Friday, February 19, 2010


I convinced myself to stay home this morning, and persevered with my medical Spanish textbook, compelled to practice practice practice, not to look outside at the sunshine and the blue skies and the busy streets below. I realized that my textbook was about the challenges of communicating with people of a different culture. All the medical terms were easy enough to understand and remember, but the real issue is how to be sensitive to the cultural differences and modify one's interviewing techniques and style as needed. I am not sure how significantly different history taking is for orthopedic surgeons who do not speak Spanish, but I found that the subject was more interesting than I expected. Three hours later, I am not sure that I will interview anyone any differently than I would anyway, but I have all sorts of medical terms in my head, and I hope I will remember them for next week.

Whenever I tell anyone about my proposed work as a translator, the response is always surprise and wonderment; how is it possible that after only a few months in Ecuador I will be translating in a hospital? Perhaps I am deluding myself; when I arrive bright and early Tuesday morning and face my first patient, will I be able to conduct myself appropriately? I remind myself that the doctors from Canada speak almost no Spanish, so I will be of some use.

My reward for studying so assiduously was to meet Jipson for a salsa lesson. I try to simply enjoy myself and not get too wound up in doing every step correctly. I like when the moves feel intuitive, when my body acts without thinking, so that instead of memorizing a step, everything just flows. I was surprised when I was feeling great for a moment, but then Jipson had to dash off on an errand and handed me to another teacher, with whom I just could not synch with, and suddenly I was a beginner again and could not do anything right. It is a good exercise to change teachers regularly and learn to dance with anyone. I could not recover wafter Jipson returned, and felt a little out of sorts after that.

I began thinking about what I expected when I left my life behind. I believe my initial goals were to learn Spanish, learn the salsa, see the country and learn about the culture and the people, write about my experiences, to live with less but feel more, to contribute in a meaningful way. I believe I am doing all of those things, and very much enjoying the experience.

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