These last four months have been a roller coaster of emotions, loneliness, culture shock, busyness, and adventure. I don’t think I’ll ever say that this trip has been easy, but I will always say I’m glad we did it, that we have learned a lot, and have had a great time! We are over halfway…only 2 more months to go…there’s so much to be done, as Duane begins some intensive training sessions at the Center, and as he starts to fade himself out of work there. This transition period will be incredibly challenging for him and for the staff at the Center.
Not much has been said about what is happening there recently, mostly having to do with the fact that any spare time Duane has is filled up with teaching prep and mind preoccupation. About a month ago the Center hired a new prosthetist…Sergio. He has been a real gift, and is eager to learn. He is 26 years old, is a trained physiotherapist (which is such a great skill to have when working with people who are re-learning how to walk), and has never done any prosthetics in his life. He is literally starting from the beginning. At least he knows anatomy, and has an understanding of the body, so I guess he’s not starting completely at zero. There has also been a bit of an overhaul of the entire staff at the Center. One of the prosthetists quit quite early after our arrival and the other main prosthetist lives part-time in another city about 5 hours away so he’s not always here. Sergio is likely going to be the main guy. We’ve also hired a full-time office staff to deal with patient files and other general office type stuff. These big changes at the Center have been both good, and challenging! Certain expectations have had to be changed as a result of dealing with a different culture that does things a different way. The North American time structure is one of the major ideals we have had to change…for anyone who has traveled, you will know what I’m speaking of. When you’re on vacation, a more relaxed way of life is welcoming…you can come when you want, leave when you want and have no time constraints…BUT, when you’re in a work environment trying to accomplish certain tasks for people who are in need, it’s difficult to adjust. I don’t think we need to toss it all out the window…there is a certain level of professionalism and excellence that can and should be expected, but we have to meet somewhere in the middle.
Language has been coming slowly, but well for us both. Duane knows everything having to do with legs and how to build legs, and can get everything he needs around the city. This is his first time learning a language and it’s so fun watching him communicate! He has improved dramatically in the last two weeks. I am a slow, but steady language machine, but have found it difficult to balance learning with being a mom. I just don’t have the time I would like to put into it. Those who have said that Spanish is easy were quite misleading. There are so many different and difficult tenses that are hard to keep track of and there are many irregular verbs…pure memorization is the only way to remember how to conjugate them. In some ways, Thai is much easier. Amelia has learned a little bit…not as much as we perhaps initially hoped, but I am amazed with her. I think the thing that impresses me the most is simply her understanding that another language exists. I can now ask her, “What is the Spanish word for ‘ball’?” and she will answer, “Pelota”. She has her own made up language as well, I think because she hears us speaking something different, and so she thinks she should as well. She fascinates me.
I have begun teaching English at an all boys’ school once a week. It is a whirlwind morning where I teach four classes an hour and a half each. The boys love having a foreigner in class and are intrigued by my height, as I stand at least 2-3 inches taller than any of them. This is their first experience with learning English through the communication method and it’s a challenge to get them into a communicative mindset. They believe they can’t speak, and so they don’t try, and of course there are the general pressures surrounding high school aged kids to never look dumb. Unfortunately, having confidence and taking chances fascilitate learning a language. We have some work to do.
We definitely feel that our time here is coming to a close. We can’t believe how quickly and how slowly it has all passed. Please keep Duane in your thoughts for these last 2 months as he is feeling the mounting pressure to instruct and guide the guys at the Center to autonomy. This is a difficult task, one that he is doing masterfully, but the pressure still remains.
Thanks for following us on our journey!