Rev Joc Guyana Adventures 2005

John’s Ramblings

Saturday, September 17th

Hot! Hot! Hot!

This is my fourth tour at Mercy and so much is familiar – except for the heat.   I know it is going to be hot and I try to prepare myself for it; however, it seems hotter this year.  I know you are going to ask me, “Well John, how hot is it?”; and, I’d answer, “Even the dreaded cold shower has been hot!”  I am just taking my time to adjust and after a few days I am doing alittle better – for an old guy.

Actually, there were some real improvements at the airport arrivals: everything had been painted, immigration officers had their own “cells” just like the Americans and Canadians [However, they had to leave them and walk to the next “cell” to go to ask any questions as there were no phones.], and the waiting area has been organized so you don’t have to tell 50 taxi drivers that you already have a ride!  The CARICOM Secretariat will be headquartered in Georgetown, so many improvements are so that Guyana can take pride in welcoming all its neighbour delegates.   It can probably also take pride [?] that with every large drug arrest anywhere in the world a Guyanese is one of the suspects.   It does seem that the renovated airport is as porous as ever.

Sister Sheila was there to pick me up and we had a chat on the way back to the hospital that only old friends can have.  It was good to see her and she seems well.   There have been some improvements to the hospital grounds [including, of course, the almost finished Faculty Flat] as it is the 60th Anniversary of the Sisters of Mercy in Guyana.   

I am back living in the same flat as I was last year.   I liked it best of all and I guess that I am establishing some seniority.  However, all the little things that I had gotten last year either had been uplifted for other purposes or they were exchanged for somewhat less than new items.    I have gotten to the market and replaced many items.  The most important being a beer opener!

I am not sure that I mentioned last year but the “truly good” nurses who volunteered last year had us all using recyclable containers for our meals instead of the ever-present Styrofoam containers.   This year, since they weren’t here I thought… Wrong.   The director in the kitchen when she saw me pick up my first meal in the Styrofoam, she apologized because she knew how much I hated not using recyclables!  When I told her that I didn’t have any this year I thought that she understood it was okay for me to eat on those lovely – that you don’t have to wash – containers.    So the next day when I went to pick up my meal there it was in a pretty plastic and reusable container.   She had brought some from her own home and I could [would] use them till I got some of my own.   She was very kind, but I think that Maria, Jane and Monica paid her off!!   I guess that I should feel righteous.

The meals are familiar: chicken, chicken and plain rice, chicken with kalaloo in the rice, chicken with carrots in the rice, chicken and noodles, chicken and boiled potatoes, chicken in the noodles and my all time favourite – unknown fish.   I must be becoming Guyanese; they have tasted pretty good.

There are two people stories that I’d like to tell you:

First, a woman from housekeeping was cleaning my flight of outside wooden stairs.  She was using a small steel wool pad in the direct hot sun and scraping off old paint and gunk.   She must have worked two hours on those dozen stairs.   I was just sitting there in the shade with the fan blowing on me and I was hot.   I brought her some juice and told her that the stairs were fine as they were and no one had ever cleaned them before.  She thanked me and said that no one had ever given her a drink before.

Second, I wrote a reference for a person here for a really good job on Barbados.  I didn’t expect to see that person here, but one afternoon, there they were.   I said I was sorry that they didn’t get the job.   The person said, “Oh I got the job, but I couldn’t start when they wanted me to because I had promised to finish something for the hospital.  They hired someone else.”   Well, for four times the salary, better working conditions,…  I left wondering if I would have done the same.

I think that I’ll write about the Faculty Flat in a different Ramblings.. as this one has rambled long enough.   I’ll throw in one picture anyhow.   Sister Sheila said she has pictures of its development and I’ll try and get them scanned and included.

Do you remember the old serials that left you hanging until next week?  And do you remember where I got mugged last year by those gentlemen with knives?  [As an aside, most people here remember and the story has grown somewhat.  Now when I am introduced to new people here, they look at me in wonder and say, “So you are the white guy in Albouystown.”]   I am headed back there this Sunday as my friend, Pastor Dick Young, will be installed there as their new pastor.   The guys that robbed me are probably deacons there.  I [or someone else] will tell you next time what happened.

May you all live well.
Take Care,


Sunday, September 25th, 2005

Hello from my second home:

Yes, I lived… and didn’t get mugged.  I actually went to two church services; another pastor was getting installed in the morning and I couldn’t figure out a good enough excuse to tell him why I got to Dick’s installation and not his.  I guess with “event pre-guilt”, I could still be a Catholic.   I met a lot of old Lutheran colleagues and got invited back to Dick’s with some others between services, which you might think is a long time between a service at 9 and the second at 2, but it was less than an hour!   When you got to church here, you go to church!

Dick’s church in Albouystown is only one of his four congregations though one [actually only a few blocks from the first] has not been open for awhile.  Another across the Demerara River also had not had worship there for a very long time decided that since there was a new pastor – and a new hope – they opened their doors.  The last congregation is up river about an hour’s drive and then an hour plus boat ride!   The last pastor is still in the parsonage, so Dick is living where the Lang’s and Frederick’s lived [The parsonage next to the all-night Club.] … and that story is way too complicated for me to write, let alone understand; but, this is Guyana.  Dick doesn’t even drink so he has no excuse for going into this – what is a kind description – “rebuilding” situation.   He does feel the call to be there; I am always in awe of people who do what they need to do regardless of how stupid the “world” sees it. 

I have settled into my routines of teaching; some visits to the boys; and walks around the city.  The routine usually involves doing a lot less than I had planned to do before I hit the heat.  Maybe I am not drinking enough beer to keep my strength up?  This year I am trying to spend more time with all the student nurses.   I am constantly asking if they need some assistance with patients or families or staff…  They never have any problems or questions with their reading homework – because they don’t read!   Anne designed a reading and listening comprehension short course, which I have inflicted on them.   They are improving in their understanding.  However, my problem is that to comprehend what you read, you have to have read something.   So I have tentatively underpinned the importance or reading, by quietly and calmly saying, “Read or die.”

With my first year students, I have decided to collect their notebooks and have marks each week.   This was probably a projection because I work better with an imminent deadline.   They all handed in their notebooks to me on Friday except on of the guys.   He was worried that I would give him a Zero.  I am pretty soft with marks, so I told him he could have till Monday with no penalty – IF he had a really good story of why he didn’t have his work.   He looked at me like I was crazy [which you all know is debatable] and he started to laugh.   He left and came back in a few minutes and I looked at him and he started to laugh and left again.   He did it twice more and I said, “Good enough; bring your stuff on Monday”.    And that was the high point: reading their notebooks was painful.   This may not have been my brightest idea.   It is a good thing that my residents taught me that my self esteem didn’t rely on how much they learned.   They are good kids and one of their requests to me in our expectations of each other was:   Be patient and understanding.   It reminded me of my mother’s favourite saying, “Be Kind.  Be Kind; and you will be a Saint.”   She said this to me often, probably because I was tormenting my sister and she knew then that I had a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving it!

So I’ll put some pictures in:  1. Construction outside of the Faculty Flat; 2. Me and Nadira [ a gardener at Mercy] at the Amerindian Cultural Pageant; 3. Some pictures of Dick’s church in Albouystown; 4. One of my freshman class [ I edited the names off because I didn’t want to embarrass the persons who paid for the dictionaries; or, I have sent it to lots of people who have given me money so they would think that I didn’t spend it on beer.]

I quit; enough already.

Take Care,   John
Monday October 3rd 2005

Hello People in the North
[I don’t think that there is anyone South of me - though one never knows where José is.]

Another week has flown by… a lot faster than I have been able to complete stuff here.  I have so many things that I want to get done when I am here and then I hit the heat… or the heat hits me.   I was out at the Bosco Boys’ Orphanage and just playing some catch and taking my time and a few breaks and I could feel the heat in my chest.   I was going to play a little basketball with them, but they didn’t want to play because I am too good of a defender.  They didn’t score a basket against me!  Hard to believe, eh? But I did have a small advantage…as you can see from one of the pictures.

The basket has been broken for a little while now.  According to the boys, either the famous “I Don’t Know” did it or “Those Big Kids from the Street”; however, my money is on an inside job.  The supporting steel frame is bent and torn… and the backboard isn’t in great shape.  So I went to buy a new one...  Well, you can’t.  There are no backboards in Guyana.  I checked all the sports stores and big department stores.  I even called the Director of Sport at the Ministry of Culture and Recreation.  After a few dozen phone calls he consulted a panel of experts to tell me, “You know Guyana is a poor country; you have to get it from Miami.”   Yeah, and I might just do that –FOR NEXT YEAR. So I am going to meet with a welder from the next little town on Monday who can fix anything.  Until then, I am the King of Defense!

I had brought a few films here for discussion of psychological and sociological issues.  I showed the first one on Friday afternoon.  I had to trade my classes to get a block of time.   I had brought popcorn –microwaveable; booked a room that I could darken; found a clean white sheet in the laundry for the screen; advertised it throughout the hospital; had my handout sheet with questions for discussion – even edited for English by my English wife; got the computer projector; set up comfortable chairs; got there an hour early just to be ready; got the computer and the projector hooked up and showing nicely; I was feeling very proud of myself… and you know what they say… pride cometh before the … SOB.. No movie on the screen.  After a few aborted attempts and a few more meditative expressions… I called Information Technology.  Now many of you are asking why I would do that, but I was desperate.]  I described the problem in detail and then I was told that yes they had had that problem before.  Great! And…   Nope, that was it; they had just had the problem before.   Anyhow, my class squeezed around my monitor but others who had come left.  My students told me that they would have stayed even if I wasn’t grading them; and, I believed them.  I think that there is a picture included.

Actually, it is Monday already and I started this thing on Saturday…  I am just sending it.  Oh no… wait.  Do you remember that tearjerker of a cup of water story?  Well, several people wrote me…  Most wrote me to say that they were still not giving me more money for the project, but one nurse, Jane, I worked with last year wrote a wonderful water story of her own.  I’ll include it here.

My water story is this:  one day after leaving the Meridian, I was walking home and drinking
my bottle of water.  There was a homeless woman in her 'winter' coat scooping possibly
'clean' water from near the fire hydrant.  I asked her if you would like my water and she
said: "Will you have enough for yourself?"  I love that ... It is my feel good memory of
Guyana... there are others.

Take Care,

October 9th

I have always kidded my students that the real reason the Socrates killed himself was that he kept asking his students questions . and. they didn't have a clue.  Some days it feels like that here.   On Tuesday, they were to lead a discussion of one questions that I had given each to answer from
watching the movie, "One Flew Over.".   They all had written answers with some depth and uniqueness to each answer.  We had an exciting discussion as well as students challenged each other's perspectives.  Now they are by no means children of the 60's; most thought that Nurse Ratchet was doing a very good nursing job and there was no way that McMurphy could be a Christ-figure because he swore!   Now If I could just figure out how I could get enough depth questions from a favourite movie of mine [and no it is not "Debbie Does Dallas - Again"]; it is the classic, "True Lies".   Maybe I'll use it next year?

 And then. one of the quieter students came up to me after class. [You know I am so jaded, I figured here comes another excuse why they didn't do something.  Actually, I have told them not to bother with telling me why they didn't or couldn't do something unless they have a really good story to go with it.   I love good stories.]   Well, she said, "You know that case we were talking about in Ethics Class? [already I am ecstatic!]   You said that the nurse should have asked Mrs. M what she had already tried before the nurse gave her some more advice.  [And I was happy that she remembered that she was enrolled in an ethics class.]  "I had a friend who asked me about a problem that she was upset about.  I was going to tell her what I thought she should do when I remembered what you said."  [My knees were weak; I had to sit down.]   "I asked her, 'What have you tried already to fix the problem?'   She told me some stuff and I could share a few things that she hadn't tried.  She saw me the next day to tell me how helpful I had been; I felt really good too."  Ahhhhhhhh. If students tell me stories like in the future I will know that I am in the Kingdom.

 This is the 60th Anniversary of Mercy Hospital and last Sunday Evening they had a big song festival service at the cathedral.  It started at 6:30 and the soccer game started at 8:00.  Well, the first half of the singing was good.  I took a few pictures to document my attendance. You know nuns, eh? And then headed for the game.  Guyana was playing Dominica at the big Cricket Stadium.  I got there with no trouble. However, do you know the parable about the rich man getting to heaven and the camel through the eye of the needle?   Well, the entrance was a regular-sized door and the few hundred people trying to get in.   One of the first things that you learn
about Guyanese customs is that they do not believe in the whole concept of a line or Q-ing.  The crowds were worse than getting an express subway at Times Square during rush hour.  And if you let an inch of space in front of you, someone stepped into it from behind you.   [For the most part I have forgotten my assault last year, but I really felt nervous about getting robbed. and yes, the white boy had his camera.  I used some cognitive interventions and calmed down.  I said to myself,  "John, you do not have to worry.  These are soccer fans.  Soccer fans all over the world are not rowdy or in any ways behave inappropriately."]  At last, to the gate and buy my ticket.  Wrong!  I needed to have a ticket before I could get crushed in the line.  [Stupidity sure has a way of releasing tension.]  I pushed out. got the most expensive ticket to sit upstairs.. fought my way back  [Now I was experienced.]  The ticket guy took my ticket ripped it in half and threw both sections in the garbage.  It didn't matter because the upstairs good seats were full anyhow.   So I sat downstairs.. where I was watching the game that was supposed to have been over an hour ago. Guyana time, eh?  An hour and a half later the national team took the pitch. and beer bottles stated crashing down from the stands above.  one to left of me.. one to the right of me.. the next one hit a young man in front who immediately told the people upstairs that he was coming up top beat "something" out of them. He did not return.  With the half and two more beer bottles later, I thought that I was pushing my luck and left.

I am getting more and more culturally sensitized!  I was talking about students who always suck up to the teacher for a good mark and that they were called "brown nose-ers".  No one got it.  They all have brown noses.  I told them that it was a white joke.

Let me end this by quoting a few sections of a student's sociological autobiography.  All the student look at their family history, culture, schools, etc.  They read them in class and we talk about what it would mean for us to nurse someone like the student and what strengths the student brings to nursing.  Well we only got through 2 in an hour on Thursday. I'll share a piece of one. 

"I was born on a clod Sunday Morning, at around 1:30 AM on .. [How do I know it was cold?  My mother told me.]. My father was a seaman during the time that I was born and one of the places he visited was Britain.  While there he had a woman friend by the name of XXXXXXXX.  So I guess that he liked the name as well as the woman so much which is why he gave it to me [I have always hated it.]..   My parents ended their relationship when I was 9 months old.  My father was a good father during those first nine months of my life. but I don't know what happened after that. He has another family. I still can't understand it.  I thought that fathers were to have a special affection for their daughters and with me being his only one too.

 "On the other hand, with me being my mother's only child, I was never starved for love and she took care of me as best she could.  We had some storms, but we weathered them.   I remember once when I was about five years old, we were living under a house.  There were no walls, so my mother used rice bags as makeshift walls, so when we stepped down from our bed, it was onto the mud ground.  We were literally living in the yard.  One night we hadn't anything to eat, so my mom took the empty sugar container that still had some sugar coated on the inside, poured some warm water in it, shook it up and gave it to me to drink." *

 Guyana is not the poorest country in the world.  It is just poor.   What amazes me is the resiliency of the human spirit and this student's – in particular.   She is a confident, articulate young woman with a child and a husband and doing nursing full time.  I stand in awe of her courage.

 May you live well.


 * Parents are free to use this story when their kids don't finish their vegetables.

Ramblings - October 16, 2005

Hello Everyone:

No one ever talks about the weather here… when it doesn’t change there isn’t much conversation… but just for your benefit it is hot.  I have stuck a few pictures on the letter because I have the feeling that I may not feel like do it.

Last Sunday, I went with my Lutheran Pastor friend, to one of his four churches; this one is up river, Mt. Zion at Sand Hills on the Demerara River.  We traveled by car to near the airport in Temehri and got on a small outboard motorboat run by one of the members of the congregation.  There used to be public transportation on the river but the price of gas has put them out of business.  The farmers couldn’t afford to bring their produce to town; and, then there were no passengers on the boats… and no more farmers up river…and produce is more expensive in Georgetown…   also, only the smarter children got o school in the upper grades and high school into Georgetown… So they stay in the city or emigrate… and the ones who stay up river?  Now I wish I hadn’t slept through Economics… but it probably wouldn’t have mattered because it was even pre-globalization.

It was about a half hour up the river to where the church is.   Dick packed his keyboard, inverter, battery and speaker.  In three of Dick’s congregations, there had been no worship for many months… but that is another story and one full of exciting church politics only found in Guyana.   They worshipped in the school because the church was no longer fit for use.  So when he was coming, there was a lot of excitement.     We didn’t get back till 6 in the evening… and I  made the mistake of telling dick that I enjoyed the day all the way from the first service at 8 AM.   Two days later, he refreshed my memory and offered me the pleasure of preaching for him “up river” next Sunday.    What could I say, eh?  I wonder if they don’t like the sermon, do they make me swim home?

Today, I went to my outdoor church on the soccer pitch.  I watched some of the young boys from Plaisance play in a neighbouring town.  The coach is Paul James.  He really hangs in there with all the kids and does an excellent job.  He is also now one of the assistant coaches for the national team.   They lost but many of the kids were under 13 and they were playing an under 15 team.  And just like kids all over… after the game was over only the coach cared that they had lost.

I was out to dinner three times this week… and I didn’t have chicken or rice at any of them!  I was out with three pastors from New York City who have large congregations of Guyanese.  In fact, one past or has a congregation not very far in Brooklyn to where I grew up… small world.   They were here to get a better understanding of Guyanese culture… so they had dinner with me?   Then I had to take Sister Sheila out to dinner.   Tough work but someone had to do it… Actually, a nurse who volunteered here last year had sent me some money to be able to do something nice for Sr. Sheila.

Some have written me lately telling me that I have seemingly gotten much deeper with my Ramblings.   I would like to apologize; it must have been an accident.  Let me restore your confidence in my depths.

This may be the direct result of having bad television or the old adage that small things amuse small minds.  I have taken a multivitamin for years and then I added an extra vitamin C.  Well, this year, my new doctor told me that he recommends an additional calcium and Vitamin – it’s either D or E – I forget - for all his OLD patients.  Well, when I came here I put them all in the same bottle.  So if you can picture this there is an oblong red multivitamin, 2 oblong grey calcium ones, a large circle white Vitamin C, and one small whatever vitamin it is.   Now the excitement every morning is can I roll out the exact right combination of pills on the first try?  So far in the three weeks I have only done it once honestly.  There were two other times but I had to use a little body English and a small bump to get the right mix.   I now have a short wrist relaxing exercises, a brief chant and three vigorous shakes of the bottle to rebalance the combination of sizes…    Now you know deep!  Some of you must be saying that this surely is an allegory for an essential mystery of the universe… and some are saying…

Anyhow, Anne returns home tonight from her family visits and on her birthday…

May you all live well.
Take Care,

October 24th

Greetings to all:

I had originally started this 2 days ago.  I just couldn’t seem to get started… and I know how your whole week revolves around my sending Ramblings on time – not!

I guess that I have an excuse as I was a “real” missionary on Sunday.  I preached at two of Rev. Dick Young’s churches: one Epiphany in Albouystown Section of Georgetown [Yes I came and left with my camera – this time.]; and, the other, Mt. Zion, which is up the local river, Demerara.  I had been there as a guest a couple of weeks ago.   You know teaching psychology I should have learned by now that we live by perceptions…  Sitting in a small outboard motorboat, just chugging upstream, past miles and mile of just jungle on either side of the river… a few small houses that one can see or a small row boat left on the shore with a path seemingly going into the dark bush… the hot equatorial sun beating down… going to preach the good news… Move over Schweitzer and Livingstone!  Much more spiritually heroic…

And I haven’t lost my knack at preaching either.  I talked about “Be holy…” – Leviticus somewhere… that holiness is attained in the everyday surroundings of our lives and that there was no special holiness; that the sacrament of baptism makes us all equals; there is no higher holiness in being a minister or bishop or aesthetic monk; what matters is doing godly deeds, living respectfully and kindly with our fellow human beings.  All vocations are Christian vocations.  This is the demand to be holy… Now you can see why I am a good preacher… I didn’t listen to myself.  Good thing I didn’t tell them… Imagine: just because I was sitting in a motor boat going into the jungle, I was engaged on some holier activity than anyone else?    I need to recant my words – the sermon was wrong!  It still felt kind of more…  Or as I have been known to say as a liberal to avoid the reductionism of fundamentalism “Maybe both are true.”

I actually did a baptism while I was there too.   I don’t know if I should have or not… I didn’t think of it at the time because I was trying to figure out how to shorten my sermon because there was communion at the second church and at the first church, they didn’t get out till an hour and a half… That is what happens when you don’t preach a lot… and besides I am used to talking for an hour!  I have always loved doing baptisms where the baby is healthy… and not dead or dying immediately.  She was a lovely girl, Shanieka Latifa.   There are so many dreams and hopes and potentials that get wrapped up in those rituals.    How much all parents all over the world wish that their children will grow up in a world that is much more kind – and the lamb will lie down with the snake, eh?  In the end, I was sad.  I wondered how she was ever going to reach her potential in this small poor village in a small poor country.   I sure hope that she will like rice and beans and chicken… And their well water looks like light rum..  Her dad is already away in another part of the country trying to earn a living…And the school is one room and there are forty one kids Kindergarten to Grade 10…and not many resources… you know the high tech stuff like books.  [I had brought a word find puzzle up for the kids in case they weren’t absorbed in my sermon… but there were no pencils in the school.  They had been finished and the crayons didn’t work so good.]   Two teachers…  and no jobs…   Please keep her and the rest of the world in your prayers.

Three of the Mercy volunteers all of them Catholics came up to see if I was really a pastor or just faking it.  Come to think of it; none of them ever told me what their conclusions were…

The rest of life here moves along as usual… Teaching is always an adventure… and I haven’t killed a student yet.  Another new graduate has asked for their transcript from the school… So say “Good Bye!”.  He will be emigrating… at least he worked almost a year after he graduated.  I remember my initial diagnosis as one of despair…  It is so hard to see your best leave… and I am not even Guyanese.   Oh well, stay in the present:  I have classes to teach and beer to drink.  You know, tell me what you think of this idea?  I was going to buy a large quantity of MJ [marijuana] and give a little box with some of it to every nursing student right before the police came…  Then they would have a criminal record and couldn’t get a visa.  Thinking outside the box… again.

Take Care,


October 30th
Greetings to all my friends:

An important person who keeps close tabs on me says that I have passed the halfway point for this tour of duty.  It has moved by with the usual slowness of days and the speed of weeks.   I have done about a half of what I had set out to do… and I guess that is average… at least for an old guy like me.

My big accomplishment this week was to finish putting up the basketball hoop at the boys’ home in Plaisance…  As I had mentioned the “never to be found” culprits had hung on the hoop until it bent and actually broke…  Well, I did find a welder to see if they could fashion a fix for the broken one.  I had gotten his name from one of the contractors at the hospital.    It took me a bunch of days to contact him and then to arrange a time to meet him.   Well, that had to be at least three weeks ago.   He drove up to the orphanage in a nice newish truck; I described the problem and showed it to him; He took it and said he would fix it AND bring it back tomorrow!  This is kind of like the 7 days that god created the universe – probably slightly longer than the usual 24 hours expected by anal North Americans.    When I told people who I had gotten to fix it, almost all of them said,” He is going to overcharge you a lot.”  Hey, a white guy here gets used to that… but once again I was surprised.  “You know he is a Moslem.”  Well, I actually couldn’t tell by his ears.   So I asked the person, “Is this true of all Moslems here?”  “Yes, they always charge more.”   You know, I had heard something like this in New York.   Then, I thought that this would give these two peoples who are killing each other in the Middle East – something in common…   Anyhow, when he dropped it off, I was prepared with my extra money, he said, “It’s free.  I did it for the boys.”  So I asked him, “Are you a Moslem?”   He said that he and his whole family were; and, he looked at me kind of strange.   I had this shit-eatin’ grin on… because I was off to tell a few people that they were so wrong…  But I doubt that prejudice will die that easily and certainly not in the face of evidence!

He didn’t put it up though.  So it took me awhile to find someone to put it up because there are no tools at the orphanage; and I am severely limited when it comes to dealing with actual reality.  So I was out there on Saturday… determined that I was not leaving till I got someone to put it up.  Well, I asked the matrons and the kids and there was maybe a couple of people…  None of them were home and most of their families said that they didn’t have any tools…  So I took this as a sign from god that I should do it myself.   It was now about 11:30 before noon… and you know the old saying that keeps going through my head is “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun”… Well, I know I am not English…  First to determine what exact “whatchamacallits” were required to secure the basket to the post… It didn’t look that hard… I have often said this before 20 trips to Canadian Tire Hardware store..  Here there is no Canadian Tire.  I figured that I would have to go back into Georgetown as I think it is the only hardware store in Guyana.  The kids told me there was a little one in the local market…  There are actually about six of them in there…  I got one set of bolts from one, the nuts from another and washers from the third… By the end it was a communal experience.   The first hardware stall owner walked with us to the other ones and brought the stuff from them and then sold it to me.   If I was overcharged, it sure didn’t seem like it because I had several sizes of bolts and the whole bill was not 2 bucks Canadian.   I didn’t ask if any of them were Moslem.

Back at the home it looked good to go… The only problem was the ladder was rickety and I was not in my peak weight lifting form.  So holding the basket above my head trying to secure it to the pole posed a problem as the little kids had to hold the ladder steady.  I almost dropped it once down on them and I thought for a second, “What am I going to tell their parents?”; then, I realized that wasn’t a problem.  Just then one of the graduates who works at the hospital came by to say hello to some of his friends there.   I guess that god does take care of fools and mad dogs.  Linden could lift it, but we didn’t have a wrench and believe it or not there wasn’t one in Plaisance.  I stood at the street and asked people – who looked like they would own a wrench – but my profiling skills were as bad as the US Government’s…  Then, I remembered the local hardware guys… I asked the boys if they might have a wrench… They all agreed that they would not have one…  So I went over because those kids are always wrong.   He did not have a wrench to sell or to rent!  One reason was they call it a spanner?   He still didn’t have one, but if I watched his stall; he would check around.  I told him that I couldn’t because my visa only states that I am a volunteer… No I didn’t..  He was back before UI even got asked a question or robbed.
In the palm of his hand he had a “toy” wrench.   Like some years early on when I had only one resident and I told them that they were the best… It was the best… and besides Linden was putting it up…  And put it up he did!  Now there is a net on it as well… I did that.  I even found one new basketball… and the world was evolving as it should.

That was a long story…  I wonder if it had a point?

Dr. Erv Jansen is down for 10 days with a team of health professionals ands sewers.   Is that right?  You know people who use needles and thread.  They are teaching people to sew a skirt and blouse.   Anyhow, he invited me to a nice dinner and my friend Dick Young was there.  He had booked the ferry for them to go to the hospital in New Amsterdam, but he would not be able to go with them because he had to preach at King of Glory across the river…  So in a moment of Catholic guilt, I said that I would do it for him – if I could use last week’s sermon.  He said okay, but once guilt gets going it is hard to control… so I wrote a new Reformation sermon for the 10 people there!  As my dear Unitarian wife said, “You’ll get points in the kingdom.”   I think she might have been trying to make a joke.

My really big news is the Tony Carr will be arriving tomorrow morning for two weeks.  He is seriously considering [or his wife is seriously considering for him] about returning for several months next year after he retires.  This is both good and bad… It will be great to have company and support, but now I will not be able to tell many lies. 

Have a great week.
Take Care,

November 5th

Hello from the always friggin’ hot world of Georgetown:

Well, this is the beginning of a new era in my journey.  Tony Carr, a psychiatrist colleague from McMaster [and the non-managing half of the partnership with Sue] arrived here on Monday.   Now being a psychiatrist – if not a “real” doctor – is important, but that is not the reason for the new era…  He is the first person from Mac to join me here and it adds a touch of reality to my fantasy [Yes, I actually do have more than one!]  of others from Canada joining me in building heath care in Guyana.   I still have that dream that some from Mac and other places will want to come down and share their talents with those here.  I have not been especially successful at shifting the school into considering modular, intensive courses where someone could come and teach in their expertise for two weeks.  It is a special:  They do the work, pay their own airfare; and when they get here, they get to stay in the Faculty Flat and have chicken and rice.   You can’t find many third world countries offering deals like that, eh?

The Faculty Flat also has two female nursing faculty christening it this week… and they have discovered a few needed improvements – kind of like a new house.   For example - and I have only been told about this - that with the new glass louvered windows people can see right in from outside… A telephone hasn’t been hooked up… nothing major though.   By the way, a special thank you brochure is being prepared by the hospital for distribution to all who donated to the flat; and, as you are well aware they do not possess the same sense of time as someone as anal as me.   I may not get enough copies, so the suggestion here was to share them… I haven’t go the vaguest idea how to do that, but if you get another address in your copy – after you finish reading it, could you put it in the mail to the next person?  All of you I hope know how much everyone appreciates your gifts; just the fact that some faculty are there is spirit-raising.

Back to the big news: Tony.   He arrived here a little late.  British West Indies Airline [or affectionately referred to here as But Will It Arrive.] decided to cancel his early flight and move up another, so he arrived about three hours late.  And since then he has been going non-stop…  He has taught at the public hospital to junior medical doctors, medexes, student doctors and nurses and staff nurses; he has done rounds in out patient and seen a patient; and, we? did rounds in the inpatient units; he met Dr. Erv Janssen a psychiatrist for Oklahoma who brought a mental health team down; met with the dean at the medical school [As an aside, the dean does not have an office on campus, so I sent him an old picture of Dr. Kelton’s suite as a goal.]; been to two different Divali events, including the big parade; got involved in a planning meeting for the redesign of psychiatry at the Public Hospital; got lots of milk for his bran; he assisted in teaching about confidentiality to my students and will be with them twice next week, along with the Senior students twice;  he met with Dr. Sr. Karen Schneider from Johns Hopkins who still hasn’t met my brother in law, John Flynn; and even more amazing hasn’t met Monica and the tribe as Karen is a Pediatric Emergency  Doctor; and, been out to dinner at least 4 nights.  He and Sr. Sheila went to the market today and are looking for the few mandatory gifts for people.   And one of the resident doctors, Dr. Daniels, here is having all the volunteer types for lunch at 2:30.  I stayed home this morning to get a rest!

Tony is here to explore the possibility of doing something here after he retires next year… and he ahs several great leads, one very good opportunity to teach at the medical school in psychiatry.  Students receive only two weeks of psychiatry in their fourth year and one in there fifth year.  [This is despite the fact that half of all inpatient beds in the country are psychiatric.]  There are only 4 psychiatrists – two on contract from Cuba, one Guyanese who is at the Public Hospital; one Guyanese who no one actually knows where he is.    It is yet to be seen if this will turn real for Tony, but it was really promising..  And I was a little jealous… You’d think that after all these years of being around docs that I would have learned…   I was about to say that I should have been a doctor, but then I realized that I would have had to study!

Maria and Eileen, who were here last year as volunteers, returned this year for two weeks and have been running an intensive two week course in cardiology and critical care for senior nursing students and staff.  So even the modular idea has been put to the trial.  So for it has been well received and the students have focused well on a lot of new and demanding information.  It looks like it can succeed here.  I do hope that their success will help the nursing school open up more to these possibilities.  I’d hate to have to refuse the throngs of volunteers just itching to come down!

Enough for now.. Maybe I’ll get Tony to do a guest editorial next week?

One of the things that I realized – again – how much support and love I had when I was at MUMC.  Unlike here, there were always colleagues of every discipline and group there to support me.  I was truly blest.   Maybe someday, it will be like that here.

Take care,

November 8th  from Tony Carr

Dear Guys,

well, I made it safely back to Georgetown, and it really does feel like coming home.  The heat and itchy mosquito bites have sunk into the background of my consciousness, along with the roaring car engines, constantly beeping horns, shouts, whirring fans, and the steady But it's safe!  (relatively)

I agreed psychopathically to accompany a group of 6 young (female) American doctors and two missionary American nuns (one a doctor and the tutor of the group) to Wakapoa, "up-country", i.e. in the fairly uncivilised interior.  (Guyana is mainly populated along the coast - bit like Canada and the border).  So I turn up at 7.30 am on Sunday at the gate of this hospital, jump into the van with the nuns, and go to collect the girls in their lodging-house in the town.  As expected, they're not ready, or the van isn't, and we wait around for half an hour or so.  The weather is darkening for a big thunderstorm, but we lurch off (in two vehicles) on the lttle coast road.  It's the main drag, if not the only drag, but is about 20' wide with often no sidewalks.  We scream along dodging cars, minivans ("buses"), many pedestrians (some waiting for the bus), cows, goats, dogs, occasional horse-and-cart, donkeys, etc.  The Guyanese driving habit is simple:
drive as fast as your vehicle will go, and if an accident looks likely toot 4 or 5 times.  Their ability to avoid accidents is unbelievable - maybe Einstein was right, and their vehicles actually get smaller because of the high speed, so they can squeeze through tiny gaps?

Then we arrive at the Demerara River (yes, where the sugar comes from), and rumble across the longest floating bridge in the world - about 1.5 miles long, supported on what look like floating rusting oil tankers anchored to oildrums filled with concrete, and on along the coast (north-west) to the next river, the Essequibo.  This is much larger, maybe 3 miles across, and has a busy wharf with a street market and poeple unloading sacks of sugar, rice, veggies, melons, green oranges (forsooth).  So we buy some bananas (40cents a bunch), and unload our bags onto the wharf, slippery wood planks over the river (about 10 feet above the water).  John has sent some of my photos of all this.

We get a boat across the Essequibo, unload into another minivan (bus - a "number 21" this time), and scream along an identical coast road for another couple of hours to Charity, and another street market, where we again wait for one or two of the ladies to disappear in search of something.

Eventually a goodlooking Amerindian (i.e. native) called Andrew, who actually speaks better English than the people in Georgetown, gets his motorboat up to the wharf gangway and loads our bags on, then us.
It's still drizzling rain, throughout, but thiw is because we have outrun the huge thunderstorm which has by now engulfed Georgetown (we later discover).

At this point we discover that the third world has incongruities (like the black gent in the very crude street-market surrounded by garbage *on the cellphone*).  Andrew's boat has a top-of-the-line, HUGE motor, totally quiet and shielded from everything.  He pumps it up and the boat leaps bodily out of the water and skims along the surface of the huge river (Pomeroon River?), past virgin jungle with occasional luxurious houses with wharf and children and hugeTV antennas, occasional canoes with whole families, and not much else.  The rain has stopped and it's quite exhilarating.  My favourite (not captured on film, alas) is the house with a HUGE palm-tree in the garden which has one very long vertical branch sticking 10' out of its top - somehow they ahve managed to fix a TV antenna to the top of this long branch!

After another hour Andrew suddenly swings 90 degrees left and hurtles the boat straight at the left bank!  We all gasp, and then suddenly the boat disappears into a tiny creek (about 15' wide) overgrown with mangrove trees ... at full speed!  We career around the bends and dodge the hanging branches, Andrew much enjoying the shrieks of the ladies, and occasionally slow right down to go through a REALLY narrow gap or two.  Surprise:  when you slow down, a huge bow wave comes past and engulfs the boat, making it look as though you dropped your boat into the water from 20 feet up - also exhilarating.  The creek meanders through the jungle for another half-hour, Andrew clearly knowing each bend and branch, adn then reaches open flat marsh dotted with occasional palm tress.  Ten minutes later we see a flash of white, and then we're at "the mission", the original Anglican mission compound.  The sun is now beating down (it's about 2pm), and we step gingerly off the boat into the swamp, grab bags and ... turn around to find the most beautiful girl in the world smiling a bit shyly at us!

Annie turns out to be a U.S. Peace Corps worker (remember Kennedy's alternative to the draft?), spending a year living entirely alone in the "municipal office" hut on the mission compound, which is a square of sand the size of a baseball pitch with half a dozen white wooden buildings.  There's a boarding school (most kids go home at weekends, so there are only a handful staring curiously at us), a health centre (empty), a house (Andrew's?), the "municipal office" hut (empty normally, but now Annie's house), and a 'wapun' (or something like
that) which is a circular area with no walls but a roof, the meeting place.  Each building is a long way apart.  Oh, more incongruity - there's a store!  It's one room with a verandah, and a flap folding out to form a counter, and a fridge, and a native woman looking cautiously at us.  So we buy some pop, and then dump our stuff in the school dormitory area (there's two, so the resident kids are shooed into the other).  Then we get invited to go off in Andrew's boat again to see Mora, where the girls will hold their "well child clinic" the next day.  Sure!  So another 10 minutes of alternately skimming and whooshing to a slowdown, and we stop at a much tinier creek, tie up the boat, and walk up a long path.  There are houses (much more
primitive) every quarter mile or so, and then another "compound", also a sandy area with a few white-painted wooden buildings.  Again a health center, and a library building (gaily hand-painted by Annie and Sister Hope), all empty.  We deposit the box of medicines we have bought, and the girls inspect the cupboards for supplies - finding a bag of normal saline with great delight.

Then another invitation.  A native has arrived and invites us to see the jaguar skin!  This needs a trek along another path for a mile or so, passing occasional children and dogs and houses.  Eventually we come to a half-built house (money ran out), ande the owner proudly shows us the skin of what looks like a small tiger, and is apparently an ocelot.  It had begun to terrorize the neighbourhood in the summer, killing 23 dogs (unusual behaviour for wildlife here, although the dogs leave much to be desired).  The villagers were worried that it might turn its attention to toddlers (which wander along the deserted paths quite happily and fearlessly), especially as school term was about to start, so they built a hide on stilts, sat up to watch, and the owner eventually saw and shot the animal ... but it got away.  The next night they stayed in the hide again, but the cat avoided it, so in a fit of pique one villager leapt down and ran down the path - and ran straight into it!  He only got one shot, but fortunately didn't miss.

