Invitation to a Medical Conference

Greetings once again. This post will be a little different than the usual. As many of you know, I am a retired registered nurse and a member of Rotary International. In order to continue to be involved in the medical field, I joined the International Rotary Fellowship of Healthcare Professionals.

I am grateful to live in an era where people throughout the world can stay connected through the internet, and that includes Rotarians in isolated communities having the ability to be members of E-clubs as well as Fellowships such as mine which connects medical professionals throughout the world who can then promote education or implement projects.

On Monday, September 13th, we will be conducting a webinar for World Patient Safety Day and would like to invite anyone in the healthcare profession to join. So if you are in the healthcare profession, please consider signing up. If you know someone who is in the profession, please pass this on to them. We would love to have you join us. You don’t have to be a Rotarian to attend.

I will paste the contents of my email and link to register here:


Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.  
We will focus on how to harness the vast experience of the voluntary sector and advocate locally appropriate strategies to improve patient safety, through a network of Ambassadors.  

To raise awareness about the burden of unsafe health care. To bring together the voluntary sector with a stake in health improvement programmes, to adopt a charter for patient safety and integrate safety strategies into their programmes.

I hope to see you there.

And I promise that more posts about life in Mexico are coming soon.

Take care,

¡¡¡¡¡ Nos vemos !!!!!

Cross-Border Marriages – Do your homework, Protect your spouse

See the source image

Ahhhh !!!! Love is in the air. You’ve found THE ONE and proposed (or you received a proposal) and said YES!!!!! Time to plan the wedding. Just as there was more than meets the eye with the Death Café, there is more than meets the eye when marrying someone who is a citizen of another country.

For the marriage itself, the fiancé needs to apply for a K-1 fiancé visa, then you must get married within 90 days of entering the United States. . You can go to a justice and have a quick ceremony to be legally married, and then have a grand wedding and reception at you leisure. Of course, the K-1 visa is not the only way to go, so as you are considering how to go about tying the knot, check with the State Department and consult a good immigration lawyer.

So – just as giving birth is not the whole experience of parenthood, saying “I do” is not the whole experience of marriage. “Life is what happens when you’re making plans” and as unpleasant as it might be, you both still need to think about possible unpleasant or even tragic events in your life and Be Prepared. Too many times I have witnessed the devastation left behind when a family member was not prepared.

In the past few years we have seen that elections have consequences. With the stroke of a pen, laws can be changed. With new administrations, commissioners and secretaries of departments can be appointed with very different ideas about who should be let into the country or who should be allowed to stay

Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not automatically make you a citizen. Consult an immigration lawyer to learn how to get your green card, how to become a citizen, etc. Learn your options and decide what is best for you. If the U.S. citizen spouse wishes to live in the country of the husband/wife, or retire to that country, seek legal advice which will protect the foreign spouse if he/she wishes to visit the United States in the future.

That final thought is not just pulled out of the blue. It is an actual situation, currently a problem for certain widows of U.S. citizens. Under the previous administration, the rules for survivors receiving social security benefits of their deceased spouses were changed. Now it is required that in order to receive the benefits, the survivor must reside in the United States for one calendar month every 6 months. However, also under the previous administration, a visa WILL NOT be issued for that purpose. So the SSA says, “We have your money. Come and get it.” While the consulates say, “But we will make sure you never receive a penny.” Hopefully, the new acting commissioner or whoever becomes the commissioner, will change that. Maybe the State Department will also have a change of heart under this new administration. So the moral of this situation is to plan ahead – get sound legal advice and do what you need to do to guarantee as much as possible that your spouse will retain the ability to travel freely between countries.

Another concern is about pensions. I know a lot of jobs in the past did not have pensions and if I understand correctly, fewer and fewer jobs these days offer them. However, you and your spouse should be equally educated and aware of your financial status as a married couple and have serious discussions regarding this. Will there be a pension after retirement? Will there be a monthly check or a one-time payout? Has the spouse with the pension borrowed against it, so that you will owe money after their death? Is there no savings or pension, so the spouse will be left with nothing?

