Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sylvia Wilvert Takes Over Command of the Net... At Least My Blog

This Week's Star at Mercy

Juanita Khan

Juanita hard at work...
It is tough to get an action shot of an Executive Secretary.
Juanita was born in Santa Rosa, Moruka, Barima-Waini Region not too long ago.  How did you get to Mercy?  It was a long story, but part of it was her mother died when she was only two weeks.  She was looked after by the priests and sisters there until they brought her to Georgetown and St Ann's Girls Home.   She worked hard at schooling and mostly through private courses for secretarial and computers.  She began work for Guyana Stores and eventually to Mercy Hospital in 1998.   When I arrived my first day here it was Juanita who greeted me as she was Sister Sheila's Secretary;before that Margorie Park, then after she was the same for Helen Browman, David Jimenez and now CEO Dr. Bridgemohan.   [Wow over 17 years and survive 5 bosses; she must be good.]

She is the proud mother of four children: Molly, Johanna, Shekeila and Vince.  For all of them Juanita has put their education in the foreground and made many sacrifices for them to become the best they could be.

"Come to Guyana it is a beautiful country" though she has not been to many places herself.  If you come, you could take her to see Bartica, Rosignol, New Amsterdam and Santa Rosa.   She did get to Kaieteur Falls because of a close friend and volunteer Jane Greiling.

And the best part of working at Mercy Hospital?  It is meeting new, various and different people - the good and the bad - everyday.   It is interesting and challenging.  Actually, I just get used to something and then...It changes.

What wisdom might you share with my readers?   Always pray to God for guidance.  Trust him; all things are possible.  And if you love yourself, you will love others even better.   When life gets dark, trust God and Listen.   [I think her next job will be as a preacher.]

But in 10 years, she says she would like to be at home.  Her daughters want her at home and not working. Such a loving set of daughters... Almost.  They would like her at home to be there when they get home with food cooked and laundry done...  So she may be still working as it would be easier.   I will see what God has in store for me.

Miss Sylvie, Guest Blogger
Sylvia pondering her words...
One of the first things I overlooked this past week, being Canadian Thanksgiving, is the fact John and I share a portion of a large house that is ALMOST free of cockroaches and ants. Thank goodness for the bug spray John has on hand, but I seldom find any of these critters a nuisance. On the other hand, I continue to sleep under netting for fear that mosquitos will get the best of me and I would succumb to Chikungunya the current rage at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital these past few weeks. That, and Dengue fever seem to be filling the Emergency Dept.  Both of these are spread by mosquitos, so in spite of us having screened windows, they find their way into our apt. John feels the gaps in our floorboards with standing water in the trench below us has something to do with the critters attacking us.
Some people get an ocean view..
This is the view from our flat:
Chikungunya Creek.

 Even the local people are complaining about the heat that we have endured for the month of October. It means that we are wet most of the time. Thank goodness for a “rainforest” type shower, but even that is not cooling as the water heats up in the pipes that are exposed to the sun. Our classroom is the breeziest, and in fact can be comfortable for us in spite of the class time being the middle of the day. However, the house is another story. The major breezes off the ocean are blocked by the large house adjacent to our home. We use a large fan that is constantly in use, but it sounds like a 747 and we need to shout to be heard....but we could not do without it. Which brings me up to the times we go without power.....and those “blackouts” happen on a regular basis. Usually early evening, without warning everything goes black and very still, except for the neighbours generator. It seems that in a couple of hours, everything is back on, and life goes back to normal. Speaking of normal, the students often remind us that they are unable to get their homework sent in to be marked because they had “blackout” in their neighbourhood the night before. Such is life here.

