Glimpses of Guatemala: Tecpán

When people picture Central America, many of them probably envision balmy tropical weather. However, thanks to high elevations, parts of Guatemala can be chilly, especially in the winter months. A favorite of these just-right-for-chocolate-caliente places is Tecpán.
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Located in the departamento de Chimaltenango – Guatemala has “departments” instead of “states” – Tecpán offers a rural escape from the bustle of Guatemala City near enough to make it a one-day outing. After the drive, start with brunch at a restaurant…

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…then hike the pine-lined hills, and, of course, browse the shops filled with the eye-catching Guatemalan artistry we love.DSC05131

 

 

 

 

 

You can also visit the nearby Iximché ruins or perhaps learn about the culture of the Kaqchikel Maya people. Top off your outing with a treat, like a choco-banano (a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts) if all that activity has warmed you up or enjoy a steaming cafecito. ¡Buen provecho!

 

Choco BananoAt Understanding the Guatemalan Patient, one of our goals is to help medical mission teams be better prepared to communicate with the Guatemalan people they serve. Are you heading to the mountains of Guatemala on a mission trip sometime this fall/winter or do you know someone who is? Check out Understanding the Guatemalan Patient on Amazon today! 

A little tip for those serving Guatemalan babies and their families…

One glance at the baby makes the diagnosis obvious. “Tiene ictericia,” you tell the Guatemalan mother. Bewilderment covers her face. You carefully explain the causes and treatments for jaundice. All of a sudden, the mother smiles and says, “Pues, es como amarillo, verdad?” Amarillo? Yellow? Of course, that could make sense. That’s when you remember the pocket-sized book you stuffed in your bag a while ago. You find it and look through the English-Spanish section. There it is:

jaundice amarillo 

Now it’s your turn to smile. “Sí, es como amarillo,” you confirm. As you answer a couple of the mother’s questions, you make a mental note to look through that Understanding the Guatemalan Patient tonight.

It started at the dinner table…

Dinner table post pic

By Kristen A. Hammer

It started at the dinner table in our home in Guatemala – the same dinner table that Dad (Dr. Steven Hammer) and some friends had made years earlier out of two sheets of plywood. At that dinner table, Dad began pulling bits of paper out of his shirt pocket. Those bits of paper held his notes about words or folk medicine practices he had learned from his patients that day. As he read his jottings to us, some made us curious and ask questions, some made us groan, and some made us laugh.

You see, while Guatemala’s national language is, of course, Spanish, twenty-some Mayan languages are still spoken there as well. During the nine years Dad spent in Guatemala, he served many patients who spoke Spanish as a second language and, thus, used some words differently or mixed with their Mayan tongue. Combine that fact with an average education level of second grade and you have a recipe for some pretty interesting health ideas! Throw in Guatemalans’ love for slang, and your conversations are bound to be as flavorful as a Christmas tamale.

I personally found those mealtime conversations intriguing. After all, I was the girl who had considered becoming a brain surgeon and a writer. Dad’s stories from the clinic melded my interest in science and my love for words and people together. Those mealtime conversations were the start of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine. More importantly to me, they and other conversations with the many visitors who ate with us are among my favorite Guatemala memories.

In the 21st century, many families find it hard to gather around the dinner table together. However, the benefits – like healthier eating habits and lower incidence of drug and alcohol use in youth – make it worth the fight. The healthier eating habits associated with family meals may especially benefit Hispanic youth and other minorities who face a higher risk of diabetes.[1] So, whether you are getting into your school-year routines in the US or heading toward school vacations like our friends in Guatemala, why not make the effort to gather around your table often with family and friends? Since September 15 started National Hispanic Heritage Month, you may even want to include some Hispanic food in your bill of fare. Whether it’s quesadillas, tacos, platanos fritos, chiles rellenos or mole poblano, enjoy the time together. Who knows? Someday you might even be saying, “It started at the dinner table…”

 

[1] American Diabetes Association, “Overall Numbers, Diabetes and Prediabetes” http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/  (accessed 21 September 2015).