While this is a subject that is unpleasant for many people to think about, especially if you are considering marriage or just beginning your married life, it is actually a labor of love to provide for your family’s wellbeing. One of our local justices said to me the Spanish equivalent of, “You think an awful lot about death.” My answer was that I am a nurse and too many times I have seen the devastation that resulted from not planning ahead.

For me, I am retired in a country different from that of my family, in a Spanish-speaking country while my family does not speak Spanish, nor do they know the legal system. So I have prepared as much as I can so they do not have to figure it all out while also dealing with the stress of my illness or demise, and I have discussed with them in detail my plans, my legal documents and provided the names of two bilingual friends that will help them when the time comes.

The examples I’ve given are taken from actual situations. I have advocated for some people as much as I can, but it would have made their lives so much easier if the spouses had planned ahead, gotten good legal advice and made sure their spouses would be secure for the remainder of their lives. As with many things in life, it is much easier to take precautions than to clean up the resulting mess.

I don’t want to leave you with such gloomy thoughts, so I will say:

Enjoy what life has to offer. Love, even if it is across borders. Live life to the fullest. Travel to other countries (once the pandemic finally ends, that is). Experience other cultures, food, lifestyles. Go forth unafraid, yet remember that not everyone dies in their sleep, at home, at the age of 100, surrounded by family. While you’re planning and experiencing all the wonderful things life has to offer, also prepare for the unexpected.

Until next time – Love to All and stay safe and healthy……

Death Café update

In 2019, I wrote a post about the Death Café – important information for U.S. citizens living abroad, or for that matter, any foreigner living in another country. I write about my experiences in Mexico, because that is what I know, but the same questions can be applied to any country with answers being according to the laws of your particular country.

Warning – this is a long and detailed description of things to be considered if you plan to spend your life in another country, especially if the official language of that country is not your native language. As long and as dry as this post might be, it is a very important subject and will save your loved ones a lot of grief if you are prepared ahead of time and have these important discussions with them.

For those who didn’t read the previous post, and for those who did but don’t remember the details, I will recap the information here. Every baby born in Mexico has a first name, possibly a second name, and two last names called Apellidos. The first last name is the name of the baby’s father. The second last name is the last name of the baby’s mother. For example, if the father’s name is José Gómez González and the mother’s name is Rosa López Ceja and they have a baby girl they name Maria Guadalupe, her name will be Maria Guadalupe Gómez López. She can be called Maria Gómez for short, but the full name is the one she will carry for her entire life. The same rule applies to boys. When a girl marries, her name doesn’t change.

When a person dies in Mexico, the name on the death certificate is the same as the name on the birth certificate, and therein lies the problem for foreigners who have changed their name. In the United States, it is common for married women to take their husband’s last name, which is what I did. Therefore, my legal name is not the same as the name on my birth certificate.

And so, in order to reduce complications for my family when I eventually pass away, I needed to make sure that my death certificate here in Mexico would be acceptable under my legal name in the United States. The first task was to get a copy of my birth certificate, since my original was so old it was faded and much of it was unreadable. However, it was not sufficient to have a new birth certificate from the Department of Health of my state – an Apostille had to be attached. An Apostille is: ” a specialized certificate, issued by the Secretary of State. The Apostille is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic so it will be accepted in one of the other countries who are members of the Hague Apostille Convention.” That involved sending the original new birth certificate to the Secretary of State and for a fee they attached the Apostille to it, certifying that it is legitimate.

After receiving the documents, I then took the birth certificate with apostille, my marriage certificate and divorce decree to a certified translator in order to have certified translated documents. Once all of that was accomplished, I was ready to take my original documents plus my translated documents to a lawyer or a justice. I chose a justice and had him create a document that stated the person listed on my birth certificate, and my current legal name are one and the same person.

