Friday, May 29, 2015

Language Acquisition

Heath:  "So I'm talking to one of the neighbor ladies, and she is trying to teach me some K'iche' words.  But I was pronouncing it wrong and it made her laugh so hard that her dentures fell out!"

Katrina:  "I was riding in the back seat trying to talk to Tomas as he dropped us off at our houses, and he suggested I move up to the front so it would be easier to hear each other.  I guess I misunderstood him because when he stopped the truck for me to change seats I thought he was letting me out to walk home.  We weren't even close to my house yet.  I asked him for directions to my house."

One of the key ingredients to successful cross-cultural living is language acquisition.  Unfortunately, it takes much longer than one anticipates to become functional in a second language.  There is the initial excitement of language school and studying and grammar drills; it quickly turns into frustration and boredom and the nagging question, "why can't we all just speak English?".
At first the student feels proud that he can ask simple questions and give proper greetings and goodbyes, but still has no idea what  the rest of that conversation was about.
Then he transitions into understanding the general gist of the conversation, but still being unable to respond with  more than a few one-word utterances.
Finally there is the realization that  focusing on phrases and sentences brings the gradual ability to piece together an intelligible thought.
This is usually when one begins to try his hand at joke telling or sarcasm.  Bad idea.  It will be years, if ever before that can pulled off successfully.
Our MET students all find themselves somewhere along this spectrum of frustration, trying to work through every-day moments and situations at the language level of a toddler.  In theory, becoming child-like in order to learn a language makes sense.  In practice, it feels unnatural and down right humiliating.
Hang in there folks.  It does get better...poco a poco.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Missions Anthropology

Our MET students are moving right along in their cross cultural education.  One of the key elements of their training involves home stays with local families in urban and rural areas. Their first week in Guatemala  was in a medium-sized city (Quetzaltenango) while going to language school five hours a day.  Then, after 4 days of missiology classes at Clinica Ezell in Montellano, we split them up into two groups of 6 students.  One group came with us to the Highlands region and the other team stayed in the Boca Costa region. In the Coast the students stay in an urban area, in the town of Chicacao.   In  the Highlands they are in a very rural setting with students spread out all over the countryside.  In a couple of weeks the teams will switch sites.  They are getting a pretty good sampling of the variety of living conditions here in Guatemala.
We left Clinica Ezell at 9:00 and arrived in the Chichicastenango area about 12:00 to enjoy lunch at one of our co-worker's homes.  They treated us like royalty before heading off to Paxot II and Mactzul V where the students will be living.  We took all the students to each home so they would know how the others were living, and even picked up some extra friends who wanted to go along for the ride.  Then Kemmel and I made our way back home by 8:30.

Scrumptious lunch at Cesybel's house.  Her mom is a great cook.

Ali's new place--everyone was trying out the cool window options.

Heath  trying out the head room in his house.  The light bulb over his head cracks me up!

Joanna with the welcome committee at her house.

Rowdy actually fits in his room--we'll see if he fits in the bed.

So, apparently I forgot to get a picture of Katrina in her new house.  I'll be sure to put one up soon!  She is still alive and well, Mom!

Greg has a bachelor pad fit for a king!

Hiking in to see Rowdy's house.  Francisca from Paxot II decided she wanted to ride along to Mactzul V and see the other host families.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Medical Evangelism Training, Then and Now

Twenty five years ago, Kemmel and I particiapated in the Medical Evangelism Training program offered by Health Talents International.  We were naive college kids wanting a little adventure and also wanting to know more about the missionary life.  In those early days we were given a sneak peak into the world of real-life medical missionaries and cross-cultural living, kind of a practice run of sorts to help us know if that was the thing for us or not.  Athough we enjoyed the experience, we didn't really think we would actually be living that life one day!
MET 1990

Now we are sitting here with 12 fresh-faced college students going through the missiology part of the MET program, soaking up wisdom from former missionary Roger McCown as he guides us through topics like language and culture, cross- cultural evangelism, medical evangelism, responsible use and pitfalls of charity and short-term trips, and learning to examine outcomes of our efforts. Soon they will be peaking into our lives--no pressure!