Blackout picture
In an effort to ensure that our safety is of the utmost importance, six large flood lights were installed a couple of weeks ago around the house. Never mind that it feels like the moon is right outside the windows, and we seldom need night lights, it was revealed that the lights were there to protect all the materials that were moved into the apartment next door. So much for the utmost concern for our safety. But really, I truly feel safe while on the hospital compound. There are guards everywhere, including downstairs at our a door. There is a gate onto a busy street at the back of the house, and the guards job is to ensure no one jumps the gate and tries to break in to get those precious materials, mainly paper....reams and reams of paper and if you are old enough to remember, carbon paper. That is were all our old stock went, not in the trash, but was shipped to Guyana to be used by all government officials.

The problem at the back gate is that there is a two foot gap between the gate and the fence next door. So that is the way I travel to the swimming pool, I take the back gap shortcut. In fact that is the way John and I avoid the front entrance when we have had a couple of beers at the Everest Cricket Club. All these little perks get us through the day.
Helping the Everest Cricket Club Break even...

The staff here are wonderful to us. This past week I ran out of minutes on my cell phone. No problem. Just go to the ER, ask for Ryan and pay one of the nurses the $2,000 ($10 CAD) to be “topped up” and by doing it remotely, he doesn't need to leave his duties in surgery. Now that is service. I also appreciate the women in the kitchen who work with those restaurant sized ovens that usually bring the temperatures up over 100 degrees. I don't know how they don't have sweat poring down their faces like John and myself. My other favorites, are the women in the laundry. Every Monday I bring my bag of laundry to them, and with smiles they greet me. I don't get that reaction from any of you at home, especially bringing in my dirty clothes. They return them clean to me the same day. Recently, their dryers broke down. So they hang all the bed sheets on lines throughout the hospital. I have no idea how they can work in the heat and humidity in such a cheerful mood.

This past week was mental health awareness week. John attended the “fair” where he was to be available for counseling at a booth called “counselor available for teens”. Well surprise, no one came, he crossed out teens and said “for anybody”. That didn't fly as well. But I guess there were a few that showed up, especially the runners who came in from the Breast Cancer walk, as they shared the few posters advertising the day that were placed around town. Guyana has a long way to go.

Our days are filled with unexpected events, and I look forward to those daily surprises. The students teach me so much about their culture, beliefs, fears for their future, and the awe of the prospect of becoming a nurse in the not to distant future. Hopefully they are able to take a fraction of the messages we have imparted on them these past few weeks. If not, they certainly have enriched my life.

John invited his friend Dennis to come down from Mass. for 3 weeks. They have been friends for the past fifty years, and let me tell you, they have stories! Dennis is helping with Problem Based Learning classes, and I so appreciate a new perspective. I just hope the students appreciate him as well.

Look closely:  
Dennis is 2nd Row, 3rd from Left
John is Last Row, 4th from Left.

Wednesday night both Dennis and myself wandered down to the sea wall where we were able to find a place to sit among the throngs of people. All of Georgetown comes to watch the Diwali parade, or Festival of Lights, a Hindu holiday. All the floats were well lit up with bright colours and loud Indian music. It was magical for all to see. Now typical Guyanese style, there were vendors everywhere selling food, toys, and my favorite, fire crackers. Now as we walked we needed to dodge the “roman candles” that the 4 and 5 year olds were holding in their hands while the firecrackers were lit. You know, the kind that says you need to be 20 ft. away before lighting. I didn't pay attention to the papers the next day to see how many were injured.

The next day, Thursday was the actual stat holiday, no classes. So once again Dennis and I left John behind, (he was working), and went off to St. John's parish fair. This is their major fun raiser for the year, and did they do it up big. I was helping Donna with the “clown booth”. For just fifty cents, you could try to get the 3 tennis balls in the clowns mouth. And for the rare person that actually made this happen, they won a prize. All the booths had been hording all year for these coveted dollar store prizes. People walked away with a plastic cup,and were happy. The boys from St. John Bosco Orphanage helped us in our booth. These “eager beavers' dove for the balls, ensured no one was cheating and collected the money. They were so excited to just be at the fair, let alone help with the events of that day. I said to Dennis, that both the children and adults could not be more entertained or excited if they were at Disney World. We left at the end of the afternoon with our ears ringing from the loud music......what else, we are in Guyana.

