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Category Archives: Travels

Healing me

i want my spoon back!

I don’t like being jobless. I guess it’s one job in particular, though, that I am truly missing. I miss my residents. I miss healing. I miss feeling like I am making a difference simply by being a compassionate person. I thought that I would have all sorts of interesting stories stocked up after coming back from my trip. And I do, I suppose. But the truth is, the simplicity of one-on-one interaction and healing kindness is what I am missing. It would be silly to think that the minute I start nursing school, I will begin having these interactions again. I am aware that there will be a whole mess of textbooks and exams to contend with before I get anywhere near a patient. I can only imagine that the memories of my residents will fade further and further into the background, aging gracefully like an antique photograph. I can’t help wondering when this yearning will go away. I know that my upcoming patient interactions will never feel quite like my resident interactions. I am letting myself feel that, and feel sad about that. The uniqueness of providing one-on-one care for hours upon hours, day after day is not an experience that easy to replicate. I know that I want to be in primary care, providing services to the underserved, but I can’t help wondering whether I will find the same sense of fulfillment in a 10-minute encounter as I did with my residents. Having already experienced some of the difficulties associated with providing counseling and building a provider-patient bridge of trust in such a short time span, I wonder how I will fare with this new challenge. I get nervous about how I will do as a provider. Most superficially, I am concerned about blood and guts. I don’t like ’em. But I know I will get over that. You can only practice drawing blood so many times before you get used to it. Staring at abscesses must get easier with time, right? The human mind is miraculous in its ability to grow accustomed to anything. My deeper doubts lie in my ability to heal in a short time. Will I be able to connect with my patients? Will I feel as though I have made a difference? Will I feel overwhelmed by the suffering and my incomplete capacity to heal? This is where healing has many layers, I suppose. I didn’t really heal my residents. I helped them “live” to their full capacity. I couldn’t repair a blood clot or broken pelvis. But I could take the five extra minutes that it required to let a resident button her own sweater rather than hurriedly do it for her. I could respect another resident’s privacy by making sure to fully close the bathroom door, and knocking before reentering. And on the days that I forgot to do every single on of these small but important things, I didn’t berate myself. I looked for the things I did right. I sought to remember the interactions that would allow me to leave at the end of the day feeling like I helped someone. I can’t sweat the small stuff. Or even all of the big stuff. To try to solve all problems at once is not only impossible, but paralyzing. I don’t want to be paralyzed, I want to make a difference. One by one, and maybe someday a light will blink on, and I will know what has to be done to solve a bigger problem that plagues system of providing care. But for now it’s one person at a time and it all starts with me.

On my trip, I bought a small painting that has this Elie Wiesel quote on it:

The start: But where was I to start? The world is so vast; I will start with the country I know best, my own. But my country is so very large. I had better start with my town. But my town too, is large. I had best start with my street. No; my home. No; my family. Never mind, I shall start with myself”

and in Spanish:

Pero, ¿por donde empezar? El mundo es tan vasto, que empezaré por el país que conozco mejor, el mío propio.  Pero mi país es tan grande que será mejor que comience por mi ciudad. Aunque, en realidad, mi ciudad es también enorme. Será mejor que  principie por mi calle. No, por mi hogar. No, por mi familia. No importa, comenzaré por mí mismo.

What a wise, wise man. Hopefully, he will sit on my shoulder in clinic during those moments when I start looking too big picture.

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Posted by on April 23, 2010 in Healing Spoonful, Travels

 

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A Spoonful of Food Tripping

My food adventure through the lens of my camera begins here. Enjoy the ride…and try not to salivate on your keyboard like I am doing now.

The first supper. Medialunas are the mana of Argentina.

Yerba mate: the national drink. I strive to adopt it.

Empanadas de todos los gustos

The Day I Discovered Eggs Benedict. Oui Oui!

The perfect cafecito. Also Oui Oui...Argentine French cuisine done best.

Since Argentine breakfasts were lacking, Oui Oui became a mild obsession

Dilly-dallying in the art of Argentine asado

A typical Argentine parilla (the BBQ)

A typical Argentine asado hosted in our Iguazu hostel. Love the signage

Another Argentine national beverage, Fernet Branca + Coca

The beginning of another feast: FONDUE

A painful waiting game

Maybe not so typically Argentine, but beautiful all the same

A side trip to Brazil, in beverages at least. Caipirinhas!

