When a “vulture” entered your conversation…

Summer – at long last! You’ve been so ready to be done with your thick textbooks and exams, and you finally are…at least for a few glorious months. Right now you’re daydreaming about your upcoming trip to Guatemala. You can’t wait to go back. In fact, you’re going through medical school so that you can serve Latin Americans with your hard-won skills.

You start doodling out a packing list. After all, you learned some things on your trip last year. Might as well benefit from them!

Hey, where is that book, the little blue one that your Spanish-interpreter aunt gave you before your last trip? You scour your shelves – or rather the piles on your shelves. (Your organizational skills haven’t recovered from the “finals flurry” yet.) Ah-hah! There it is. Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk MedicineSettling in your overstuffed chair, you flip through the pages. Wow, does it bring back memories! Like that time with the “vulture”…

It was the second day of your first medical mission trip to Guatemala. You were seeing patients under the supervision of an MD with a Spanish interpreter nearby. Your little patient looked to be about five and was having a hard time of it. The interpreter was talking through the symptoms with the mother when a funny word caught your ears. The mom, who was clearly of Mayan descent, was saying something about “zope“.

Since your aunt is a Spanish interpreter Spanish is woven into your life pretty well. But “zope”? Doesn’t that mean “vulture”?

That’s when you remembered that your aunt gave you that book that’s supposed to deal with slang expressions. You pluck it out of your pocket and flip to the “z” words. Yep, there it is: zope.

“So he’s been vomiting?” you ask.

The translator nods. “Yes, how did you know?”

“Well, I speak a little Spanish, but -” You hand her the book. “- my aunt gave me this.”

She skims a couple of pages. “We should have these here.”

“Maybe I can get some to you,” you say with a smile.

Yeah, that was a fun memory. Your Spanish is a lot better this year, but you’re definitely taking this book along again. In fact, maybe you’ll get a couple of extras. Why not check it out on Amazon? Your other team members should have them as a recuerdo if nothing else.