Sunday, May 30, 2010

They just keep doing it...

Like Gary Linker's stinking puns, Andy Murray-baiting and skyrocketing divorce rates, you know it's a World Cup summer when Nike Football unveil their biennial tournament ad. And, as ever, this year's is a stormer.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday Post -- 29/05/10

You spend the whole of the year waiting for holidays and then, come May, two come along at once. Or, at least, that was always the way of it back in the UK. Here, too, May is prime time for free time, but the way things are turning out around here, it’s a wonder the Bolivian authorities don’t just give us the whole month off!

Monday ended up being a general strike in Trinidad, with a plethora of issues bringing the public to a standstill – not least the as-yet unresolved electoral tensions, with La Paz in seriously uncooperative mode in the weeks following the government’s defeat here. Today (Friday) is Día de la Santísima Trinidad, essentially Trinidad’s equivalent of a town gala day. Indeed, I’ve just arrived back at the flat and taken a time-out from a parade of all the town’s schoolchildren which began at 9 o’clock and which was not even a quarter completed by the time I left at Noon. That said, one’s endurance is rewarded by a seemingly endless stream of cultural colour and light – you won’t find ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ floats here.

And that same folkloric flair graced the corridors of the Fundación on Wednesday afternoon in which the official inauguration of the new operating theatres took place (and, yes, no work was done then either!). As alluded to last week, a programme of cultural dances was a highlight of the afternoon and yours truly was there at the centre of it all, doing for Bolivian bopping what James Bond did for feminism.

Of course, the main event was the inauguration itself. The construction of the operating theatres was funded by Iain and Ruth Sommerville – Scots who moved some years ago to Canada. Alas, Ruth passed away a couple of years ago but the operating theatres have been named in her memory. Iain and his daughter Carolyn, who have visited along with Iain’s sister May Young (Scotland) unveiled the plaque outside the operating theatres. I was asked to give a closing prayer and then, after a buffet of calibre, we set off to review the couple of hundred pictures that Amanda and I had spent the afternoon taking for the Fundación.

And here are a few of them now...

Elías (church elder and basketball coach) and I pre-kickoff.

Amanda with the nurses.

Me with Ana (FT secretary), my partner in crime, just before the dance.

And the dance itself.

Though our effort was nothing compared to these boys. They had swords and everything.

Iain and Carolyn, having just unveiled the plaque.

Amanda with our friend and choco-baiter, Maicol.

One of the many construction workers, posing in front of his handiwork. The continued building work has provided steady work for many such guys.

A quick mention, before signing off, to our old friends Chris and Carolyn Sampson, who this week furnished us with a package including Milka chocolate, McCowans Highland Fudge and, crucially, my first pot of Shock Waves! They responded to the call with typical aplomb. Who will be next, I wonder? I took a couple of extended moto-taxi rides yesterday and I can report that not a hair was out of place when I got back. Perhaps Wella will find our blog and reward us for the free advertising they’ve been getting. Though they might ask me to kindly remove the dancing pics. Can’t be having that.

• For the English classes, which begin this Wednesday and Friday. Pray for a comfortable switch to teaching mode for Craig (five months is a long time) and a sense of diligence for his students.
• For Craig as he preaches on 1 John 4:1-6 this Sunday morning.

• For a great celebration of the Lord’s work here at FT on Wednesday afternoon.
• For Amanda’s developing relationships with the health workers here.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, May 21, 2010

Saturday Post -- 22/05/10

I have to admit, halfway through Sunday afternoon I was beginning to doubt if we’d manage. But, sure enough, we managed to move all our items into the new flat (getting by with a little help from our friends) and, in the process, make something resembling a home out of it all. As promised last week, then, here are some shots…

Amanda preparing lunch on one side of our L-shaped kitchen (this is the room we painted)…

…and me in my default mode washing dishes on the other side.

Our new bedroom. Those doors at the back open out on to…

…the flat’s pièce de résistance, our new balcony. Already proving ideal for my morning quiet time.

