Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day

Lynn Johnston’s website comic strip archive has a special collection of Father’s Day comic strips which covers most of the Father’s Day comic strip during the 29 years. However, it doesn’t include all of them and the ones it does include provide a curious history.

The first was this comic strip published on 1980-06-15. It’s curious because it features Elly on the plane with the 2 kids and no sight of John the father. Instead it features a man sitting beside Elly who plays with little Lizzie as she cries on the plane, while Elly thinks, “Now and then when you least expect it, you meet an angel.” The man is balding and fat and so Elly expects the worst from him (displaying Lynn’s early prejudice against the ugly), and so she is surprised when he is nice, i.e. he becomes a surrogate father to Lizzie.

1981 Father’s Day strip was published on 1981-06-21 and does not mention Father’s Day, but it does feature Elly and John eating out at a restaurant while Elly slowly consumes most of John’s strawberry mocha parfait one little teeny nibble at a time.

The 1982 comic strip was featured today, and has the first ever direct mention of Father’s Day in the comic strip.

1983 Father’s Day strip was published on 1983-06-19 and returns back to not mentioning Father’s Day. Instead it features Elly and John talking about the past.

1984 Father’s Day strip was published on 1984-06-17 and starts off with Elly looking in a jewelry store for a watch, which the jeweler thinks will be a gift for someone other than Elly (probably because it’s Father’s Day, but he doesn't mention it). Elly responds that the watch is for her. The comic strip is so out-of-character for Elly, I have the feeling there is a message being sent to someone.

1985 Father’s Day strip was published on 1985-06-16 and shows Elly and Lizzie out on the street observing 3 girls dressed in the Lynn Johnston interpretation of the style of the day. Lizzie stares at them, and when Elly tells her not to stare, Lizzie retorts, “Isn’t that what they want us to do?” There is no appearance of John, nor a mention of Father’s Day; but there is a biting judgment of 1985 fashion. It is not the only time during the comic strip when Elly had harsh words for the fashion choices of young women, but it was one of the first.

1986 Father’s Day strip was published on 1986-06-15 and shows Elly complaining that Farley won’t eat the dog food. John is there and suggests that the reason Farley won’t eat it is because he thinks it’s for dogs and not people. John says that Elly should make the dog food look like people food. At this point, Elly dumps the dog food on a plate in front of John and says, “Here. Make it look good.” Again there is no mention of Father’s Day; but the dad's opinion and suggestion is clearly dumped on.

The 1987 Father’s Day comic strip is in the on-line archive and actually looks like a Father’s Day comic strip. From this point on, the comic strips shown on Father’s Day mention and display a character in the comic strip who is a father, most often John Patterson.

What happened? Well, it’s around this time Lynn Johnston moved from Lynn Lake, Manitoba, a place she despised with a passion and her husband’s home town to Corbeil, Ontario, where she lives today and her mood changed. I have often speculated that the transformation from the very negative tone of the comic strip in the early years into the nicer and funnier tone of the middle years was due to this change in Lynn's life. In the Father's Day comic strips we have proof.

The only exception to this was Father’s Day 2002, which shows John and Elly eating out, but no mention of Father’s Day. 2002 is when the comic strip moved into the darker, serious final years and once again Father's Day shows the effects of it. What happened in 2002 was Rod Johnston, the real-life John Patterson, sold his dental practice and retired with the expectation that Lynn Johnston would do the same. She didn't but the pressure invades the comic strip in this year.

The other Father’s Day comic strips not shown in the on-line archive are these from 1988 and 1996. They are both from the time when Lynn Johnston was at the height of her powers and naturally, I consider them to be two of the best Father’s Day comic strips in the whole 29 years.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Lynn's Travels Reuben Weekend

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it.

My daughter Katie, along with her husband, Lane, and I have just returned from the Reuben Awards, an event which was held in Boston this year.

In the old days, Lynn might bring a staff member to these occasions. I guess when you get right down to it, Katie is really her only staff member left that actually works on Lynn’s published material.

This is the "Oscars" of the comic art industry and an opportunity for all of us to get together, renew old (some amazingly old) friendships, make new ones and come up with new ideas; everything from web marketing to how to stay awake during the lectures.

Somehow I have the feeling that web marketing was one of those lectures where Lynn was falling asleep. By mentioning age, she is also emphasizing her stature within the organization. You will see this reference to age over and over in this travelogue.

We bunked in at the beautiful old Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel - the elegance of which deterred us from the usual olive toss and beer chug at the bar (the prices for booze and munch were astronomical anyway) and created a spectacular backdrop to this cheesy and chic annual event.

Lynn seems to be saying that she doesn’t like to drink at places which are too fancy (i.e. too expensive). I can only imagine why she would say something like that, as in, how many Reuben awards ended up with Lynn getting loaded at the hotel bar. It is fairly amusing to me that she manages to mention drinking in virtually every one of her travelogues.

We had ample opportunity to explore the city and took a "Duck Boat" tour. This vehicle looks like a tank, drives like a 56 pickup and rolls into the water as if it had webfeet. They were made for the military - and I guess they didn't want them. Anyway, we got some views of the harbor and some Boston history and returned to dry land where we sought libation.

It appears that Lynn is not familiar with the phrase "military surplus". I have done the Boston “Duck Boat” tour just recently, and the part which Lynn fails to mention is that the drivers of these tours are usually very funny. Lynn may have been too interested in the libation to pay attention to the jokes. Or maybe she didn't like the competition.

Katie, Lane and I rarely gussie up like this, so photos were a must. We lasted for about six hours before taking off the shoes and loosening anything that stretched.

6 hours? That a long dinner. I like the pictures though. Katie looks a lot happier when Lane is in the picture than when she is standing along with her mother.

Here's Cathy Guisewite with yours truly - two retired ladies with lots on the go (some has gone already, but we're cool!)

Traditional picture taken at every Reuben award dinner and notice that Lynn had to mention the retirement. You will notice that of all the cartoonists Lynn meets, even the ones a lot older than she is, Cathy is the only one who is retired like Lynn.

Richard Thompson was our Reuben award winner this year and to learn more about him, please go to: He received cheers and a standing ovation for his work in 2010. We were all so pleased to see him win.

Naturally Lynn knows Richard Thompson after they did their picture together back in March, or does she? Lynn’s praise of Richard Thompson is a little odd with the website link (not her usual style), when you compare it to the textual praise she is going to give the next series of cartoonists, many of whom also have websites.

Lee Salem has been my editor and friend for 30 years and has now taken the position of CEO for Universal Uclick. I asked him if he found it daunting and he said "No, it's been fun!" Somewhere in there lies the truth, but everything he takes on, he does well!

I guess the question now is, “Who’s going to be Lynn’s new editor?”

His wife, Anita, was a university math professor for many years and has now taken on the title of Grandmom to four beautiful grandkids.

Anita has 4 grandkids? Got that Katie? Anita has now taken on the title of Grandmom, with a capital G. And they are beautiful grandkids too. Anita retired and she got to be a Grandmom. Hey Katie. Did you know your mother has retired too?

Bunny Hoest and John Reiner produce "The Lockhorns" and continue to do a number of single panel magazine cartoons as well. We have been friends since my first day as a member of the NCS (National Cartoonist's Society) over 30 years ago.

As well they should be. Lynn likes the old school cartoonists, i.e. anyone doing comics longer than she has. Besides, there has been many a For Better or For Worse cartoon whose punch line was uncannily similar to one used in The Lockhorns.

