I can’t believe that it has already been two weeks since we last spoke (and then some). I am currently in my kitchen, eating lentils with rice and grilled peppers and drinking mate far too late in the day. The past few weeks have been a jumbled attempt at settling in here. Between suspected tonsillitis, my bathroom and bedroom flooding while my host family was out of town, my host sister getting robbed, taking the wrong bus to another city, friends leaving, and adjusting to new routines, I haven’t quite relaxed into the space yet. Also going from Nashville winter to Argentina winter and eventually heading back to Nashville come late October has left me yearning for the longer days and in-season tomatoes my friends are enjoying atm. I will, however, praise Argentina winters for the consistent sunshine—while my skin may be nearing a dangerously translucent shade of white after 9 months of winter, I am not without adequate vitamin D!
I saw “Everything Everywhere All At Once” (in Spanish it translates: “Todo En Todas Partes Al Mismo Tiempo”) with some friends a few Fridays ago, and if you’ve seen the movie you probably also shed one out (a tear) for your relationship to your parents, but I think it was just the thing to form a crack in my “I’m not homesick” exterior. Navigating a new place in a new language without anyone you know leads to a new level of social exhaustion I’m not sure any amount or kind of preparation protects you from. I trust that it’s all part of the process, and that slowly over time I will begin to forget what it even feels like to be so uncomfortable here. I do hope, however, to continue carrying around the empathy gained from experiencing the challenges of being a foreigner. I would be lying if I came here exclaiming it all came naturally to me, and anyway I am a horrible liar (right, mom? :)). So catch me on my 2 hour evening walk, a different snack in hand each night (usually cheese), clearing my head and re-committing to being present and patient (ok it doesn’t happen every night, but we’re getting close!). My dear friend, Mele Girma, a Belmont University Alum, wrote a piece on navigating communication through a language barrier (the essay is about much more than that, but I won’t spoil it) that I will link here and that I strongly promote! It could be the cry you didn’t know you needed (it was for me): https://scalawagmagazine.org/2022/07/amharic/
Shifting gears, let’s break down my week. Remember in my last post when I said that I finished Spanish classes? Well, I restarted! Humble thyself, or something like that. I also started my doula shifts at the hospital!!! Here’s the nitty gritty of it all:
Monday: Spanish class in the afternoon, and afterwards probably a run to the Verdulería (produce shop). Every Monday night in capital there is a drum performance called La Bomba de Tiempo where 12 musicians simultaneously freestyle on various percussion instruments for 2 hours nonstop. It may sound chaotic, but while dancing our stressors away, my friends and I consistently find this to be the highlight of our week.
Tuesday: I ride to the hospital with Marce, a seasoned volunteer doula and a practicing Puericultura (lactation specialist), and together with two other new doulas (Victoria & Flor), we spend the shift going room to room talking with new or expecting mothers “mujer a mujer,” “woman to woman.” We ask about their birth experience, how they’re feeling or recovering, how breastfeeding is going, about their support system, and answer any questions that may arise about caring for their newborn or for themselves. Mostly, we serve as an advocate between the women and the health care team, or as an emotional support companion. After visiting each room, we spend the second half of our day in the NICU, supporting parents through the difficulties of caring for a sick or premature newborn. Most of these patients have very limited resources available to them, many have several children to care for at home, many are under the age of 20, without partners or a support system, or have preexisting conditions leading to unelected cesarean births. Last Tuesday every patient we saw underwent a c-section. Every! Patient! While some conditions lead to unavoidable cesarean births, several elements including time “constraints”, power dynamics, and misinformation lead to unnecessary, invasive intervention. In a few weeks, we will begin supporting women through the actual birthing process, and I look forward to learning techniques for advocating in the delivery room.
Wednesday: Usually studying Spanish, reading for fun, baking, cleaning, or accompanying Ana with one of her many doula responsibilities, including one-on-one meetings with expecting moms, new mother and baby group therapies, or doula workshops.
Thursday: Hospital shift with Analia, another seasoned doula. Usually, there are some of the same patients in the postpartum recovery on Thursday that I already met on Tuesday, and I love being able to interact with these patients in a way that feels like a friendship already formed. This shift starts early in the day, so I often spend the afternoons resting/recovering/calling people I love/going outside/participating in a group activity offered by my Spanish school/meeting up with friends/riding my bike. The past several Thursday evenings were spent at home helping Ana with her doula trainings, however that class ended last week and won’t start again until early September. Next week we will be hosting a placental workshop and I am currently helping Ana prepare for that two-day course.
Friday: Spanish class in the morning usually followed by an activity put on by the school. Last week they hosted an Asado, or a traditional Argentinian barbecue. I’ve been a vegetarian for about 7 years now but I did give in and try the freshly smoked chorizo, and yeah, I was loving it. In class, the professor and I read and translated several articles on obstetrical violence, a devastatingly horrifying reality just recently being brought to the news here. My professor shared a few Instagram accounts run by female obstetricians dedicated to sharing this information and I have found myself spending many evenings deep diving into these accounts, which I am describing as “homework,” but more than that is an educational enlightening, and something to digest with Ana and the other doulas. The accounts are @sol_despeinada and @mujeresquenofuerontapa if you’re interested.
Before I go, a few sentences for your reading pleasure,
July 4: Today I’m thinking about how my best friend gifted me fireworks in college for Christmas one year and they’re still in my closet back home, I could really go for a firework rn.
July 8: I don’t own nail polish remover so I just keep repainting my nails the same shade of “willow in the wind” green since I stepped off the plane, which got me thinking that maybe nobody I know here will ever see me without frog green fingers and maybe they’ll never be able to recognize me by my hands without it.
July 15: Happy birthday to me! (This was the day I participated in the Temezcal, or ancient South American ritual symbolizing “rebirth”).
Ya está! Thanks for tuning in. If you’re reading this, comment what snack you think I should take on my next evening walk.
Ciao, sweet angels.