Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spanish Word of the Day: Ginecologia

An indistinct dark-colored van pulls up outside the gynecologist’s office. A tall man gets out and walks to the back doors and helps a woman step down. Actually, she’s more a girl than a woman. So tiny and thin, beautiful, with thick hair pulled back in a pony tail. They come into the office and she takes the chair next to mine. She turns slightly so I can’t see her face but I do see that she has a wadded up tissue in her hands and I hear her sniffling.

The man stands at the door and gives the receptionist the girl’s history which I don’t understand but I’m thinking I guess they don’t have HIPPA regulations (patient privacy) here in Mexico.

I’m with a friend who is pregnant. She is nearing the end of her term and is at the gyn’s for an ultrasound to check on the baby’s status. Hours earlier we had made a mad rush to the hospital in Calle Doce – about thirty miles from Kino – because she wasn’t feeling well. Her husband had to work so it was just the two of us. Oh Lord, I sure didn’t want to have to deliver a baby but I threw blankets and pillows in the back of the van just in case.

While my friend is in the examination room another dark-colored van pulls up and this time a man helps a woman out who can barely stand upright she is in so much pain. This time I catch words like blood and bathroom and the woman is holding her stomach. I wonder if she hasn’t had a miscarriage. I don’t know who I feel worse for – the women who have to share their personal information with a man (a stranger) or the man who has to hear it. Somewhere in the rapid-fire Spanish I hear “campo.” Were these women working in the fields when they took ill?

There’s a dilemma – two women who need immediate attention. The receptionist, who is typical of the professional women here – perfectly groomed, pedicured and coiffed – goes back to talk to the doctor. I hear every word of their conversation and it’s obvious that the driver and the women waiting can hear it too. There’s that privacy thing again. The receptionist comes out and it’s been decided to keep the woman in the more obvious pain and send the girl with the man on to the hospital Hermosillo, another thirty miles away.

The girl sitting next to me has silently cried throughout her entire wait. She seems so sad and scared. I want to put my arms around her and hold her but I’m afraid of scaring her or breaking some kind of Mexican code of behavior. The other women ignore her. They offer no sympathy. I watch the girl walk to the van. On the faux-leather chair the decorative studs on the pockets of her jeans leave perfectly marked indentations.

Meanwhile the other woman – who is 42 years old but looks younger, which is unusual for the women here – is standing, bent over holding her belly, in obvious pain. When she first arrived she attempted to sit down but I watched her reach down between her legs and quickly pull her hand away. I think she’s afraid of bleeding on the furniture. She is probably grateful she has on loose-fitting black nylon drawstring pants.

The receptionist and I watch television. No novela, no game show, but a more sedate news-type show which is more appropriate for a doctor’s office.

My friend comes out and we wait for the ultrasound photos. She pays for her visit – 300 pesos – less than $30. We have to go back to the hospital to get the results of her lab work but neither of us have eaten so we stop at Pollo Feliz for a mediocre lunch but at least there’s a bathroom which is so tiny my pregnant friend can barely fit between the wall and the toilet. The floor is covered in a mixture of pee and water. I have to be careful to hold onto the cuffs of my pants as I sit.

During lunch I ask her about the women at the gyn’s office.

It seems they both had the same problem, whatever that was, and when the receptionist went to the doctor to ask him what she should do, he blew up at her. How was he to know when he hadn’t seen them yet? My friend said the receptionist cried at being yelled at. But somehow he made the decision to send the girl to the hospital in Hermosillo and keep the older woman.

“Did they work in the fields? I thought I heard the driver say campo.”

“Yes, I think so,” she says.

“Will your husband be with you when you deliver?” I ask.

“No. Men are not allowed because it is one big open room where the mothers are lined up. We can bring another woman with us.”

She and her brothers had been born at home and we both agree that would be the ideal option if only there was a midwife in our town. "But the woman who helped my mother give birth, she had no tools. What did she use?” I tell her about the time in my life when I assisted at home births."All she needed was some clean towels, sheets and a pot of boiling water to sterilize the scissors to cut the cord.”

We return to the hospital to get the lab results. All’s well with my friend’s baby. Her worries had caused her blood pressure to spike. She’s been hearing too many nightmarish stories about that hospital and all the babies who have died there.

When we get back to our town we joke that we should find a newborn baby to borrow so she can walk into her house and surprise the hell out of her family. Finding a newborn baby would be easy but it probably wouldn’t have been a nice thing to do.