Kate and Lane took in some of the large, beautiful parks in the city. People at the Boston Common had placed hundreds of flags before one of the statues; a Memorial Day tribute to the fallen soldiers of Massachusetts.

Don’t you mean M-ass-achusetts, Lynn?

Mort Drucker, one of our heroes and the man who established a style of caricature in Mad Magazine with his many movie spoofs, was unable to come this year due to poor health. Sergio Aragones (you have to know Sergio if you are a comic art fan - his work has graced Mad for as long as I can remember and his comic books starring "Groo the Wanderer" are hilarious!) happened to have a large piece of poster board in his car and we used this to send Mort a loving "Get Well" card. Wiley Miller of "Non Sequitur" is signing here.

No praise for Wiley Miller? Naturally, it’s because Wiley launched Non Sequitur in 1991, post For Better or For Worse. As for the other cartoonists, I am surprised Lynn Johnston knows Groo the Wanderer. It’s a comic book and it was launched post-Lynn. Maybe Sergio Aragones counts because he did Mad Magazine pre-Lynn. Possibly it's because Sergio Aragones received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award for 1996 for his work on Groo and Mad Magazine, and Lynn remembers it.

Lucy Caswell was presented with the silver T-square for her ongoing help, support and careful archiving of the largest collection of cartoon art in America. She has been to every Reuben, worked with every one of us to help us catalogue and care for our work and has been one of the most steadfast advocates for this unique art form. If asked, Lucy would say "YES! This is definitely art!" (And a whack on the head for asking!)

And yet Lynn’s work is not archived by Lucy Caswell, but with the Canadian Archive, as I recollect. Nevertheless, Lucy gets points for being in the NCS pre-Lynn.

All in all, it was another remarkable assembly of cartoonists and folks who make the industry happen, and a great time was had by all. I am so lucky to have been a member of the NCS...which reminds me...I still have to pay my dues!

Oh, Lynn. What a kidder. Liuba Liamzini does your finances and she probably paid your dues months ago.

Happy sketching to all the young cartoonists out there - who knows, we might be adding you to our membership list some day!

This is a pretty funny statement. Lynn is saying that she is a member of the NCS and the "young cartoonists" aren't.

After reading Lynn's comments, it was interesting to get another perspective from Scott Kurtz who does the PvP webcomic. His comments are here.

He says that 5 webcomic creators were in attendance at the Reubens, Dave Kellett (Sheldon, Drive), Kris Straub (Starslip, Chainsawsuit), Kate Beaton (Hark A Vagrant), Randall Munroe (XKCD) and Scott Campbell (Great Showdowns) and participated in a Webcomics Seminar as a part of the weekend. I suspect this is what Lynn is referring to when she said, "web marketing", unless there was another seminar on the subject.

Scott's best line is, "I’m 40 and I was younger than most of the 'young' NCS members. No joke, at one point I was asked 'who’s son are you?'" It's no wonder that Lynn closes with the line about the young cartoonists they may be adding to their membership list some day. Kurtz's opinion was that members of the National Cartoonists Society realize there are no print cartoonists coming into the industry anymore, and his impression was that the NCS members were happy to see representatives of webcomics there, so there will be an NCS in 10-15 years. Clearly Scott did not speak to Lynn Johnston, who has expressed the opinion on more than one occasion that the younger cartoonists need to knock her off the page, if they want to get into the industry.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Lynn's Travels: Peru, The Last Day

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it.

Some people had to return right away to their clinics, homes or hospitals. The rest of us arranged a tour of the countryside with a trip by train to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.

From this website:

Aguas Calientes is the colloquial name for Machupicchu Pueblo, a town in Peru on the Urubamba (Vilcanota) River. It is best known as the closest access point to the sacred Incan city of Machu Picchu (in Quechua: old mountain), which is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) away, about 1.5 hours walk. Aguas Calientes serves as a terminal for the PeruRail passenger train service from Cusco. Trains serve locals and tourists arriving from Cusco and Ollantaytambo to visit Machu Picchu.

Farewells took place before a large, comfortable tourist bus came to collect the travelers. We hugged and waved and genuinely hoped we'd see each other again. It had been another emotional and memorable experience.

However it was not emotional or memorable enough for Lynn to mention any particular person by name. This farewell is emotionally distant compared to the heartfelt farewell to Nilda and her friends Ana Maria and Rosa from Day 3 in Lima. There is no promise of continued contact or how much she misses them. Throughout the course of the 5 days of her medical clinic description, Lynn hammered away at her theme of “what the people really needed was someone to talk to” versus the actual medical treatment offered by her partner Dr. Pamela Bradford, whom Lynn consistently and continually referred to without calling her “doctor”, in stark contrast to the male doctors on the mission. This stream of self-complimentary dialogue tells me that perhaps Lynn was not getting enough positive feedback from others on the mission. When you get right down to it, it would be difficult for her to get any. She’s not a medical professional and she admitted on several occasions to being an inadequate translator. She takes long shopping lunch breaks and she takes a lot of pictures. I can only imagine the reaction she got from the medical professionals on the mission with her.

When she took these kinds of trips with her ex-husband Dr. Rod Johnston, she expressed a frustration in her inability to contribute much to what was going on. To her credit, she seems to be doing more than she used do when she was traveling with Rod. Nevertheless, I think she would be better served to participate in mission trips which do not require medical expertise, instead of continuing to try to outplay or outlast her ex-husband. Lynn has very deep pockets, and there is a great potential there.

I thought about writing more. There is just so much to say about the wonders and the mysteries of Peru. To continue would have made this diary far too long. Besides, the mission itself was the most important thing to share.

This is a nice thought, but certainly does not match Lynn travelogues in Thailand or Oaxaca, Mexico or even the first 3 days of this trip. Lynn originally described this as a 10 day mission. Lynn posted Days One – Five back-to-back on December 6-10 and Days Six-Eight back-to-back on December 13-15. Then she skipped a day and posted Day Nine on December 17. Clearly Day Nine was intended for December 16 and Day Ten was intended for December 17, just before Lynn left for the holidays. I don’t think Lynn had any plan to write a Day Eleven originally. Her final line on Day Ten was very Christmasy and very “end”-like:

As we ate and enjoyed, I couldn't help thinking about our last patient and all of the others out there who were hungry. Just a few more days until the gift-giving and gluttony of Christmas and here I was seeing the "other side of life". Perhaps this is the gift I gave to myself; something to put my life into perspective and to make me thankful, once again for all that I have.

On the way home, I read through my notes and tried to add anything more that came to mind. I thought about the young mother at the church who didn't want her baby and I wondered what had happened to her. I thought about the farmer who survived the murder attempt and the dear little lady to whom we gave the waist pouch. I thought about how different my life would be if I had been born in another place at another time and that I was going home to a reality the patients in our clinics could never imagine.

Lynn has had such good fortune in her life, it’s good for her to get some perspective. If she had been born in Cusco, Peru, her life would have been very different from the life she has now. For one thing, she would know how to speak Spanish.

There are a bunch of pictures here which I presume are of the town Aguas Calientes followed by the ruins in Machu Picchu. The Machu Picchu pictures match others I can find on-line of the area. Aguas Calientes is less certain for me. I found this website from someone else who made the same trip and Aguas Calientes looks different. There was plenty else to tell about a PeruRail trip, the sights on the way there, and the river for which Aguas Calientes was named.