Known for their delicious pastas...demonstrated by her inability to wait for me to take the picture

Little gnocchi clouds

This food trip certainly does not lack carbs. Here is the token fruit. Just coming into season! 5 pesos for half a kilo.

My least favorite meal of the entire trip. Bus food is inedible. I know that now. Not a pretty picture. Nor was I post-bus ride.

Very few things could make me more happy than drinking mate on a cycling break.

And the last supper. My family's "famous" banana bread recipe cum Argentine. It has been adopted by mi familia Argentina. Recipe follows...

Ladies and gentleman, we are reaching our final destination. Thank you for choosing Healing Spoonful for your travels today. We hope that you enjoy your stay here, or wherever your final destination may be. If you will be staying in the area, we invite you to enjoy this complimentary recipe, courtesy of the family. 🙂

Banana Muffins

  • 1/2 C softened butter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas (well ripened, mushed well)
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

This recipe may be quite easily doubled or even tripled. I guarantee that it would be good foresight to do so.

Butter and flour a muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the softened butter with the sugar until it has a smooth consistency. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition. Combine the banana puree and vanilla and mix well. Seperately, combine the flour with the salt and baking powder. Add it little by little to the batter and continue mixing until it is fully integrated.

Fill the muffin tin, being careful not to fill each cup too high, as the muffins will grow while they bake. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are a light golden brown.

The recipe follows in Spanish…just for kicks.

Muffins de Banana

  • 1/2 taza de manteca pomada
  • 1 taza de azúcar
  • 2 huevos
  • 2 bananas cortadas y pisadas
  • 1 cucharadita de esencia de vainilla
  • 2 tazas de harina tipo 0000
  • 1 cucharadita de sal
  • 1 cucharadita de polvo de hornear

Enmantecar y enharinar un molde para muffins.

Batir la manteca con el azúcar hasta que tengan una consistencia ligera. Agregar los huevos de a uno, batiendo después de cada adición. Adicionar las bananas hechas puré y la esencia de vainilla; batir nuevamente para unificar la mezcla. Mezclar la harina, la sal y el polvo de hornear. Agregarlos a la mezcla anterior y seguir batiendo para obtener una preparación homogénea.
Colocar la mezcla con una cuchara en los moldes para muffins. Tratar de no pasarse del borde superior del recipiente utilizado, porque van a crecer durante la cocción. Cocinar a horno suave (aproximadamente 180/200ºC) durante 15 ó 20 minutos. Para chequear cuándo están listos, no abrir la puerta del horno, porque si no se detiene el crecimiento; en vez de eso, encender la luz del horno y asegurarse que esté dorada la parte superior de los muffins, eso es signo de que están listos.

– Por: Agustina

 

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La confianza es la clave

There has been a long interlude of silence here. I have found that blogging really does require a computer with a good keyboard. Every time I contemplated taking the time to write about my Argentine experience, my initiative was severely limited by my impressively sore fingertips resulting from diligently pecking out only the requisite emails. Alas, blogging didn’t make the cut into my Latin American adventure. Clearly, however, I still documented my food adventures. I was totally food tripping. That entry is soon to come. For now though:

Ponderings of Castellano and a culture of yerba mate

Tomando mate, re contenta

I think Argentina draws me back every time for one neon, fluorescent, and blinking reason above all others. My Spanish (Castellano, really) is best there. I understand the Argentine cadence and flow more clearly than in any other country or microcosm of Spanish speakers, and I gradually come to speak it while I am there with a level of confidence that I feel nowhere else in the world. Fully formed Spanish blither blabber gurgles out of my mouth like a miniature Iguazu.

Words that I didn’t even know that I knew miraculously insert themselves into my sentences as if they withdrew quite independently and entirely without my knowing from the dusty cerebral file cabinets of my brain.

Of course, it wasn’t all like that. And a glass or two of a certain magical elixir, Malbec, certainly didn’t tamper my flow. My Spanish was rusty, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It felt so good to use it again. My Spanish might be just as good speaking to a Mexican as a Peruvian as a Columbian…but I just feel most comfortable when I am in my element, in the country where I learned it all: Argentina. And I get this huge exhilarating rush when I hear it, understand it, speak it, eat live and breathe it. I only know one language besides my native English and it makes me sad to think that I could know more. I realize that I am only truly limited my own perceived ability to learn other languages, but truthfully, who has the time? If I am honest with myself, I know that it is not like I am going to sit down to Rosetta Stone for the next three years just because I have a whim to learn Cantonese (Thai, Italian, Swahili, Japanese…) So, for now, I will bask in my current contentment that I know Spanish. Por lo menos.