We’re both wiped out. It’s been a long eight-hour day – her scheduled office visit was an hour late, there was difficulty finding a blood pressure cuff that worked, then the visit to the gynecologist’s office. With all our stops this hugely pregnant woman had to climb in and out of my humongous van.

Of course the first thing I do when I get home is pour a gin and tonic. Then I give people in the park - gringos and workers - an update on our friend’s status. She’s fine, bebe’s fine and thankfully there was no roadside delivery.

At first, while waiting with my friend to be seen by the doctor at the hospital, I thought what a horror the Mexican medical system was, especially the long wait in a room filled with sick people, mostly children hacking and coughing. (There are many asthmatic children here because of dust from the fields, not to mention other ills caused by the fertilizers and chemicals used.) Then the trip to the gyn’s office for the ultrasound, then back to the hospital for the lab results. But, really, this isn’t any different than ERs in big U.S. cities where people go for routine medical care because they don’t have insurance. At least the medical treatment my friend received that day at the hospital was free. Even her meds were free as long as she got them at the hospital pharmacy – as long as the pharmacy had them in stock. And $30 for a visit to a gyn’s office for an ultrasound? How much would that cost in the U.S.? I heard last night that if a woman is required to have an ultrasound before an abortion, that’s an additional $200.

The other benefit here is the paid maternity leave although there are some caveats: a woman does not start receiving “disability” pay until her 33rd week of pregnancy and she must work up until that time. Should she have a problem with her pregnancy and not be able to work, she loses the maternity benefit. Her paid time off is three months, I think. But this is only for people whose employers pay into the system. At least that’s how I understood it.

I have no medical insurance. But as long as I have cash or room on my credit card, I can be seen at one of the private hospitals in Hermosillo which are more like hotels than medical facilities. Needless-to-say, a hospital stay here is much cheaper than in the U.S. And if you are old enough for Medicare and have the supplemental insurance, the hospital bills them directly and, depending on the insurance company, pays 80% to the whole shebang.

Even though I stayed up late (I had to watch Portlandia), I had a difficult time falling asleep so I took half a Xanax a friend had given me. I kept thinking about that young woman. She seemed so fragile and sad and alone. None of the other women paid her any notice. I guess that’s what you do when there is a lack of privacy; you learn to shut out the pain that is around you.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Grand Junction

I do transcription for a company back east and my jobs are varied - advisory boards for pharmaceutical companies, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and my favorite: internal affairs interviews for a police department. Unfortunately I don't get a lot of those IA investigations but I jump on them when they come in. Oh the drama! Not a lot of officer-involved shootings; mostly cops and firemen are called in front of IA for domestic violence, pornography, drunk driving. One time I did a whole set of interviews involving a cop who - in my humble opinion - was a total sociopath. I never did find out how that case ended. It's like reading a murder mystery with the last chapter torn out.

The other day I transcribed the audio for some sort of healthcare documentary and one of the segments was on Grand Junction, Colorado, which is a model when it comes to providing healthcare for EVERYONE regardless of insurance level (including the no insurance level). I remembered Grand Junction from the many road trips I made from Oakland to St. Louis on I-70 in the 1970s and the stunning vistas as I crossed the border of Utah and Colorado.

My desire the past two summers had been to travel around New Mexico but for various reasons (money and work - lack of one or too much of the other) I wasn't able to do that. However, this summer - when Vanna's transformation to CamperVanna, Queen of the Desert is complete - I'll head up one side of New Mexico to Grand Junction then loop down through the middle of Colorado to Las Vegas, NM, and take it from there.

I envision camping mostly on BLM land or in national park campgrounds but when I need to work, I'm hoping to settle in a nice little trailer park in town where I can access wifi and type for a day or two, then take off again. That sounds doable, right?

And then in the winter - let's say February - I can take off to the Mojave, to Joshua Tree, to Slab City because I tell you, by February I've had it with these fucking snowbirds. But that's another blog post.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Handsome Ugly Men (feos guapos)

I know it looks creepy but I blurred my
friend's face to protect her identity
Three hours at the beauty shop. I was foiled and my friend was capped. I was getting lowlighted, she highlighted. Every time I glanced at her I cracked up. She looked like a pilgrim extraterrestrial.

While waiting we read Vanidades, a Mexican fashion magazine and one article had me crying with laughter.

It was about male celebrities who are ugly but handsome. I don't agree with all their choices but here are some of them.

Yul Brynner
Is it because he's bald?

