit of you and loathe you." (25:17)

Absolutely unheard of here. If I mention I'm going to be alone because Susan and Lee are away, I will immediately have several volunteers eager to relieve me of the tragedy of being by myself.

"My son, eat honey, for it is good; let its sweet drops be on your palate."


"If you find honey, eat only what you need, lest surfeiting yourself, you throw it up."

We eat a lot of honey in this house, despite its scarcity in these parts. We stock up on the occasional trip to Managua.

Proverbs for living in community:

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (15:1)

Don't rile a former debater. You'll never hear the end of it.

"One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes alienates a friend." (17:9)

I've already gotten over whoever ate the rest of my gallo pinto.

"He who greets his fellow loudly early in the morning shall have it reckoned to him as a curse."(27:14)

Guilty as charged.

Proverbs that become much clearer in the Third World:

"Rich man and poor man meet; The Lord made them both." (22:2)

It used to be weird to think of myself as rich. It's not anymore.

"The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice." (13:23)

It's startling to me sometimes how vulnerable to being cheated those without money are. I had a couple friends who were driving a car when the wheel went out. They had to get it fixed, but they had no money to fix it with. The station manager took a valuable hat as collateral, which was worth more than the repair. By the time they got the money together and went back to the station, the manager's brother had taken the hat, and the manager had no interest in getting it back for them. It kind of sucks when it's one of your few possessions.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is the tree of life." (13:12)

Future plans are easily made and easily destroyed by economic realities. One can't pay to go to the university, one can't find work. It's amazing how even being able to go out once in a while becomes a huge animating force for some people here.

"The poor are disliked even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends. Those who despise their neighbors are sinners, but happy are those who are kind to the poor." (14:20-21)

I'm so eager to use the Internet at the Agnesian convent, yet I get wearied when friends incessantly ask to use our computer.

I'm frequently drained by the level of need and the emotional baggage among my closest friends
in Puerto. Economic differences are a huge strain on relationships, even with those who aren't looking to take advantage of me. But in navigating these relationships, I feel a lot closer to understanding how the gospel is calling me to live. I'm finding my grasp on my possessions, which had been tightened by US cultural expectations, starting to loosen in a culture that considers sharing one's goods to be mandatory polite behavior, not beneficence.

"All the days of the poor are hard, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast."

It's hard to obtain joy in the face of economic distress. This is a continual goal of religion classes and sermons here. When people achieve it, there's nothing quite so beautiful.

Final meditation:

"The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy." (14:10)

and yet

"As face answers to face in water, so does one man's heart to another." (27:19)

Cross-culturally or otherwise, our souls are as kindred and untouchable to one another as we are to our own reflections.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Trip to the Hospital

Before writing about May 1's Carnaval, I ought to write about that week's pre-party at the hospital.

Upon arriving in my house after dance practice, my stomach started hurting a fair bit then filled up with gas like a balloon. I elected to see what the public hospital was like, with my posse in escort (Lee, Susan, and Michael).

We entered the waiting area, and I was quite grateful not to have to figure out how to say "triage" in Spanish. Since no one was at what I assume was the front desk, Michael took me back into the screening area and put me on an empty bed (I am unsure whether permission was obtained or not). Several people came through and asked me the same questions over and over. I learned a new word ("pupusear"- it means what it sounds like it means), and my posse learned quite a bit more about my bowel functions than they probably cared to. After recording my symptoms, one nurse said, "Okay, who's responsible for you." We all looked at each other for a moment, then proceeded to elect Lee as my temporary guardian. Then a new doctor came in and shooed Lee and Susan out so they could "interrogate" me. Michael was allowed to stay for translation purposes. The doctor was evidently unaware that he speaks no English, except for a small vocabulary of cuss words and phrases from TV like "Prepare for the next battle!" which he utters randomly like a broken wind-up doll.

I was then ushered into an observation area with 5 beds. I was given bed #4, which smelled faintly of vomit. I considered myself lucky for not receiving bed #3, which had long black hairs all over it. Since there was no television in the room, I was pleased that the waiting area was opposite the main nurses' desk, with a busy hallway in between. I passed the time hanging out with an IV in my arm watching people go by, talking about their various problems in Spanish and Miskito. I also enjoyed contemplating the double doors that opened into the waiting area, which had window panels that, instead of glass, had old X-ray sheets.

A nurse came up and informed me that they would need a urine sample. I was given a test tube to pee in, which is an irritatingly small target area that cannot be hit without either constricting urination to a mere drip or peeing all over your hand. Fortunately for Lee, I was able to pull up and fasten my pants one-handed, though I briefly considered saying "Hey Lee, can you hold my pee?" purely for comic value.

On the way back to my bed, we swapped the urine sample for materials for a stool sample. Instead of the comfortingly sterile, quintessentially American plastic "collection hat" and little bottles with spoons attached, it was a little piece of cardboard and a little paper bag. I came to understand that I was to defecate in the toilet (which still had the leftovers from someone else's stool sample), then scoop up some of the probably tainted product with the strip of cardboard and put it in the little paper bag. I decided that I could settle for a less than fully rigorous battery of tests.

And so we languished for several hours in the observation area. Since it was hot, the nurse gave Lee a large piece of cardboad and admonished him to fan me vigorously. Lee passed the time playing games on his new phone, while Michael informed me of his progress based on the noises the cell phone was emitting. Lee then plucked out the tune of Happy Birthday note by note on the phone, probably to the annoyance of the patient in bed #1. I found myself contemplating the drastic measures taken by our friend Danilo, who had once given up, pulled out his IV, and walked out of the hospital.

A doctor with a motorcycle helmet in his hand came to my bed and introduced himself as the surgeon. He invited me to recite my litany of symptoms, which I was getting quite good at. He informed me it was probably not parasitic, then breezed out. Forty-five minutes later, the nurse came back with the test results and informed me that it was in fact parasitic. Happily, the surgeon had already left and avoided losing face. The nurse handed Lee the prescriptions. He said, "Shouldn't you give these to her?" "NO!" he replied. "She is SICK. She will rest while YOU fill the prescriptions."

I suppose that's the perk of having a person responsible for me.

Susan had already given up and gone home to bed. We seized the moment to follow her fine example.