We walked and boated back to Mission, and careful questioning established that there never was a true "village" here, just a spread of tribesmen over a thousand square kilometers or so, farming and fishing.  As with north Ontario, the missionaries came and planted a hospital, and then a school, but here a town did not grow up.  Unlike frozen James Bay country, one can life relatively close to others here and still have enough food.  So the "villagers" are still spread all over the countryside, and bring their kids by creek and canoe to school, clinics etc.

Then  back to the boarding school dormitory.  It's now dark and we're hot and very tired, and have to fix up beds.  There are some wooden 2-tier bunk beds, some of which are unbroken and even have rubber mattresses.  The girls have brought hammocks, and there is one electric light for the whole building, so Tony takes a back seat and watches 8 women fixing hammocks in chaos.  Quite fascinating, actually
- they LOOKED totally disorganised, but within half an hour the hammocks were up (all over the place).  THen two huge strokes of luck for Tony.  A local woman who had been staying in another room next to the dormitory decided she could move out for the night, and unlocked the door to the next room, which contained only one double-bunk-bed.
And it had a pillow!!  And Hope decided - well, got firmly told - to pitch her hammock in that room cos she snores!  And nobody else wanted
to share the room with her!!!   So Tony suddenly found, to his intense
relief, that he had a bunk bed all to himself with a pillow, AND a fully functional mosquito net.  (These don't work until you learn how to use them properly - I have now learnt, very painfully.  Sorry, I mean learned.)

Then off in the pitch dark across the sand (under unbelievably bright stars, with the Pole star right down on the horizon!) to Annie's house,  She has her Dad staying with her for the week, and they have cooked curried soy-chunks on spaghetti, which are mind-blowing (food is quite spicy here) but very comforting.  Her Dad, Israel, is from Philadelphia and turns out to be a star-buff, educating Tony into recognizing Pegasus and Andromeda (but couldn't get me to see the next one - is it Sirius?  Nor Pleiades).  He's also a realist - his city has "said" it will provide city-wide free WiFi, but he reminded Tony that politicians always make promises, rarely deliver.  No chance to chat up Annie, fortunately, and off to the bunk bed, and RAPIDLY to sleep.  Until about midnight, when a dog wakes the entire compound shrieking it's lovely head off .... Tony remarked sourly "Bring back the cougar!" -- the ladies thought he was raving.

They warned us the boats would be ready to take us at 6.15 am - people start when it's light here - and Tony happily went back to sleep with no alarm clock, feeling it unlikely they would leave him behind.  And indeed, we were all up by 6 am.  The joint (only) washroom was fairly primitive, and Tony was feeling REALLY grubby, but slathered on more mosquito goo and set off across the swamp to the creek bank - to find TWO, crowded boats full of unsmiling natives sitting in rows (no, they're quite friendly, but one doesn't smile at bloody 6 am).  One took the ladies up to their well-kid clinic, and the other took Tony, Caroline and sister Karen back down the creek and the river.  The six-hour journey was more stressful this time.  A small boy sat on top of Tony (the minivan was very crowded, about 17 people) and coughed incessantly - I'm sure he had TB, which is not rare here.  Then he got out and opened the back over a mud puddle JUST before Tony could reach over the seat and grab his (i.e. John's) backpack, AND then picked it up covered in mud and dropped it again on it's other side!  The minivan driver took amazing risks, and Caroline's blonde hair went several shades whiter.  Crossing the Essequibo it started to rain harder, and we all huddled under tarpaulins.  The bus-driver ripped us off, and Sister Karen paid him anyhow!  But the exchange rate makes everything cheap here - the whole round trip cost Tony about G$20,000.00 (about $110 Canadian).

John met Tony at the gate (again around 2pm) and, after a much-neede shower, took him off to the University to see the Dean, and then out to dinner at the local country club (full of the ghosts of British
colonials) with a visiting WHO psychiatrist.  So I got to bed fairly used up!  Set up the mosqy-net VERY carefully, showered off all the repellent, and dozed off ... until about 3am, when a very loud buzzzer started buzzing sporadically.  Can it be a fire?  I'm lying here on the top floor of a tinder-box (all thin painted wood planks) - should I get out of my nice comfortable mosquito-net and go find out?  I lie and debate.  Travis in the next bedroom stopps snoring and stirs - he's awake - then he goes back to sleep.  There is a murmur of conversation outside the house, but only a few voices.  Surely if it was a fire they would be shouting, and there would be police sirens?
But the buzzer continues ....  Finally, just as Tony was reluctantly deciding he'd have to brave the bloodsuckers, Sister Sheila's sweet voice floats up from ground level, "tony, are you there?"  "Yes, Sister".  "Well, is Travis there?"  "Yes sister".  "Well, his taxi's here to take him to the airport!"  Happily Travis was awake, and departed back to America rather sheepishly, and Tony went back to sleep.

Wow!  THis has taken 2 hours, sitting at John Oconnor's laptop surrounded by mosquitoes.  I love you all!  And when I get back I want screening for TB, malaria and microfilariasis (elephantiasis), all of which are common and easily transmitted!

Lots of love,   Tony

November 12th

from Tony Carr, John’s friend who is the visiting psychiatrist in Guyana for 2 weeks


More ravings from the Equator.  Actually, Guyana is NORTH of the equator, I've been swindled!  So the sun is still in the south, and we're just entering winter (HA BLOODY HA) - it's about 35C in the shade today, except that there is no shade unless you can find a large tree and sit on it - the sun shines almost straight down, and you are always on the sunny side of the street, tra la.

I am sitting in John's apt wearing only shorts, with a huge fan blowing hot air at my back, and sipping "guava / carrot juice", which is delicious.  It WAS cold, out of the fridge, but by the time you get halfway down the glass it's warm again.  I've covered the touch pad with a card so that I only accidentally touch it every half-minute, instead of every two letters.

Well, last night was a tragedy.  You will understand that going to bed is quite complicated here.  First you unfold the mosquito net from the square frame hanging 4' above the bed (from a rafter) - mine is made from an old desk blotter, lovingly covered with mosquito net and some lace, and then prosaically labelled "Bank House Upper Flat" in black marker.Then you put, in the middle of the (double) bed, all the pillows, and your spare sheet (you won't need a cover at all unless you have the fan on all night, in which case you MIGHT be able to tolerate one sheet covering part of you).  Then add to the pile 4 wire hangers, a couple of briefcases or folders, a comforter, hankie or whatever, and bug-spray can.

Next you tuck the mosquito net edges in all around the bed.  Then you collect a glass, fill it from the huge water jeroboam in the kitchen, take it to the bathroom and clean your teeth using it.  (The water here smells strongly of rust and contains enough coliforms to justify closing a swimming pool).  Then back to the kitchen for half a cup of homo milk from the fridge (fresh milk is unknown here) and drink some  - you won't be able to reach it once you're netted in.  Have last pee. Grab flashlite, turn off bedroom light, Squeeze under one edge of the mosqnet and hastily tuck it in after you, by flashlight, sitting on the pile of stuff, fast enough that the flying syringes don't have time to follow you in.

At this point you relax, feeling safe (swing the flashlight around to make sure).  You cunningly push a wire hanger out against the mosqnet and hook it over the  bedknob, one at each corner of the bed, without breaking the net.  This holds the net higher off the bed, so it doesn't hang down on you and let the perishers eat you THROUGH the net.  You arrange another spare sheet to form a little envelope over your feet, so they don't touch the net either (John  learned this trick, very painfully).  Now we can make it comfortable - place the pillows, lie down, arrange a briefcase each side of you like a coffin (so you can't sleep with one arm thrown out against the netting, where they can get you).  A last whip-round with the flashlight to ensure no invaders, and yippee!  you turn out the flashlight.

What?  Oh no!  You've left the kitchen light on, and since the walls only go up 12' and the roof is 20' overhead, the whole ceiling is illuminated.  Drat.  Untuck the mosqnet by flashlight, move the briefcase, squeeze carefully out without pulling too much net out, into the kitchen, turn off the light, feel your way back, turn on the bedroom light, find the flashlight, turn off the light, squeeze back in, tuck in, replace the briefcase, settle down, turn off flashlight, dark at last.  Ahh!  Er .... it's a bit hot.  Oh no!  You've still got the fan facing the dressing table.  Is it worth getting up AGAIN?  You lie there for 10 minutes, totally uncovered, and begin to sweat.
Blast.  Move briefcase, crawl out again, move fan, etc.  Finally you get to sleep somewhat hot and bothered.  You'll sleep like a log until the loud car radios and traffic noise start up, around 6 am (in blinding sunshine) - except whenever the hospital dogs scent some furry intruder and explode into excited barking for 15 minutes.

Well, last night I did all this very carefully - I'm gradually getting better at it.  Normally in the morning you wake up and there are 3 or 4 mosquitoes perched patiently on the mosqnet, on the side nearest the fan, waiting for a meal to come near enough.  I assumed they were that side so the fan was blowing them onto the net, making it easier to cling on.  You can then suddenly "pinch" each mosquito into a little fold of net, from the inside, gently enough that the others don't wake up and fly off.  They don't seem to be able to see you through the netting.  You can then brush the guck off from outside, when you are up, and carve 4 more notches on the bedpost.  Last night I decided to try a new trick.  I took a spray can of kill-instantly-everything-that-moves to bed with me, inside the net, planning to spray the bastards from underfoot, to see if they would fall off dead and save me having to brush off remains.

So I wake up this morning and check - 5.30 am, not bad, sun blinding already, and then look upwards.  Wow!  At least a dozen of them!  Oh well, I can test the spray idea ... wait a minute, they're looking very black, aren't they?  Surely .... closer look .... aahh!  They're INSIDE!  Disaster, they've breached my defences overnight.  Sure enough, my shoulder starts to itch at the thought, and fingers discover a new itchy painful bite.  Scummo di scummo!  I grab the spray can and pursue the bastards with it.  It's a bit like air-bombing Palestinians really, since they can't get out of the net and fly round helplessly, but it does relieve my feelings a little.  I lie back frustated and exhausted, occasionally lifting my head to blast a survivor or two.  I note with interest that the mosquitoes were lining up *on the side of the net nearest the fan* to get out:
this nukes my theory about being easier to cling on in a downdraft.
Maybe they associate the draught with the entrance/exit to the enclosure?

Then I roll over, move the briefcase, and get out of bed.  Ops. 
Rolling over was a mistake.  The dead mosqs fell on the bed, I rolled on them and squashed them, and there are smudges of my blood all over the sheet.  Excremento!  In fury I smash a couple of mosqs that are still clinging to the outside of the net - and create more homologous bloodstains.  I calm down, get a wet cloth, sponge off bloodstains as far as I can, and go for a shower (water feels cold, but only in contrast).  Now I look as though I have chicken pox - so far I have found 36 bites.  Fortunately John has lent (!) me some anti-itch cream, so the suffering is limited - make that 38 - but it won't do anything for the malaria and microfilaria commonly carried by mosquitoes here.  Filaria are the cause of elephantiasis - GREAT.
Elephantiasis is incurable - FANTASTIC.  Bollocks to the whole world, why did I come here?

Ah, I feel a bit better,  One of John's proteges, a teenage male, has dropped in and is complaining OF THE HEAT.  And he's Guyanese.  And very black.  Good.  It must really be hot.  Shame about my right elbow - it had finally recovered from the 20 bites it got when I slept with one elbow touching the net (before I invented the briefcase trick) - now it's got another few bites and is itching like hell again.

I'm sorry this has been a bit of a moan!  So far the rest of the day has gone OK - I ate 5 tons of bran with "reconstituted" milk, got up and chatted to John, had another shower (I'm averaging 5 per day), and went to be an "examiner" in an exam one of the nurse volunteers (Maria) has organized for the newly qualified Mercy Hospital nurses, about 40 of them (in two days).  John was supposed to do it, and did yesterday's, but was asked by another student to go and talk to a boy's home about AIDS (also common here - and also transmitted by mosquito, probably - maybe it will kill me before i get elephantiasis?).  So I spent 2 hours quizzing sweet nervous young nurses about how they would cope with a frantic mother wanting to visit her unconscious son in a step-down unit.  Then I went down and found I'd missed lunch.  Then I thought ah well, John said I could go and use his apartment and the Web, so I got his spare key, let myself in, turned on the computer, arranged the fan .... and he walked in the door!  But he's been kindly watching soccer all this time.  THis afternoon we will probably go to the University to see the students I have been teaching graduate, [Ed Note:  Against my advice... long and boring and there is soccer on!] and Sister Sheila is taking us out to supper.

Ooh - stop press - a minibus just pulled into the courtyard and disgorged 6 VERY hot, very sweaty, young females and their baggage.  It's the Americans back from Wakapoa!  They worked hard, apparently, seeing 100 - 200 children per DAY at the impromptu clinics.  Wow!  But I'm not sorry I didn't stay.

Lots of love,   Tony

November 15th

More from Guyana, part the 3rd.

Well, my friends here laughed at my fears of HIV/malaria/elephantiasis from my 60 (yes, sixty) mosquito bites on the Night of the Untucked Net.  “You’re much more likely to get Dengue fever”, they chortled.  Oh goody.  Meanwhile I look totally poxy, and have this urge to ring a bell and shout “Unclean, unclean”.  Speaking of which, there is actually a leper colony here!  I  missed the fortnightly visit to it yesterday by our fearless matron (Sister Sheila).  Never mind – next year perhaps.

I was helped to fix lectures to doctors and students at the General Hospital by a very sweet young newly qualified doctor, Mendissa.  At one point she mentioned that the graduation day for the medical school, and indeed the whole U of G, was on Saturday – so I said we would probably attend.  John was horrified!  “Three whole degrees I’ve got, and I’ve NEVER been to a graduation ceremony – they go on for HOURS”, he said.  He moaned about it every day for the whole week.  We finally went, got introduced to EVERYBODY including the local MP, the Dean of Health Sciences, the Director of the Medical School, several other Deans, etc, and then were seated in the “special guests” section right by the platform.  The ceremony was held outdoors, with a big raised platform and a brass band, everyone in flowing colourful robes (bottle green, with orange or yellow edging) and 1,500 students graduating (total crowd about 5,000), on a beautiful afternoon/evening.  We saw some medical students in the crowd, listened to an impressive inaugural speech by a new “distinguished professor”, and then sneaked away after 1.5 hours.  Today Mendissa called, and said she saw us and was thrilled that we had come ….  and then saw us sneak away!  But it’s the thought that counts.

Sunday provided a neat contrast.  JOHN’s student nurse, Britannia, had asked a little shyly if we would go to her church on Sunday because her husband is a youth minister there.  So we agreed.  On Sunday we caught a bus to Godverwaytig (Dutch, “Good for walking” – the next town is called Betrverwaytig!), walked through a busy street market dodging kids, cows, goats, horses, and a boar (tame), finally found the church, and sat through a service from 10am to 1.30pm.  At least, I sat – John was more polite, and stood like all the rest of the audience (the church was full, 80% west Indian, 20% east Indian, and us) – he was exhausted!  The assistant minister warmed up with 45 mins prayer in Pentecostal style (i.e. shouting and imploring), then we sang choruses for an hour (!) – each chorus was started on a random note by one of the shrill young ladies (in beautiful brightly coloured long dresses), and the others would join in on slightly different notes, then the drummer would join in loudly and with great rhythm, and then the electric piano-player would find the note, pick the WRONG key, and play in it relentlessly.  Sometimes the singers would abruptly change pitch trying to match the pianist, but were rarely successful.  Lots of gusto though.  Then there were little skits and dramas by 4 different youth groups – these were excellent:  the senior youth group did a skit parodying the church ministry and showing the church members all abandoning restraint as soon as they left church and smoking dope/going to sexy parties etc.  Finally the sermon was delivered by an amazingly energetic man screeching into a radio mike non-stop for an hour (amplified close to the pain threshold) while leaping into the air, running up and down the church, teasing members of the congregation, and juggling with a mango (from the harvest festival pile at the front).  The service finally closed with a sort of altar-call, to which almost everyone went forward, which lasted another half-hour.  Then they gave everyone a free packed lunch!  (rice and beans, and a pop).

So after that marathon Tony teased John all the way home about his reluctance to go to a teeny little graduation ceremony for MY student.  However, John did point out that the graduation ceremony lasted a total of 5 hours!  On the way home we passed through the almost-closed market, and John was hailed loudly by a store-holder.  She turned out to be the wife John had traced and tested for HIV when her husband was dying in Mercy Hospital last year and revealed that he had never told his wife he had AIDS.  She tested positive.

There is one posh hotel here, with a swimming pool for guests only, complete with loungers, bar, music (live in the evenings), etc.  The female volunteers have been using the “white walk-through” technique all week – they just walk confidently in, and because they are white it is assumed they are rich and staying at the hotel.  So I tried it yesterday, and it worked fine.  I spent 2 happy hours chatting to Caroline (nurse practitioner volunteer from USA), and the other guy at our little table turned out to be a Russian from Volga area who works for the IMF and was on a 2-week visit to Guyana to sort out their affairs at the World Band – and had met with the government and the President that morning.  He explained that a major problem with Guyana is the thriving black market in diamonds, gold, and cocaine, perhaps amounting to half the total economy.  All very interesting, but a pity I lost my hearing aid, thereby trebling the total cost of this trip.  Ah well.

On my way back from the hotel yesterday, my last full day here, I wandered along the streets photographing anything I fancied.  One of them was the American embassy, whereupon a very loud-voiced woman started yelling at me that I couldn’t take those photographs … I pretended not to hear, walked hastily off down a side street, and DIDN’T get air-bombed – I guess being white has some advantages.  I haven’t been mugged yet either:  perhaps John and I together look a bit more capable than a single person.  I went off alone downtown yesterday in an attempt to buy some Guyanese wool for Kate (unsuccessful – they don’t make wool here) and didn’t get mugged – but I got accosted a lot, mainly by beggars.  I also had to more or less climb over bodies lying half asleep on the sidewalk in places.  Drugged?  Dying of starvation?  Homeless?  Muggers?

Did I mention that Guyana is the only place you can drink beer or pop ALL DAY LONG and still pee bright yellow?  (Cos you sweat so much).  Although, perhaps if you drank that much beer you wouldn’t know what colour your pee was.  Tony also derives some amusement from the local vehicle licence plates (number plates).  They started with P (private car), H (hire car), B (bus), etc.  When they got to P 9999 they went to PA 1, 2, etc.  When they got to PZ 9999 they started PAA 1 – 9999, and then it seemed logical to them to move to PBB 1.  So we now have many cars numberd PEE 1 etc, and within a year or two we can look forward to POO 1 etc.

There is only one set of traffic lights still functioning in Guyana (I kid you not), all the others being broken and now vandalized … well not really vandalized, looted actually (i.e. dismantled by passers-by for the spare parts).  At the end of the government-run telephone system there were a total of 20,000 lines of which only 13,000 worked!  The phone in my flat has worked for a total of 1.5 days during my 2 weeks here.  And John’s internet connection works about 60% of the time – it’s not working now, so I’m typing this in Moronic Word and hoping John will send it out one day (I leave this evening, 11pm, and change at Trinidad at midnight).  However, Mercy Hospital has a maintenance department, sort of, and every now and then they come and fix the phone (for a day), or unblock a sink, or mend the iron, etc.

Cars here are manual transmission and are driven on the French method – you rev the engine up to 3,000 revs befor changing each gear, so it sounds like a garbage truck, and you toot the horn whenever you see a car, bus, person, building, cross-roads, etc.  So TOOT TOOT TOOT means:
-       I’m a taxi, wanna ride?  or
-       I’m a bus, wanna ride?  or
-       I’m still a taxi and it’s hot, you sure you don’t wanna ride?  or
-       I’m in a hurry, move your bloody self,  or
-       (most frequently)  I am driving much too fast, there’s no way I can control this vehicle at this speed, so move out or get hurt.
You might think the revving engines would keep everyone awake, given the permanently open windows – but you would be forgetting the car stereos with sub-woofers, which are much louder than the engines.  Indeed, on a minibus trip you can’t hear the engine at all, and the conductor chooses his favourite tracks on the hand-held personal CD player with one hand while taking money, giving change, opening and closing the door with his other hand (and of course shouting at passers-by).  Each minibus is gaily painted with slogans (like:  “Jesus is Lord”) and equipped with subwoofers AND tweeters – even Tony can hear the cymbals clearly at 120 db, without a hearing aid.

Last night we met up with the nursing team that Tony left in Wakapoa.  They saw 700 patients in the week, mostly children, including one with cerebral malaria.  They made canoe visits to sick patients unable to travel down, and even a riverside visit to a granny who was too weak to get out of the canoe when she arrived.  Meanwhile Tony managed to fall in the shower and smash his knee, which instantly grew a lump the size of two fried eggs – maybe he would have been safer at Wakapoa? – but fortunately a tensor bandage reduced it by next day, and it hasn’t got infected.  (I blush to relate that, if it had, he would have caught the next plane home rather than get treatment here.)

The nice, rather ample black dinner-ladies have given up on Tony.  As soon as he walks into the canteen they reach resignedly for another bottle of “blue Icee” for his usual liquid lunch.  The pop bottles here are 24 fl.oz  (750 mls), so really cool you off a bit.  They don’t last long enough, though.  One day Tony was overjoyed to find an old Jolly Rancher in his pocket during a hot dry afternoon.  He discovered some great bottled juices in the store (“Fogarty’s”!), notably carrot and guava juice, and carrot and passion fruit.  Yum.  Even better than the bubble-gum flavoured Blue Icee.

Did I mention the curious case of the vanishing ironing-board cover?  Tony was attempting to iron a shirt (yes, he does laundry here, clothed only in underpants), and there was a hole in the ironing-board cover.  So he moved to a different bit, and then there was a hole in that too!  So he moved down the board a bit, and bless me if another hole didn’t appear, this time bringing with it quite a chunk of glued chipboard fragments from the ironing board itself.  Eventually it dawned on Tony that the ironing board was fine, but the iron thermostat had died – it was at several hundred degrees C., so that whateve he touched melted.  Don’t worry, Sue, his “vomit shirt” escaped unharmed.

Tony got back to John’s class late one morning, sat quietly down at the side of the room, and John (still lecturing) said “Ah, let’s give Doctor Tony this!” and placed a pine tart (i.e. pineapple jam turnover) on his desk.  There was a horrified murmur from the class, and then a spirited discussion.  It turned out that this pine tart had been dropped on the floor!  The class expostulated with John, and were then asked why!  It was a class on ethics and justice.  John had started the class by bringing in 10 pine tarts and giving them away free to HALF the class at random … and then inviting the other half to comment, and then asking them WHY they were upset.  They concluded that teachers have a duty to be fair.

Tony walks everywhere with a white plastic bag, since he doesn’t have a briefcase and does carry a camera, file of lecture notes, bottle of water, magic marker, etc.  This arouses much amusement (the Guyanese carry little backpacks), and one of John’s students shouted “Look!  Doctor Tony has brought us some food!”  He has neurotically avoided ALL tapwater and ice-cubes, even in the best restaurants, to the scorn of his colleagues – but hasn’t got ill yet, praise the Lord.  (Tony hates being ill in foreign bathrooms.)  On arrival at the flat here he found a huge container of purple cloudy liquid in the fridge (“probably put there by house-keeping”, said John), and was too terrified to drink it.  Fortunately when Travis the engineer came he pointed out that it is fruit juice made by Sister Theresa in the convent … Tony drank it gingerly, and found it delicious (passion fruit) and harmless.

I apologize if this is repetitive.  With no internet I can’t check my previous emails to see what I’ve already written about.   Whajja mean, “remember”?

We received a request, via Sister Sheila, from another two nuns running a girls’ orphanage, for help.  John and Tony went over to this spotless huge building at 4pm, and the nuns chatted to us about their wayward virgins until 4.45, and gave us a typed list of “the first eight”!  We saw two each and called it a day.  They were very sweet, and almost all of them fantasized that (if they were very good) their parents would somehow come back (even from the dead).  Tony saw an immature 12-year-old who was otherwise fine, but wouldn’t do her homework because she would rather play in the playground - he recommended a “token economy”, with rewards of extra TV and bicycle time!  (TV is limited and only at weekends.  Bicycle riding is only at weekends, and limited because there are too few bikes.)  Then he saw a 12-year-old who was said to be “in a dream”, and who turned out to be mentally retarded AND partially blind, both from early childhood violence.  John saw a 12-going-on-18 year old, who is just a difficult teenager, and an 8-year-old who had been “bereaved” when her only known family member, her little brother, had been taken away to a distant foster-home.  The orphanage sisters manage entirely on donated meals, brought ready-cooked to the orphanage by various different donors.  They are hugely grateful, and tremendously impressed by the dedication of the donors – one couple waded through the flooded city to bring the meal by hand when all transport failed in January, and another coupole brought breakfast and then mentioned that it was their wedding day!

John got a request to go and talk to a homeless boys’ drop-in centre about AIDS (to boys aged 8-18), so Tony filled in for him at the mock exam here at Mercy Hospital.  He asked groups of 4 wide-eyed girls what they would do if they were nursing an unconscious 16-year-old man at night and his mother turned up at the door.  Happily Sue has trained Tony in this sort of thing, so he managed to make it quite realistic.  (“OK, so now she starts to cry quietly, holding his hand.  What will you do now?”)  Tony did two “CME” (continuing medical education, for busy doctors) lectures on substance abuse, one at Mercy and one at the General hospital.  Both wore modestly attended (25-30), and John was delighted that several of his nursing students came back to this Hospital in the evening to attend.  Tony was equally pleased that one or two of his medical students/junior doctors came to the GPH session.

Well, another 2 hours has passed.  Hope John manages to mail this out.  If I don’t make it back safely, Victoria can have the van … and if I do make it back safely, Victoria is out of luck, no you can’t have the van every evening and weekend like you have for the past two weeks!  (Vic just passed her driver’s test before I left).

Lots of love,   Tony

November 22nd
Hello from Just Me:

I can’t believe it!  It seems that I was just planning all the stuff that I still wanted to do in my classes and BANG!  I have less than three weeks left.  What the hell happened?   So instead of worrying about how I am going to fill all the classes, I have to decided on what I am going to leave out.   I’ll never get it all done and tests and papers marked… I think it is illegal to feel completion pressure in Guyana, so don’t tell anyone!   Anyhow, if the truth be known, I told them everything that I knew by the fourth class!   Ah.. “Time Goes; that’s it”… said a wise New York City cab driver.

Tony Carr has come, saw and conquered!  [to quote a bible passage] Boy, did we do a lot in the short time that he was here.   I can’t believe that we accomplished as many things as we did.  I thought that we would still be making arrangements to see people.   Tony must lead an exceptionally righteous life or there is no justice in the world!   If everything comes together, I think that he will return for a month or so to teach psychiatry to medical students at the University of Guyana; and, of course, my nursing students at Mercy.    It is hard to tell in Guyana because people are so accommodating when you are with them, but when you leave – it might be another story.  However, the Dean of Health Sciences did invite us to sit in the VIP section for the graduation.   Actually, he better come back; I haven’t done that much “sucking up” in the fours times that I have been here.   I had asked some of the medical students and nursing students to evaluate him and I would have shared them; but, they were better than my evaluations, so I accidentally lost them.   We had a good visit with no real fights [I pretended that we were married – don’t tell him though because he’s again t that stuff – and did the equivalent of “Yes, dear”.]

On a serious note, medical students get only two weeks of psychiatry in their third year and only another one in their fourth year.  This would be bad enough, but last January there was a flood that closed the university for a month or so… and it was at the time that psychiatry was to be offered…  And this is an insight into the psyche here:  Everyone knew that they did not get any teaching in psychiatry, but there was never any attempt to make up for it and fit it in somewhere else… It simply remained as an insight.   There is a high speed connection in the upstairs flat here that I suggested Travis [He is a bioengineer from Maryland who stayed a few days with Tony.] could use.  However, when he went to try it, it did not work.   So I checked with the doctor who lives here and has the main connection.  He said, “Oh yes.  There is a broken wire for that connection.”   He has known that it was broken for months… but did he ask anyone to fix it?  Oy-vey!