John met us at the Brazilian Churrascaria 
where he treated us to “Brazilian Barbeque” what a treat.    

Even though it was a holiday his girls at St Ann's were waiting for their Educational Class.  So he dragged himself out before dinner.

We look forward to the Canadian Mental Health team of 20 coming down on Monday. 
Stay tuned......  Or better yet Tune In Now and hear Ram talk about the upcoming trip for the radio.   It will become a rare collector's item as it may be the only time in recent history that Sujay has said the fewer words!  In a published review Upe Mehan said, "Great job Sujay and excellent interview Ram--you spoke very well and it must have been hard for you to share your family's experience but you did that so eloquently."

Thanks for reading.
Now I'll head back to the Seawall and
"Catch a Breeze."
Miss Sylvie

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dennis is in the Air - Literally and Figuratively

This week has flown by with so much to do and to leave undone...  I can't remember a busier time here at Mercy.   Anyhow, I can only do what I do... so  let me share some of the things that I remember and are fit for print... Well first a little racy skinshot... and it is still not NSFW.
The water droplets are running down my
slightly modified six pack gut before 6:00 AM
Dennis LeBlanc is on his way down as I write this ..... And believe it or not first wanted to visit Canada when I was not there, so routed himself through Toronto and then T&T and then Georgetown .....   At his age, he is going to be very tired.  He was here last year teaching with me and volunteering at John Bosco Home for Boys in Plaisance - and it looks like he will be doing more of the same this year

This Week's Star at Mercy

Arya "Doc Devi" Karyampudi
Doc with office colleagues
Roshanie and Dainty
Doc again with Tracy

Doc has something to say to everyone.
Here she telling  Georgina something important. 
Doc Devi was one of the first people to greet me when I arrived in 2002 and she was already a veteran staffer then... of almost 20 years. She comes from Southern India, Andhra Pradesh State. A brother and sister still live there, so she keeps up with the news including the latest cyclone. She said she has stayed because Guyana is a beautiful land.

"What do you like best?"
"I love the weather here." I thought I may need to get her a psychiatrist, but she went on to explain, "This is the weather from my home - just sun and moon.  And I like the people here."
"So what is the best part of working at Mercy?"
"I like St. Joseph Mercy Hospital very much; I am happyI like to see patients, helping them go through what they must - diabetes, hypertension, HIV; I am a family doctor.  I am from the old school."
"What do you mean by that?"
"My ethics;my principles."
"What are some of your principles?"
"To be truthful,to be kind, to be compassionate.  Now everything is business, but I cope with it."
"Doc, what and where will you be in 10 years?"
"If God permits, I will be here."
"And which God is that?"   (I had assumed she was Hindu as she is a total vegetarian.)
"Any God... I am open to every religion.  My father was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and we grew up with his principles... and I am still a follower of Gandhi. My father taught us how to spin on the wheel.  And he planted every thing that we ate. I never saw meat when I was growing up, so I do not eat it now."

(Blogger's Note: It was such a pleasure and honor to meet someone with whom your soul shared a life's journey, but only met a decade ago.)

An Old Nursing Student Returns - Sort of...

Let me tell you a story.  Even I feel I am making this up, but no:  Gospel or Seven Principles Truth!
Latoya was a first year student nurse at Mercy in 2010…  She was already a single mom and working hard in the true Caribbean kind of family where her mom was a single mom and they lived together ...…  Well, a few months into the semester she developed TB.  We had sent her to Emergency as she was coughing in class all the time.  Yes, diagnosis TB…  so the whole class had to get tested and she had to withdraw from the school.   Dr., Carr (who was teaching with me) and I went out to her home to see how she was doing as she was the brightest student in the class.     She survived!
Well, several days ago, I was sitting on a wall outside the Georgetown Public Hospital when a voice says, “Hello Rev.”   I look up and it is Latoya in a student nurses uniform from the Public Hospital ..…  She had been refused at Mercy when she reapplied – politics.   But she was so determined she got accepted at the Public Nursing School and is in second year.  At the end of first year, she received four or five awards for best student, etc …..