Christmas 2010 has come and gone. I've tidied up and changed my calendar.

2011 For Better or For Worse calendars are still on sale. Hint! Hint!

For me things are almost back to normal. I'm grateful for having had another opportunity to see what's normal for others and my sense of privilege and gratitude has been reinforced once more.

What an interesting way to phrase it. Her sense of privilege has been reinforced. Her sense of gratitude has been reinforced. I find that I have to agree with this sentence whole-heartedly as a very accurate summation of her travelogues.

I sincerely hope that everyone who has "come along with me" on this mission in Peru has enjoyed the experience. Thanks for reading. May good health, good news and good friends be part of your new year. All the best!

I certainly have enjoyed the experience. Lynn did not disappoint. Bathroom stories abounded. Women doctors were disparaged. Peruvian health care was vilified. Peruvian men were slandered. Names of people and places were misspelled. The only thing missing was Lynn’s description of her alcohol consumption, which I blame on the Christian aspect of the Medical Missions International. All in all, it was a very fine travelogue. I look forward to the next one.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Ten

As usual I will quote the text and then comment on it.

Christmas was busier than I thought it would be...but I say that every year. Here are the final two installments in the Peru Diary. Happy New Year... and I hope my memory serves me well!!

This is an interesting way to start out, since she has pictures and this was only 2 months ago.

On the last day of our Mission, we set up in a community center in a very run down neighborhood. This long cinderblock building was attached to a private home- a small, adobe flat with two large, vacant chicken coops at one end. The owner was inside the house watching television. He appeared briefly in his pajamas to use the latrine outside then got dressed and left for the day, giving us access to the property, the latrine and the chicken coops.

Pajamas? What happened to “pyjamas”? As for finding where Lynn is this time, it is difficult. Internet searches show there are many community centers in Cusco. One possible clue is the second picture, which shows a picture featuring the words “Apv. Villa Jardin”, which is probably a reference to The Garden House hotel. It is located in Larapa, Cusco, Peru, which is a spot further west in Cusco that the prior place where she had been working. However, the hotel is not located in a run-down neighborhood, so I can only guess is that each mission has been working more west in the city.

Inside the center, volunteers had created cubicles for the doctors with wire, string, blue plastic sheets and black garbage bags put together with clothes pins and masking tape. Triage was in the first cubicle, Pam and I were given the second, Liuba and Erin the third. Pam's husband was across from us, optical was in the back of the hall, pharmacy at the front. Outside, a tent was erected for integrated health and the psychiatrists found privacy in the chicken coops into which were placed a table and two small chairs. Seeing psychiatry being taken seriously within the shade of a chicken coop was the highlight of the day and we took turns going out to take photographs!

I can only guess that this is photo six of set since it just shows people talking in an outdoor area with a broken wall. There are no pictures with chickens or coops, so this description is iffy for me. Photo five is very interesting to me, who matches the picture I had found on-line for Dr. Pam Bradford. I had mistaken the picture of the tall, thin female doctor with glasses in prior travelogues as Pam, since Lynn had taken several pictures of her. However, it seems that this picture today is the first picture Lynn has put of the woman with whom she worked for most all the mission. It makes me wonder (a) Who is the glasses doctor and (b) Why didn’t Lynn have more pictures of Dr. Pam Bradford?

Pam and I saw the usual assortment of complaints and then a young man came to us with an older gentleman who had trouble walking. The young man was attractive, well dressed and well educated. His companion was about 55, dressed in the traditional garb of the agricultural worker; loose pants, white blouse and at his waist a colourful woven sash. The young man explained that this was his father's best friend. He had survived an attempted murder and was suffering from numbness down his arms, dizziness and depression. The story was right out of "The Sopranos". He had been a successful farmer - well respected and well liked. His wife, however, had a lover. She and her lover attempted to kill him, but failed. It was an amazing story. After his release from hospital this man continued to suffer but doctors blamed his numbness and dizziness on his pent up rage. Pam examined his neck and back and concluded that he had a pinched nerve - that his symptoms were not psychosomatic, but caused by the beating he endured. This news was such a relief that he nearly cried. After all that had happened to him, to be told that he was making up his symptoms was unendurable. We saw this so many times. When people actually know what their problem is, they feel better. To not know is as painful as the injury itself.

I don't remember any farmers in "The Sopranos", but I know what Lynn means. Lynn casts no judgment on the quality of Peruvian health care, which is contrary to the direction she had been going with this travelogue. My wife has had the same kind of problem with some doctors in the United States who couldn’t be bothered to figure out problems that she had and I will admit it is very gratifying to have someone figure out what is wrong with you instead of being told it is in your head.

Next door, Liuba and Erin were working with moms and babies. Occasionally a stray youngster would crawl under the plastic divider into our space. Older kids would peer in through the masking tape, but we were all too busy to worry about it. Privacy wasn't as important as seeing as many patients as possible.

Initially my thought is, “the kids want to see an old man’s neck?” Then Lynn leads into the prostate exam, and it becomes a lot clearer.

Our next patient of note was a man in his eighties who was worried he had prostate cancer. He had no teeth, mixed Quechua with Spanish and I had a really hard time understanding him. Liuba was busy shooing toddlers from under the dividers, so for a moment I could ask her to help with translation.

As if Liuba knows Quechua. I am not sure if the reason Lynn mentioned the kids is just to give herself an excuse for asking Liuba to help with the translation. Not to worry, Lynn. We know that your primary purpose here is to hold sheets and strip clothes off multi-layered women.

Pam had to do a prostate exam, so with me holding the sheeting together for privacy and both Liu and I looking the other way, our patient braced his hands against the wall and the exam took place. Pam told him he had an enlarged prostate but it was very unlikely to be cancerous. He sighed with relief. He had been worried for so long, he was almost in shock.

There’s something missing here. Most times people are not aware they have an enlarged prostate unless it is severe. The man probably had other symptoms. My experience with this is that next step is to consult a urologist to make sure that it is really “very unlikely”.

"Now what do I do?" he asked. "Are you married?" Liuba replied "Yes" he said. " You're over eighty years old, you're a healthy man - go home and enjoy!" said Liu. The patient started to laugh and so did we. Once again, to be told you were going to be OK was the best medicine... and a good laugh comes second.

Liuba makes a sex joke and judging from Lynn’s reaction, I wonder if Lynn understood it.

After awhile, it was necessary for me to go outside and use the latrine. It was a single toilet in a small, dirty space between the house and the community center. With all the people using it for urine samples, some local authority had put a padlock on it.

This is a mysterious statement. There is a local authority who, given that the community center is being used for free medical care, has decided to protect the single toilet in that community center by padlocking it?

This was our only nearby facility. Dr. Paul, having finished in the psychiatry unit for awhile was walking with one of the local volunteers down to the bus stop. I threaded myself past the waiting line of patients, through the chain link fence and ran after them. Desperate for a washroom, I asked the woman volunteer where I could go.

Another mysterious statement. Lynn can’t ask any of the other people around where to use the washroom, but she has to speak to a woman volunteer who apparently is not local (i.e. is leaving via the bus). Is Lynn too embarrassed to ask a doctor or nurse or Liuba where the washroom is?

