Monday, January 11, 2010

Putting the "Rub" in "Rubber"

Tuesday, January 5

Day #4 of the 2010 Jamaica Medical Mission Trip

The skies opened up at 6:00 a.m. - and never stopped. Are we sure this isn't a monsoon? It rained...and rained...and rained some more. Soaking, drenching, cold, rain. All day. Liquid sunshine, as they call it in Jamaica. Sorry - but I prefer my sunshine dry, please.

Today, the plan was to paint. Outside. Well, that ain't happening, so we regroup and decide to paint the inside of the dining hall. We've hired a few Jamaicans to help us for the day - but we have a problem. No paint rollers or brushes. Here at home, we'd hop in our car and head up to the closest Lowe's or Home Depot and pop back home - no problem.

In Jamaica, contrary to the popular slogan, "No problem, mon" - there is a problem. We don't have a car - and we don't have a Lowe's or Home Depot. Not even a Walmart. GASP!

I put on rubber shoes - no socks - and don a rain poncho - and begin the trek to find painting supplies. My clothes stay dry, but my feet are soaked. Puddles are ankle deep in places - and we walk. And walk. And walk.

Hardware Store #1: No painting supplies. We walk on. Another mile later,

Hardware Store #2: No painting supplies. We walk on. Another mile later,

Hardware Store #3: No painting supplies. I am now soaked. And cold. And those rubber shoes? I now know what the "rubber" means - they are "rubbing" some mighty fine serious blisters on both feet that are now beginning to pinch painfully and horribly.

My guide, John, asks, "I know of one more store that may have them. Do you want to try?"

In the pouring rain, I reply, "One more store, John - that's it. If we don't find them there, we find another project for the day. Period."

So off we trek. Or, should I say, in my case - limp. I am seriously limping now. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. With every step.

We limp another mile - and voila! Painting supplies! Thank you, Jesus!

We now limp back to the dorm - another mile or so back - and I can barely walk. I take my shoes off and discover - to my horror - that both feet are now bleeding. In several places. And God knows what I've been stepping in up to my ankles. I have no band-aids and no anti-biotic cream - but I DO have a clinic full of doctors and nurses just down the street.

So, I agonizingly put the rubber shoes back on and hobble down to the clinic, where Dr. Bill graciously & immediately treats my wounds. And wraps them in moleskin. Ahhh.....relief.

The rest of my day is spent supervising the painting crew - who do NOT believe in drop cloths, as much as I try to insist - and working in the kitchen with our cook, Mrs. Williams.

Let me say a few words about Mrs. Williams....when we all showed up on our first evening of this trip, Saturday evening, it was very evident that she was the QUEEN of her kitchen - and she would allow no interlopers or interference. Being a queen myself, I could somewhat understand this. But - I wanted to help. She's cooking for 26 people - and our 3 guides - and that's a lot of work. I like to cook. I want to help.

She was very reluctant - initially - to accept help. But - never one to back down from a challenge - I was persistent. In a sneaky, deferential way. I immediately dropped my own Queen attitude and took on a servant's attitude - and as the days went on - Mrs. Williams thawed. And thawed. And we grew close. And closer.

By the end of the week, she actually hugged me (unheard of!) and said, "You have been the biggest help to me. You like to work. I like that."

It doesn't sound like much - but those were high words, indeed. And words I was tickled and thrilled to hear - and meant a lot to me.

Mrs. Williams - I salute you and bow down to you. You ARE the Queen of Falmouth, Jamaica. And a damn fine cook, I might add.



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