We started working in the hospital in mid May. We are excited and happy to be seeing patients again and working with the very dedicated staff at Hospitalito. As always with new work, there are unforeseen challenges. We studied Spanish for our first three months here so that we could communicate with the staff and patients, but are finding that a vast number of patients speak no or only a little Spanish. It is hard not being able to communicate with patients directly in their native language. There is something lost in the history taking, in the patient education given, in the encouragement we want to impart. Unfortunately, our Spanish is still not proficient, so learning Tz'utujil will have to wait a little longer.
There are also many things about the culture, the cultural practices and beliefs, and the people’s day to day living that we need to learn. This is a slow process, because you really don’t know what you want to know until a situation comes up that provokes questions. Someone can’t sit down and tell you that these are the differences between our culture and their culture. Some things may seem so natural for one culture that it is hard to even explain what provokes a particular belief or practice. For example, several patients have asked if bathing in cold or hot water will affect their medical condition, but we have not yet been able to figure out what concern perpetuates this belief.
Our days are full. We’ve been busy balancing the new work schedule, family, and involvement with the church. The kids seem unfazed by it all and wake up each day with smiles on their faces and ready for a new day (unfortunately usually before 6AM). We have no after school activities, no TV, etc., yet we are busy. Our two first graders go to school from 7:30 until 12:30. By the time they get home and we eat our main meal about 1 or 1:30PM and they have a little time outside to play, it is 2:30. Just enough time for a couple of hours of homeschooling, then it is dinner, a shower, reading and bedtime.
All the activities of daily living are very time-consuming and less so for us than for most of the local people because we are very fortunate to have a washer, refrigerator, and gas stove (so we don’t have to have gather, cut, and burn wood for cooking). Shopping is an almost daily necessity as we can only carry so much home at a time. Meal preparation is very labor-intensive as almost everything needs to be made from scratch and raw fruits and vegetables need to be prepared specially.
Christopher and Elizabeth continue at the local Catholic School. They are learning Spanish, the local Mayan language, Tz'utujil, and a little English as part of their school curriculum. They had exams recently and while we were studying, they had some practice tests at home. In one day, they took tests in all 3 languages. Christopher thought that this was very unfair :). We’ve participated in a number of school events including a field trip to the beach on another part of the lake (we paid for this thinking it was going to be at a local beach and then the day before found out it was a boat trip away, after which the teacher allowed Brent to tag along as a chaperone), Mother’s day celebration which was a huge, wonderful celebration complete with tamales as a treat for all the mothers, and a school birthday celebration. Christopher’s birthday was at the end of May and so we brought a little snack for the class. We were completely surprised when Christopher was inundated with gifts and hugs from his classmates. He received a couple of toys, but most of the gifts were completely practical: socks, towels, cups, bowls. This was so generous and thoughtful as we are sure these students’ families do not have money to spare.
Julianne and Nicholas are both in a local preschool two days a week and really enjoy their time with the other kids in the community. Many little art projects are covering the walls in our house and are providing creative decorations.
Brent, Jennifer, Christopher, Elizabeth, Julianne and Nicholas