Sunday, July 22, 2007

photos, anecdotes, and thoughts on life plans

queridos amigos y familia (dear friends and family),

I'm writing with some thoughts about my future life path and with
some random anecdotes about mexico.

first the random anecdotes, things that I found curious at first and
come up regularly in conversation here because of course people find
our way of doing things just as curious.

1) Last names. The tradition here is that everyone has 2 last names,
first the (first) last name of their father and then the (first) last
name of the mother. Nobody changes their name upon getting married.
For example the daughter of father Juan Tellez Solis and mother Maria
Bautista Hernandez would be named something like Araceli Tellez
Bautista. Rather less chauvinistic than the traditional american
system, although the female line only lasts for one generation; you
still end up with the two last names of the grandfathers, never

2) Naming newborns. It is common practice here to have a baby and
then take as much time as needed to name it...babies go weeks or even
months without a name -- they are simply called "baby" "cutie" "my
love" until the family decides on a name. The woman I saw give birth
has invited me over to her house a couple of times and the boy is 20
days old and still doesn't have a name. She lives in a 'city' but
cooks over a fire and lives with another sister and her mother and
all their respective children. its a really crazy, warm, wonderful
home with many aunts and uncles younger than their nieces)

3) Hospital records. A random note, but as a result of these naming
practices (and other reasons) the hospital records here are organized
by household, then by neighborhood. If the patient doesn't know their
household number, we have to look them up in the registries based on
how the children in that household are named (Tellez Bautista in the
above example). You also see infants records with the first name
written in later with a different color ink, etc, because the infant
didn't have a name when it came in for its first vaccinations, etc.

4) Signatures. Here, a signature is a work of art, with elegant
loops, squiggles, and dots. They usually includes the initials of the
person but never the whole name and are generally more circular/
square in shape than our long cursive-based signatures. People laugh
at my signature, the way I laughed at Froy's signature the first time
I saw it.

Now, the thoughts on my life path... I've been really loving working
at the hospital, learning a little more every day, teaching health
education classes, and chatting with patients as they wait to be seen
or for their treatment to kick in. I'm almost positive that I really
want to do this, I want to be a doctor, I want to have the knowledge
to promote health and treat illness. I am also sure that I want to do
this in an under-served community somewhere in the world and work
under a more comprehensive definition of health care that includes
things like environmental health, potable water, community relations.

How I will manage that remains to be seen, but one distinct
possibility is that I will study medicine here in Mexico, or in Cuba,
instead of in the US. The advantages would be avoiding $100,000 of
debt that I would accrue studying in the US (and be pretty much
locked into working in the US for a period of time to pay it off), I
would learn medicine in Spanish which greatly expands the countries
in need where I could work, and I'd avoid the arrogance and
bureaucracy of an American medical school... Of course there many
disadvantages and challenges, like getting permission from the US
govt to study in Cuba should I be accepted (check out the program, it
is AMAZING and would be a dream to study there: http://
passing the entrance exam to a school in mexico (ie SAT in spanish
plus chemistry, biology, and mexican history).

Lots to think about, and its going to be an interesting choice... in
August i'm going to visit one medical school in Mexico with a friend
of Froy's so I can get a better idea of the reality of studying here.

Much love to all,

ps check out the photos i've uploaded:


I think you have to make a snapfish account to see them...sorry about
that. It's free and I think you even get 20 free photo prints when
you join.

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