The ‘Mexicali project’ is different from any of the previous surgical tourism projects I’ve undertaken. For starters – since I am currently working full-time in Northern Arizona – I can’t just drop everything and move to Mexicali for several months, like I’ve done previously.
So I really am a tourist – just like you, while I am here. (I just plan to be a repeated one.) That’s a critical difference because one of the most important aspects of my writing is that in many ways, I am just like you. Or, at least a lot like many of the people reading my articles. The only difference is that I am a nurse with a lot of experience in surgery and medicine. But as a stranger in a stranger land? – well, I’m a novice, like many of the people who are considering traveling for health care.
I don’t speak Spanish – or at least not much. [It’s one of the first things people assume about me, “Oh, you must speak Spanish”, but they are wrong.] I am kind of learning a bit as I wander my way around different locations, which is fun – but I’ll never be fluent. That’s crucial when I am roaming around in a strange country – How well can I navigate? How safe is it for foreigners? Will I be able to find people to help me (get directions, find a restroom, etc.)
I’m not an adventurous person (actually, I am kind of a chicken.) – Many of you might be adventurers at heart, but I don’t want people to assume that medical travel is only for the daring or brave-hearted because I can be one of the meekest, mildest, most easily intimidated people you could ever meet. You might think that some of my recent travels would have made me more confident or brave – but that’s not really the case. I still get nervous going to unfamiliar places, reading maps, finding the right bus – so I understand how other people might feel (and for much of my travels – I’ve gone alone..) So I like to think that this is my own kind of litmus test – if “Cartagena Surgery” can manage to find her way around, then most of my readers will be able to also.
But this time, it’s a little different – I’m not traveling alone – I brought my husband this time – and he’s a big gringo too.. (okay, I’m five foot one, so I am a “little” gringo). He speaks even less ‘Spanglish’ than I do..But since he’s with me – I’ve changed the pace a little bit.. No 16 hour days this time. [During the Bogotá trip, I lost almost thirty pounds, because I was basically working or writing during all of my waking hours, and things like regular meals were pushed to the wayside.] So, now I am smelling the roses, so to speak – enjoying the local culture instead of breezing past most of it. Also, having my husband here helps me maintain perspective – of how others may see Mexicali. Not everyone gets excited by medical facilities and doctors’ offices.
So for now, I am planning to make several short trips to Mexicali – to fact-find and bring you information; about medicine, doctors, and facilities and some of the other things we encounter along the way.