I then asked the justice about a Mexican healthcare proxy. There doesn’t seem to be a standardized form, as there is in the United States, so it would appear that I will have to create my own, and that will be another post at some point in the future. Meanwhile, talking about end-of-life wishes is not something that is normally done here, as I realized when the justice said to me, “You think a lot about death.” My answer was that, as a nurse, I have seen too many times the distress and problems caused by people or families faced with a sudden death or critical condition of a loved one when no conversations have been had ahead of time.

So – I have my plot in the local cemetery, my “tomb” has been constructed, my paperwork is in order for the death certificate, and it was time to create a contract with a local funeral parlor. Since I have no idea when, where or under what circumstances my time will come, it will be left to my family to decide on embalming or cremation, but all other services are included in the contract.

With all of that done, I have the originals in a secure locked box and copies of all documents in an easily accessible place in my house, with two close friends aware of where to find them. Included are names and phone numbers of people to contact when the time comes, and since I am in Mexico, I have a bilingual friend who is responsible for notifying my family.

I am very grateful for having attended the Death Café and learning that simply purchasing a plot in a local cemetery is far short of all that is necessary when you pass away in a foreign country. And since I also live in a non-English-speaking foreign country, I have done all that I can do make the burden on my family as light as possible.

A final point that I would like to make is that, even if you reside in your home country, it is always a good idea to discuss with your family, loved ones, or even a close friend what your wishes would be in the event of an accident or illness and where to find important papers and documents that you or your family will need. But, as I said, more detailed information will be in a future post, and so, until next time, stay safe everyone. Nos vemos.

Video of my Presentation

For those of you who may have wanted to see my presentation, but were unable due to your circumstances, I am pasting the link here:

Please keep in mind that although Democrats Abroad is the host, this is not a political presentation, but rather I tell my story of how volunteering opened the world for me and eventually led me to my life here in Mexico. It runs for about 54 minutes.

If you have any comments, questions, or care to share your own experiences, please feel free to leave a comment. So – enjoy the video and enjoy the rest of your day.

Save the Date for my Livestream

Hello to all my readers and I hope you are all safe and well.

I am thrilled to share the news that I will be doing my first livestream presentation. It will be on the WebEx platform and I will be talking about my experiences as a volunteer, how these experiences eventually led me to live in Mexico and what life in rural Mexico is like. The host will be Democrats Abroad Mexico, but this is not a political event. I just will be sharing the experiences and benefits of volunteering and living abroad, as well as talk about Rotary International and Project Amigo, just as I do with this blog. For those who will be unable to attend, it will be recorded. No RSVP is needed.

It will be held on Wednesday, May 19th at 7pm Mexico City time.

The link is:

and the password is: dems

You will be able to comment or ask questions. So, I look forward to “meeting” you all in real time and having a fun and lively conversation. Take care and have a great week !

It’s election season!!! – so that means Let’s Dance!!!

I’m going to keep this post short, as I am also preparing for a live presentation/conference about life here in rural Mexico and how I came to live here. I will also shortly be preparing a program in Spanish and one in English regarding end-of-life care vis-à-vis healthcare proxies. I will keep you all informed of those broadcasts, which will not be here on my blog, but will provide links so that those interested can join.

Anyway, election season is here, at least here in the state of Colima. It is not long and drawn-out as in some other countries where candidates might begin electioneering for the next round of votes shortly after entering office. Our elections will be in June. So we are starting to see the electioneering only two months ahead of the voting.

Some of the offices for which people will be voting are the governor of Colima and the president of Comala (a municipality of Colima). Signs are hung from walls of buildings and balconies. People may be ignoring them or reading them with interest, but as far as I can tell, there is no rancor such as tearing them down or fights among neighbors. Or maybe I am just unaware since my Spanish still isn’t 100% perfect – which also helped out where gossip was concerned. When I first moved here, I did not understand a lot of the conversations I was hearing, so I had a good excuse not to have to take sides in gossip. As my Spanish improved, I could feign ignorance and poor understanding of the language even when I could understand the topic of conversation…………….But it does seem that everyone is ignoring them.

On radio and television, they will air commercials for the political parties, one after the other (there are 4 major parties here – Morena, PAN, PRI and PRD). As far as I can tell, there is no station that airs only one party to the exclusion of the others.

