We land in about an hour, and though I will still have the baggage claim and a three hour drive before getting home, this project is essentially complete. It would be great to have a few days to sit at home and process the last couple of weeks, but it’s back to work on Monday. I haven’t yet determined whether or not I will find work to be more or less relaxing than the project. It will be nice to be the surgeon without also having to be the nurse, the tech, the pharmacist, the orderly, the medical director, the cruise director, and Jason Bourne. It will be nice to ask for instruments in English, though I will probably continue to ask for them in Spanish. It will be nice to order a medication without having to rummage through a suitcase to find it. It will be nice use sterile light handles once again, though I will probably forget to reach for them. It will be nice not to sweat like a professional wrestler, but I will miss having a person who’s sole job is to wipe my forehead. It will be nice to have patient monitors that chirp at the appropriate times, and an air-conditoner that doesn’t. It will be nice to have an organized medical records system, but I loathe the notes and dictations I must contribute to that system.
Though it is always nice to return to the amenities of life in the Midwestern United States, that is in part because I will again have that period of time when I don’t take them for granted… when I realize that I don’t need to depend on them since most the world can’t and doesn’t.
I will be glad to have a warm shower without the threat of 240 volts entering my hand from the shower knob. (I did tell the hotel manager about this, and he promptly fixed the problem by wrapping my shower knob with electrical tape).
I will be glad to flush my toilet paper down the toilet without risking a major public health disaster. It will be nice to brush my teeth with tap water again and to stop using Cipro as an after-dinner mint. I will probably take a break from orange Fanta (these trips amount to a more or less continuous oral glucose tolerance test). It will be nice to walk on a sidewalk, though I will kind of miss the livestock which populate the roadside (of course, it is deer season in our front yard, so all is not lost).
I can do without roosters crowing at 2am – though we ate chicken at least twice a day in a futile attempt to cut down on the noise.
I will enjoy eating with my family again, but will miss the daily breakfast with a group of young Bolivian doctors who are dedicating their lives to serving the poorest of the poor. I will miss wearing flip flops, though I’m sure everyone else is looking forward to my once again wearing shoes and socks. It’ll be nice to call home from my cell phone or my office, but I’ll miss the cute little lady with the “phone booth” at the corner vegetable market. It will be nice not to trip over 5 or 6 mangey dogs on the way to breakfast each morning, but I’ll miss having the hotel puppy nibble playfully on my toes (many apologies for that rocking-chair incident, buddy).
I will kind of miss the quaint, bare-bulb lighting fixture of the hotel lobby, but I will not miss the lightbulb size bug that would at times hang from it.
I will miss Yoko, but not the beetles.
Indeed, it will be nice to return home, but I am becoming increasingly aware that I have a home away from home… an extended family that I never would have predicted. I count myself the richest man in the world, though I am leaving some of my riches behind in what they say is the poorest country in South America (and I am not even talking about the 6.6kg of unroasted coffee beans I was unable to bring back). I will cherish my memories, but I also know from experience that memories can be painfully short. Please, feel free to remind me from time to time.
Thanks for reading along. All apologies for any unsavory surgical details, borderline inappropriate humor, cultural insensitivities, and overindulgent verbosity. I covet your prayers as I seek out my next project. If you have interest in volunteering, I’d love to chat with you about it. Much thanks to those who trusted me to take them along… Jean, Bill, Stan, John, Lori, Sarah, and of course Wendy, Emma, and Tessa. Thanks also for those in Bolivia (Francis, Yoko, Reuben, Franz, Sorona, Paola, Sheila, Blanca, Elizabeth, James, Jenny, Ignacio) who served as God’s instruments, oftentimes placed in my hand at the exact moment you were needed most. One could scarcely meet a more joyful group of people, though you have sacrificed much in faith that such joy would await you. It is truly humbling to work alongside you. I sincerely hope we will get to do this together again soon.
Posted by Matt at 1:27 AM