She led me to a small, steamy restaurant and said for a small fee I could use use the washroom there. To digress slightly. I once met a man who was a health inspector - his specialty was restaurants. His advice was: "If you go to a new place to eat and you're not sure about the cleanliness, check out the bathroom. If the bathroom is spotless, then so is the kitchen. It never fails!" As I squatted to avoid touching any surface in the filthiest place I have ever been, I thought about his advice and thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't there for lunch.

Not to worry Lynn. I’m sure the beer was still safe to drink. Nevertheless, I am glad that Lynn had at least one bathroom reference in here. It wouldn’t be a Lynn Johnston travelogue without one.

Back at the community center, the sun had passed its peak. The patients outside were much more comfortable. They conversed with friends, sat passively and hoped to be seen before we had to close up shop. Dr. Norm, who had seen one too many back complaints and could speak Spanish quite well, decided to give a demonstration on how to avoid some back problems and set up a table outside. How do you explain core strengthening exercises and proper lifting techniques to a lot of people at once - especially if you're not sure they even understand you?!

Lynn doesn’t answer this question in words, but instead in pictures. It appears that you get someone to volunteer to help you do the demonstration while lying on a portable medical table. Looking at the environment around Dr. Norm, it appears that the community center is somewhere near some kind of government office since there is a reference to a lawyer written on the wall which also has the Joint Command Emblem of Peru, which joins the sword of the Army, the cross anchors of the Navy, wings for the Air Force and the national coat of arms. In case you missed it, Dr. Norm is Dr. Pamela Bradford’s husband, he speaks Spanish quite well, and he has been consistently located near Dr. Pam in every mission location. If Dr. Pam doesn't already know Spanish, I have a certain feeling that Dr. Norm was her choice for translation. Lynn is still consistent with her reference to men only as doctor. Oddly enough, Dr. Norm’s back demonstration gets him 2 pictures to 1 picture for Dr. Pam.

Our last few patients were elderly ladies. The one Liu and I will always remember was a tiny, sweet natured woman who had a bad heart and breathing problems. In order to listen to her chest, we once again, had to peel away many layers of clothing before we could find her inside. It was a surprise to see that she was wearing a brassiere over the top of one of her sweaters. No matter - it was not our business to ask. She had trouble walking. Arthritis had reduced her hips to bone on bone. She was hungry, emaciated and alone. Pam gave her as much of a check up as possible with our limited resources. She called Tanya, the MMI representative over to our space and arranged to have a walker delivered to the woman's home - along with some food. It was good to know that walkers wheelchairs and crutches are kept in a warehouse in Cuzco and given to those most in need.

The joys of Peruvian universal health care. I suppose there was no possibility of getting the woman any kind of arthritis medicine. Looking at the Medical Missions International website, the MMI representative is named Tania Catacora, not Tanya. She’s on facebook and her picture there looks a lot like the young woman sitting in the chicken coop with the doctor in picture 6.

We wanted to give her more. Since she was our last patient, Liuba, Pam and I wanted to give her a little money. We rolled together a few bills- maybe $30.00 Canadian in total, and she immediately reached inside her blouse and tucked it into her brassiere! It was not being worn as underwear, it was her purse. Not wanting to see her lose her money, Liuba took off her waist pouch and put it on our patient. She then retied her apron to cover the pouch. Our little lady was delighted with the pouch, the money and the news that she was soon going to have the aid of a walker.

Since Dr. Pam is not from Canada and Liuba is the one handing over the waist pouch, I have the feeling that this is more a gift from Liuba than anyone else.

Around us, people were beginning to take down the plastic dividers. The folks in the pharmacy were packing up and Tanya was telling anyone who had not been seen when the next mission would take place.

That’s November 5 – 12, 2011, according to the Medical Missions International website.

Our sweet patient sat on a bench near the door and watched. She didn't want to leave us. I gave her a banana and a granola bar that I had in my backpack. She smiled and put them away in the pocket of her apron. The bus had come to take us back to the hotel and still she wouldn't go. One of the volunteers took her by the hand and led her outside, telling her it was time for us all to leave and that she should return home. She sat down and watched as we loaded the bus and drove away.

One of the volunteers and not Lynn. Of course it was probably one of the volunteers who could speak her language. After giving her money and a pouch, Lynn makes her contribution of a banana and a granola bar, so it’s no wonder she’s not leaving. She probably thought the longer she stuck around, the more she would get.

Seems to me that every time you see a public service announcement asking for donations to support a child, there should be another announcement as well, asking us to help the countless, ailing and vulnerable seniors who have nobody to care for them, too. Poverty. It never ends.

Although this is a nice idea, the PSA folks know that sad-looking kids can get people to give money, whereas ailing old people have a harder time.

Back at the hotel, there was a jubilant atmosphere. We were finished the mission and looking forward to a farewell dinner at a nice restaurant and a couple of days to explore. Liuba and I had a shower (mouths closed) and dressed for the Inca Wall.

It’s so nice to know that Lynn keeps her mouth closed when taking a shower with Liuba. That makes it seem a lot more innocent. "A couple of days to explore" means that Lynn may have a few more days in this travelogue, which is kind of odd since she started out saying there was only one more.

As for the Inka Wall, here is its web site. I find it very amusing that Lynn insists on spelling it “Inca” even though her picture clearly indicates the business has a different spelling. On the other hand, Lynn has insisted on spelling it “Cuzco”, instead of the way it is spelled in the country of Peru as “Cusco”.

This lovely, upscale Cuzco eatery has incorporated a small piece of an original Inca stone wall into the decor behind their long and splendid buffet table. The table was laden with every local delicacy including "cuy"- or guinea pig. There were meats and salads and soups and pastries and as we gorged ourselves, an ample stage offered a variety of performances: singers, dancers - both modern and traditional. It was an absolute feast

How did that cuy taste Lynn? I have the feeling she didn’t try it. If you look at the picture, I only see beverages on that table. If you want to see an interesting picture of some cuy, take a look at this painting by Marcos Zapata.

As we ate and enjoyed, I couldn't help thinking about our last patient and all of the others out there who were hungry. Just a few more days until the gift-giving and gluttony of Christmas and here I was seeing the "other side of life". Perhaps this is the gift I gave to myself; something to put my life into perspective and to make me thankful, once again for all that I have.

Clearly this writing was geared towards a “just before Christmas” release on the website, since Lynn took the trip back in early November and it really wasn't just a few days until Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Nine

As usual I will quote the text and then comment on it.

I dragged myself out of bed to discover that my voice had become a whisper. It was my turn to say the morning prayer and I happily passed the honor to Dr. Jim who eloquently filled the bill. I have no trouble with public speaking, but for some reason I find it hard to speak to God in front of an audience.

There is a little bit of a disconnect here. Initially it looks like Lynn has bowed out of doing the morning prayer because she is losing her voice; but then she says it is because she finds it hard to lead a public prayer. Considering Lynn’s difficulty with religion she has expressed many times during these travelogues, this is not surprising. It does not come naturally to many and for a woman who told us 2 days ago she had not attended a church in years, it would be quite hard. As for Dr. Jim, if you guessed this is the first time he has been mentioned, you would be right.

The day was cool and windy, but the line outside the church was long and welcoming. We went to work without the usual bumbling about, having now created a system that took advantage of everyone's skills.

And now for a description of what that system is:

Docs and Spanish-English translators went straight to their stations. Runners guided patients through triage to the waiting areas and placed their papers in a docket on the wall. Quechua translators went from one clinic space to another, on call- and seemed to appear exactly when we needed them.