We also have a bathroom, living room/hallway and dining room – the latter rooms are as yet unfurnished, but I’ll post all pictures on Facebook for those of you who prefer the spartan look. The work over the weekend was exhausting – those high wooden ceilings alone take hours to dust – but I think it was around lunchtime on Monday that the thought suddenly dawned on us: we have our own place! Needless to say, we just feel incredibly blessed to have been provided with such accommodation within just a few months of our arrival and it all just feels like another affirming pat on the shoulder from the Lord himself – they’re getting to be quite regular, them!

Back at the Fundación, it’s been another busy week. The Campaña drew to a close on Wednesday. Amanda certainly benefitted from the experience, though naturally is enjoying being back home before sunset. There won’t be surgery next Tuesday in its usual slot as we are preparing for the official opening of the new operating theatres on Wednesday, in which I will be unleashing my (in)famous moves on an unsuspecting FT staff as part of a folk dance – performed, thankfully, along with another dozen or so locals.

I’m a little more in my element when preparing Bible studies and this week I was tasked with leading the Fundación’s morning meditations for the first time. All staff members attend this session, which is completely voluntary, before work begins. Each week the focus is just a selection of verses from a book of the Bible that is worked through and this week we came to the very last dozen verses of 1 Corinthians. If you’re familiar with Paul’s epistles, you’ll know that the endings can be a little scattergun – you can more-or-less visualise him pacing up and down the room, dictating frantically to his scribe every last greeting he can remember, with the last post mere minutes away. 1 Corinthians is similarly non-linear in its closing moments, but it allowed for a wide-ranging, and no less thought-provoking series of meditations this week, taking in subjects such as what it means to be watchful, how to ‘love’ in one’s workplace and the doctrine of saints (regarding which, there is obviously a fair amount of confusion down here). And today I chose to focus on chapter 16, verse 22, in which Paul pronounces a curse upon those who don’t love the Lord – an open-goal for a gospel-related meditation, and I just pray my execution was more Wayne Rooney than Dimitar Berbatov.

• For both of us as we start sign language classes this weekend (I know, not another language!).
• For patience as we face continued delays in obtaining our carnets (we can’t obtain driving licences without these – the process should take a few days but it’s fair to say that the recent elections have thrown quite a spanner in the bureaucratic works).

• For continuing professional development for Amanda, and patient safety, during the Campaña.
• For the Lord’s guidance in leading this week’s morning meditations.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, May 14, 2010

Saturday Post -- 15/05/10

It’s been a long time coming, but winter finally arrived in Trinidad this week, with a strong south wind howling through the city on Saturday morning and only really dying down over the last few hours. Temperatures are pleasantly 20-something as I type, despite a blazing sun and a sky that several European airlines would doubtless currently kill for. If any of you ‘northerners’ fancy a trip to Trinidad some day, our winter is about as offensive to Caucasian sensibilities as a Last of the Summer Wine DVD boxset.

And from that northerly direction has swept into town another force of nature: American ENT specialist Dr Richard Wagner, along with three medical students from the States. Since Monday, they have been hard at work with Diego and FT’s nurses in the new operating theatre for the Fundación’s annual Campaña, during which time many of the more complex surgical cases to have been observed by Diego are addressed. Of course, Amanda has been at the coal-face with the others and will be fully engaged there in the afternoons (and evenings, if necessary) up until next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the Fundación’s education headquarters, I’ve been engaged in the not quite as exciting (though no less important!) task of kicking the library into shape. Poor library. It is not lacking in high quality reading materials in health, education and Biblical education – it’s just that they’re currently as easy to locate as a Masonic surprise birthday party. As well as this, it’s fair to say that, considering the wealth of resources to hand, usage among FT workers is minimal – awareness needs to be raised. Furthermore, storage is an issue, with new shelving urgently required for bigger books. So the challenge is not a small one but I can imagine worse tasks than being blocked at every turn by literature.

Thoughts of work, however, will take a back seat over the next couple of days as we begin the process of occupying our new home. The kitchen is finally completed (due to the time restrictions imposed by the Campaña, I’m afraid we raised the white flag after the first coat but the Fundación’s manual labourers have done an excellent job) and tomorrow we will go on our first Saturday shopping trip in which, for the first time, we have to buy a kitchen’s worth of grub. Sounds a worthy investment to me. By Sunday we hope to have all our household goods in place and the time will have indeed come to start making a house a home. Will endeavour to post the requisite cheesy snaps next week.

