Thursday, August 27, 2009

Up your Nose with a Rubber Hose!

I don't know if any others will remember that common play yard threat which we threw around in my youth. I never expected for it to actually happen to me by someone I love, or that I would perform the same upon another.

But happen it did! My husband and I were receiving our Missionary Medical Intensive training and as it would be, we were often one another's lab partners. We had lab work most of the afternoons and would practice the procedures we had been taught.

It started out lame enough, taking histories, blood pressure and such. Then we began injections and stitches and other procedures.

One morning we were taught how to make our own NG feeding tubes out of IV tubing. OK cool! This procedures is needed to be able to feed patients who are unable to self feed. Or to give meds without an IV. It involves plastic IV tube about a meter long which is placed in the nostril, fed down the throat, carefully avoiding the lungs, and on into the stomach. Then one can begin feeding with a syringe through the tube, directly into the stomach.

It is not that complicated and many parents learn to put them in for their children, but one does need practice and to learn how to avoid the lungs. So...

Yeah, there I was, head tilted back as my loving husband held a long plastic tube which he intended to place 'up my nose'. And I was going to allow him to do so. I began to practice my Lamaze breathing which I remembered from labor! You girls know, pick a focal point, breath slowly ...basically, zone out!

It was not so bad. He did it quickly and correctly as he does most things. He is a quick study and very confident and unafraid to try new things. My husband can do just about anything he sets his mind to. Later, in the jungle, this would be invaluable in our small dispensary. He has delivered over 50 babies, placed many stitches, removed arrows from people, placed feeding tubes, catheters, pulled teeth, done biopsies, and even helped with an amputation.

After he inserted and removed the tube a few times, it was now my turn. I needed to do this as well because I might be alone one day and be required to place a feeding tube in a patient. Or perhaps I would need to place one in my husband, so...

Now he was the one with his head tilted back, great fear in his eyes, as I held the tube and fully intended to place it 'up his nose'. I just wanted to get it over with! Later, in the jungle I did have to do many things, like deliver babies, put in stitches and other medical procedures, I never enjoyed it.

I carefully measured the tubing I would need, cut it off, put in the holes, melt down the sharp edges of the tubing, sterilize, and began to feed the tube up my husbands nostril. He began to gag which is common as one reaches a certain spot. This is helped by having the patient swallow water if able. I offered the water, my husband, pushed my hands aside and continued gagging. Loudly!

Everyone was soon watching us because he was gagging and squirming. So I continued to feed the tube, until...he opened his mouth! The tube was going up the nostril, down the back of his throat and now out of his mouth! Not knowing what else to do, I quickly hauled back on the tube and pulled mightily! It came ripping out. Along with a fair amount of blood and a murderous glare from my husband.

That maneuver became known as the 'Briggs and Stratton' maneuver! You know, how you haul back and pull the rip cord to start a motor? Or lawn mower? It really should not be used to remove an NG tube. The patient would much prefer a calmer removal as there will be less blood involved.

Of course, I still needed to successfully place the NG tube. So we did it again, and again, until it was done properly and I could do it easily. That was not my husband's favorite day of our marriage. Although he had been taught many things in the Marine Corps, Lamaze was not one of them, making it difficult for him to do the 'zoning out' part. All the males seemed to find the procedure much easier to give than to receive.

I am very glad we did learn the procedure as we were able to use it in the jungle for patients who could not eat. I never did need to put another tube up my husbands nose, though, for which I am sure he is most grateful!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Things I See...

Street Peddlers

Here he comes...

Would you like a blanket?
A pillow?
How about a pot?
No? Then perhaps a thermos?

Or just a friendly, Paraguayan smile!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stringing Pearls

I am busy stringing pearls. Truthfully they are more like cheap plastic beads, but it still takes time and thought to string them properly. My problem is that I am finding it difficult to 'string' them in a cohesive manner. I have many pearls I wish to string but I want the overall effect to be creative and attractive. Right now it is as if all my pearls are being stored in separate little boxes and I look at them and can not imagine how they are to come together to create one piece.

I have large pearls, small pearls, black pearls and white pearls. How should I arrange them?

My 'pearls' are my stories, my memories of the time we spent in the jungle. Stories of my life which I have written and kept in journals across the years. I need to string them all together to create a beautiful necklace. A necklace of memories I can share with everyone.

I find the task to be daunting and must admit to having strung them in many different designs and patterns but have not been satisfied with the finished product. Sometimes the design looks very amateurish, like the necklaces my children used to make for me. It's beautiful to me but probably not to others, so I undo it and start anew. I have had a few interesting arrangements but often this calls for me to leave out certain pearls that don't seem to fit the overall design. I love each and every pearl! How can I leave one off of the string?

I need to come up with a unique design. A beautiful pattern which looks as if it naturally occurred to the pearls to align themselves upon the string in just such a manner. Right now they are all a jumble, rolling to and fro and when I try and collect them, some seem to slip through my fingers and cause me to be frustrated because I know there is a beautiful string of pearls in there somewhere!

It is discouraging but I shall overcome!

Any suggestions for an aspiring author?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fun in a Cessna

Here is a video my husband made while flying low over
the Caura River, Bolivar State, Venezuela.

This is a landing on our short airstrip. The airstrip was 440 meters long and we always had a bit of a downdraft as we flew in over the river. On this day the downdraft was quite strong.

A slide show of our jungle flight program.

Friday, August 21, 2009

And Now...

Part Two

...the rest of the story.

Present day Paraguay can thank two individuals in particular for their present day boundaries and existence. The first is Martin Thomas McMahon. McMahon was a Major General in the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

After the war he went back to his law practice and in 1868 he was appointed as the United States Minister to Paraguay. He arrived just in time to be an eye witness to the ending days of the War of the Triple Alliance. He was appalled by the atrocities he saw being inflicted upon the Paraguayan people. When you realize he had been active in the Civil War and that this was not a man who had never seen the terrible realities of war, and yet, what he saw here moved him to action in defense of the Paraguayan people, you will gain a sense of the scope of cruelty involved.

When Asuncion fell to the enemy, most foreign Ambassadors stayed in their embassies and accepted the invaders as the de facto government of Paraguay. Not so McMahon! McMahon moved his family and staff to where the Marshal President Lopez had set up his new seat of government.

At one point, the Alliance was bombarding the home of Lopez where his children were in residence. McMahon took the family into his own home and placed them under the protection of the United States and this saved the lives of the children.

During this time, McMahon was able to view first hand the many atrocities of the Brazilians , and Argentines, upon the civilians of Paraguay such as setting fire to a hospital and burning alive over 300 patients. Men, women, and children. He was witness to the fact that not only was the Alliance intent upon taking the territory from Paraguay, but in truth, were waging a war of genocide against the Paraguayan people even making it illegal to speak in their native tongue, Guarani. Any teacher found teaching in the Guarani language could be imprisoned for doing so.

By 1868 most of the Paraguayan army was gone. McMahon reported that those remaining in the fight were boys no older than 10 or 12 years of age, wearing false beards to try and convince the enemy that they were older men. Their bravery is still celebrated here in Paraguay.

McMahon also observed the prison camps where men, women, and children were tortured and enslaved by the Alliance.

When it became clear that Lopez would be killed , he placed his son in the care of McMahon and asked that he be allowed to return to New York to study American law.

By this time even the boys were mostly dead and as Lopez withdrew for his final stand, he left behind the women and children telling them to remain and surrender to the Brazilians. Paraguayan women are not ones to surrender and many took up weapons and attempted to defend themselves against the invading soldiers. They were not shown leniency and atrocities were committed against them in those days.

Although Paraguayans had no lost love for the now dead Dictator Lopez, most did realize that they had been fighting for more than his ego and were indeed fighting for their own right of existence.

In 1878, President Hayes was asked by the Argentinians to be the intermediary between Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay as they were now disputing who would lay claim to the lands taken from the Paraguayan nation.

McMahon was recalled to present his finding and observations to the American Congress. This report compelled President Rutherford. B. Hayes to intervene on behalf of the Paraguayans. President Hayes began to arbitrate for the Paraguayans in 1878 and ordered the return of a large portion of the Chaco to Paraguay. This region, which composes 60% of the nation, is now named the 'Territory of Hayes 'in his honor. There is a national holiday to honor Hayes. And more importantly in this culture, he even has a soccer team named for him!

In 2007 Paraguay issued a stamp in honor of the former Ambassador and General Martin T. McMahon who served Paraguay so well and was their strongest international advocate during the War of the Triple Alliance.

There is to this day a strong bilateral relationship between Paraguay and the United States. Most Paraguayans feel that the United States has come to their aid in times of need. A special affection is held for McMahon and President Hayes because of their part in telling the world of the plight of the Paraguayan people, of their bravery in battle, and the atrocities committed against them by the Alliance.

Hayes is such a hero to the people here that they assume he is as revered in the US, right behind Washington and Lincoln. The acts of McMahon and Hayes provided a good will towards the United States which is still felt to this day.

I wonder how many Americans know anything about this bit of history in regards to President Rutherford B. Hayes and his role in support of Paraguay? Is it not something to be proud of? Two great American statesmen who are very much unsung heroes!

Did you know?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mbarete !

Part One

Mbarete means strong in Guarani. It is an accurate description of the Paraguayan people. They have had to be strong to survive as a nation.

I have been reading Paraguayan history so that I will better understand the people of my new country. Coming from a family of Marines, I can't help but admire their patriotism and unity when it comes to resisting outside influences wishing to take their country or exploit it.

Lately I have been reading about the War of the Triple Alliance. Have you heard of it?

The War is known here as The Great War and was fought between 1864 and 1870. It has been the most violent war in the South American continent to date and was fought in Paraguayan territory, between Paraguay and Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay which made up the Triple Alliance. It is second only to the American Civil War in number of deaths, and nearly the same, when looked at as percentages of the population killed.

Look at the map! Paraguay took on the three countries lying to the east, south and west, between it and the coast. Much of the cause for war was over the strategic need to dominate the Rio de Plata and river transportation which was coveted by both Argentina and Brazil. It was a case of geopolitical issues, which is common for countries surrounded on all sides. Paraguay is in the middle of South America making it a pivotal spot for trade and transport to either coast.

I have heard Paraguay referred to here as 'Mediterranean' or middle earth (I keep looking for Hobbits and such!) and if you consider the clashes so common in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, you can see how Paraguay suffers from the same problem of geography. Paraguay is also called the 'Heart of the Continent'.

Paraguay lost the war, which is not surprising given the odds! However, little Paraguay held out against three large adversaries through the sheer will power of the people, even the women took up arms in what they considered to be defense of their very existence. Paraguayan deaths caused by the war, through battle and disease, is thought to be as high as 90% of the male population. Estimates are that the prewar population of the country was numbered 500,000 and it is documented that 300,000 Paraguayans died in this war.

This has brought about a uniqueness of culture to Paraguay in that males are extremely esteemed in the family! It also might well explain the fact that Paraguay has continually supported Israel, casting their vote in support of UN resolution181 which allowed for the creation of the State of Israel. Paraguay has also established a relationship with Taiwan. Israel and Taiwan, two small countries fighting for their very right to exist. Paraguayans can identify with this.

After the war, Brazil and Argentina intended to divide the country of Paraguay among themselves.

Do you know what stopped this from happening?

If not, come back tomorrow for Part Two!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Things I See...


Living in the Southern Hemisphere, I have learned to appreciate the South Winds which bring fresh, cool air up to us from the South Pole. Lately we have been getting North Winds. The North Winds bring in dust and dirt. Lots of dust and dirt.

This is my porch only a few hours after having been swept and hosed down. It's pointless to try and keep it clean...really...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Humor me!

Allow me a moment to share some personal things of interest to my family and friends. Jewel moved into the dorm on Friday night. My son and his wife drove her there from Tampa and helped her get situated. My darling daughter in law knew I was depressed not to be able to be there for Jewel on her first school days. This is one of the down sides to being a foreign missionary, but Naomy took pictures of the entire event so that we could feel a part of it all.

In the car on the way!

Stopped for lunch!

Moving into the dorm.

A nice welcome on the door!

Even a lovely gift and flowers from her roommate!

Found her bed!

Lots of closet space!

Look, Mom ! Book shelves!

A desk and plenty of room for sewing.
And more importantly, room to do the funky chicken dance too!

Silly girl!

One last teasing from the big brother!

it was fun but now...

it's time to say goodbye!

Thanks Josh!

Thanks Naomy!

A hug for Mom...

And one for Mom and Dad!

Good bye!!

This one is for me.
Naomy said it was blurry because I had tears in my eyes!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Raising Children Overseas

Have you heard of the term TCK? TCK stands for Third Culture Kid, but what exactly is a TCK? The definition, taken from the book of the same title, is as follows:
"A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her life outside of their parents' culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background."

I wanted to encourage those of you raising your children overseas by the following survey results. The survey was carried out by MK CART/CORE. A group of 10 sending agencies (Mission agencies) surveyed 608 ATCK's (adult third culture kids) and it is obvious they do well academically.

*30% of the respondents graduated from High School with Honors

*27% were elected to National Honor Society
*73% graduated from university
*25% graduated from university with honors
*3% were Phi Beta Kappas
*11% were listed in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.

Another survey revealed that a high percentage of TCK's go on to post secondary school education. And yet another survey, done in 1993, showed that while 21% of the American population as a whole had graduated from a 4 year college or university, 81% of TCK's had earned at least a bachelor's degree. Half of them went on to earn master's or doctorate degrees.

This was written by an Australian ATCK who grew up in India.

"Uniquely Me" by Alex Graham James.

I am
a confusion of cultures. Uniquely me.I think this is good because I can understand the traveler, sojourner, foreigner, the homesickness that comes. I think this is also bad because I can not be understood by the person who has sown and grown in one place. They know not the real meaning of homesickness that hits me now and then. Sometimes I despair of understanding them. I am an island and a United Nations. Who can recognize either in me but God?

What is interesting, is that I find reading the above to be quite melancholic, but my children seem to find comfort in it. They are glad to see that others feel as they do. A separate group of TCK's that somehow belong together, whether they were raised in Asia, Africa, Europe...matters not. They belong to each other. They do not call any certain place home, for them, home is a group of people like themselves, other TCK's who have experienced the same type of background.

TIME magazine ran a cover story last year on the skills and abilities that American students will need in a globalized world. They said that the American student needs to develop certain skills in order to compete globally. Whether we like it or not, the world is shrinking and our children and grand children will need to now who to adjust to this globalization.

1.Global-trade literate

2.Sensitive to foreign cultures
3.Conversant in different languages

I couldn't help but think,"Hey, MK's(missionary kid) and TCK's(third culture kid) have a great head start!" I have watched my children communicate cross-culturally with great ease. I am often amazed how my children can Instant Message with several people in different languages at the same time, while listening to an Italian opera. Gives me a headache, but they are often unaware that they are going back and forth between three, or even four, languages.

MK's (TCK's) are able to think out side of the box. Actually, they can't stand to be put in a box at all! They are able to think creatively because often growing up in different cultures, they had to, in order to survive being the minority. They are able to accept that another culture may have a better way. They are often able to see how two distinct perspectives can be combined to produce an even better method.

For parents raising MK's (TCK's), don't feel discouraged about the education you may think your children are being deprived of by not living state side. You are actually preparing them for a bright, fruitful future. God needs followers who are not afraid to go beyond the narrow mental and cultural borders so many of us occupy.

Pictured here are our family's TCK's in the jungle, Christmas 1999. All have been home schooled.(My children and my nieces and nephews, all grew up in Venezuela.)

These are the same children, plus the youngest, Christmas 2007 in the US.
( My daughter Jackie is substituted by my daughter in law, Naomy)
Three have married and two of them and their spouses are in college. One is now a missionary wife and mother, one is a Pastor, three more are attending college in the US.

We are proud of them all!

You know you're a TCK when:

- "Where are you from?" has more than one reasonable answer.
- You've said that you're from foreign country X, and your audience has asked you which US state X is in.
- You flew before you could walk.
- You speak two languages, but can’t spell in either.
- You feel odd being in the ethnic majority.
- You have three passports.
- You have a passport but no driver's license.
- You go into culture shock upon returning to your "home" country.
- Your life story uses the phrase "Then we moved to..." three (or four, or five...) times.
- You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.
- You don't know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof.
- The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language.
- You get confused because US money isn't color-coded.
- You think VISA is a document that's stamped in your passport, not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.
- You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that a transformer isn't always enough to make your appliances work.
- You fried a number of appliances during the learning process.
- You think the Pledge of Allegiance might possibly begin with "Four-score and seven years ago...."
- Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you.
- You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.
- You consider a city 500 miles away "very close."
- You get homesick reading National Geographic.
- You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that can support foreign alphabets.
- You think in the metric system and Celsius.
- You may have learned to think in feet and miles as well, after a few years of living (and driving) in the US. (But not Fahrenheit. You will *never* learn to think in Fahrenheit).
- You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.
- Your minor is a foreign language you already speak.
- When asked a question in a certain language, you've absentmindedly respond in a different one.
- You miss the subtitles when you see the latest movie.
- You've gotten out of school because of monsoons, bomb threats, and/or popular demonstrations.
- You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel.
- You have frequent flyer accounts on multiple airlines.
- You constantly want to use said frequent flyer accounts to travel to new places.
- You know how to pack.
- You have the urge to move to a new country every couple of years.
- The thought of sending your (hypothetical) kids to public school scares you, while the thought of letting them fly alone doesn't at all.
- You think that high school reunions are all but impossible.
- You have friends from 29 different countries.
- You sort your friends by continent.
- You have a time zone map next to your telephone.
- You realize what a small world it is, after all.

I know I have a lot of ex-pat readers and even several Adult Third Culture Kids, as well as younger MK's, what would you add to the above list? Was your Align Leftexperience as a TCK positive or negative?

Friday, August 14, 2009


Before living in the jungle, I had never put much thought into the making or care of dirt floors. I assumed they would be care free! Not so.

The first few years in the village, we only had dirt floors. This is because the cost of flying cement out to the village by plane was very expensive. And then, the fact that all the sand and gravel had to be dug out of the river bed during dry season when the river is at its most shallow, carried up to the village and hand mixed with water which you also hand carry, bucket by bucket, slows down the process greatly.

So, dirt floors it was! When making a dirt floor, the first step is to dig down and level the floor as much as possible. Then, using water and a heavy tamp, you begin to pound away. You must use enough water to dampen the floor, without actually making mud. This process goes on for several days in each room.

After the floor is deemed 'finished', you may then begin to use the room. Dirt floors do need to be swept daily. Lint, thread, and other debris does accumulate just as on any floor. Each day the floor is swept with a handmade broom. Once all debris is removed, you sweep the floor yet again, this time adding water to the floor as you sweep.

This is to settle the dust which comes from walking on and sweeping of the floor. If you do not keep the floor dampened, it will turn to dust and everything in the room, including small children, will be dusty. The dirt is of a high clay content and leaves an orange stain on everything. I had orange feet for years!

Dirt floors do not show dirt, but it is amazing how trash, such as paper and such, will show up! The other problem with dirt floors is when you have accidents, such as spills. How to clean it up? There are many vermin and insects and if you leave anything organic, you will be overcome.

I learned this when we first arrived and our children were all still small. We all came down with malaria and had several bouts of vomiting. How do you clean that up? With a shovel! Then you bring in fresh dirt to fill in the holes.

I did learn that by occasionally adding kerosene to the water I used on the floors, I was able to keep many insects at bay.

We finally laid a cement floor in the main room after about a year and a half . It took us several days to carry up all the water we needed for the cement. We had been collecting the sand and gravel from the river for a few weeks and we were excited to finally lay the floor, by hand. What a job!

Once it was dry, we prepared a concoction for sealing the floor. I heated kerosene on the stove and melted candles into it. We then applied this while still hot to the floor. It worked great! I kept the floor polished by adding 1/4 cup kerosene to each mop bucket. Again, to fight the bugs as well as add shine.

We slowly added floors to the house and eventually added up our costs to be nearly $15,000 US! For rough, hand laid cement floors. The floors helped our children's health by cutting down on parasites and also the ever present "nigua".

A "nigua" is a small burrowing tick which lives in the jungle dirt. They especially like to burrow into the toes and even under the toe nails. They are barely visible to the naked eye, but once under the skin, the nigua lays an egg sack which grows and grows and grows... until the eggs hatch and all the new baby niguas begin to reproduce! Not fun. Neither is it fun to dig them out of the tender nail bed.

I once had to remove an entire nail of my toe to get to an egg sack under the nail. OUCH!!! And, of course, any opening in the skin is likely to become infected. So the floors, though expensive, were needed and greatly appreciated.We would eventually come to the point of feeling the small niguas before they even burrowed.

A new problem occurred when we laid the first floor. The Sanema chew tobacco. They keep a large plug of it under their lower lip at all times. This produces a green slimy spittle. The Sanema generally spit a lot! They spit out the nasty spittle. On my floors.On my walls. It was a constant source of irritation to me.

I finally had to come to accept it. I did keep a spray bottle of bleach and paper towels handy and taught them to clean it themselves. The bleach was also needed to clean up after the many diaperless babies that came to visit each and every day.

Needless to say, our only furniture was wood or plastic so that it could be cleaned and disinfected daily. I felt it was better to have things I did not mind them using, than to have nice things, but perhaps worry that it would be damaged. I did not want 'things' to come between me and the people I was there to serve.

On the other hand, I did feel it was wise to teach them what behavior would be expected of them by the Venezuelans in town. After gaining their confidence, I was able to teach them that spitting would not be acceptable in town. Nor would babies without diapers! Nor looking inside through windows...nor using yards as an out house... nor walking in unannounced ... nor burping loudly at the table...and many other activities deemed perfectly acceptable in their own culture.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Things I see...

Brazilian Style Steak House

A Churrasqueria (Portuguese) or a Churrascaria (Spanish) is a Brazilian style steak house. Churrasco refers to the method of cooking the meat and would be translated into English as barbecue, but that is just a rough translation! The good thing is that these restaurants are much more affordable here then they are in the US, although still a bit pricey. ($8 US) We like to go for special occasions.

The BBQ where the meat is cooked

This cooking style originated in the Pampa region of southern Brazil and has been used for hundreds of years by the South American cowboys (gauchos). It is a rotisserie style that came from the fireside roasts made while moving the cattle and is distinctly South American.

(Jewel is being served by a passador)

Today my husband and I had lunch at a churascaria . The passadores (meat waiters) come to your table with a skewer of meat and a large knife. The skewer could have beef, chicken, pork or even sausage. It may have a combination of all these meats.The passadores will continue to return and serve you until you ask them to remove your plate. Some restaurants give you a small sign which is green on one side, for service, and red on the other, meaning you wish to be left alone.

My favorite dish is the whole pineapple which is rolled in cinnamon and lightly roasted. I try not to eat the entire pineapple myself...sometimes successfully!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I Held a Jewel

Today is my daughter Jewel's 19th birthday.
She begins college classes next week.
We miss her!

Jewel was born with an attitude!

She could never sit still for picture taking!

She has always enjoyed any type of hand work.
Here she is watching an indian lady make a hammock.

No matter where she is, she will find a way to be helpful.

She is always up for an adventure.

She loved canoeing on the river in the jungle.

A rough and tumble kid!

She has always loved babies and will make a great mom one day.

Loves drama.

She learned from other cultures that there are different ways to do things.

She makes friends easily!

She has always been interested in medicine.

She wants to be a nurse.

Always was a bit of a tomboy.

Very competitive.

She has become a real beauty...

And I keep wondering ,
"Where has my little, tough, tomboy gone?"


I held a jewel in my fingers
And went to sleep
The day was warm, and winds were prosy
I said, "Twill keep"

I woke - and chide my honest fingers,
The Gem was gone
And now, an Amethyst remembrance
Is all I own