I asked her for her email as my taxi had just showed up and she didn't have email any longer as she had no money for a computer – let alone an internet connection.  She gave me a call and wanted to chat longer and come over to see me at Mercy.   As we arranged the time for today, I asked how she did her research and papers, etc for school… She borrows other  batchmates' computers and uses the one computer in the library…

So I told her that I had a tablet for her and her studies.  (I usually bring a few extra tablets on spec that someone will need one.)   I gave her the tablet at lunch on Tuesday and when I got home after class ..... notice of a donation for a tablet appeared in my email.  

I know what Anne would say, “It is surely a sign.”  And it would be hard to argue with her this time. 

I am not making this up … No Bullsh** here.

More Logic in Guyana

The students have been having trouble accessing the internet for their studies.  They cannot log on because there is limited bandwidth, or so I was told.  I have been complaining since I got here 7 weeks ago.   But before October, I had offered to pay for doubling the bandwidth for October and November; this had been recommended to me by the IT Department staff.   This was not altruistic ..... The students couldn't (and still can't) do their research.    I had then offered it to the "powers that be" to follow-up...  I'll tell you if I get a final decision before I leave...

Sylvia has been using modern inspiring people to get the students to think about their own dreams and aspirations.  One of her heroes was Anne Frank.  The students had never heard of her,  So as I wasn't teaching I went down to the library to see if they had a copy of The Diary of a Young Girl.   Sister Catherine did not think that they had it, so I thanked her and left.   In Guyana, people want to be helpful.   Sister came by the classroom and had a book for me,  a biography of Marie Curie.   She wanted to k now if that would do.  Now Sister Catherine knew that it was not what I was looking for and that they were entirely different people, but she wanted to be helpful.  Bless you Sister Catherine.

3rd Bedroom is Usable

Well, it seems I just don't have enough faith.  The room got built and almost done by today - with one day to go .....  Sylvia suggested that I should sleep in this new room.   Her logic -- similar to Guyanese logic -- was that I am up early (5 or 5:30 am) and would disturb Dennis in the mornings ..... And since I can sleep through almost anything, when I went to bed early, I would not be disturbed.   As well, she promised me points in the great beyond!   How could I refuse, eh?   And though she didn't even mention my snoring ..... I am a little suspicious.   I think she has worn out her ear plugs.   After all, Sylvia took the bedroom with two sided ventilation and now I am giving up my cooler upstairs one for this.   All I have to say is that I hope there is an afterlife and these points count.

Paulina and Ashley happily waiting to eat.
Canadian Thanksgiving

Sylvia getting the stuffing

I don’t usually celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving here, as Canadians are scarce like turkey’s teeth...  However, this year there is an abundance of Canadians, thanks to the Scarboro Fathers.  I got invited as a Canadian (as well as adding an ecumenical flavour) and brought some wine.  The others slaved to prepare a wonderful Canadian meal.   No turkeys in Georgetown, so Sylvia prepared two large chickens and the kitchen at Mercy cooked them in their ovens.  Ovens, Sylvia tells me, that are without any thermostats!  She did excellently.   So there were the old timers like Sylvia, Bev and Donna along with the two young ones Paulina and Ashley, Deacon Luis and Father Mike who came in from New Amsterdam. 

As a small aside:  Father Mike knows John Ahearn, who is with Maryknoll in Hong Kong.  I was in John's class at Maryknoll, as well we both started seminary high school together at Cathedral in Brooklyn, which is celebrating its 100th birthday soon.  I guess that is less than 6 degrees of separation.

All of us at our small Thanksgiving meal were especially grateful for all those of our families and friends who support us throughout the year.  
Father Mike celebrated Mass before Dinner!

The three "older" women - Bev, Sylvia and Donna

Annual "Massive Prayer" Service 

The day before the Seniors write their final RN exams, the whole school gathers in prayers for their success.  I hope God's prayer line is faster than this internet connection!

I am having lots of internet problems today, so I hope I can post... I doubt that I will be able to load the Slide Show, but I'll try...  Thanks for reading

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Same as Before and Just as Hot

This Week's Star at Mercy

Mark Joseph Harry Low

Mark is a true Mercy Hospital person as he was born at the hospital some forty years ago, when (I think) Sister Sheila Walsh was the CEO here, and his family lived just around the corner on Duke St. He did move to the East Coast for a while, as he had to live with his grandparent in Annandale and went to Buxton Community High School.    His grandfather and father were Hindu Pandits, but he didn't follow in their footsteps.  However, as he said his grandfather said, "The Lord is One."

He started his Mercy Career as a Maintenance volunteer for 6 months and then in 2006 began is present position as  a Ward Attendant.   His job takes him all over the hospital - delivering oxygen or a patient or waste.   This allows him to serve as a greeter to staff and visitors alike.  I would think it was unusual if you came to Mercy and he was working that you didn't see him and get a friendly hello.

He says the best part about working at Mercy is his job description ..... a little of everything and everywhere.   "So Mark, you like your job?" "No Rev, I love it."   He has little routine and is constantly learning new things.  In fact, he has been going back to school for several years trying to upgrade his education and is now in the pre-CXC programme at a local Adult Education School four nights a week.   As he says, "I am slow academically, but that doesn't stop me."

When asked about what would he tell my vast readership about Guyana, he sounded just like a travel brochure outlining all the interesting sites here, the Amazon Jungle, Kaieteur.  I think he named something interesting in all ten regions.

Asked about his piece of wisdom for my readers: "If you want something, then go after it. You just can't sit down.   It is not easy.  You need to believe in yourself.  You need to have the mind to do it and with prayer."

So in 2014 what will you be doing, Mark?   "So many plans.  And with God's grace I'll pass Maths and English CXC's.  I would love to be a Nurse Aid"  And of course at Mercy Hospital!

I Should Listen to Myself

Whenever I evaluate what I am doing here, I am content to say my goals are small: I come and work really hard for 12 weeks with my 20 or so students.   I do this because it is way too frustrating to do anything larger societally.  Clear focus; no problem .....

I don't know what happens to me.  It started innocently enough in July. My friend, Bhiro Harry asked, "John, would you help us edit Guyana's new Mental Health Action Plan?"  Sure; sounds easy; how much trouble and stress could an editor get into?

When I finally got a copy of the detailed Action Plan, I think there were almost an many blank pages  "To Be Completed", as there were pages with content.  And then it went downhill...  Bhiro would rather see 20 psychotic patients off their meds than read one paragraph; and the other collaborator, Jorge, is a Cuban psychiatrist whose English, while much better than my Spanish, does make me look like a grammarian.   I had asked for some financial data and other statistics and Guyana's "just now's"... permeated the correspondence.   A week or so before I left Canada, I rewrote the places where we needed actual data, using realism.

So in place of "the budget for 2015 will be so many dollars", I wrote, "The actual budget contribution of the government will be determined after the legislative passage of specific lines of action."  

Anyhow, there was the  roll-out of the plan on Friday (while the actual plan is still being printed);   there were the press and tv ..... a set of powerpoint slides, a few discreet questions -- and it was mercifully over.
Dr Bhiro Harry sharing the overview of the "Shaping Guyana
Mental Health Through 2020.
[R] Minister of Health Bheri Ramsaran
providing strong support
for the  New Plan

Before that we -- the unholy trinity of Bhiro, Jorge and me -- were invited to talk about the Mental Health Plan at the UN Headquarters.  I was going there to just look cute and give some moral support. Well, the head of the staff there got up to introduce us and proudly announced that it was her great pleasure to have us talk about Balancing our Work and Home Lives.   I started to slouch down in my chair .....  It reminded me of once presenting to a nurses' group in Toronto on "Developing Organ Donor Protocols" and as I was sitting to be introduced, someone handed me the programme where it was clearly displayed that I would be talking about the "Spiritual Needs of the Elderly".  And there was no place to run .....  So:  "The spiritual needs of the elderly in their distilled form parallel the development of donor organ transplant procedures ....."