Do you notice the difference between the set up at the La Fuente clinic and what I presume is their setup for the second day at Iglesia Evangelica Peruana (Consistorio Cusco)? Quechua translators. At La Fuente clinic, Lynn was running about trying to find people to volunteer to be Quechua translators. At Iglesia Evangelica Peruana, they are already there.

Downstairs, the pharmacy- in a constant state of motion - received prescriptions and carefully prepared packages for patients who went to Integrated Health before receiving their meds. Integrated Health is a classroom of sorts where patients learn how to deal with their personal concerns, how parasites are transferred and how to stop the cycle, how to strengthen one's back to prevent strain, healthy ways to eat, child care, birth control and psychiatric help.

Oh, it’s called Integrated Health now. Back on Day Six, Lynn called it a "charla". Like on Day 6, Lynn said they talked about back care, parasites, nutrition and infant health care, plus the 2 psychiatrists. New for this time is birth control. Missing this time is the discussion about their faith. Later on in this entry, we will find out why.

I wondered at first how our two psychiatrists would handle emotional concerns when we were there for such a short time. The answer was soon evident. Alcoholism, thoughts of suicide, spousal abuse and endless poverty were things people wanted, needed to talk about. It didn't take long for Drs. Jim and Paul to find themselves quite busy.

For the obvious comparison. Dr. Pam Bradford was called “Dr.” only once on Day 6 and never since and the other female doctors did not get that title from Lynn. Jim and Paul are a different story. Jim has been “Dr.”ed all 3 times he was mentioned and Paul the one time he was mentioned.

Pam and I spent a long time with two young women who really needed to talk. Both had chronic illnesses and I saw for the first time how devastating this can be to people who would normally be enjoying their youth, their friends and their education.

The first time? It’s hard to believe that Lynn Johnston, who suffered with her dystonia for 10 years, would say this. Of course, for those of us who doubt whether or not Lynn Johnston actually had dystonia, this comment is not a surprise.

Both felt left out, worthless, betrayed by their bodies. They wanted a cure or a way out! Suggesting antidepressants wasn't enough. Pam sent them to see the professionals downstairs and arrangements were made for them to have follow up care.

Lynn doesn’t say what these chronic illnesses were, and it is possible she didn’t know. I wonder if they really did say that they wanted the doctor to cure them or kill them, as Lynn implies.

Most of the patients Pam and I saw were women - and one I will always remember is the beautiful young mother who, after her appointment, agreed to show us how she wrapped her baby so that he could be carried on her back. So many women carry their babies this way and it amazed me to see how they maneuvered around corners, or in and out of buses and cars without bumping the infant's head or feet. They are so intimately aware of the size and position of their bundle that accidents don't seem to happen. Her baby boy was a beauty and sound asleep when she began to unwrap him. He awoke as she showed us the shape and size of the shawl. She told us where to buy the same shawl and said that she would now have to show us the "awake" way of wrapping. She placed him in the richly coloured fabric, turned the edges this way and that, bent over and slung the little one over her shoulder all in one fluid movement. He was suddenly peeking over her shoulder, his dark eyes shining and eager to go. Pam and I were as enchanted with the lesson as we were with her and we wished we didn't have to hustle to the next patient and let her go.

Lynn expresses regret about letting the woman go because:

a. She told Lynn where to buy then same shawl she had, and Lynn wanted her to take her shopping.
b. She wants to learn how to wrap a baby in preparation for getting grandchildren from Kate.
c. She is excited about having a patient who isn’t depressed and looks beautiful.
d. She knows her next story about a mother and a baby is not going to be as happy.

This day went by more quickly than the last. Now a cohesive unit, we took apart in short order the clinic we had so neatly put together, packed the bags and were preparing to leave when something stopped us all. Near the side entrance to the church, a small and earnest group had formed a semicircle around a young mother of three. She was perhaps 25. She had two little girls and a newborn. The baby, 7 days old, lay on the bench beside her. It had not been fed. It was thin, listless, quiet. One of the nurses was explaining to the mother that she had to feed her baby or it would die. The translator had tired of waiting for the nurse and was admonishing the woman saying, "Do you want to be responsible for your baby's death? Don't you want to save this baby?"

This is a little confusing here. The translator is waiting for a nurse, when a nurse is already there explaining to the mother basically the same thing the translator is saying. The mother is near the side entrance to the church and has a group around her after they have taken apart the clinic. Is she there to be treated and got there late? Is she just a person who happens to be sitting on a bench near the church who is being admonished by the translator? Lynn has none of these details.

The woman's eyes were open, but she looked at nothing. Her eyes were without expression; completely blank... Her body was still rounded from having given birth, but her breasts were flat, her face gaunt and colourless. Her other daughters, ages perhaps 4 and 7, were being hugged by two of the volunteers. They watched but also with little expression. It was as if they were deaf to all that was going on around them. The nurses became frantic. The baby's condition was grave. Any decision involving the baby would have to be taken away from the mother. The baby would go to the hospital where it would have a feeding tube, where it would get treatment and hopefully survive.

More confusion for me. Why are the nurses frantic? Haven’t they been dealing with sick kids and babies for 4 days now? After all that, why are they losing their composure now? Don’t they have access to the pediatrician who has been working with Liuba? Don’t they have access to the doctors in the Integrated Health who have been teaching child health? Don’t they have the Cusco hospital just down the road? Why would any decision involving the baby mean taking the baby away from the child? Mothers don’t get to go to Peruvian hospitals with their kids? Why do the volunteers have to hug the other daughters? If the baby’s condition is grave and they are afraid it is going to die, then what makes them think the baby is in a condition where it can take food from its mother? As you can see in the text coming up, Lynn doesn’t stick around to find out what happened or what the actual situation is.

Liuba and I continued to help pack up the pharmacy and carry the supplies outside. We could do nothing and the fewer people in the area, the better. Outside at the bus, Liu was distraught. The scene we had just witnessed had been awful. It occurred to me that we had seen so many women left with children they had to raise alone, with no money and no support and this one had just given up. What was there to celebrate in this new birth? More responsibility, more need, more hunger. What I saw in her eyes was beyond desperation. She had lost the will to care.

Lynn’s description goes to the eyes for the 3rd time now. The mother’s eyes are without expression, the mother’s children’s eyes watch with little expression, and the mother’s eyes are beyond desperation. My guess is that Liuba is not reacting to the mother’s eyes, but the really sick-looking baby. That’s what would get me upset. It’s not too surprising Lynn’s focus is on the mother who was left alone, because that is her own experience; however this does not mean her concern is not real. According to this website for the Mantay Shelter in Cusco, “In Peru, one in four mothers is under the age of 18.” That is a very high percentage compared to the 5.4% in the United States, 3.1% in the United Kingdom and 2.8% in Canada; but small compared to Niger, where the percentage of women who had given birth before 18 is 53%. Now we see why Lynn added birth control to her list.

The small, cluttered shops passed by under the windows of the bus, now recognized - a landmark here, a sign there. We were becoming familiar with the way back to the hotel and glad to retreat to our rooms, wash up, and reassemble downstairs. After dinner, we again went through the events of the day. A tally was made of the number of patients we had seen, how much medication had been given out. We were low now on certain antibiotics, arthritis meds and nose spray.