And now we come to the dance music. I don’t know about the large cities throughout Mexico, but we are a rural/agricultural state here and maybe different, but cars with loudspeakers strapped to their roofs blare music and songs extolling the virtues of their preferred candidate and party. The music just makes you want to dance, and I imagine that even if it is not for your preferred candidate, just listening to it will make you dance – or want to dance and brighten your day.

So for your enjoyment, I bring you a little bit of political music, Colimense style:

Making Pizza in Colima

Have you ever inhaled a pleasing aroma and it brought back wonderful memories of your childhood or a pleasant event? In addition, have you ever had a craving for a favorite food? When you are in a foreign land that has a very different cuisine, that is bound to happen. Initially for me, I greatly missed lemons and lemon juice, since everything here is flavored with limes. I also missed bagels, lox and cream cheese, so when I last visited my son, he made sure to take me to a deli where I could have them.

Eventually, you get used to the new flavors of your new country of residence, but at times you still wish for “a taste of home.” Since I am from New York, I can understand why we have so many ethnic neighborhoods with their tasty and varied cuisines, such as Indian, Chinese, Italian, Dominican, Afghan and many, many more.

Over time, you get used to the new foods and flavors – though for me it is still difficult to physically tolerate picante/enchiloso food, seasoned with chilis. In any case, I recently had a craving for pizza, and before I go any further I have to describe pizza in Mexico.

Here in Colima, I have seen two pizza establishments, Little Caesar’s and Benedetti’s. I don’t know about the rest of Mexico, but here everyone likes those pizzas with either pepperoni or ham and pineapple. In addition, once they have their slices, they cover them with ketchup and chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri is composed of garlic, peppers, cilantro, parsley, olive oil and salt. I’ll just say it’s okay and leave it at that.

Lourdes’ daughter Nadia made some pizza from scratch, but didn’t like how the crust tasted, so I told her I would ask my son for a recipe, which I did, and then one day we had “pizza day” and made our pizza, which came out pretty good.

Sometimes products available in your home country are not available in your current place of residence, and this is what I was faced with here. My son said if you are going to use bottled sauce, you should use marinara sauce. Well, there is no marinara sauce in Colima, so I settled on Prego brand Tradicional and Prego brand Pizza Sauce. Second problem was onion powder. Besides an abundance of fresh garlic and onions, and dried garlic in every configuration you can think of, such as garlic powder, garlic salt and dried chunks of garlic, there is a definite lack of the equivalent when it comes to onions. As a seasoning, garlic is much more popular here. So I searched through several stores and finally came across onion powder in a very large container. So now I have enough onion powder to probably last me the rest of my life.

So Nadia, her husband Gustavo and I set to work making the sauce, mincing garlic cloves and onion, adding spices to taste and letting it simmer. While it was simmering, we started on the pasta. My son told me he buys the pizza dough already made into balls of dough at the supermarket. Not available here. So he directed me to a web site named “sugarspunrun” and I copied the recipe that was called “The Best Pizza Dough Recipe” and had 5 stars and good reviews. My son also told me it is better if you add a little honey to it. We mixed the dough, put it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and set in on a stool in the sun to rise – it’s currently in the 80 degree range Fahrenheit here during the day (26.7 Celsius) so it only took a half hour to double in size.

We then spread out the dough with our fingers, ladled out the sauce, sprinkled imitation mozzarella cheese (no real mozzarella available at this time) and then topped it all off with pepperoni and ham slices. Popped it in the oven, and the flavor was good, but it needed a thinner crust and not so much sauce. So we made a second pizza and it came out much, much better. Everyone LOVED it and no one even put ketchup or chimichurri on it. YAAAYYYY!!!!!

The other day, I bought a bunch of plum tomatoes and decided to make the sauce from scratch. Sautéed minced garlic and onions, added diced tomatoes and put the whole thing over a low flame for I-don’t-remember-how-long. Seasoned to my taste and then blended it with an immersion blender. Since I want to eat healthy, I now use it as a sauce for my steamed vegetables.