Mick Jagger

 Both Adrien and Owen were nominated because of their big noses (nariz grande).
Adrien Brody
Owen Wilson

Al Pacino
Because he's short!
(de baja estatura)

Ric Okasek

Benicio del Toro
No way Jose!

Damn, I wish I could remember who they described as having an enormous head - enorme cabeza. That one really had me going.

Fortunately for us, when we left the beauty saloon we were muy guapa!

Right Versus Left

A few weeks ago I shared an email I received from an acquaintance which left me feeling disgusted and depressed. Extreme right wingers are so filled with loathing for just about everyone - union workers, teachers, immigrants, gays, retirees, the poor - I'm surprised their bodies don't burst open from all that bile festering inside them. Maybe that's the disease that caused all those zombies in The Walking Dead. Maybe hatred will be mankind's apocalypse.

Yesterday I received an email from someone on the left. The tone of those two emails couldn't be more opposite. I posted it below. The pictures didn't come over but you can pretty much guess what they are from the text. The subject line was My President Obama. Whether or not you agree with the message, you've got to admit that it's a more joyful tenor than the one from the right.

We Thank YOU For the room-lighting smile:

We Thank YOU For the mind that always thinks:

For preventing a second Great Depression:

For the humor:

For bringing the number of women in the Supreme Court to 3.:

For making the White House the "people’s" house:

For 1.1 million jobs created in 2010 alone, more than the entire 8 years of George W.Bush:
For the love of people:

For the love of family:

For America's First Lady:
For Health Care reform:

For leaving the past behind:

For the world having respect for America, again:

For quietly and calmly dealing with crisis after crisis, after crisis, after crisis, even if not being responsible for any of them:

For being so "cool":

For being fierce - when need be:

For having the intellect to be curious:

For the capacity to know that you are, as we are, imperfect….

For having the sense to not let it destroy you…

For the capacity to be compassionate:

For being an inspiration to so many:

For saving the auto industry and at least 1.4 million jobs:

For loving the troops:

For understanding the horrible price of war:

For facing the most difficult and loneliest job in the world with grace, dignity, honesty and guts in spite of so many "Haters":

For being, in spite of all the hate, pettiness, racism, corruption and immaturity around, the most progressive and ‘for the people’ president in decades:

And simply for this:

For Being...................."Mr. President!"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pizza in Paradise

A social week comes to a screaming (as in laughter) end as we clip D's and C's long tresses to the clothesline.

Saturday. The rodeo in Suaqui. Next year I'll camp out in Vanna so I can enjoy the nighttime dancing and festivities without risking my life on the nighttime road from Suaqui to Kino.

Sunday. Tattoo, pic taken at the tattoo studio while in progress. Still waiting for it to totally heal before posting a picture of the final image.

Monday and Tuesday. Wham bam thank you ma'am work marathon. I now know lots about Alzheimer's disease. Keep exercising that brain!

Wednesday. Private dinner party. What?! I went to a dinner party? Si. Was kindly invited to fill in for someone who couldn't make it.

Thursday. Cocktail party.  What?! I went to a cocktail party? Si. At one of the large homes on the beach. Always wanted to see the inside. Emotionally wrung out after two nights of chit-chat and schmoozing with the upper echelon.

Friday. L and I decided to walk a little later in the morning and go to LaPalapa for lunch. After tacos gobernador and micheladas, we yearned for Jorge's - a less windy (therefore warmer) deck. But alas we were without a vehicle. The waiter told us we'd just missed the bus and another wouldn't be by for an hour. What the hell, let's go to the road and see if we can hitch. Got friendly waves from the guys in the military truck and then VOILA! the bus! Yay for late-running Mexican buses. We landed at Jorge's a few minutes later and only a few pesos lighter. After a drink or two we walked over to Casa Blanca where we figured there'd be a pretty good likelihood of getting a ride back to Kino Viejo. We ate, we drank, we watched buses come and go. The lovely barmaid loaned us her car.

Saturday. Returned car to above-mentioned barmaid. Got haircut. Kept the drinking down to one vodka and tonic at Jorge's and ditto at Casa Blanca. Got home and discovered The Walking Dead season 1 marathon on amc. Zombie heaven! I watched every episode, was up until 12:30 a.m., dreamed dreams inspired by six hours of blood drama.