I have long felt that the difficulties here are spiritual… It is a culture of despair – with a few exceptions.  The possibility of doing something better does not really cross the mind.     Yup, that is the problem; and, there might even be some talk about what should be done by the radical activists in the country.   It just doesn’t get to action…. For there is no hope for it being different.   I was invited [read: Rev John, you have money and we are hungry.] to go to the seawall [vendors, some amusements for the kids, pickpocket-ers, beer] with a few of the graduated orphans from Bosco…  Well, they had some “gunoil” from a Rasta Man–or that is how it sounded to me; and, they can’t spell! – it is a piece of corn on the cob cooked in a broth of eddo and whatever and served in a plastic cup.   They really liked it and as soon as they were finished, they chucked the plastic cups over the sea wall onto the beach… When I yelled at them, they looked like I was from another planet.   I explained their responsibility to their country, their needed pride in themselves… a stirring teachable moment and they all picked up their cups.  [Oh, I forgot to mention that I told them that I would never buy them another beer if they didn’t get them.]

I am really a softy… yes I know it is hard to comprehend.   I let my students who have failed a section of work to re-write it for a pass…  You know, I am into learning, process and growth; not just grades.   Not one student has taken me up on it!  Hey, they failed and they don’t like it and they get worried about it and… that’s it.   It is a different world here.   What amazes me is that they see no connection between their grades and their deep desires to emigrate… at least not enough to DO anything about it.   They know that they can emigrate because the North is so desperate for nurses that they will take any one!    I wish I was smarter because this really sucks.

There are a few exceptions and I guess that is where I need to focus.   One of the nurses whom I taught in my first year was doing a presentation on Hiv/Aids at a drop-in centre for street boys.  It was amazing to see her get up in front of a couple of dozen boys [8-15ish] and talk to them.   Of course, I helped her.... I asked how many of the boys knew how to use a condom; and, none of them did... So I said that Rhonda would show them!  She may never invite me to help her again... In the north, I would have excluded the 8 year old, but he clearly had aids... so screw age appropriate.  

Anyhow, writing more won’t help me catch up to what I need to do here, but there is one more major event that happened; and, now I wasn’t mugged again – not yet anyhow.

Do you remember that a certain sweetness and light, goodie two-shoes old resident of mine put up my mother’s saying of “Be kind. Be kind; and, you will be a saint.” on  her chapel in London, Ontario.   Well, there is no way an outsider is going to suck up to my mother better than me!  I put her saying on the chapel here at the hospital;  and, a priest from Pius X wanted to take it for his church.   Now how is that for sucking up?  Another continent! And two catholic churches!

Now I do have to finish…

Take Care,

Hello from “almostoutofhere” John:

Sorry to have been alittle delinquent in my mailings, I can’t even remember if I had good excuses or not.  Now I am sitting down and ready to take a go at my last one for this year.  I seem to be reflecting a lot on relativity though at a lot lower level than Einstein.  When I arrived here three months seemed like a long time and now when I am leaving three months seems like such a short time.  I guess it means that I have been busy and probably still could be for another three months; or, I am just losing my short term memory.  I do know that there is more that I had planned to do before I came down.  The heat and my vow to myself [Don’t work as hard as you did at Mac.] combined to have me become acculturated to a Guyanese pace.

Relativity struck me again when I realized someone I know has a monthly pension just alittle more than my yearly one…  That would be strange enough except that my monthly pension is about the equivalent to some Guyanese worker’s yearly income.   Now that is strange doubly.    I was going to say that “Life is Strange”, but I am sure that someone beat me to it…   And being the great spiritual giant that I am… there is no real spiritual leader who ever said that life was fair.   If a god [God] or gods [Gods] who created this world were just practicing… I definitely have a few suggestions for the new one!   And what is stranger than that is all of us seem about as happy… or maybe, it is just my short term memory loss again.   My rightwing- Republicans are too liberal- brother who is catholic [and though I do not want to put this in print: He is a very good
guy.] and loves to feel guilty is fond of saying “To whom much has been given, much will be expected.”   As a good liberal and as I get older, I realize that maybe money may not have much to do with “much”.  However, this may just be a rationalization from someone who never had really “much” money.  The only way I could reliably validate it is for someone to give me so much money that I would be absolutely filth rich for the rest of my life and on my death bed, I could give a definitive answer.     I have another brother, but he is in insurance.  They don’t wonder about much; jus the sure thing.  In fact he convinced his company to offer “Salvation” Insurance.  You know, if the person doesn’t get to heaven, then your policy pays the beneficiaries a huge sum of money.   It has been a huge success, especially in Alabama, and his company has not had to pay off one claim to date.

I finished teaching today at
2:00PM.  I have them do an evaluation of the courses, me and them.   My favourite section is, “If you were assigned the responsibility of telling the next year’s class of freshman about me, what would you tell them?”   I save them and read them on the plane; it breaks up a long flight.   As usual I ran out of classes before I ran out of stuff – essential stuff – to tell them about.   I had my last content class yesterday and I got them to extend it to an hour and a half.  During that time, I was going to cover abuse – spousal, child and elder, the relationship between scientific knowledge and religious knowledge, and homosexuality.  Not too ambitious, just a half hour each.   So I started with abuse and relationship/partner abuse and that was as far as I got in the whole hour and a half.  I was really made at myself for babbling at the mouth and not staying on my schedule.  I made them promise that they would listen to next year.   What a lousy ending!   I went to bed that night still not impressed with my classroom management.   In the middle of the night, I either got up because this was still on my mind or I had to pee from the beer I drank at a farewell meal that Sister Sheila paid for.  And then it hit me.  The reason that I didn’t move on to other topics was that they were all asking questions!   Interesting, inquisitive, lively questions; how could I have missed it.  This was indeed a first class miracle!    In Guyana the proverb goes, “Even rose bush gat he plimplah.”  The Canadian expression is, “One can be upset that a rose bush has thorns or rejoice that a thorn bush has roses, eh?”

Of course, their exams were less than that… They were kind of like thorn bushes without roses.   Hey, you can’t have everything.  They have learned a lot; and, as we said in palliative care, “They will do better because we were here then if we weren’t.”   I believe that they will be better because I taught them what I could.  And like students everywhere they like the field trips and the pine tarts [pineapple pastries].    I know I should look this up but…  I don’t think that I told you about the field trip to the autopsy.   Everyone was really worried that this class was going to faint and be terror stricken because three of them fainted when they first had blood drawn…  So when we were waiting outside the mortuary, I mentioned to them that I had a lot of money riding on them.  I had bet the upper classmen who believed that some of them would faint while I was sure that they would not collapse.  Well, they got so mad that they were thought of as babies that I had no problem.  All of the ones who asked me if the older students bet against them I said yes.   There were a few “shakey” moments, but the other students told the “shakers” that they were not going to let them faint, so suck it up!  Actually, I had an American nurse faculty who joined us and it was great having her there because she could show the students what she had taught in Anatomy and Physiology.  As opposed to my style – an level of knowledge – that just keeps asking the pathologist what is that thing there, to keep the pathologist talking to the kids.  This year Dr. Mabel de Leon was the pathologist.  Now you are asking yourself why in hell is he telling us her name… well, she will be part of another story later on.  Almost all got down of the stands and were right next to the tables.  Yes there were about nine at the same time…  Actually, the American nurse was the  most anxious.  She kept asking questions like, “Are there any infectious diseases her?”  Silly question, eh? Who has tested for them?  She was worried about blood splatter, but I told her just do as the attendants and go wash your eyes out with the tap water!   Anyhow, they all made it and learned a lot… and I confessed; and, they forgave me – though I did have to buy them all a pop on the walk home!

Well, I have just come back from a dinner –cheeseburger- with my friend, Dick Young, who is the Lutheran pastor and Obs-Gyn doc.  It was a good burger and I had a few beers.  We were chatting about Guyana and he told me the story of his grandparents who had left Denmark when they were young and only recently returned.   When they visited they were surprised that homes had toilets and the roads were paved, etc… When they had left the countries of Scandinavia were some of the poorest on the continent; and now, are among the highest standard of living in the world.   He told me so I wouldn’t be so pessimistic about Guyana’s chances of ever being different.  And it was a good story and he isn’t a bad pastor… especially since he paid for dinner.

Speaking of ancestors, I have continued looking up relatives who came through Guyana one way or another.  This year was no different.  I found several documents for older relatives and for one person in India I found the birth registrations for his grandparents and also then found the Indentured Passenger documents for his Great Grandparents and where they came from in India.   It is a real detective adventure.   Now if I could just figure out how my ancestors who were floating around the Caribbean [St. Martin and Anguilla] in 1770 ever got to leave Ireland – or maybe they just pretended to be Irish?

You know I was hanging out with Tony Carr when he was here; well, when you hang with doctors, they assume you must be a doctor too.  I think it makes them feel secure.   Anyhow, I got invited to present a paper at the First International Guyana-Cuba Scientific Meeting last Saturday.  I presented a paper on the similarities and difference of teaching and practicing ethics in Guyana and Canada.  It went well, I think.  The Minister of Health really didn’t like it, so I must not have lost my touch!  The Cubans are a lively bunch and have great energy.  They have been intimately involved in Guyana for many years and support Guyanese with academic scholarships and medical care.  There are maybe forty plus Cuban doctors here; many are in the very outlying areas that the Guyanese doctors do not want to go to.  Anyhow, at the end of the day the host announced in Spanish that the owner of the Latin Nightclub had invited all the Cubans over for a free party on Sunday Afternoon.   Now I know why I struggled to learn Spanish.  I understood it all!  “¿Por que no yo?”  So they adopted me.   Free food and beer and dancing.  As probably all of you know, I can’t dance…. But I tried!  And I danced with the pathologist, Mabel…

Life is strange.
Life is wonderful.
May your lives be blessed.
And whatever the hell “much” is, may you have a lot of it to share.

Take Care,
at the close of the fourth year