And that is my latest adventure in adapting local produce to my taste. As for the lemons mentioned at the beginning, they were occasionally obtainable in Colima City, and now we see them more frequently. So I buy maybe 10 or 20 of them when available and squeeze and freeze the juice so I don’t run out.

So, wherever you are, I hope you will try and come to love the local cuisine, but when you get nostalgic for something from home, there are ways to prepare a familiar dish that is exactly or close to the original (though I still haven’t managed to find anything close to Stouffer’s Frozen Macaroni and Cheese, which is my comfort food when I am recovering from a migraine headache. If anyone can send me a recipe for that, I will be ETERNALLY grateful….).

So, see you next time and ¡Buen Provecho! and Bon Appétit!

Pandemic Life in Mexico – Year #2

Hello once again from my home in Mexico. It has been many months since my last post and honestly, I had been at a loss as to if I should write and what I should write about. There has been so much suffering around the world with the pandemic – sickness, death, loss of jobs, horrific weather, schools and businesses closing; I didn’t feel it was right to post cheery travel blogs nor did I want to write about the misery.

In addition, there were the elections in the United States. It seemed to bring out the worst in many people, especially on social media where people who didn’t even know each other felt free to hurl venom at those with whom they didn’t agree, which led me to finally take a break from social media, which I mostly continue to do today with Facebook and the comments sections of online articles. However, I did do my part by phone banking to assist Americans living abroad to vote, assessing their status and giving them information that they would need to register to vote, obtain their ballot and submit their ballot. So even in the midst of a pandemic and restrictions, I was able to be a part of a wonderful group of people that helped Americans abroad exercise their right to vote.

As some of you may or may not know, I am also a member of Rotary International – a worldwide volunteer service organization. My club has members from many countries around the world and we meet online, in the same manner in which I attended University when I went back to finally earn my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (graduating at the age of 61 I might add). My club posts our meeting on Monday mornings and we attend at our convenience before the following Sunday night. We pay online and post comments at the end of the meeting. Back in New York, I was a member of what we call a “terra club” where we would meet in person at a set time, but here there are no terra clubs nearby, so I joined what we call “an E club.” It took some getting used to, and at first I missed the in-person camaraderie, but now I have adjusted and am perfectly happy to be able to attend at a time that is convenient for me.

Every year, Rotary has an international convention in a different country every year. Last year’s venue was in Hawaii and this year’s was to be Taipei, but due to the pandemic, both were cancelled, with the convention being held virtually. I hope that they will continue this practice, or at least have a virtual component to it when we can travel again. It would be nice to be able to attend from home for those who are unable or don’t wish to travel every year.

Because I am a retired nurse, I also joined one of our Fellowships for healthcare professionals. It is wonderful to be able to converse with other healthcare professionals around the world, plan projects, learn what is happening in other parts of the globe and have educational conferences. We have had many lectures about Covid-19 since this started and are also involved in other aspects of medicine, such as telehealth, maternal/child care, pediatric heart procedures, etc. Even though I am retired, it is a great way to still be involved in the medical profession and do good in the world.

Meanwhile, here in Mexico, vaccines are being distributed. I had read in the news about various different vaccines being sent to Mexico, including the Russian Sputnik V. After reading about the various brands, I decided that I would take whatever is offered. From what I have read and heard, I believe the brand delivered must vary from state to state. Here in Colima, the healthcare workers are receiving the Pfizer vaccine and the rest of us are receiving AstraZeneca. We had a clinic in the village in which those of us 60 years old and older received our first dose, with the second dose arriving in somewhere between 8-15 weeks. From what I’ve read, the second dose is more effective if given after 12 weeks, so I hope that second shipment arrives after the 12-week mark.

Mexico is using a stoplight system to let people know how severe our pandemic restrictions are at the moment. Currently there are two states that are green, with many others (including Colima) being yellow. Within our village, we have to wear masks outdoors, no celebrations such as for Christmas, Easter, quinceañeras, funerals, etc. However, except for those celebrations, my village is usually pretty quiet anyway. There is plenty of open space here; I think it is quite different for people who live in apartments in major cities, making their lives much more difficult and stressful.