I am so full of BS!  I had no trouble addressing their topics, but first I had to point out the obvious:  "Here you have three professionals volunteering on a late Friday afternoon to do this session.  I really think you should distrust anything we may say about balancing your lives."  In the end, I had fun; and they want us back for an advanced session.   I suggested they schedule it for December, as I leave in late November .....

And then today at 6:00am there was to be another march for Suicide Awareness -- and Breast Cancer?  The march was to end at the Fair site, the plaza of the Revolution with the famous Cuffy statue of 1783.   There at     9 am, I was to man a booth that dealt with "Counseling Adolescents" -- another surprise.

When I got here maybe forty police officers were there listening to Bhiro.    And as I was dropping my backpack, I hear, "Now Rev John will share his thoughts on mental illness and policing."   (I swear I am not making this stuff up.)   So I talked about resisting the urge to settle a mental illness standoff with violence.   They needed to be in touch with their fears and prejudices about the mentally ill, and very few ever resort to violence against others, and a few other gems .....
Dr Tony, a new Cuban, psychologist got put to work
early with the police attendees.
[R] I started with "Counseling Adolescents"
and then scratched out Adolescents... and finally ended
up with my last sign, so Bhiro came over! 

And in the spirit of "I bet you can't eat just one".   I will be helping another person Tabitha Mallampati conduct a full review of the Nursing School at Mercy -- right after I design it.   Sylvia invited me as consultant to the Family Life Commission of the RC Diocese here in Guyana... and I somehow left there with my used-to-be friend Sylvia, saying that I would lead a small workshop for all the leaders of the local GT congregational groups on desensitizing the stigma of Mental Illness.

It is a good thing Dennis LeBlanc is coming, I think he is an expert in that area!   He might not be too willing after he sees all the changes that have been happening to his new bedroom.  Below is this morning's picture.-
Sylvia and I did move the table.  Now there is an  avant guard
open concept bedroom complete with invisible furniture. 

Old Friends and A Swim

It has not been all work.  I have invited several old friends out for a meal and a few beers to catch up on their lives.  

 David Yahn was the Chairman of the Board at St Joseph Mercy Hospital.   And in our usual tradition we solved the world's and our own problems over a few beers.    David's family have a long history here in the life of Guyana and some great stories.  His dad grew up right around the corner from Forbes Burnham, a former President of Guyana.

Then, I caught up with Raymond Jagessar.  Ray is a Chemistry Professor at University Guyana who specializes in the medicinal qualities of many Amazon Jungle plants.  He did his Ph.D in the States but came back to help out his country.  AND he is a Lutheran from Skeldon and that is how I first got to know him.   We met at our usual hangout outside the university and he had a couple of Maltas - and I had -hmmm - what was it - oh yes, a few beers.    Raymond is still single, so any eligible women out there, write me and I'll give you his contact information.

I still have to catch up with a few more old friends like the Scarboro Sisters  Donna and Bev. Also, and my fault,  I didn't remember to take a picture of Shawn Rampersaud when we went out.  Shawn was a previous Treasurer here at Mercy for many years.   In many ways, he is still supporting Mercy as he works with Demerara Tobacco Company.   

Swim at the Grand Coastal
This is really about an old friend too, but Ian MacKay wasn't here this time. He is back in Canada recovering from a total hip replacement.  Tony Carr and I first met him here many years ago as he has been the consultant for the renovation of the hotel.  So I ride on his coattails and go for a swim and a few beers and dinner without getting a room.    This Eid holiday, Sylvia and I spent a very cool afternoon poolside.  Thanks, Ian.