I can understand antibiotic and arthritis medication, but nose spray? Lynn has not really mentioned anything nose-related about Cusco.

We still had plenty of eye drops, cough medications cortisone shots and antacids.

In an unusual moment, Lynn seems to have run out of commas. You will notice that for a person who has a cold, Lynn’s use of those supplies will not affect the MMI medical stores.

Some supplies could be replenished from a storehouse maintained by MMI in Peru, but was there time to get it? For those of us who were simply there to help, it was an easy few days of work. The organizers however were constantly busy, handling everything from dietary preferences to the loss of a passport to the recuperation of medical supplies. We were constantly amazed by their efficiency and consistent good humor.

In other words, Lynn is not concerned in the slightest about the low medical supplies or how to get them, because she is not an organizer. In fact, she describes herself now as “simply there to help”, and those easy few days of work, and has stopped talking about that hard translation stuff.

Those of us 45 and older usually went to bed around 9, but the younger people sang, talked or went off into town for some fun. Even the evenings were routine - and it took less than a week to make us all a bit "predictable".

"Predictable" for someone who goes to bed at the first opportunity.

As I waited for the cold medication to ease my stuffed head into sleep, I thought about how close we'd all become and how quickly we'd be leaving. Tomorrow, the last clinic.

Lynn talks about the closeness and yet, she mentions so few names. Compare this travelogue for Day 9 to the ones in the first few days in Lima, where her attitude towards naming people seems very different. If I were to go from Lynn’s description of the people working, I would get the impression that they are almost all women except for Dr. Pam Bradford’s husband and the 2 psychiatrists. Looking at the picture of the people on the bus, I get a very different impression about the ratio of men to women on this trip. I have the feeling Lynn only really talked to the over-45, female crowd, and there are not many of those on this bus.

Tomorrow, the last clinic.

Looking at the Medical Ministries International website, I realize what is going on here. The bulk of the mission trips are shown to last 14 days and so when Lynn said she was on a 10-day mission, I presumed she meant that 4 of the days of the mission were involved in travel and the setup, while the other 10 were on the mission. There are some missions that are 7 days only and this appears to be the type of one Lynn is working – probably 5 days of clinic, 1 day to start and 1 day to stop. Add to that a few days of vacationing in Lima, and you have Lynn’s 10 days.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Eight

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it.

Our next location was in an old Catholic church not far from the center of Cuzco.

For some reason, on Day 8, Lynn has chosen not to relate the events of the morning and moved straight into the description of the project. Why do I have the feeling Lynn slept late, missed breakfast and the MMI hymn sing? You might ask Lynn why did they move locations when they had that nice La Fuente clinic? Well, my guess is that since the La Fuente clinic was in San Jerónimo, Cusco, Peru which is on the far east side of the city and the center of Cusco is about 6 miles to the west; the move is to get medical aid to people on the other side of Cusco. As you can see from the sign in the picture, this old Catholic church is Iglesia Evangelica Peruana (Consistorio Cusco), and compared to a lot of churches in Cusco, it’s not that old. Doing an internet search for it, I found this video on YouTube. There were actually quite a few videos on YouTube featuring events in the church.

The courtyard was filled with waiting people who eagerly greeted us with hugs and handshakes. After carrying the supplies inside, we formed an assembly and sang the hymn that everyone seems to know: "Alabare" meaning "I shall praise". It's a pretty tune. With harmony, echoes and clapping, it always begins our day.

Another YouTube video of this song, just in case you want to sing along with Lynn.

There was plenty of space. Doctors had curtained areas upstairs, with small tables set up for examinations and another for supplies. Long benches ran alongside the outer wall for waiting patients, and at the end of the hallway were two private spaces for optometry and pediatrics.

As you may recollect from 2 days ago, optometry and pediatrics were the activities most closely located to Lynn in the La Fuente clinic.

Pharmacy was downstairs in an alcove next to the main floor and patients there could wait comfortably in the pews. It reminded me of a clinic we had in Arequipa where they had arranged all the spaces for us - putting the dentists next to the confessional, which seemed fitting to me!

Arequipa is a reference to Lynn’s 2008 trip to Peru with Medical Missions International. Looking at their website list of projects coming up, it does include Medical-Dental-Surgical for Arequipa. In 2008, fresh from her divorce from Dr. Rod Johnston, DDS, I am sure this joke is meant to indicate that a dentist should have something to confess. Without that context, I am not sure what to make of this confessional/dentistry joke. I am also not sure where the dentists are. Lynn mentioned not having to move their equipment into the Clinic a few days ago, but there is still mention of them on this trip since then.

The only problem here was the stairwell. Many people were elderly and a couple were in wheelchairs, so other arrangements would have to be made. The watchword "flexibility" meant there was always a way!

Doctors coming down the stairs is my guess for "flexibility". Since Lynn is not labelling her pictures, the doctor in picture #3 appears to be Erin A. Hannagan. The doctor in picture #4 appears to be Pamela Bradford.

By now, we were starting to bring some of our personal belongings to the clinics, knowing we would find the right person for the right gift. An elderly woman who had no electricity in her apartment complained of falling over things in the night. I gave her my wind-up flashlight and showed her how to use it. Another couldn't see. I had a pair of reading glasses which were well received. A dear woman, wearing the only clothes she had, accepted the gift of my burgundy and turquoise sweater and another took my flip-flops which were new, had sparkles on them and fit perfectly.

Finding the facilities are good and unable to be used a translator, Lynn has now started handing away things she happened to be carrying with her, claiming that these are gifts brought especially to be given away.

Good shoes are a luxury that few can afford in this part of town. A woman whose job was to carry heavy bundles up and down the hillsides wore broken "penny loafers" which already looked to be second hand. Pam told her she had to have new shoes. She looked at us respectfully, but her expression said "How can I buy new shoes when I can't even buy food?" I asked how much a good pair of shoes would cost. "60 soles" she said.

60 Peruvian Nuevo Sol converts to $21.25 dollars USD.

We gave her 60 soles and I made her promise she would buy shoes for herself. When she promised, I made her promise again.

As if that second promise is going to have any more effect than the first promise, aside from Lynn's indication that she doesn't trust the woman. Notice the use of the subjects here. I (Lynn) asks how much the shoes cost, but we (Lynn and Pam, or maybe just Pam) gives the money.

The problem with not going straight to the store and buying the shoes with her was that she might be tempted to take the money home. Being beaten for spending money on yourself when you could have given it to an abusive husband is always a possibility. We hoped she would buy the shoes.

I would think the problem would be that she would spend it on food, since she said food was her highest priority. Instead of worrying about that, Lynn goes off on a tirade which seems to assume that poor Peruvian women must have abusive husbands (otherwise they wouldn’t be poor?). She seems to be ignoring the situation with the 50-year-old man just yesterday, where he said he abandoned his family because of his drinking problem.

The day was filled and went by quickly. After we had seen our last patients, Liuba and I went into the village to look for a mochila (a backpack) and were told we would find one at the Paraiso Mall. The Paraiso was about 4 blocks from the church and was a walk I'll never forget!

I can’t find a Paraiso Mall on the Google Maps, but I did find a Turismo Paraiso S A, which is more than 4 blocks from the church, but reasonably close. I can’t expect Lynn to really know distances.