Sunday. Another walk with L, this time in the other direction, past the muelle to Jacquelyn condominiums, then over to the plaza for the Familias Unidos food-a-thon. While walking on the beach we ran into Cristina. "Hey, I was going to call you later to see if we could come over for pizza tonight." No problema, she replied. Then at the plaza ran into R. "Hey, we're going for pizza tonight. Can you come?" No problema, he said. Awesome. Back home, more catching up on The Walking Dead season 2 shows I'd missed.

In la noche at Cristina's Paradise Pizza.

L. brought jello shots. She really knew how to tongue those things. The rest of us struggled. I ended up squeezing my cup too hard and breaking it.

We toured the long-defunct restaurant which was going to be quite the hot spot but money problems and structural problems led to its collapse.

A rare sight on our beaches, a bikini-clad woman doing yoga. She'd picked a private spot. Little did she know she was being ogled and admired and photographed.

Cristina outdid herself with the pizzas.

Upon our return to Islandia, partaking of one last nightcap, we clipped someone's hair to the laundry hanging thingy.

Then proceeded to try to take scary pictures... no avail.

The evening ended just in time for me to catch the 1st episode of the new season of The Walking Dead.

A little too much socializing for my taste but a pretty good balance between work and fun. I'm hoping for a lower-key week this week, less blah-blah-blah, more quiet time reading, but shoot, there's dinner on Tuesday, bingo on Wednesday, crafts fare on Saturday, no work on the horizon, and no telling what will fill in the gaps. Maybe Prohibition and Proseco (if my liver can handle it).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vanna Blue - Queen of the Desert

Vanna sure was pretty when I first bought her.
She will be again.
Someone asked why I chose to live in Kino and my reply was that I didn't choose Kino. I didn't even choose Mexico. It just happened.

I've given up making plans. The last plan I made was when I left Portland in November 2004 - and that plan was only to head to the desert and see where that got me. Since then I've relied on signs but for the past three years there's been a dearth of signs especially in relation to Kino - nothing in the wind or the stars or the sea swells telling me it's time to leave so I took that as a sign to stay. And quite possibly this was a sign: getting the trailer road ready would take money (blown tires, dead fridge, stuck black tank valve) and money's been as scarce as omens.

Once I decided to be here now and take things as they came, my days fell into a manana rhythm (excluding the holidays which are not easy for me). Never quite fitting in with the right-wing retired coupled-up snowbird community, I began meeting people - mostly women - who even if coupled-up can do things without their spouses (Margarita Monday). A bar opened and although I'm too broke to revive my barfly lifestyle, at least it's there when I need it. Last summer in Kino was the best, the town brimming on weekends with mariachis and vacationers from cities like Hermosillo and Ciudad Juarez. We discovered restaurants and the VIP movie lounge in Hermosillo. I continue butchering Spanish and appreciate the patience and humor of my Mexican friends.

But still I wrestled with feeling is this it? Am I stuck here? And if so, is this the place I want to be stuck? There's more exploring I want to do - Mexico and the Desert Southwest, visit family in St. Louis, friends in Portland and New Orleans - but there's that damn money issue.

Then a shift.

Work is picking up for the company I sub-contract for. And in March I'll receive my first social security check. I never ever thought I'd be so excited about being a senior citizen. Freedom doesn't take a lot of money but, trust me, it takes some and some is what I'll have.

Then a sign.

Chatting with two women RVers who told of stopping off at Slab City (or The Slabs) on their way here - not that I'd ever want to live there but The Slabs is a place I'd like to see - one of the women mentioned selling her motor coach and buying something smaller - maybe a campervan. Back in my trailer - not 5 minutes later - was this article about The Slabs from Time Magazine. My heart skipped a beat. I want to go there. I looked out the trailer window at Vanna. Hell, I already own a campervan!

I've spent the days since then (when not at the Suaqui rodeo, getting tattooed then getting super inebriated on ginebra while watching the Super Bowl) researching ways to customize the interior of Vanna to make her more campable. It won't take much: flooring, bed, cabinetry. Maybe a solar panel so I can work on the road. She needs a new paint job, make sure those roof patches are holding up. Most of the remodeling work can be done here.

Finally, something to be enthusiastic about! It's the same excitement I felt when I researched Airstream trailers. The sticky substance that's kept my imagination immobile is being melted off. Kino can be my home base and when the gringos or heat get to be too much I can vamanos my ass out of here in Vanna, who's the most flexible rig I know, going from storage unit to mobile home, kind of like a masked crusader or super heroine.

The conversion may take longer than a quick change in a phone booth but I'll keep ya'll posted.