• For the house-move, that we would be guided as we start to live independently for the first time since arriving in Trinidad (no Co-op round the corner like in Tollcross, y’see).
• For concentration and energy for Amanda (and everyone else, of course) in the final days of the Campaña.

• For a successful transition to our new schedules – good to be busy!
• For the change in climate and the brief, welcome respite from the heat that it brings.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, May 7, 2010

Saturday Post -- 08/05/10

Like a frantic hack dashing from Tory Central Office, I’m just a few minutes in the door from our three-month review meeting with the board. It was a great chance to reflect on our time here so far and plan for the coming months.

Amanda is to continue practising her Spanish writing and reading in the mornings, through her independent study and classes, and her speaking and listening in the afternoons, through her work in the Fundación. She’ll go to class for one more day of the week (Monday-Wednesday and Friday), while on Thursday mornings she continues her work with the head nurse, Cintia, at the local maternity hospital. She’ll continue to co-lead her Sunday School class with Jo.

Meanwhile, I will cease going to the classes in the mornings but will continue to set aside an hour each morning for Spanish study. In the afternoons, I’ve been given the green light to start the English classes in the Fundación, which I hope will take place twice a week. There may also be opportunities to take classes in local schools. I’ll be lending a hand in the Emmaus course, where currently, only three staff members are distributing and correcting increasing volumes of books on a part-time basis. And I’ll also be chipping in with the morning meditations, chairing one week in four. This is the period at the start of the day when the workers gather and the chair gives a ten-minute thought for the day based on a particular Bible passage.

Finally, I’ll be aiming to breathe fresh life into two areas that have fallen by the wayside a little over the past year: the Fundación’s library and – of particular importance to y’all out in cyberspace – the website. And I’ve formally been granted leadership of the Education division on an interim basis, which is likely to become a permanent ‘appointment’ in a few months’ time.

Additionally, we’re both hoping to start going along to sign language classes, which take place for an hour every Saturday in town. Given that one of the staff members is deaf, and that ear/hearing care is very much at the forefront of FT’s health division, this should be of real benefit to us.

So, we are really grateful to have left the meeting with a confirmation of our thoughts/prayers. Amanda certainly was looking to make further strides in language and I had been going a bit stir-crazy in the house during the afternoons, albeit keeping a close eye on important international affairs on TV. Looking at our new schedules, the Champions League theme-tune may be a distant memory this time next year.

A week is a long time in Bolivia, as Harold Wilson didn’t quite put it, and this has certainly been notable in several senses.

Not long after posting last Friday’s update, we received a phonecall from Jo concerning some friends of hers who were looking to sell their car. The couple popped round on Saturday morning to let us have a look and, by Tuesday morning, we’d agreed to take ownership of their 1995 burgundy RAV4. It’s great to have a sturdy, reliable vehicle to get around in, in a town with enough potholes to swallow a small country, and to maintain the Cunningham family’s proud Toyotastic traditions! More than anything, however, we’re really thankful to be gradually recovering our independence as a married couple.

This is also aided by the house-move, which moved up a couple of gears this week as we purchased a couple of essential kitchen items and prepared the kitchen for its paint-job. We’re on schedule to move into our new apartment next weekend. Tomorrow we’re off on a mad quest for all those basic household items you take for granted. Ikea haven’t quite set their sights on Trinidad yet, so we’ll just have to go with the local equivalent: visit every market going and barter hard.

However, it’s looking increasingly as if I’ll be left holding the Dulux, as on Monday the 10-day annual Campañakicks off, during which Diego and the team of nurses will be addressing a slew of the town’s more complex surgical cases with the aid of a team of ENT surgeons from the US. And helping in post-op will be Amanda. It’ll be like ten election nights in a row, except with clear and positive results at the end of it all. I tell you, you politicians have got nothing on my missus!

• For Amanda as she faces an exhausting, and exciting, week in surgery.
• For Craig as he sets out in his new roles from Monday onwards.

• For a positive meeting with the board and a clear vision for the next few months.
• For the Lord’s provision of a car and a few other items to make our new house a home.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda