Friday, February 27, 2009


It's Saturday morning, and we're gathered in the dining room for breakfast. I enjoy catching bits of conversation here and there, as people discuss what they've been doing, and what they'll do today. Ray is feeling better, still no memory of the accident and his wrists are still very sore, but he's better. Bobby has been staying with him, but Ray says he's ready to go with one of the groups and be useful. Besides, he says, he doesn't think he wants to spend another day with his "mean nurse." This produces a round of laughter from those who heard him, and a grumbled retort from Bobby, which I didn't understand. Probably just as well. Those two are the best of friends, and the good-natured digs that fly between them are hilarious.

After breakfast, we're back in our vans and headed out for another day of work, each team going to their respective area of service. The construction team will do some more work on the buildings at Hongor, the humanitarian aid and elder care teams will visit more of the sick and needy in Darkhan, and our team is returning to the hospital grounds in Orkhan. We know there will be a large crowd waiting for us, because many people were given numbers yesterday, and asked to return today. We have no doubt that they will do so.

Sure enough, there is a long line of people waiting when we arrive. We go straight to our tent and begin. Things go pretty much the same as yesterday. We see several people who arrive wearing pajamas and robes. Obviously, they're patients from the hospital, who have left their rooms and come down to get in our line to be seen by the American doctors! This never ceases to amaze me. It's pretty humbling, too. These people trust us, and have such high hopes. They have no idea how limited our resources are, and how little we're actually equipped to do for them. I'm not sure there is a lot that we could do for many of them, even if we had them with us in America. A lifetime of wear-and-tear is not something that can be easily fixed. Still, they seem to go away happy. Perhaps just having someone to show some interest in them, and listen to them for even a moment, is enough to make them feel better.

It's hot. It's humid. The line is endless. Still, most of the people are so patient. Babies are well-behaved, and they are so very cute. Here's one little charmer whose mom had dressed her appropriately (no sweater):


We continued seeing people, most of them with the same monotonous complaints, but occasionally we'd see something a bit different. There was a young girl, about 12, who had multiple warts on her hands. Probably fifty or more. She was very embarrassed about them, and tried to keep her hands hidden. Her mom was very concerned. We learned later that she was told by the doctor who saw her to just be patient, that in time they would disappear, being of a self-limiting variety.

Then there was the young deaf boy, about sixteen years old. He didn't speak, just sat and watched, eyes darting from one face to another, as though trying to gain some sense of what was happening around him. His mother said he could hear when he was a baby, and had begun to try to talk, when he lost his hearing. She wasn't quite sure what caused the loss, and said he never learned to talk after that. I had the impression that his attempts may have been discouraged, as they would have been largely unintelligible, and might have been embarrassing to his family. He did make a couple of guttural sounds at one point, and was waved into silence by his mother. No one seemed to speak to him, so he had little chance to learn lip-reading. They just made simple hand gestures to him, which he seemed to understand, and obeyed. Sit down, get up, come along. He gave the impression of mild retardation, though I'm not at all sure of that. There was also an air of confusion and bewilderment about him, that made me wonder just how much more intelligent and "connected" he would seem if he could hear and understand.

I've noticed that the people we're seeing here in the town are much less likely to be dressed in traditional Mongolian attire than those in the countryside. In fact, only the elderly seem to wear dels, and not very many of them do so. Everyone else dresses in a confusing mishmash of Western clothing. Here's an example:


Actually, this division in wearing apparel exists in the countryside as well, but there are some cross-overs. In the country, some younger people do wear the traditional attire, especially among the men, but I don't recall seeing anyone under the age of 40 or so in traditional clothing in town. It's really too bad, because the traditional garb is charming.

We continued seeing people, and funneling them to the line waiting to get into the hospital building where they would see our doctors. The line was mostly outside, as it was so warm inside. At least outdoors, a vagrant breeze would pass by now and then. Here's a scene from inside one of the exam rooms:

The picture above was taken by Barb, using my camera. She wanted to walk a few kinks out, and took the opportunity to get a few candid shots of our operation. I was glad she did. However, I wished for the camera at one point while she was gone, as a curious pig wandered into our triage tent, looked around at the people seated on the benches there, then turned and sauntered out again. My translators and I were about the only ones who seemed surprised by this. The waiting clients took little or no notice of the critter, and seemed mildly amused by the fact that I apparently found it to be unusual, to say the least. To my credit, I didn't jump up and shoo the pig away, but I did suspend my activity during its visit. At home, pigs just don't walk into a triage area unchallenged!

Lunch was at the little roadside cafe again. We had a sort of goulash of noodles and meat, and it was quite good. Hearty and well-seasoned, and I enjoyed it. I'm glad we didn't have what we had yesterday. That meal consisted of a slice of meatloaf (MUO, of course - meat of unknown origin), which would have been pretty good, except for the fact that an undercooked fried egg was plopped on top of it, covering the entire slice. I imagine that eggs are not plentiful in Mongolia, and that this was a choice tidbit, but after a couple of bites, I just couldn't eat any more of it. Had it been cooked thoroughly, it would have been a lot better, but not only was the yolk runny, the white was runny also. I like everything, and can eat almost anything, but runny egg white is just not something I choose to eat. Soft yolk, okay, but not clear whites. So I pushed the egg aside and ate the meat. I noticed the translators exchanging glances, like they couldn't believe I wasn't going to eat a treat such as that. Anyway, today the noodles and meat were really very good, and I went away well-fed.

In the original email installments, there is much more to this one, but as a blog, it grows too long. Therefore, I'm dividing it and the rest will appear later.

1 comment:

samraat said...