Paul Jacquay - Paraguay
This year finds us with our feet much more firmly planted than a year ago and it's nice for us to be able to look back at how we were then and where we are now and realize that we are adapting. The hardest transition by far was separation from family. But the passage of time and the fantastic assistance of technology in the name of "Skype" through which we are able to see and talk to Helen and Sean via the Internet at no additional charge have eased the burden.
The last time I wrote about concerns with patients not coming to our clinics. Some progress has been made with these numbers, though we are still not overwhelmed. But another development has arisen for which I am excited. We had stopped going to one of the sites, Lambare, due to lack of numbers. We were looking at going to another site, and I had started to zero in on Santa Ana, a barrio of Caacupe, where I had taken part in a 2 day clinic with other people from Big Timber and a Paraguayan doctor when we visited in 2004 and saw 230 patients. But we had to back off when both doctors that are working with backed out. They both had taken other part time work at private hospitals and were unable to do this. (Even though both had previously said they could do it!) Then Dr. Liliana complained that the conditions for conducting clinic in one of the houses were unsatisfactory (I agree) and I talked with Pastor Roberto about this. He said that there was an abandoned "Puesta de Salud" just 3 blocks from the house, and he would contact the Minister of Health to ask if we could use it. We met with the doctor in charge of all of the clinics in the Asuncion district. I was impressed with her mellow attitude and the faded blue jeans that she wore. She was happy to have some one show interest and agreed to open the facility. She also hired a nurse to work full time at the clinic, even though our team would be there just one afternoon a week to hold clinic. The clinic is in a barrio of Luque. You have to travel a couple of kilometers over one lane dirt grass in the middle road to get there. The name of the clinic is Loma Linda (Pretty Hill) and it does live up to its name. The first week we had just 2 patients. But this was on short notice and no advertisement. There was a community meeting at the clinic between the first and second clinics that we attended. The meeting was conducted by a social worker that helps run the health clinics. He explained to the group of 20 community members that this is their clinic. They are responsible for keeping the building and patio clean and maintained. They also are to raise funds to pay the utility bills (Maybe $10.00/mo). As long as they are responsible for this the services of the nurse and all vaccinations required by the government are free to them. Some of the members of our team felt that the government should pay for these services. But I disagreed, saying I like the idea of forcing the community to be involved, and putting some burden on their shoulders, a sort of socialized medicine so to speak. Two days later we held our second clinic and saw 12 patients. I feel strongly that this site is going to grow.
This past week Semana Santa (Holy Week) Marianne and I took advantage of time off to sight see areas of interest within driving distance of Asuncion. On Wednesday we traveled to Vapor Cue. This is an interesting place in the middle of no-where where the Paraguayan army scuttled 5 ships during the triple alliance war in order to keep the enemy from using them. There is a river next to where these ships are now displayed, but in Indiana we would call this a "creek." I have no idea how they were able to get these ocean going vessels up this stream of water! On Good Friday we attended a service in the small town of Atyra. This mass included the reading of the passion of Christ, which was then followed by a ritual of taking the statue of Jesus down from the cross, "showing" the corpus first to a statue of Mary dressed in black then to statues of Veronica (holding her veil with the image of Jesus face) and John, then placing the corpus in a sepulcher. They then carried the sepulcher and statues in procession around the church grounds and into the church. I know this tradition is common in Latin America, and I wonder why it is not done in the U.S.
Marianne is back to teaching at Lumen in the mornings and enjoying it. She also is volunteering her services to set up an English teaching program at Friendship Mission. The classes were supposed to start 2 weeks ago, but administration has been slow to organize and fliers advertising the courses have not yet been distributed.
Marianne will be starting private tutor lessons in Spanish next week. She has been frustrated along these lines. She has made arrangements with countless other potential tutors, and none of them have ever shown up. This aspect of Paraguayan culture has been hard for us to adjust to. Many times people have told us that they will do something, but they do not do it. This happened again yesterday when we were to have lunch with a friend of mine. When I tried to contact him just before noon he was not available, and he did not respond to my message. The worst example of this occurred when I arranged to visit the church in Ciudad del Este. In November at the church board of directors meeting I talked with the representatives from Ciudad del Este and asked if we could go together after the December meeting. A week before the meeting I called the pastors house, talked to his wife, and she knew about the arrangement and said there would be a place to stay. The next week we had our bags packed and a full tank of gas ready to go. When I went to the meeting there were no reps from Ciudad del Este present! After the meeting I called the pastors house and his son told me that he was visiting another town. We were able to visit in February. But neither the pastor nor any of the other reps made any mention of the arrangements made in November that they had failed to keep. This also is a normal part of this custom. Say that you are going to do something, but if you don't do it, don't say anything about it.
Enough for this time. Hope everyone was able to stuff themselves with ham and candy for Easter as your reward for the suffering that you endured during Lent.
Benediciones y shalom,
Paul Jacquay serves as a long term volunteer at Mision de Amistad (Friendship Mission) in Paraguay. Paul works as health consultant for the medical department and is a nurse trainer at the Mision de Amistad School of Nursing.