Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Week That Was

Caution:  The following post may be upsetting to those with Grammar Sensitivity Disorder. My editor has not been able to Englishize this post as her computer is acting up.  Therefore, I humbly apologize if you suffer from GSD, especially the Queen if she reads this blog.     n.b.  a few amendments were made by 8.30pm Sept.24!

Still no smarter. If you want to see more of this week's pictures, please click on:  

                                                  This Week's Pictures

Need More than Nurses and Doctors to Run a Hospital

I have become used to seeing many of the different sights I thought strange on my first visits to Guyana.  Yet, I am always taken aback when I see how much construction and repair is done with human hands alone.   I have noticed this over the years from the guys in the Maintenance Department at Mercy.   [Small confession in the effort to be transparent.   You may know that I am after these guys almost all the time for something broken, forgotten, with my living arrangements every year!]  
Thanks from all the guys in Maintenance.  The sign doesn't say that
however, it was the only sign they had
Last year, I had asked Keith John, who is the long-suffering manager, what power tools he could most use in his efforts to keep me - and Mercy Hospital too - comfortable and in working order.  So he gave me a wish list of tools.
And to whom do I go when I am begging?  Guyana Christian Charities, of course.   And this time was no exception.   They advertised the need in their newsletter and I even spoke at an event in Toronto and several men went looking at tool auctions in order to fulfill the list.   They did a great job and the tools were in the next container shipment to Guyana.   
Amazing.  Thanks.

PS: And since I am giving you good press. There are several window panes missing from the north window and last night's storm has left a few puddles in a couple of the rooms.   Thanks in advance.
Here are some of the tools that were shipped by Guyana Christian Charities.  [l-r: Colgrain, Keith and Ricky] Keith is holding an angle saw that was donated by Glenn, one of the crowd at Bucky's of Ayr.

And "Pride Goeth before a Fall" and Pizza

Twin One
Twin Two
I was so confident that I knew all the student names: I had placed them on my screen saver and had it set to come on if no activity for 5 minutes; I taped their names tot he top of their desks; I had a sheet in my pocket with all their names... I was ready - absolutely no pizza this year.  I was so confident that I tried to get them to go double or nothing - I lose double the pizza and if I won they buy me a pizza.  In the bag as they say... I breezed through the whole class without a moment's hesitation.   Ta-da... However, I couldn't figure out why some were laughing and others were shouting something... Oh no... "You named Rhea twice."  No I couldn't have done that...   I went over the class and the twins [not real twins] had switched places and I flew over them...  They were right; I had failed.  The pizza was theirs.  Maybe they will forget to collect on it!

Anything is Better Than Teaching

This is especially true of field trips, especially if you can actually justify it as having anything to do with your curriculum.   No trouble this time; we were off the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology and the National Museum.   This year it was really easy as my colleague and co-leader of PBL,  Nurse Candy, did all of the arranging.   I just had to show up and look cute.    

You may remember that the Roth Museum was in the news as the government wanted to make it into offices for politicians.    It has been put on hold after receiving objections from all over the world.   The effort to preserve one's heritage is a constant struggle all over the world... The "tyranny of the present" seems to dominate with the focus on revenue and convenience.

Both of these museums are downtown n major streets and almost none of the students had ever been there though they had walked by both all the time.   So now they were going and despite the grumbling, we were walking!

Practicing my first real selfie!
The giant sloth lived 10,000 years ago.
"Is it real?" "Yes, it lived
in a zoo until a few year ago."

And we picked up a special guest lecturer, good old Guyanese-son, Rashleigh.    He had just returned from the interior where he worked mining for gold.  They were called "Pork Knockers" in the old days.   However, he was great at explaining the exhibits, and the differences today.  He even had videos on his phone.

Securing Time Off "Down Below" with a Good Deed

There is really a neat group of people who also volunteer in Guyana and they are the Mercy Volunteers who come down for a year and work in different jobs throughout Georgetown.    I try to take out these poor unfortunate souls who live without internet in their residence. [I understand this is so they can live as the people do... Would be nice except most people are connected; so they are really practicing humility.]  

Well, I took them out to dinner at the upscale Princess Kitchen and Bar run by my friends Taju, Allison and Althea. [I didn't see Tommy, so don't want to give him any credit.]  They were a little delayed in arriving as the plumber was still there trying to fix something.   So Taju and I got lots of time to have an interesting conversation about cultures.