Thanks for reading this week and to all my Canadian friends and family -- and all those Americans who wish they were Canadian:

                  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Third Gone - And I Guess That Means A Third to Go

No I haven't Failed Maggie's Mathnasium Class*
I do know that I won't reach my beloved wife and my home for another 55 days, between finishing here and stopping a week in Florida with siblings .....  But time as a construct in my mind doesn't go always by hours and minutes... When I first arrive in Guyana I always believe I have soooo much time to do everything that I have envisioned with no sweat (always wrong on the no sweat part).  However, after the first month I know that I must carve out some of the wonderful things that I want to do and keep focused on my primary tasks related to my nursing students and my St Ann's girls.   The days will start to pick up pace; and, I will be leaving before I realize it.
* Maggie is my youngest sister and runs a Mathnasium school in Waterbury, Connecticut.  If you do go there, do not ask for the family rate - it is double!

The PBL Course

The students are well into adjusting to the different learning modalities involved with Problem Based Learning.  When Tony Carr and I first started teaching this way at Mercy we were really worried because it was going to be so different from anything they had ever experienced.   But each year, they take to it like ducks to water and with enthusiasm -- if not always with compliance.   They have been involved with an educational system that told them what the answers were to the questions the teachers would be asking on exams.  So a method where the student is responsible for their own learning...  Somehow, it works!

Each PBL part has two sessions connected with it.  In the first, the students meet in groups of 4 or 5 and read a the "problem story" page to see what they already know; then they start identifying issues from the story that they would like to understand better.  These are then divided up and off they go to start researching (well, maybe there is a FaceBook break or a stop for food) in order to teach their small group batchmates in the next session.

I have added a little incentive to the process.  They are supposed to send their work out by email to everyone in the class before the next group, and almost all the students do -- except it was often happening 1 minute before the session ..... not really helpful.   So now I award a couple of marks if the research reaches everyone before 8:00 AM on the session day AND if it has reference links AND relates how their new knowledge helps them to understand the developing account of the problem.   (I have had to threaten only one or two students with jogging around the block if they don't get it straight.)  Then I give them additional suggestions and a few more questions.  (What I wish I had realized before I started all this was how frickin' long it takes me.)

Then, in the next small group session, each student takes their turn teaching the others what they have learned and what all of them need to know.  They answer questions from the others and do additional research if they can't answer them.   After that session they have a small exam on 4 questions that they may have researched - or not!   (One of the tutors scores the exam with comments that encourage more learning.) 

Immediately after they finish, we give them some of the answers to the exam, so they have some immediate feedback.  I am positively amazed at how they study the answers and often argue with the tutor about why they think their own answer was correct.

In all, there are over 120 set of marks.

This is a mark/exam-obsessed country; marks determine who gets into everything, from the best Nursery Schools to University .....  I tell them I don't really care about a grade; I care whether they think they are learning something.   They seem to have a hard time adjusting to that!   One student was so upset with doing poorly on a small exam (I have no big exams) that she wanted me to let her study and then give her another exam.  "Nah, you don't need to do that.  What mark would you like?"  She said, "10 out of 12."  "Okay then take your exam and write better answers on some of your missed questions until you have 10 out of 12 correct.  I'll change your mark now, so I don't forget.  And please tell all the other students they can do the same."  "Rev John, you are crazy."

One day last week, the classroom was being used for something else, and the students were going to do nothing, so I sent them home with the task of learning simple brain surface anatomy.  I told the director they would study at home ..... so they left hours early.  On Monday, I gave them a simple exam on the anatomy of the brain.. OMG! The class average was a 3.2 out of 12... a new low.  They wanted me to give them the test again. "Okay, no problem."   I even gave them the same  diagram of the brain that they would be tested on .... and I would replace their old mark with the new one.   Some of the traditional tutors thought I couldn't/shouldn't do it...  But it really doesn't matter how you make ice -- wait for February in Canada or get some from your freezer.   I want them to learn ..... and they did, with much better (though not perfect) marks.  I offered to buy pizza (my usual bribe) next time if the class average is higher than 10.0 ..... and if their individual marks aren't as good as the second exam I'll give them their first mark!  They are still thinking about that one.
One student actually wrote how much she likes learning this way:  she can't wait for the next page to see what happens to the people in the story.     Can't get any better than that.

Another Mercy Person... 
Desmond always wears the boots, hat and coat...
The exclusive interview cost me
two pones and a drink

Desmond Jacobs

Desmond is the "baby" of four and was born in New Amsterdam, Berbice He loved playing cricket and football.  He came to Kitty, in Georgetown, when he went to school.  Desmond still lives in Kitty; he is married and has two children, Adrian and Jenny, and seven grandchildren.

Desmond is a newcomer to Mercy Staff who just started in June of this year.   He has had a long history with the Guyana Police Force.  When  I asked him what rank he had, I think he said "General".  His official title here is less assuming:  "Groundsman/ Gardener".   This suits him well; in talking to him, you can see the satisfaction he receives from keeping the gardens and the grounds clean..   Desmond said, "Mercy is a nice place and I want to do my part to keep it nice, and make it better for others."   He works hard all day long in the hot sun of the yard... and in his boots!

When I asked him what he wanted to share with my readers, he said, "Work hard. Save your money.  You will need it when you are old."   "Anything else, Desmond?"   "Come on down to Guyana and see -- and go to our many beautiful places like Bartica and Mabaruma."

And where are you going to be in ten years?  With true Guyanese concrete logic, Desmond says, "Don't know yet."    "Okay, so where would you like to be?"  "Relaxing. Home"

On a side note:  Desmond has no internet access, so he wanted me to print an actual picture.  I walked down to the local photography place and their machine has been busted for over a week and ..... Nothing more.  That is it .....  Just:  it is broken! 

And a Special "Encore" Appearance, Benji
Benji wanted an action shot!
Sylvia, the Birthday Girl

The nursing students hosted a surprise birthday party for Sylvia on Monday before class. (They have the same educational principles I do, including almost anything is better than class!)   They had gotten two big chocolate cakes and cokes with a real plate for Sylvia...napkins for the rest of us ..... and sung a rousing round of the Guyana Happy Birthday song.   She was surprised and thrilled and they enjoyed it too.   Though they worked hard at making all their touching speeches last, we started class only a little late!

What a Surprise... Thank you students.
You even designed the blackboard
and look at those lovely cakes.
And the traditional Guyana speeches ..... 

Cuba and Guyana
I have talked before about the role that Cuba provides in health delivery here in Guyana. There is a bilateral agreement between Cuba and Guyana; the Cubans supply doctors, from Family Docs to almost all Specialties.  These doctors come here for two years and have left family back in Cuba.   If it weren't for Cuban doctors there would be no medical services in the interior of Guyana.

Cuba gives scholarships to 50 Guyanese students a year to study medicine at the medical school in Havana.  Last year, the first set of Guyanese students graduated with their MD diplomas and are back serving their people here in underserviced areas -- which basically is the whole country when you come to think of it.

I have attached a TED video about the medical school in Cuba.  It is not long and worth a look.

An old Friend and Colleague Stopped by 

Erv Janssen, a retired child psychiatrist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was in the country for a week celebrating the opening of the Lutheran Music Academy in New Amsterdam.  I will need to do a whole story on this amazing school -- later.

Erv has been coming to Guyana almost twice as long as I have.  He started with medical missions, then it was with construction crews... and finally, in his last reincarnation, as a music enthusiast.  He has re-started the Annual Guyana Music Festival that brings together choirs and musicians from all ten regions for a juried show at the Cultural Centre.   He has also encouraged Professors Michael Murchison and Eric Sayer from St Olaf's College in Minnesota to supply music graduates, and the Lutheran Church in Guyana to provide the space for the school, at their headquarters in New Amsterdam.
It was good to just sit and chat with a friend.

Enough .....  Actually MORE than enough ..... Stop.

Thanks for reading.  John