Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Leave 'em Laughing

It has been a long time since I laughed that much. Maybe with the nieces and nephews, maybe out with friends . . . but this was two weeks straight. Yes, we were doing serious work, teaching, doing surgery, taking care of patients. The hours were long but the days were hysterical. Maybe it was how we dealt with being so out of our element. I tend to think we were just enjoying the challenges, and enjoying the little things so much, that they made us laugh. 

We laughed at the Mongolian airline brochure that announced “safety is not an option” prominently in their message to passengers. We thought about that after safely landing and then jumping into an old Russian ambulance for the road trip to the hospital. In that van, on that pot-hole laden road we bounced around laughing that perhaps safety really is not an option in Mongolia.

There were countless silly moments revolving around this foreign diet. The first day we all sat down to a formal lunch with the hospital big wigs. I tried not to look at the food, just forced myself to take a small bite of what at quick glance, looked like thinly sliced roast beef.  After two relatively non-offensive bites Ray chimes in to ask our hosts “so, this is beef tongue, right?” It was then that you heard three forks drop simultaneously and all the girls shot wide-eyed glances at each other. Then I looked . . . obviously tongue. 
Beef Tongue
Gaby celebrated here birthday in Choibalsan and invited Cody to make it an extra special day - “cody, you can jump out of my birthday cake; I mean my mutton stew” Then there was the always giggle inducing “how are your mutton balls?” Our lunchtime mantra started on the second day when Allison asked “could this be mutton?” That didn’t end until she non-chalantly announced “I am taking a break from mutton” and we all jumped on that bandwagon.
"Mutton Balls"
Then there were Cheese Curds - No matter how many times we got burned, someone would always forget and grab what looked like a crunchy, yummy snack. The laughter would ensue as we would watch the forgetful one contort their face and politely work their way through swallowing the sour, gummy textured "treat."
Cheese Curds

We laughed at the condom dispenser in the lobby of our hotel – literally, the first thing you would see walking in – even before the reception desk. We laughed at the guys posing in Allison’s head bands. We laughed as we did Yoga in the OR. We laughed when Allison got on Cody’s shoulders to peer into the window of the lecture room. We laughed at everyone wanting to pose for pictures with Cody because he is just so darn tall. We laughed at cows grazing in the hospital courtyard. It all just made us shake our heads and chuckle.
What have we here?
Boys in Headbands

OR Yoga
Umm, some of us are lecturing in there!
That would be cattle. In the hospital yard. 
We laughed at each other trying to speak Mongolian. Harold’s language butchering was probably the best – though he was going for a much higher level of difficulty than the rest of us who were only trying to learn to count.  While trying to say “help, I am lost” Harold sent a full OR into tears, literally, people had to leave the room they were laughing and crying so hard. Appears what he had actually said was “Cut me open. I just delivered a baby” . . . our Mongolian friends could not stop laughing.
Learning Mongolian

There was Okoo, droning on, and on when I had given a very brief instruction to my Mongolian mentee. When I finally interrupted her to ask exactly what she was telling him to do, she said “I was just thinking. . . “ Mind you, I was giving SURGICAL instructions to the guy holding the sharp instruments and Okoo has no surgical training at all. Though I politely asked her to “stop thinking” and just translate, I thought it was hysterical and could not stop giggling  . . . .
Loco Okoo :)
We laughed so darn much – but I know, I know, you probably had to be there.