The Lighter Side of Mission Work…
It was the first Thursday for the group. They had just gotten off the plane, had not adjusted to the altitude or the new city. Green would have been the word! We recently received a group of 5 young men who have all recently finished college at Northwest Nazarene University. They had decided that Cusco Peru was the place that God wanted them to dig in and serve for a period of 6 months. And so they arrived a few days ago.
They are all going to be spending a lot of time working in The Meeting Place Café. One requirement of such labor is that each must hold a Carne de Sanidad. In other words a health certification saying that one is fit to handle food in Peru. Seems like a simple thing, right? Well for some, it took a different path.
The time had been set up to go to the clinic. Without really knowing what we were up against, we began walking down the tight cobblestone streets to find the city clinic. Once found, we entered the clinic, stood in the middle of the room like a bunch of lost sheep, and began causing a lot of stir amongst the locals who were observing the herd characteristics of this group of Gringos. I was the leader, so I figured I better do something. So I did what is most usually the case, I got the run around. That is protocol here in Peru. You go to the person you may think is the right place, he sends you to the wrong person who informs you that they cannot help while pointing to another that has no clue. Once you get to the end of the run around, you find that the original person that you talked with was the right guy. He turns out to be a nice and helpful sort. That was our case.
We paid the fee, gave our information for the clerk to type (Yeah, not even an electric typewriter) onto the little health cards, and then we all were sent to a wonderful lady, who happened to be the second station on the run around. She filled out more paperwork, and then led us to slaughter by handing us over to a Kathy Bates type villain nurse who was waiting with a blood pressure cuff and hypodermic needle. She took our precious blood and vitals and sent us out to for the second round of runaround. It was there that the dreaded words of Fecal Test came streaming though my translating head. “Oh yeah. The guys are gonna like this!”I thought.
In Peru, the patient is required to provide the cup. Due to my vast experience, I knew that. However, I was not sure where to go to get the cup. A little coaching from the unilingual nurse, and I found out that there was a pharmacy just around the corner. So, off I went only to return with 6 little Dixie cups with lids.
“Well boys, it looks like we gotta give a sample-from the back door, if you know what I mean!” After the place erupted in laughter and discomfort, the reality finally hit. It was required. So one by one, the cups were passed around. I think for most of us, this was a first time experience. No better place to start than in a foreign country where you have no clue what they really want. I was the translator. Keep in mind that these words or not the words they generally teach you in languages school. So, as I translated the reasonable questions to the young female nurse in the middle of a huddle with 6 naïve young men, I did my best to keep it light. It caused a scene. Laughter was no short commodity. She explained the size that she needed, and what to do with the cup after the business was done. It seemed pretty straight forward…for some. Then, in a flash, the young nurse left and quickly returned with a 5 tongue depressors. Without any further explanation, we all got it! Except that there were only 5 tongue depressors and 6 guys. I broke mine in half and gave it to one of the guys assuming that I would have the dexterity to make half of the stick function well enough to count it as success.
Two by two, the boys went into to the bathroom. The first one comes out laughing hysterically. “What happened, Joey?” We asked.
“Well, Nate is in there puking his head off. He is grossed out by the… you know…”
After the roar of laughter from the rest of us that have not had our turn, Nate finally emerged from the bathroom. Tears in his eyes, not from crying, but rather from trying not to be so grossed out by the process in which he was a first hand participant, he boldly came out to face the firing squad of buddies to give him all sorts of hard time about the situation.
One by one, the successful chaps emerged from the institutional lime green tiled bathrooms with flare; each proudly carrying their sample and a smile. The day came down to Ian and I, as the last two victims. We honorably went side by side to the double stalled bathroom with good intentions. Not just with good intentions but rather with a lot of confidence in our power to control our own bodies. What happened was merely an attempt that did not go so well. After much time, anguish, and stress, we both left the bathroom with our heads hung low in disgust that we could not provide the sample. It was not our time, so we trekked off to the store for chocolate and water and a short jog around the block to generate some activity in the digestive tract. Maybe we could return and complete the mission…
We did return. Funny thing was that Ian was able to get the sample. I never did. However, the rest of the boys were able to pick up their cards when Ian went back to drop off his sample. As he sat there holding the bag, they noticed that he had not yet already turned in his sample. Therefore, he was not issued a card. To make matters worse, he was apparently too late to turn his sample in for that day, so he was required to come back the next day. Wonderful enough! I still had my cup for Ian to use. The other funny thing is that they processed my paperwork even without my sample and so I had a health certificate. That is what you call Scott Free!
I think they all had those same feelings that one may get while snipe hunting….Scott is the guy in charge…He is the only one that did not have to provide a stool sample…hmmmmm.
It was a day of laughing for sure. There are going to be a lot more of those types of experiences in the future. It is what makes this adventure so exciting. You never know what is coming…Hope you enjoyed hearing about our silly little experience.
PS--the picture at the top is our group a few hours after this crazy ordeal took place. A sweet soccer match against a bunch of locals to finish off the day!