Hospital Rawson is one of the last places on earth that I would want to end my days. It is the public institution for long-term and terminal conditions here in the city of Cordoba. Hospice care has not yet taken off in Argentina, so many people with cancer, AIDS or cardio-pulmonery disease will spend their last few months in a hospital ward, even after treatment has been stopped. The government health system is strapped for cash, they spend as little as possible on “hopeless” cases, so in the Hospital Rawson it is normal not to be able to find a working wheelchair, or blankets and pillows.
Just across the road in the children’s hospital, churches and secular charities fall over each other to stock the playroom and put on shows for the kids, but at the Hospital Rawson volunteers are a rare commodity. Our church has had a programme of hospital visiting for a couple of years, which has not been particularly well supported, but Patricia and I have been going together to the Rawson once a week. Recently we had a campaign to encourage more church members to join the “team”, and it was thus that five of us met in the doorway of the hospital last Thursday.
As we were sitting on a bench giving our new members a brief introduction to the hospital, an elderly nun approached and asked what we were doing. When we told her, she said “my dream has been realised” and the tears poured down. What was her dream? This amazing lady has been walking these corridors on her own for more than twenty years, sitting with patients as they die, praying with people, befriending the families, helping to find basic resources like clothes and toiletries. She even used to live here, until she lost her sight and moved out to a convent, but she still walks these corridors. Her dream and her prayer is that there might be a team to take over her work when she has gone. I don’t think we could even begin to match her single-handed perseverance of the last two decades, but may God send workers and make us faithful to the tasks he has prepared for us.
In the wee small hours of the other night I found myself musing on cancelled operations, Argentinian titanium plate companies, and English insurance companies. It was thus with an ironic smile and a sense of national pride that this little thought came into my mind:
Argentinians might be experts at creating chaos, arriving late, leaving stuff till the last minute, and general disorganisation, but if you want a proper Muppet Show to screw things up completely beyond all possible redemption then you still need to BRING ON THE ENGLISH!
When Ruben, our pastor here, started apologising for the disorganisation on the Argentinian side, I shared this with him. He said “my idol is falling”. “Let it fall” said Martin.
The Tale of the Titanium plate, part 2. I walked into town this afternoon to finalise the purchase of the titanium plate. When I produced our insurance certificate, the secretary (different secretary to this morning, but obviously trained in the same place..) said “Oh, I understood you were paying in cash”. We’re talking about a thousand English pounds here, which is five thousand Argentinian pesos. So I said “no, our insurance company are going to do a transfer directly into your account”.
And she said “But we don’t have a contract with this insurance company so I can’t allow you to do that”. So I said “If you don’t want to accept our business, I have another quote from another company that I can go with”
Then I left her with my mobile phone number and she said she’d get back to me. And I said you have one hour or I’m phoning the other guys. And then I left.
When I had got about three blocks up the road, my mobile phone rang. And she said “If you just come back a minute I’ll give you our account details”. So hopefully now we really might have a titanium plate, but only if the insurance company manage to get themselves together to make the payment on Monday. Watch this space…
The tale of the Titanium plate. I got on my bike and went round the city and collected three quotes for titanium plates. Or rather two quotes, as one of companies has their stock held up in customs in Buenos Aires and aren’t sure when it will ever be released. Customs in Buenos Aires is a whole other topic of conversation. Anyway, waving my quotes triumphantly, I continued on my bike to the Hospital Privado to ask the doctor which one we should go ahead with. At the door my way was barred by the secretary, so I explained what I wanted. To which she said “But the doctor doesn’t choose, you have to decide”. At this, I wondered aloud whether I should base my choice on tossing a coin, or on this seasons colours… “hmm” she said “the doctor’s not here right now, but maybe his colleague can help you”. Luckily the colleague decided that the thing to do was in fact to phone the doctor. And now we have a titanium plate. Or rather we will do when I go back into town to complete the paperwork this afternoon.
The spring rain started with a bang yesterday. Or rather with lots of loud bangs and flashes of lightening. After being dry for the last four months the predominant atmospheric ingredient has become brown dust, so the coming of the rains is very welcome. Rain here isn’t half hearted, you have about three seconds to get under cover before being completely soaked to the skin. Our road floods to about a foot deep in half an hour, and bags of rubbish can be seen floating merrily down. Luckily we have a slope up to our front door and it hasn’t yet reached futher than half way up! And because Cordoba is in a bowl, the storm is all around us, making the forked lightening all the more spectacular.
Here’s something I was formulating earlier… I was just reading something in Spanish by a Rabbi here, Sergio Bergman, on the inclusion of disabled people in communities. He presents inclusion as an issue of “Shalom”, my poor translation would go something like this… When something touches us personally then we have to respond to it in order to be at peace; but if it is something that we either don’t perceive, or perceive to be a long way away, then we don’t experience there being a relationship between this issue and my peace – I don’t need to resolve this in order to be at peace. Therefore in order to create an inclusive community, we need to find ways of disturbing the peace not of those who are already activists, but of people who don’t have the issues on their radar. He says “the theme of inclusion (of disabled people) will be resolved by those who don’t yet have it on their agenda”.
If we haven’t managed to put a “respond” button on the blog by the time you’re reading this, please send us an email and I’ll make sure your response is put up. Cheers.
Hey look I can make this blog thing work. The next plan is to add a couple of buttons so that people can respond or ask questions or whatever. But we haven’t done that yet, so if you’ve got anything to say, for now you’ll have to email it to us, addresses on the front page. Speaking of front pages, we’re also working on that, it’s functional but not attractive yet, I think… bit like a dentists waiting room, does the job but hardly feels like home. Ideas and suggestions….?
Here’s a little conversation I had with a 13 year old a while ago which I’ve been dying for an opportunity to share…
13: Your husband doesn’t speak much Spanish does he?
Me: No, he’s just learning
13: How do you speak to each other at home if he can’t speak Spanish?
Me: Well if there’s only the two of us we speak to each other in English
Me: Because that’s our language and it’s the one that we both speak best
13: Yes but what do you talk about if you can only speak English….???
Have a good day!
Welcome to our new blog feature! This is for ideas, quotes, stories, controversial theological opinions, rants, issues that we’re thinking about, and generally things which we’d like to share with the world but probably wouldn’t make it onto anything as formal as a newsletter or a developed webpage. We’re also hoping that this might be an interactive feature, with opportunities for other people to ask questions, and express opinions. We hope you enjoy it. Have a good weekend!