Monday, September 5, 2011

Slice of Life: News From the North, and a Little From the South - September 5th

It has been awhile again. Why? I have had computer access that actually works in the poorest of nations that I have visited, including Sierra Leone which was billed as the second poorest country in the world at that time. And here in northern Canada? Not much for almost a month. To qualify that a bit, and to give the powers that be their due, the first two weeks or so of this rotation were spent in the high school gym because of encroaching forest fires. I think the station actually had some minor damage. We were still allowed to sleep at the clinic residence when not on call. So no computer in either place. Until our phones at the gym pooped out. Then we got a couple of  Roger's cell phones. I love pressing buttons,  so I pressed enough oddball icons (I'm a somewhat disgruntled Telus customer) until I figured out I could access my e-mail from the phone. I at least was able to check my e-mail, but my thumbs are primed for iPhones, not whatever brand of the day we had. So I didn't send much off.
So there's my excuse.
I was on a medical mission, in Mexico, prior to this stint. The Chiapas region has some of the most beautiful land in the world I have ever seen. When you drive into the mountains, you become one with the clouds. It is breathtaking. When you drive on the switch back roads, it is breathtaking as well, as in "Holy s***! Look at the size of that boulder in the middle of the road! That wasn't there yesterday!!!" Gut wrenching at times too, as in "STOP THE CAR!!! I'M GONNA HURL!" Not me, but a few of my amigos. Gravol was king of the road.
Our accommodations were top notch for the little town we were in. We had a room air conditioner, thankfully, because it was so very hot in the evening, and the only window out was about 180 feet off the floor and just big enough for a canary to see out from, if we had one. An interior window opened to the equally hot hallway. I have roughed it in a few places, and this place wasn't  horrible, except, this is Mexico. So quite a few folks fell prey to Montezuma's Revenge. And the bathrooms in the rooms sported only shower curtains for doors, so you couldn't even pretend that no one knew what you were doing in there 4 or 5 times a night.
The last evening in Copainala found a few of us missing the post mission cervezas, so we went on a mission of our own to find a spot near the town square to toast our accomplishments. So we could walk home. The little spot with the cute patio overlooking the happenings? Dry. The only nice place was a cab ride away. We were then directed to a little cantina about a hundred yards down a dark road. The patio proprietors assured us it wasn't very nice, but we went anyway. We just wanted a beer.. How bad could it be???
Omar, my partner in crime.
 The bar was an open air little place, with a palapa-style roof. We were greeted by a drunk holding a jug, if I am not mistaken, and speaking a Spanish slurry. There were less than ten people, all locals, and only one kind of cerveza, one litre bottles of Sol. There was entertainment, a guy with one of those one man band keyboards, and he wasn't all that bad. The chairs were your cheap plastic patio chairs, and we found a table with three of them. Before we could sit down, a very obviously drunk woman came over and tried to take my chair, which I grabbed back, and parked my behind in. That should have been clue number one. That she grabbed a chair elsewhere and parked herself beside me should have been clue number two. In fact I had many clues, and as the senior missionary on this little jaunt with a couple of medical students as my escorts, I should have recognized them. But there I was, oblivious for quite the while. Like when she told me I was "guapa", pretty, in Spanish. Even though I was with two young male medical students, one who is from Mexico. Then she poked me on the arm a couple of times. One of the students, Mark, asked my other student, Omar, who is from Mexico, to ask her if she liked girls. Now folks, that should have really clued me in to what was going on, but all I thought was, why would he want to ask him to ask her that? We had ordered 1 cerveza for our little toast, with three glasses of course, then the senorita grabbed Omar's glass, well, plastic cup, and was going to swig out of that. I grabbed it back and set it back to Omar. In Spanish, she said that there were no more good looking girls in Chiapas, and I received a few more shoulder strokes and an invitation back to her ranch for drinks. If I had moved any closer to Omar, I would have been on the other side of him. My brain finally hooked up its wires properly. In my pitiful Spanish, I old her the guys were my boyfriends, that I liked MEN, including the younger ones. That didn't stop her. In the meantime, some other happy patron tried to pick a fight with Mark, who was innocuously drinking his beer. Another patron intervened. Omar, ever the gentleman, informed the senorita that we were Catholic medical missionaries, you know how the truth will always set you free. Right. It didn't. Mark's amigo tried again to pick a fight, the other patron intervened again, physically (no punches, I swear!), the senorita was getting upset because we had been laughing, then grabbed our lonely bottle of cerveza and starting drinking from it. She calmed down, we quickly finished what was in our glasses, and left, but not before the senorita tried to buy another round. She reached into her ample cleavage to retrieve her money, giving me a show that is unfortunately burned into my memory. And the inebriated soul was still outside with a cup this time. And that is why they don't let us loose.
The absolute impossible happened on my way out to work this time. I missed my flight. In 50 something years of travel, I have never missed a flight. I had the 0640 flight to Winterpeg, the alarm was set for 0300. In a flash of organizational productivity, I had totally packed my suitcase the night before. All I had to do was pack my cooler in the morning. The alarm went off. Actually, two of them, the one from the Ridiculously Expensive Alarm Clock Known as the iPhone, and the most annoying buzz in the world from my home alarm. Both got turned off for the extra five minutes of sleep. I woke up at 0540. No food packing, no shower, nada. I made it to the airport by six, and just missed the cut off for catching my flight. A few f-sharps and $150 later, I had secured a seat on the next flight, which would still get me to Winnipeg on time for the puddle jumper out here. And as I sat down to a breakfast of grease at Coyote Jack's, I watched as the last folks boarded my original flight. That the puddle jumper folks almost didn't let me on the flight to St. Theresa's had me fit to be tied. They said I was late, even though they had two flights scheduled to go at the same time. Graciously, they gave me a seat on the second flight. My fellow nurses were on the first one, and left promptly, non stop, at the scheduled time. My flight boarded 20 minutes later. And I arrived here before they did. I don't get it. It's the north.
I was pleased to find some of the office staff had taken up golf while working at the gym. That was for but a brief moment, until I realized they were trying to get the mouse. It ran behind the photocopier.
The gym was interesting to work in. The walls around the two stretchers were velcro-ed gym mats. One stretcher had no brakes. One night we ran out of oxygen in the big portable tank, while bagging a little girl who wasn't breathing. The spare was at the other end, and somehow the dolly to help transport it was MIA. A rather looming kind of man, a relative, just bear-hugged the new one, and with Superman-like strength and speed, picked the thing up like it was a toothpick and brought it to us. The child was shipped out, and is back home now, laughing and skipping and jumping around. Wonders never cease in this job.
We are now in the new residence, spiffy-do, it is. I'm still looking for the fan in the bathroom, in a place where mould is the most common form of wildlife. I went to use the microwave, and it wouldn't work. It is in a little box type open shelf at face height. I knew if I got the thing out and down that I would never get it back up. And so with moves that could grace a Cirque du Soleil performance, I managed to teeter the thing on my shoulder, and inadvertently, my head, while using two fingers to unwind the damned twist tie that held the tightly coiled cord on the back of the stupid microwave, and then clawed my way to the outlet behind it, without electrocuting myself.
Can anyone explain the "Dream Machine" alarm clock? It's got time zones! Some bright person, likely a man, threw out the instructions, and there are six of us nurses in the building, and no one can figure the dang thing out. Dream? Dream on, it's a bloody nightmare, that's what it is. Thank goodness for the Ridiculously Overpriced Alarm Clock Known as the iPhone. Provided you get up when it goes off.
And that is my world for now.