There are many articles online about the value of shared meals. Here are a few that I read in preparing this post that you may find useful as well:

Amber J. Hammons, PhD, Barbara H. Flese PhD Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Related to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents?” http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/6/e1565.full 

Sarah Klein, “8 Reasons to Make Time for Family Dinner” http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20339151,00.html 

Jeanie Lerche Davis, “Family Dinners Are Important: 10 reasons why, and 10 shortcuts to help get the family to the table.” http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/family-dinners-are-important 

¡Feliz Día de la Independencia!

¡Feliz Día de la Independencia! Happy Independence Day! With everything going on in Guatemala, this is an exciting year. In honor of independence since 1821, here are the first and two final stanzas of the himno nacional. As many of you probably know, there are many verses in-between!

¡Guatemala feliz…! que tus aras 
no profane jamás el verdugo; 
ni haya esclavos que laman el yugo 
ni tiranos que escupan tu faz. 

Ave Indiana que vive en tu escudo,
paladión que protege tu suelo;
¡ojalá que remonte su vuelo,
más que el cóndor y el águila real!

 ¡Ojalá que remonte su vuelo, 
más que el cóndor y el águila real! 
y en sus alas levante hasta el cielo, 
GUATEMALA, tu nombre inmortal!

Of course, the “Ave Indiana que vive en tu escudo” is the quetzal. What a truly amazing bird! Have any of you seen one in real life?

“What’s a Masako?”: A Moment in the Life of a Missionary Doctor

"What's a Masako?"

Part of being a missionary doctor is that lots of people want to get to know you. Maybe they’ve heard good things about you. Maybe they just want to check you out before they need your skills. Maybe they know you’re going to need friends. Whatever the reason, you’ll probably get invited to a host of social events.

Of course, when you’re still adjusting to the country where you’re serving, there’s a lot to learn: new words, new customs, new foods, new locations, new faces and new names. Mix all of that together with a social event, and you might get a story like this…

A young missionary doctor in Guatemala was filling up his plate at a party when his wife came up behind him. We don’t know exactly what she said, but, we do know that the doctor replied without looking around. “What’s a mah-sah-koh?”

Then he turned…and realized what a “mah-sah-koh” was or, rather, who is was: the  Japanese animal-rescue worker! Thankfully, she was more than gracious and even became a friend.

But, ah, yes, the embarrassment of being the new guy on the block! Do you have a story of a misunderstood new word? What about tips for graciously mending cross-cultural miscommunications?

Here at Understanding the Guatemalan Patient we can’t really help you with Japanese names, but we do hope to save you potential embarrassment when it comes to Spanish/Mayan communication. Check out some of our archived “Word(s) of the Week” posts to get a flavor of the terms found in the book!

Glimpses of Guatemala: One of the most beautiful places on earth…

One of the most beautiful places on earth

A lake surrounded by volcanoes and shaded by sunset-streaked clouds. Maybe this scene can be found around the world, but if you know Guatemala you probably know just the lake we’re talking about.

Some favorite memories of this place include breakfast on the shore surrounded by beautiful flowers under Guatemala-blue skies, playing along a “beach”, appreciating the crisp morning air after having been in the humidity-laden Petén, chatting with old friends and dreamily admiring the landscape and thinking it seemed like Hawaii. (Anyone who has actually been to Hawaii might see it differently…)

So what is the name of this place? Like we said, to those who know Guatemala it will seem simple, but perhaps not for others. Write an answer in the comment section and don’t forget to tell your favorite memories of this place! Let’s share the wonders of one of the most beautiful places on earth that happens to be in our loved Guatemala.

At Understanding the Guatemalan Patient, we want to share both the world and words of Guatemala with you. That’s why we’ve included folk medicine notes and other tidbits along with medical terms in the book. Check out some of our past “Word(s) of the Week” to get a glimpse of what you’ll find within the pages of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient,

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