Small street-side shops, windows open to the wind, offered everything from freshly butchered animal parts to layers of just-plucked chickens, their yellow feet protruding from counters and sills, piled into neat, fleshy rows. Quechua ladies in their wide layered skirts, white top hats and long, black braids walked arm in arm with their friends, gossiping and laughing behind gnarled brown hands. Children played on the sidewalks, lovers quarreled, boys peed on the walls of the buildings while cat-calling to chums who ducked into and out of the traffic.

No description is complete without pee.

A warehouse receiving a delivery was open. A truck blocked half the road and men were throwing sacks of grain to others inside, oblivious of the pedestrians who waited for the right moment between flying packages to dodge past. Dogs ambled undisturbed from streets and alleyways looking for anything edible and folks hawking breads, corn and candy on sticks happily obliged. A boy with a handcart pushed a load of pumpkins. Ladies selling fresh chicha held plastic glasses out to passers by and everywhere, traffic and dust and people made this a constantly changing spectacle - and I wanted to remember everything I saw!

Looking at the picture that goes with this description, I see some street vendors hawking stuffed animal souvenirs, a Claro cellular phone place, a key shop, and a very neat-looking bricked sidewalk. Too bad Lynn didn’t get a picture of the place she talked about.

Unlike the tourist shops, the Paraiso Mall catered to everyone.

So maybe this is not Turismo Paraiso.

There were the usual rows of stalls and vendors, but their wares ranged from hi tech video equipment to plastic pails, beauty aids, bikes and baking. It was a social place for friends to gather and chat. Little kids seemed to be everywhere: on shoulders, in slings and in carriages. Young women held out plates of flan and rice with dark red sauce for us to sample, but the chance of something not agreeing with our North American guts held us back. It was a busy place - and less than half the clients seemed in the mood to buy!

Especially those American clients afraid to eat. Of course, flan and rice with a dark red sauce doesn’t sound very appetizing to me. I think of flan as a dessert. Lynn is now 3 paragraphs into a description about shopping.

The mochila vendor was eager to do business and soon Liuba was sporting a new Nike knock-off bag with zippered pockets and space for a water bottle. A back pack is such a useful thing on these trips; you almost live out of it. Every foray away from the hotel requires you to take toilet paper, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, a sweater, fresh water and, of course - a camera. A regular purse will hardly do the trick!

Let’s not forget flashlights, reading glasses and flip-flops.

Toilet paper is a commodity rarely found in the average establishment. Likewise, the toilet seat is a rare and coveted adornment, thus allowing one to be creative during private moments and mindful as well that Peruvian plumbing is finicky at best.

Lynn has this description and yet, we have not had an actual mention of the facilities in La Fuente or in Iglesia Evangelica Peruana. It’s hard to say if Lynn is speaking generically or from actual experience. We do know that this is not the case in her hotel.

During the day, November weather in Cuzco is warm and comfortable, but a chill settles in before sundown and by nightfall, it's quite cold. Layering is the best way to dress and wearing the same thing every day soon becomes fashionable.

Again about the weather. You would think that a person accustomed to living in Corbeil, could stand a little coldness, especially when it isn’t that cold compared to Corbeil. I expect the real difference is that in Corbeil, Lynn probably rarely ventures outside. This website shows the average temperatures in Cusco, which are shockingly similar all year long. November is the second warmest month of the year behind October with the average low at 6.1 °C and 43 °F.

Dinner in the basement of the hotel was a ritual we all looked forward to. This evening was our "talent night". MMI (Medical Missions International) has always had a talent night.

I can’t find anything about this on-line. I can only presume that no one aside from Lynn has chosen to write about it.

This is saved until such time that we have all become well acquainted and the ones prone to theatrics have been outed and pressed to perform. Some need no coaxing. I volunteered to tell a couple of stories and was waiting to do so when the Mariachi band arrived.

Lynn’s talent is story-telling? Who would have known? As for the mariachi band, my initial reaction was “mariachis in Peru?” However, it was not difficult to find yet another YouTube video, so I stand corrected.

There was a birthday to celebrate first and this was part of the surprise.

And the person who had the birthday was...? Somehow I have the feeling this is just another indication that Lynn is not bonding with the other MMI folks.

The band played for a long time. Dancing began and a sing-song and more music filled the night. I had begun to lose my voice during the day and it was gone by the time La Bamba was shaking the walls for a second time. I felt cold and clammy, excused myself from the table and gratefully slipped away to my heavily blanketed bed.

By mentioning "La Bamba" for a second time, Lynn is trying to show that she was there for a long time, waiting for a chance to tell her stories. However, if someone invited (paid for) a mariachi band to show up, there doesn't seem like there was any plan on "talent night" for there to actually be a "talent night". We know from Lynn's travelogue to Thailand, she does not like these crowded and noisy situations.

"gratefully slipped away" is the giveaway that Lynn used her feeling cold and clammy as an excuse to leave what was an uncomfortable situation for her. My guess is that Lynn blames the chill in the air for her sickness, since she has once again mentioned a cold bed. As to whether Lynn was actually getting a cold, that is difficult to tell.

Now, I have to tell you that being with a group of doctors and a travelling pharmacy is a very good thing. Whatever ails you can be dealt with quickly, sans appointment, and the necessary pharmaceuticals are handed to you in a bag. I had been given something to clear my head and help me sleep. It was good stuff, whatever it was, and I drifted off despite the band, the dogs and the machine shop next door. It was a perfect ending to a very interesting day, and I looked forward to what the morrow would bring.

So the perfect ending to the day consists of not being able to tell your stories, getting sick and then getting the right drugs to knock you out? That sounds like Lynn’s work on the last few years of For Better or For Worse. Of course, knowing Lynn, we have not heard the last of this cold.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lynn's Travels: Peru, Day Seven

As usual I will list the text and comment on it.

Up at 6:00 again and feeling a cold coming on, Liu and I dressed and made our way down to the dining room.

Lynn has mentioned this cold 3 days in row. I have the feeling she wouldn’t be saying this every day if there wasn’t some kind of payoff to it, but we don’t reach it today.

By day three we had begun to settle into groups - sitting at the same tables and lining up for the buffet at the same time. Funny how this happens. Humans like to be organized!

Lining up for the buffet at the same time is not that mysterious. When is the food? That’s when you go. However, sitting at the same tables may have more to do with friendships and cliques establishing within the group.

Breakfast was fried eggs piled high on a platter, flat buns that opened like pita, bananas, cereal, liquid yogurt and juice. We all ate well, since lunch would be small and wolfed down - when possible.

I was unable to find a Peruvian bread that was a “flat bun that opened like a pita”. Sorry.

The people who came to the Mennonite clinic (la Fuente- "The Fountain") were for the most part healthy and well dressed.

At last a name, here is a website for it.

The ones in real need had badly worn clothing and looked malnourished. The clothes these folks wear is often all that they have. In a way, I resented seeing people who had regular check ups. There's no discrimination of course - it's first come, first served- and serious cases had priority. But, we were there to provide for those who had few resources and really needed the help.

Actually this is the Mission of Medical Ministries International from their website:

MMI is an opportunity to serve Jesus Christ by providing spiritual and physical health care in this world of need.

It sounds like it is a good thing the organization has no discrimination, because a Lynn Johnston-run group would probably refuse health care to people who were not wearing rags.

I think Liuba, working with Erin in pediatrics, saw the majority of people seriously in need. Young mothers trying to raise children alone have a lot of trouble - as they do everywhere - and again, sometimes just telling their story to another woman was as soothing and as important as headache pills. Erin was also able to connect these women with a network of social workers in the area through MMI.