Argentine culture is amazing. Even though it varies dramatically from Buenos Aires Capital Federal to almost any other province (as any Argentine will tell you) there is a welcoming openness and friendly curiosity that I have found nearly everywhere. In the rural campo (like where I did my thesis in Santiago del Estero) the humble folk are quite clearly the most loving (amable) than anywhere else but even in Capital Federal I always found the people quite warm. Anyone I asked for directions was always willing to help. And because I was never brushed off of turned away, I never hesitated to ask. In the US, I am quite timid with these things, even though I know that the vast majority of the time I would easily receive the help that I need. But the difference is that in Argentina, I never felt like I was inconveniencing anyone by asking. They were never in a hurry. Quite the opposite, many seemed almost overly eager to help like they had just been waiting for me on the street corner where I happened to appear, feeling lost. I still vividly remember my first days of studying abroad in Buenos Aires (over 2 and a half years ago). The city felt enormous. We were given little slips of paper with an address on them and nothing else, and instructed to find our ways to these unnamed locations. Like a needle in the haystack. I took a deep breath and asked someone for help. Sadly, he couldn’t help me…he didn’t know the address. But he took me to a friend who owned a kiosco, informing me that he knew the city far better than he himself did. We walked a few blocks. The kiosco owner turned out to be slightly confused as well. Not to fear, now with two men, we walked over to a fruit stand and asked that owner whether he knew any better than the others. Within half an hour, I had located a bus that I needed to take, and reached the bus stop with the assistance of at least 5 different Argentines, all of whom seemed to feel personally responsible in getting me to my location safely, cheaply, although not necessarily as quickly as possible. (I was quite late in arriving to the restaurant, but that’s beside the point, Argentine style.) This experience has stayed with me because it is so typical of Argentina.

My favorite Argentine tradition is one that taught me about sharing–beyond what I learned while eating play dough in preschool–and about appreciating every moment. Yerba mate is customarily shared among friends. There are many customs and unspoken rules to drinking mate, although they vary slightly among different groups. The nuances of mate drinking still mystify me but the jist of it is simple. One person (usually the owner of the mate that is being shared) serves. He/she is called the “sebador” and directs the flow of mate drinking. This individual is in charge of preparing the mate, a fairly complex process, and then drinking the first cupful which is considered the most amargo y fuerte (strong and bitter) and therefore the least appetizing. Then he will pour more hot water into the mate and pass it to the first person. Once that recipient drinks the full mate, he/she passes it back to the sebador to be refilled and passed to the next person. This continues until all have participated, and then the circle begins anew. It continues until each person has consumed his/her fill of mate, at which point they will say “gracias,” thereby signaling that they will no longer drink more. I love watching Argentines serve and share mate. It is an honor and a sign of friendship to be offered to share mate. It is intimate and it seems to slow down time. In Argentina I drank mate alone while doing homework, with friends at bars, in many parks during the springtime, in the rural campo of Santiago del Estero, in the rain on a long bike ride to Tigre, in a cooperative market selling everything from sneakers to homegrown honey, and many other interesting locales. My memories of Argentina are speckled with yerba. As a consequence of slowing down to take the time to drink mate, I remember these moments better than many others. The details have more clarity, the colors are more vivid, the voices and words more distinghuishable. This is what I love about sharing mate. It is sharing so much more than a moment because it creates a setting in which time ceases to exist.

Time is an issue for me. I always seem to lack it. So I move fast. In Argentina, I was always made fun of for how fast I walked. Even in a big city like Buenos Aires, which is in many ways reminiscent of New York, the pace of life is ever-so-slightly different. Unless you yourself are native of the rat race that we come from here, you might be hard pressed to notice the difference between BA and NY. But for me it was like trying to drive a Nascar engine slowly among horse-drawn carriages (certainly a gross exaggeration, but makes a funny illustration). In Argentina, I knew that I wanted to be in one of those horse-drawn carriages but for the first few days I really couldn’t get my car to slow down so that I could jump out. I figured it out eventually, but even being home for a few short hours I can already hear the roaring engine of my race car coming to pick me up. I hope I can let is zoom past me until it is really time for me to pick up the speed again.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2010 in Healing Spoonful, Travels

 

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