As usual, it was a good meal and good conversation and as always topped off with homemade ice cream.    These are some really neat young persons, like myself, who share my enthusiasm for helping others.
Here are the Mercy Volunteers[l-r: Dillon, Colleen,Andrea, Salena of running fame from St. Ann's] with Taju and myself toasting Dennis [Rev. 2] and Maggie on the wedding or their daughter, Emily.   Dillon and Colleen were here last year too.  As soon as I got out the umbrellas, Taju, Dillon and Colleen said, "Oh that is for the short, heavy guy who was with you last year."  I defended you by saying, "Dennis isn't that short." 

A Special Dinner Out

I had the privilege of having lunch at the home of Georgia and Bhiro Harry.  [One day I will write a whole blog about Bhiro as he has been significant in my life and work here.]   I admit I look forward to it as Georgia is a great Cuban cook... and she was joined by Idanis, Jorge's wife.   Bhiro did a good job keeping everyone's drinks filled.  Jorge and  I and Fernando [another Cuban doc, an anesthetist, who has been in Guyana many years] was there with his son, Fernando, and Georgia's Indira and Pravesh.    As the drinks flowed the conversations were more and more in Spanish.  They knew I had been in Mexico and so try to help me remember my Spanish...  I had no choice but to have another beer.
The three guests who did absolutely nothing to help.. and enjoyed every minute.

 So Why Does Anyone Teach Ethics?
Last weekend I received a phone call from a student who wanted some help.

This was the story from the student [I'll try and disguise it, but it's a small country]:

"The accident was on Friday morning. The father was hospitalized and the daughter killed but they refused to let the dad know that his child was dead. When he asked for her  they told him she was with her mother. When he called the mother, he was told that the child is staying with someone else.

"So it went on when he called any other family member in order to speak to his child.  On Saturday, a patient was reading the newspapers and the dad saw that the incident had made the front page and that it said his daughter had died. He then asked the visiting family if his child had died and their response was no. His exact words were, "Y'all trying to make me an ass. I saw the papers. Where is my child?" They continued to lie to him. They told him to ignore the tabloids because his daughter was alive and that the papers said that he (the father) had died also. They said that the child is staying with another family member and she is just recuperating from her injuries.  The dad began to give the child's mother instructions on where to take the child to be checked up and treated. He was making all the necessary preparation for a child who no longer exists and we all just let him.

"When I asked, their excuse was that the Dr said that they should not inform him that the child was dead since the father was in a critical state and such news could worsen his condition. So their job was to prolong the lie until the father had recovered to the point that he was stable enough to handle the news from the Doctors.   However, I was told that the family ended up having to confess because the dad had already known but he was awaiting confirmation. They said that he handled it very well and did not react as intensely as expected. He has been discharged and is now at home with his family."

There is more to the story including my visit to the emergency room physician and ward attending doc ..... who told us it was hospital policy not to tell an accident victim the truth for 24 hours and he would have been told by this time.  In fact, he was not.
Bamidele *

Real life stories make ethics more relevant.  So on the next class time, I interviewed the student and the class talked about what they saw as the ethical, psychological, sociological issues in the story.

They did a really great job exploring the dilemmas.   They especially got into the value of protective lies and hard truth and the lasting impact on trust in the relationships.

They thought those were insensitive doctors, but when we role-played how they might tell the dad ..... they couldn't find any words.   Or else they passed the buck ... "You need your rest now ..."   You really can't say dead.. and not have it be upsetting for everyone.

And I used my classic example of how trust is relatively easy to get, but almost impossible to recover if broken.  I asked for a volunteer and selected Bamidele -sorry, sexist I know - as he is a guy and probably wouldn't cry.  I asked him to close his eyes and holdout his hands which I then slapped pretty hard... the sound was much louder than the hurt actually was.  Wow, was he surprised along with the class...   I tried to tell him I was sorry and  I promised never to do it again...

I couldn't get him to come with in ten feet of me.  End of lesson ..... and this blog.

Thanks for reading. And if there is something that you want me to write about, I'll give it a try ..... revsx2 - at -


* This picture of Bamidele was while he was in a play abut the Crimean War and Florence Nightingale - not after I slapped him!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Seems Like I have Been Here a Long Time Already

Caution:  The following post may be upsetting to those with Grammar Sensitivity Disorder. My editor has not been able to Englishize this post as her computer is acting up.  Therefore, I humbly apologize if you suffer from GSD, especially the Queen if she reads this blog.

I do not seem to be getting any smarter. No matter what no slide show... If you want to see more of this week's pictures, please click on:  This Week's Pictures

Those Amazing Sisters have taken on a New Project

"The Sisters of Mercy [and an Ursuline] have partnered with the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) to set up a safe house for girls and women who are rescued from Trafficking In Persons (TIP) by the Women Miners. We call the project Together In Peace. The Home was opened in January of this year and presently there are eleven young women and two babies living there.

At the Home, working with the Ministry of Social Protection, besides providing food and safe 
shelter, courses are provided to give them knowledge and skills so that they can earn their
living when they return to their families (and not be tempted to return to the mines) One of the 
residents came to us as a twelve-year-old, nine months pregnant. The baby was born the day 
after she arrived at the Hospital. Counselling is also available as many of the girls are traumatized 
by the time they get to us."  Blessings, Mary Peter Ngui,o.s.u. [The OSU here does not stand for Ohio State University though I do think that Mary Peter might have made a good linebacker.]

Sister Mary Peter asked if I could ask for some craft materials before I came down; however, when I asked real crafters, I got the response: "What type of crafts are they doing?" So I went to find out.  Actually, Mary Peter emailed me and asked when I could go.. and with in the hour, she was picking me up to go over to meet the Director of Crafts, a Ms. Jordan.  She had been working there even before the place was opened cutting grass and doing any odd job.   Mary Peter must have warned her I was coming because she was already compiling her list when I got there.

Here she is proudly showing a few of the girl's crafts.     And by the time I left her office, I had a long list of stuff that included: Floral foam, Popsicle sticks, Ribbons – Paper and Cloth, and all widths, Beads, Paints and Brushes...

I passed the list on to Elizabeth Abdool with Guyana Christian Charities Canada as they were arranging one of their two yearly shipments to Guyana.   And since I was walking by the student classroom and they were getting "excited" [maybe not the right word] about my bare legs, I thought I would give them the opportunity to add a notch on their salvation score sheet.   Now all the students were encouraged to bring in something for the TIP home...  I added a small incentive by intimating that if they didn't bring something on our trip to the National Psychiatric Hospital, there was a possibility they could get left behind.   (If my grandkids were here, they would shout, "Don't believe anything he says.")  The nursing students are less sure as they have known me for only two weeks.  

And Speaking of Less Sure .....

I have my big exam on Tuesday... and no it is not the CXC exam in Caribbean History though I am reading the course textbook.  It is the NAMES (or PIZZA) test.   When I take their "prison shots" on the first day, I set up the bargain: I will name all 23 of your correctly or I will buy pizza for everyone.  And I set an exact exam date as last year's class felt that I had cheated because the exam was one day late.   I know:  two weeks - twenty-three names - a piece of cake.   Actually, I do not think I am batting .500... though if I was playing for the Yankees, I'd be a super star.  Some of my more creative [or hungry] students are trying to increase the amount of difficulty.  I am fairly confident though I did call Kelly "Rhea" all class... and the others kept laughing ..... I guess they can taste pizza.

Two trips to the Morgue this Year

·    Last year's first year students did not get to the morgue after I left, so they all wanted to go this year. It is impossible to fit two classes there, so we needed to make two trips.  My new co-leader of the PBL programme, Candy Mohan, really did all the arrangements and she and two other "old-er" nurses went as well, Candacy Lane and Keshana Giddings.   They even stopped at Paul's stand and got everyone a pop and put it on my tab.  You know you have arrived when the pop stand guy lets you carry a tab!  And then they came back and ran the discussion  about how the students felt.  An excellent job and they didn't even need me - except to pay for the pop.

Over the years, I have been impressed with the depth of their pondering on the experience, so below are two Qohelethian philosophers:

"Apart from being the first person there, the peace and quiet was good for a change.  We all gathered and ventured to the highlight of the day to see  "dead people".  I've always wanted to see what a dead person looks like.  I was not pleased about the environment, but I guess the dead were not worried about that.  For me it was the most amazing experience to witness such a phenomenon.  The way they actually cut through your skin like an animal with no feelings.  It's hard to even think that one minute you are here and in a split second you could be lifeless  Reality really struck me at the morgue, to realize that people take life for granted when they could be no more in seconds. Though I was smiling a lot I felt really sad to know we all will have to die.  FYI: It was cool to see what my organs may look like.     "

"My visit to the morgue was exciting at first and then slowly it got weird.   I had seen dead bodies up close and personal before.  I helped to bathe and dress one, even did her makeup.  But to see them like that, vacant, cold, not aware that they were going to be put on display made me realize that life is a feeble thing that nothing really matters, not even the life we leave behind, because in there no one cares how good you were, how important you were, whose mother, father, sister, brother, friend, child you were, you're nothing, but flesh, flesh that no one in there cares about.  You are nothing but a nameless, lifeless thing who is in the way of someone's lunch break.   No one will miss you, but your family and with time even they will forget you. I realize that a lot of things that I thought mattered really don't."

From a Book I Have Just Read

Road to Belwasa written by Reuben Lachmansing.  There were a couple of quotes that I really liked, mostly because they agreed with me and they are at the heart of what PBL tries to accomplish:

“According to a group of psychologists, intelligence is not merely book learning. It reflects a deeper and broader capability for comprehending our surroundings, making sense of things, figuring out what to do.”

 “…how physics was taught in schools – emphasizing engagement and understanding as opposed to memorization.” 

John Tries to Get Some Religion

I have been friends with Tabitha Mallampati, her husband, Sekhar, and their now Queens College student, Isaac.  Tabitha was a nurse from India who started teaching many years ago at Mercy.  However, her real reason for being here was to be a missionary from her Indian Christian church, Laymen's Evangelical Fellowship International.      It is very conservative in its Scripture interpretations but has a broader social outreach.   Anyhow, I try and go once a year as I have in the past.  And my colleague, Tony Carr, was a regular there and still stays connected by helping to teach music online to a few from the church.  I really have to admit that I have to sit on my hands so I don't start objecting every five minutes.   They are all very kind people  and I enjoy them individually; and, in my opinion Tabitha has done more to move nursing forward that anyone else in Guyana... And she makes a great after-church lunch!  
Pastor John

The choir
Shanty, one of Tony's protegees 
Bram, a senior member
Some visitors from a far, including me, with some members.
 One more piece of "Good News" from LEFI

The gentleman to my right is Pravesh Bhola.   He was one of the few students who had to endure my classes twice. [A story too long to tell here.] Now he is a physiotherapist at Mercy and Balwant Singh's after graduating last year.   Anyhow, he shared his good news that he is going to be married in India in a couple of weeks.  It is an arranged marriage, but he has corresponded with her over the net and will be there one whole week before the wedding!   He is a good guy and I wished him luck.   I would be worried, but as I remember they are about the same as romantic ones for legth of survival.

Seems like this has been long enough, but I really didn't get to my Mental Health work or a real live ethics case .....  maybe next week.  Stay tuned.. And thanks for reading.  John

Monday, September 12, 2016

Off and Running, But Not Me - only Figuratively

Sorry: no matter what I did I couldn't get the slide show to work... If you want to see more of this week's pictures, please click on:  

How Soon One Forgets

I arrived here on the overnight from Toronto and I wanted to rant about what a pain and how I hate flying, especially overnight.  The airport limo gets to to the airport three hours early so you can watch all the shops close up... and still wait to board.  I am sure this analogy has been used before:  It is like stuffing the casing of a sausage, except with people.  And then as an added bonus, there is a crying baby behind me and another in front of me.  The earphone jack didn't work.  The meal was a bun with unknown ..... chicken, I am hoping.  Now to save Caribbean Airlines a few bucks we stop in Trinidad for over an hour, confined to the plane with the air shut off, and the cleaning crew ..... and then someone comes around taking names as if someone might have escaped.  And the hour flight into Cheddi Jagan airport which has less than ten  flights in 24 hours has two arrive at the same time with two immigration officers.
Now that I have been here a week, I have almost forgotten it.   It has been a busy week.

My Flat

Anyone who has read my first post of the season knows ..... [I was going to say only nice things, but there is a blackout!]  I got kicked out of the flat that I had for the last several years in old Doc Daniel's because they need more room for Materiel Management's boxes and stuff.   I suspect that the manager there has a hoarding disorder.   Anyhow, I would be residing in the Upper Team House.   Lived there many years ago when Anne was visiting.   I gently put my demands in as the Executive Volunteer - screens, shower that works, a few fans, fridge that stays cold [for beer, of course],  a mattress thick enough that it won't blow away in the breeze , and an internet connection.   And I never heard back from Helen Browman except that everything was being taken care of ..... I must admit that I heard that as code similar to "Just Now".  So I was resigned to yelling to get it done after I got here.

However, when I arrived ..... I have screens on all the windows; I have a fan in every room; I have a good-pressure shower with a rain-forest head [still not hot water but, hey]; a new fridge to replace the manic-depressive one that had followed me for years. [I had to turn the setting down as the water was freezing]; and a wireless connection that seems to work at least 50% of the time.  It is great, and I am very thankful as I got a really good start for last Monday.  So this year, and maybe this year only, a special thank you goes out to Ms. Browman and all the guys from Maintenance.

The Real Reason I Come - First Year Batch 2016

They were there, all eager, excited and scared.   And that was before I said anything!   They knew I was a little different when I took their "prison shots"; however, the two week bet to know all their names -- or I buy the pizza -- made them okay with me.   As usual, I have added them all to my screen saver and set it to start if I don't type for a couple of minutes.  This way I have to look at their faces and names.  [I have added them all to the slide show on the upper left.]  I don't talk about what PBL is; we just do it with an introductory story of sex, money, career and babies.   By the second page they were right into it as if they had been doing it for years.    This may be a very good year.

On the second day I gave out the tablets that my "benefactors" have allowed me to purchase for them.  I am truly grateful to all who contribute - large or small.   Sister Catherine has not been around to open the library often, so having a connection to the internet is now more than ever essential.   The interesting thing is that though they did not have any tablets, they knew how to get around the internet.  Now we can work on the difference between "Aunt Mary's Guaranteed Method to Conceive a" vs. "Menninger".  

The second day of the "play" case we ask the usual evaluation questions (standard in McMaster University).  This time it seemed a lot of the students were scared to talk in public.  My sensitive co-tutors wanted to design a programme to help them.   I even emailed my Advanced Communicator and Leadership Bronze Toastmaster daughter, Kristin.  She suggested a few things and said that the best way to speak in public is practice.  That was exactly what I was thinking, so I told them that if they don't talk up in every class they will fail.   I tried to do it tentatively.   So the next day we did the Robin Hood exercise where they are forced to rank four rotten characters from most moral to least... and give their reasoning on a page.   Then we go into live drama and they need to defend their rankings out loud with the students live sculptured.   I may have supported some with questions like, "Is your name spelled with an F in it?" Or "You might be able to get a refund on that uniform if you hurry." Or my personal favorite, "If you are standing to the right of a person who hasn't said anything, you'll fail too."  And everybody talked way more than once...  

A Little St. Ann's before I quit for the week.

I was able to capture a Mercy Volunteer, Salena Clohyisy, who has just started working as a dietitian at Mercy Hospital. [Don't worry; I am not going to disclose my diet to her.]  Well, I had approached her about whether she'd like to teach the girls some basketball once a week.  She didn't know much about basketball but was a "great" track star ..... What about running?  Heck, close enough.  And when I told her it was on, she didn't even change her mind on hearing that Saturday morning at 6:30 would be the best time.  Actually, Sister Leonie had said 6, but I thought that might be too much. I got there at 6 to try and get some things organized and of course, they weren't .... Salena was there by 6:30 and she was the first "girl" ready.    Well, they left at 7:30 down the road with 24 girls -- more or less.   Really, most wanted to run barefoot as they do at school on the grass.  So many just had rubber flip flops or even school shoes..  They had a blast... and couldn't wait for next week...if only they had running shoes.

I hate it when girls cry with those sad faces; it is so controlling.   So I got their sizes - all 31 of them and headed to Foot Steps Mega Store that had helped St. Ann's before.  I chatted with the supervisor, a Miss Jane [I think] and before I could get a tear going, she gave me a better than wholesale price.  Wow, I said, "My friend who is pretty old and just turned 70 would love to pay for them.  [I haven't really told him yet.]   Anyhow, I trudged back and the girls were great about waiting and getting the right sizes... and they were thrilled that Rev. Dennis would be so kind.

Of course, my devious second reason to get the shoes is that now it will be very difficult for Salena to change her mind...  Catholic guilt is a wonderful thing -- sometimes.   Actually, Salena was already looking for a second day during the week to take them out running.

15 Years Later 

I was surprised by seeing again one of the students from my first class, Yolanda.  She is still in Guyana and is the Head of Quality Assurance at the Georgetown Public Hospital.  She had just dropped her son off at the movies [actually a better choice than the Suicide Prevention show] at the same mall.   It is good to see old students who are still toiling in Guyana and trying to make a difference.   Yolanda said that I looked the same as when she first met me... and I agreed.  Judge for yourself. 

Bibi is the student on the left, but she moved to France and changed her name to "Wild Orchid".  I heard a rumor that she snuck into Canada and lives in Guyana North.

Have a great week and thanks for reading. John