Saturday, April 20, 2013


This morning turned into ENT day-- staff member with swimmer's ear and infection further inside, another one with welding induced conjunctivitis (pink-eye). It's become a joke now because when he comes to have eye salve put in, he has to go sit for 5 minutes until his vision clears. The joke is that this is his "time-out". It's always good to find humor in things :)  A young mom came to seek help for her 3 kids at home who have "asthma". She had the baby with her and when I examined the baby I discovered she in fact had pneumonia. Baby's now on treatment and I did some asthma teaching with the mom.

A different kind of challenge came awhile later when I was trying to communicate with an older staff member. He had mentioned the previous day that he had 10 children, so I was curious to know their ages. But his command of English and Portuguese is limited (his home language is an African dialect).  My home language is English and I speak Portuguese, but don't speak his dialect. So having a discussion gets interesting...

"Mr. B., I would like to know more about your family. You have 10 children?"

"Yes, 10. The oldest one is about 40 years old. They're all big."

"How old is the youngest?" This draws a puzzled look. So I clarify, "How old is the smallest one? Your baby?"

"No, I have no babies. They're all big."

So I make a height-measuring motion with my hands, "Your first-born is about 40. How big is the last-born?" Another quizzical look so I resort to, "Do you still have children at home?"

"Yes, four. And two wives."

He mentioned his kids were "big" so I'm assuming maybe these 4 kids at home are grandchildren in his care, so I ask, "These four, are they grandchildren?" Another puzzled look, so I try again to clarify, "Are they YOUR children? Or grandchildren?"

He shakes his head and laughs, "I'm not understand."

I hold up 4 fingers, and ask, "These 4 at your home, are they your children's children?"

He clicks his tongue, shakes his head more emphatically, and laughs again, "Ahhh, I'm not understand."

This was getting us nowhere, so I grabbed a pen and some paper to draw a family diagram. I'm no artist, so we're going with stick people. I got as far as 1 stick man and 2 stick women side by side, and 4 stick children on the bottom line when we both started laughing. I could tell from the look on his face that my picture was as clear as mud. I decided it was time to call Raimundo to come translate.

In short order I learned that the four children at home still were his own, one in grade 4 and three in Grade 5. He has also lost 5 children. Not uncommon for these parts.

Communication is much quicker and smoother when there's good understanding! :) 

1 comment:

Janette Stone said...

Awe...Mr B! I miss that smiling face...and being called, "Madam" :)