The nearest city is Colima (same as the state, kind of like New York, New York), about 20 km away, 40 minutes by car and one hour or more by bus. Some of the stores allow me in after a temperature check, hand gel, stand on a mat with disinfectant and wear a mask. Some of the stores there will only allow anyone 60+years old, those under 12 years old or pregnant women to enter between the hours of 7am-10am with the same other restrictions (temperature check, etc.). When I went to Toyota the other day for routine maintenance, I was only allowed to enter the dealership alone – no companions allowed.

Regarding school, classes are online only, at least in my area. Fortunately for the grandsons of my friend Lourdes, the teacher has many activities to keep the boys (8 and 10 years old) interested besides the usual studying, reading and writing – such as art projects.

Also regarding education, I have kept in touch with the two students I sponsor at Project Amigo, our local literacy project. We talk with each other by email, and the project has also helped them with care packages of food and cash. They are a little stressed at not being in school and seeing their friends, etc., but are adjusting. Hopefully by the end of the year, or sooner, they will be able to go back to their physical school. I am happy that I live here, just a few streets over from the main office of the project, so that I can stop by, speak with the administrators and find out ways that I can be of help.

On another note, recently we were in the path of the International Space Station and were able to watch it fly overhead – an amazing sight that lasted for 5 minutes. This coming Sunday, it will pass overhead again and Lourdes, her family and I will view it from her backyard. In the meantime, I have shared online videos with them – interviews with astronauts, view of space and the space station, etc. It’s easy to find these videos on YouTube narrated or dubbed in Spanish. Hopefully one day in the not-too-distant future we will visit a planetarium. I see online there is one in Guadalajara, which is only 3 hours away. It will certainly be a nice post-pandemic trip.

So – that is about it for now. Life goes on, we adjust and continue to maintain precautions and with the arrival and distribution of the vaccines, hopefully this pandemic won’t last too much longer and life will continue with fewer restrictions. Meanwhile, I present you with a video about my state of Colima, Mexico and a photo from my kitchen of flowers I received from Lourdes and her family for Valentines’ Day, or as we call it Día de Amistad y Amor (Day of Friendship and Love)

Take care everyone – I hope you stay safe and healthy and have access to all the services that you need.

Halloween and Day of the Dead in Mexico in the year 2020

Since what is posted on the internet lasts forever, those of you reading this in the future might not remember the year 2020. For those of us living in the present, this year will forever be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 (“19” because it began in the year 2019) pandemic. So many people infected and died, untold numbers with effects that will last for a long time, businesses shuttered, etc. And day by day scientists and doctors are continuing to learn more about this virus than we originally knew.

Here in Mexico our normal holiday activities have been disrupted – Easter, Independence Day (September 15-16 —– NOT Cinco de Mayo), and so it will be with Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and almost certainly Christmas.

Normally for this time of year, graves in the cemeteries are cleaned, altars to the dead are constructed and decorated, but now the cemeteries are closed to this holiday and funerals are very restricted. To see how we normally celebrate, here are links to previous posts, one of our celebration in Colima, and one in Guadalajara/Tlaquepaque:

So this year it will be a very quiet period of time with a few decorative reminders of the season. I have planted marigolds, which provide a pathway for the spirits to join the living.

I’ve also put out a few decorations .

Meanwhile, in the creepy spirit of Halloween, I will devote the majority of this post to spiders, and there are a greater variety of them than I have ever seen.

First, something cute – this tiny, furry white little creature that I found on a leaf stem of my lemon tree. I’ve never seen one before or since, so I really don’t know anything about it.

Here I classify spiders as “indoor spiders” and “outdoor spiders.” The outdoor ones begin spinning their webs at the end of the rainy season, which is where we are right now. You can’t always see the webs, and they are everywhere, so when I leave my house to go into my garden, I look like a crazy woman, waving a stick in front of me to catch any unseen webs. A few times, I have gotten a face full of web after inadvertently walking into it.