MET 2015

We appreciate the Board of Directors of Health Talents and their desire to share information learned from more than 40 years on the field.  Medical Evangelism Training has prepared many students over the years, some of whom have gone into full time missions and others who become active in their church's Missions Committees back home. To God be the Glory!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Business and Pleasure

We live very close to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, Lake Atitlan.  So, it is an easy hour and a half drive to get away from it all when needed.  This weekend we decided to spend a few nights at our favorite lakeside casita in Santa Cruz La Laguna, before joining our our staff for a two-day retreat/planning meeting in Panajachel.  Our days were spent hanging out on the covered patio overlooking the lake, kayaking around the shoreline under the sleepy gaze of  three volcanoes, and hiking the ancient foot paths from Santa Cruz to Jaibalito to Tzununa.  We even took a boat over to San Pedro to check out the other side and enjoy some gringo-style barbecue at Smokin' Joe's.

Two of the boys were taking in the sights while the third one caught a quick nap on the ride home.

We saw several kids swimming around and using motor oil bottles for floaties.

Cute lakeside vacation home close to where we stayed. 

This is a typical water taxi that shuttles people from town to town around the lake.  We counted 13 life jackets and 16 passengers.  Just be sure you're ready when the music stops !

Beautiful sunny day to enjoy a hike and smoothies on the way at Casa del Mundo.

If you look carefully you can see the trail we were on.

Then on Tuesday and Wednesday we met with the combined staff of Clinica Ezell and Clinica Caris to enjoy some spiritual enrichment from Roger McCown and some planning sessions led by Rick Harper.  It was great to see everyone and get on the same page again.

Enjoying some staff time together at Hotel Kachiquel in Panajachel

Add caption

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rule of Threes

The rule of threes is a slightly superstitious, but real phenomenon in medicine (and plane crashes) that always intrigues me.  Our special this month seems to be on chronic renal failure and pica.  
The three renal failure patients (all from the same town, no less) have been diabetic, and the first one just passed away at the age of 70 after deciding she didn't want to go through dialysis.  The next two are in their 50s and deciding if it will be worth the expense of travel to get set up with the peritoneal system offered by the government health care. The family gets free dialysis workup and shunt placement and dialysis solutions for home care, but has to travel every 6 weeks to the city for labs and follow-up.  In addition, there are the other meds that are not covered and have to be bought by the family--eating through their financial resources quickly.  It is always a sad day to have to tell a family that we are dealing with end-stage organ disease of a medical condition that could have been better controlled.  Please pray for our diabetic patients and us as we work to educate them and their families on the importance of diet, exercise and medication compliance.
The other illness is pica.  This one always gets our attention as it is so dramatic!  A 40ish year old woman came in with complaints of fatigue, breathlessness and heart palpitations while working. "Oh, and by the way, I crave (and eat) dirt!"  This was a great teaching case for our health promoters, and we talked about pica and anemia.  I told Cesy, who was translating, to ask her what kind of dirt she likes the best.  She kind of looked at me funny but asked the question.  Sure enough the patient told us about the dark and red dirts and the some of the white dirts she has tried--all delicious!  On further questioning she has very heavy bleeding with her menstural cycles.  Her hemoglobin was 8 (about half of normal for someone living at high altitude).  
Our second patient who came in 4 days later, was a 14 year-old girl whose mom brought her because she likes to eat sugar out of the bag, and...likes to eat fresh adobe.  So far I can't find any evidence of excessive blood loss, so probably just nutritional anemia.  But we'll get some labs to confirm that.  
We are still waiting for the third pica patient to come in...they will come!  Maybe that's God's way of getting your attention and not missing something serious.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