This is the old case of the deserving poor and the undeserving poor I have run into time and time again in my own life in dealing with the homeless in the United States. The vast majority of the homeless are men. If you are a single mom with kids, everyone wants to help you. If you are homeless man, it is the exact opposite, and these are often the people who are most seriously in need. I can’t really blame Lynn on this one. Many people have the exact same perception, until they work with people in need. However, as I said yesterday, someone in MMI wisely put Liuba working with the kids and not Lynn. Better that a well-dressed adult be scorned by Lynn than some kid.

The cast of characters we saw was so interesting! It appeared to Pam and I that many of the older Quechua women must sleep in their inner garments (the outer garments kept fresh to wear during the day) because in order to get to their chest and back with a stethoscope, you had to peel them like an onion!!! I think seven layers of undergarments was the record.

At 11,150 feet, if you sleep outside with your alpaca, you probably don’t change to sleepwear all that often.

These dear ladies allowed us to pull up their clothing with a good deal of humor. They were soft spoken, appreciative and eager to comply. The family members who came with them to help with translation fit nicely into our confined space and we marveled at our efficiency despite the conditions.

It’s good Lynn is doing something aside from standing around and judging her patients. It’s pretty clear from the line about translation that she is not doing any of that.

Bloomers, underskirts, overskirts and aprons made a tiny little lady look huge and I remembered from past visits watching them out in the fields with their alpaca, like ornate lampshades drifting through the grass!

Lots of clothes make you look like an ornate lampshade. Good to know.

A gentleman who had a problem resulting from riding a bicycle with a small, hard seat was relieved to hear he was not suffering from a serious ailment. He was also happy to know he could keep his delivery job - he just had to get something more comfortable to sit on!

A funny story. Need more of these.

We were unable to do thorough physical exams, so Pam was concerned about having to prescribe broad-spectrum treatments for vaginal infections and the like. We could do blood and urine testing and some patients happily brought us jars of urine they'd prepared at home. If we did need a specimen, it would have to be "fresh", but Pam would accept the jar anyway, so as not to offend the patient. Sometimes, a patient was given a cup, told to give a sample, and didn't come back! This was always interesting and made for the occasional "blip" in the lineup.

And a story about urine. Lynn always has to have these. She thinks they are funny, at least.

In the tiny space next to us Pam's husband Norman- also a physician - was seeing patients as well. One in particular was in bad shape. A young woman of about 25 had an infected wisdom tooth, resulting in a huge swelling in her neck and throat. If not treated immediately, she could have serious breathing difficulties. People have died from this, so it was important to get her onto the right antibiotic immediately and refer her to the hospital in Cuzco. Making this happen required the help of the people who ran the clinic and the MMI staff as well. Expenses could be covered for serious cases, which was a relief for everyone.

Since Peru has universal health care, I expect the real issue is here is the follow-up care for a woman with a prescription written by someone in a clinic, who is only there for a week, when no one at the hospital made the diagnosis necessary to write the prescription. The prescription would have to be justified probably to the clinic staff who are there all the time and not for just a week.

Liuba and I went for a walk at lunch.

I guess Lynn had more time for lunch than she thought.

The local market was a block away and as we meandered past the vendors, we recognized people we had seen earlier in the clinic. Piles of yellow pumpkins, open bags full of grains, pale coloured corn with huge kernels boiling in open pots are a local treat. Large, flat loaves of bread piled like small tires smelled delicious. We wished we could try everything, but had been warned not to eat anything not prepared for us and definitely not to drink the water. Local water was so likely to cause a problem, we were warned to keep our mouths closed in the shower!

Now Lynn remembers the issue with not getting enough clean water to drink, but not in time to point it out in yesterday’s travelogue. I am not sure how food in boiling water is going to be a problem, but it’s nice to know that Lynn is taking the warning seriously for a change.

The market people are hard workers. Those who came to us from the market had calloused hands, aching backs and arthritic hands. They had problems sitting and standing and everything in between.


I stopped trying to "bargain" with them after awhile, knowing how hard it is for them to earn a living. Giving them a bit extra is easy for those of us who can afford to travel to their country... and it means so much to them!

I suppose this is an improvement for Lynn who normally considers the bargoon to be the primary reason for going to foreign countries. Of course, Lynn just finished saying how she wasn’t going to buy any food, so I suppose this means she has decided to move into shopping for non-food items. It must have been a pretty long lunch.

Back at the clinic, Pam had just taken a man of about 50 into her "office". He too had work related woes, but the thing most affecting his health was his drinking. I mentioned the drink "chicha" which is made from corn. The red chicha is non alcoholic, the yellow chicha is.

I can’t find anything to confirm this. Most websites say that chica is a soft drink.

All over Peru, yellow chicha is responsible for poor health and broken relationships. More men than women suffer from alcoholism, though we did have a few ladies smile, blush and confess to liking their chicha!

Lynn can relate and you can tell there is no condemnation there.

Pam asked this man if he felt guilty. He told us he had left his wife and children, had lost his job - and was lost himself. All of this played a role in his physical health. Pam asked if he would like to pray. "God won't listen to me" he said "because I drink chicha". He was afraid he was already ostracized from heaven. Pam comforted him by saying that God understood. People make mistakes. She told him he was loved and still a child of God. He suddenly went down on his knees in front of her and cried as she prayed for him and his family. Even she was unprepared for his open surge of emotion and we both hoped he would soon find some way to get his life back on track.

Here you get to see Lynn’s gender bias in full bloom. She has sympathy for the single moms and all that business yesterday about women just needing to tell someone their troubles. A man does the same thing and it takes Lynn by surprise. Pam is doing the regret, repentance and reconciliation and she would have to be gratified that it seems like it worked for this man.

Understand that I have not attended a church service in years! I have had my own thoughts and feelings. I do believe in God - I believe we are here for a reason - perhaps to learn through adversity to be better people! I believe in giving back. I believe in the power of positive thinking. Here was an example of faith and religion doing what it is supposed to do; comfort, support and heal.

Ah, religion by Lynn. Look at all those pop culture buzz phrases. I think back to Lynn’s interview with Tom Heintjes on the subject:

Tom Heintjes: Are you religious?
Lynn Johnston: I don’t like organized religion where people tell me I have to follow a certain dogma. I don’t like other people interpreting Scriptures for me. I like to interpret them for myself. Not that I feel that I’m the only one who can, but I just feel . . . let’s put it another way. Only a couple of times have I ever been to church and felt enlightened by it.

Lynn prefers to interpret for herself and it shows she has little background or understanding of religion and its purpose. When confronted by this 50-year-old man’s reaction, the first thing she talks about is a personal defense of her own choice to intentionally separate herself from something that can bring a man to his knees. Maybe there is something to this religion stuff after all.

We arrived back at the hotel with all the supplies, prepared to set up in a different location the next day. The young Doctor who had set up "le Fuente" joined us. He had made a remarkable dream come true. He and his wife were providing help where it was badly needed and his children were growing up in a most interesting environment. It had been another exhausting, but memorable day.

That’s “La Fuente” Lynn. You got it right the first time you mentioned it, unless this is some kind of Spanish joke I don’t get. The doctor’s name from the website is Eduardo Astete Mendosa, and there are some nice pictures there of him, his wife and the staff, but not his kids.