Most of the webs are spun by these large scary ones. I’ve seen them strung between trees with no idea how these creatures construct them with such a great distance between the points of contact. As long as they are high enough for me to pass underneath without contact, I am fine with that.

One spider here is very unusual – it seems to have a little triangular house on its back. Perhaps that is where the silk is created, I don’t know. In any case, I have taken videos of it moving incredibly fast, plus spinning the web as well as eating an unfortunate bug.

Finally, there is what I call the “house spider,” which does not spin a web, but waits on the walls inside the house. Less scary in appearance and quite timid. When I blow on one, it scurries rapidly away.

It really is amazing to witness the checks and balances of nature. All the creatures that one would normally not notice I can observe since I am living in their world on my property. My cats keeping the property free of rodents and snakes, spiders controlling insects and the sapo (toad) which eats insects, but will soon disappear when the dry season is in full swing, only to reappear with the next rainy season.

The sapo. At least the cats know enough to stay away from them. They secrete poison in their skin.

In the meantime, we humans of Colima will celebrate the season in a more subdued manner, while keeping the spirit of the season alive, many with altars inside their homes, with decorations and maybe just a skull-shaped glass will do.

My famous apple pies.
Enjoying a milkshake when the baking is finished.

Hoping you all stay safe and healthy. Until next time…………………..

Technology – Keeping in Touch when Far Away

June 20, 1969 View of the moon in the sky over the Wright Brothers’ memorial on the day astronauts first walked on the moon

Fifty one years ago today, the crew of the Apollo 11 first stepped on the moon, just 65 years and 7 months from December 17, 1903 when the Wright brothers made the first ever powered flight from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA.

My grandparents were born before that first powered flight and lived to see men walk on the moon. Just thinking about that three pounds of wet cells that are our brains can contemplate, conceive and create out of raw materials heavier-than-air creations that can perform actual flight and in the span of less than a lifetime escape our planet and land on the moon.

Of course, in 1903, those who created these machines and the technology were standing on the shoulders of those who came before them in millenia past. Going WAY back, as in harnessing fire, to extracting and using metal, mythologies of men flying like birds as in the tale of Icarus, the invention of radio, radar, the discovery of oxygen and learning to contain it so humans could breathe under water or up in the atmosphere. And let’s not forget mathematics and the women of NASA – especially the black women who were the brains behind sending men to the moon and bringing them back safely.

So many discoveries that probably began as curiosities, things that no one could even imagine would lead to or become part of our life today. And this leads me to think about many of the ways technology has changed the way we live just in my lifetime.

I was born 4 years after the end of World War II. In primary school, we had a little newspaper made just for us youngsters called The Weekly Reader. I don’t remember much of what was in it, but I do remember news of a new thing called a computer that took up an entire room and could do calculations. Many telephones were party lines and I remember picking up the phone, telling the operator the number of my grandmother so we could be connected.

Typewriters were not electric yet and they had ribbons. Mimeograph machines were used in schools to make copies and for us folks at home there was carbon paper. As school progressed, the teachers at times requested that we type our papers instead of turning in handwritten homework.

In 1964, the World’s Fair was held in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, New York. There were so many wonders to behold, and one of them was in the Bell Telephone exhibit – a phone of the future where you could actually see with whom you were talking. I remember the anxiety some of us had as to whether or not this was a good thing. We imagined receiving a call when we were not looking our best – horrors !!!

Western Electric Products - Picturephone

As time marched on, we saw progression in technology. In the original Star Trek television series, the crew of the Enterprise had communicators that could flip open and you could communicate with each other on the ground or even with your crew up in space. What fantastic science fiction that was !!! Now we have cell phones. What was once science fiction is now such a part of everyday life that we hardly think about it. And for people who say, “Why do we go up THERE when we have problems DOWN HERE,” well, without going “up there” you would not have the worldwide communications networks that we have now, nor would we have our GPS capabilities, thanks to the Global Positioning Satellites that are “up there.” And we have life-saving telemedicine, where we can consult with physicians thousands of miles away from a disaster or remote area.