Weekend Road Trip

Our weekend included a quick trip to Clinica Ezell down on the coastal area of Guatemala.  It's about 3 hours from here, and we made it before dark after finishing up clinic on Saturday.  Since there is a surgical team there, the place was pretty lively and we got to visit with lots of old and new friends while we packed up much needed supplies to take back with us.  After a hot, but restful night, we enjoyed sharing breakfast and worship services together before we had to take off.  We decided to take the long way home through Mazatenango and Xela to the highland's highway, which is always a beautiful and fun trip.  We also enjoyed some Maxim's Chinese food--the best in Guatemala!  And also some Pizza Hut take out for later!  Here's some pics from our road trip.

Bananas, anyone?

Enjoyed visiting with Sharon and Vince Van Cleave, and finding out Vince was our brother-in-law's college roommate!

Such fun fruit stands!

The southern part of our route is all coastal land complete with tropical plants and fruit.

As you start climbing and heading north the view changes to coffee plantations and then evergreen forrests.

Santa Maria tunnel through the mountain.

Quetzaltenago is hot springs country.  This is in Almolonga where there are medicinal bath houses every few feet--the ladies walk home with towels wrapped around their head.

Downtown Xelaju (Quetzaltenango)

The Long and Winding Road...

This image doesn't capture fully the steep incline of the road to the church building.  Sometimes you can't see beyond the 10 ft in front of you because you are pointing straight up!
 ...leads to Xejox.  We headed out early today to get a jump on the 2-hour and 15 minute drive out to Zacualpa, and then up the mountain to Xejox for cervical cancer screening clinic.  We had a good turn-out of ladies, several of whom had never had a pap smear or check up before.  Several of the men of the church stopped by to make sure we had everything we needed.  After a great lunch of homemade chicken noodle soup and tortillas and India Quiche sodas, we wrapped up the last few patients and packed up for the long ride home.  Before we left, one of the elders came by to socialize and was working on his "needlework".  I thought he was crocheting, but he corrected me and said it was needle work--he was making a woven shoulder bag.

Brother Francisco turning out a new shoulder bag. He said it takes about 3 months if he works on it and hour each day.

Current bag.  He told me, "Sister when you come back, you can see what the new one's looking like."

Dirty Jobs

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures, but I just have to brag on my man for cleaning out our scary water cistern.  He took a day off yesterday to get it done.  This dirty job consisted of emptying the water as much as possible, first with the pump--washing as many loads of laundry as he could find, watering all the plants and trees, etc.  Then when the level got below pump tubing, carrying the rest out by bucket, climbing up the rebar ladder 10 ft up.  After too-many-to-count buckets full, he got to the sludge at the bottom--yuck!  When he started, the cistern was dark, and you couldn't see the bottom through the water.  As he cleaned it out, he said the light started reflecting off the bottom and the whole cistern lit up.  Since the city water is still at very low pressure from being at the end of the dry season, Kemmel decided to order a delivery truck of water to fill up the cistern.  What a difference!  We can now see all the way to the bottom and our water is crystal clear again.  Whoohoo! 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Missionary Mentoring

Nick and Andrea Darby
Last week we were honored with a visit from a former MET student and his wife, Nick and Andrea Darby.  Nick interned with us in 2009 and is now a third year medical student at UAB.  His wife Andrea is an ICU nurse.  The fun part is that they are preparing themselves to go into long-term missions and wanted to come down for a week and check out the work around here.  It was good having them in clinics and visiting around the area, especially in Paxot II where Nick and the other students stayed.  His host family invited us to Sunday lunch before church, which was especially nice.

It was interesting to listen to their ideas and questions and share their excitement of planning for the future.  Here are few pics from our time.

Manuela and Maria whippin' up some homemade goodness!

Tomasa and Maria teaching the fine art of hand-made tortilla making.

Juan, Aura, Levi and new baby Bianca

Which ones are not like the others?

Add caption