In the meantime, other forms of communication have evolved greatly over time. In the 1960’s, I had a pen pal in Japan. Extra postage on the letter to make it go by airmail. Air mail envelopes were of thinner paper and so was the writing paper so it would weigh less. It took 4 days to go from Long Island to Kyoto and vice versa. And a PS here – if any of my readers is in Japan, or has connections with people there, I had an unsuccessful search for my former pen pal. Perhaps there is someone out there who can help.

I continued to be an avid letter-writer but the events of September 18, 2001 forced me into the age of the internet as far as personal communications were concerned. That was the start of the anthrax scare – people receiving envelopes in the mail with a white powder that turned out to be anthrax, with people becoming ill. A friend with whom I was corresponding in Vienna said they were concerned and we should communicate with email – and so, I finally came into the modern world and got myself an email address.

In 1998, when my son was 10 years old, I was part of a nursing delegation that visited two hospitals in Nepal to discuss our respective countries’ methods of treating neurosurgical and neurological conditions. During that time, I received a message from the cyber café near the hotel to call home. I panicked, thinking something had happened to my son. I placed a phone call and discovered he only wanted to hear my voice. That 20-minute call cost $100 USD, payable immediately to the hotel clerk.

Now, we can instantly talk with and even see one another by directly calling someone with our cell phones, Face Time, and send emails instantly instead of waiting days or weeks for mail to go each way. And in some cases, snail mail has not improved over time. More than 50 years ago, my letter took 4 days to go from New York to Kyoto. Currently, a paper letter going from my home in Colima to the United States takes anywhere from one month to three months, with an average of 6 weeks – IF it eventually gets delivered. God Bless DHL and FedEx, which costs a fortune, but the mail or package does reach its destination in a timely manner.

Since I am a retired nurse, I will also briefly touch on how technology has changed the medical field. When I entered nursing school in 1967, there was no such thing as CT scans, etc. To detect something such as a brain tumor, there was a test called a pneumoencephalogram (PEG for short). You’d sit in a chair, the doctor would do a spinal tap and extract a bit of spinal fluid. Then they would inject an air bubble, which would rise up to your ventricles in your brain and they would take x-rays. If your brain was atrophied, you wouldn’t feel a thing. If your brain was intact, it felt as if your head exploded, the most agonizing pain I had ever experienced, much worse than childbirth and kidney stones combined.

Gratefully with CT scans, PET scans, MRI’s and other forms of imaging, that barbaric test is no longer in use. You can see inside the body without having to cut it open to find or treat a problem.

Likewise, telemedicine is a blessing. In the past, x-rays were taken, the film was then developed and a radiologist would interpret it. The phrase “wet reading” comes from reading the film before it is completely dry. Now, x-rays can be transmitted digitally halfway around the world for consultations, when the patient is in a remote area, such as after a disaster, or a radiologist is not available at the time he is needed.

The final change that I will touch on is managing diabetes. In 1967, we did not test blood sugar. We would take a fresh specimen of urine, put a few drops in a test tube, add a few drops of Benedict’s Solution then hold it over an open flame. When the liquid changed color, we would compare it to a chart to see how much sugar was there and then calculate how much insulin to give. Over time, there were tablets to add (Clinitest and Acetest) instead of Benedict’s Solution, and more changes over time until we have the hand-held instant glucometer of today.

I could write a whole book solely on the changes that have occurred during my lifetime, but I am only writing a blog post for now. And so, I will leave each of you, whatever your age, to contemplate the wonders of the human brain and how it is possible to manipulate our world to bring us closer together and improve our lives and widen our horizons when it is used for the benefit of all persons everywhere. Teamwork and sharing knowledge and ideas will help make this a better world.

The Global Educator: Case Study 2.3: Ed Gragert - Global Connections
And I hope to live to 100. I can’t wait to see all the changes made in the next 30 years after all I have witnessed in the previous 70.