Quince anos tenia Martina - Another guest blog entry!
By team member and guest blogger Carla Campbell, M.D., M.S.:
"Quince anos tenia Martina..."
So the Mexican ballad goes, “Martina was 15 years old." Well, today we celebrated Martina’s birthday. And while our Martina has a few more years over 15, she is extremely young at heart and always upbeat and happy.
Martina is the Dominican woman who has served as the cook extraordinaire for CHOP Global Health volunteers since the first team came to Consuelo, D.R., in June 2005. I had the good fortune to be part of that team and met Martina at that time. Her meals were incredible, and although the Global Health Caribbean Program has evolved in sophistication over time, with much better record-keeping and accounting of the work that is being done, the awesome meals cooked by Martina have continued to inspire GH volunteers.
Her cooking provides that special reward at the end of a long, hot day of seeing patients and long hours of charting after the Batey visits with meticulous paperwork. Every chart needs to be completed with the correct diagnoses and treatment protocols. Then each child needs to have his/her weight and height assessed against World Health Organization standards to classify those that suffer from either acute or chronic malnutrition, or both. This is hot and tedious work at the end of a long day, but the treat is to smell more and more great aromas emanating from Martina’s stove as the afternoon wears on.
Martina was born in a neighboring village near Consuelo, and is the third of a family of ten children. Her father has died, but her mother still lives in Consuelo. Interestingly, it was not her mother who taught Martina her superb cooking skills, but her mother-in-law. She is married to a Baptist preacher and has three sons. Anthony is 13 and in his first year of high school. She also has an 18-year-old son at home, and a third (24 years old) who lives in Alabama. I’m guessing the visits with him are few and far between.
Martina is what in Spanish would be described as “muy carinosa," very loving. She is like a housemother to all of the volunteers. She cooks us food, washes our clothes, sweeps the floors and performs many menial, but necessary tasks, with a ready smile and no complaints.The Global Health program got very lucky when they found Martina to work with them.
Martina is a woman of deep faith. She always frames each activity as a chance to praise God. We asked her to join us for dinner on her birthday. A lentil stew with sausage and bacon, rice, salad and sweet ripe plantains was on the menu.
She started the meal with a prayer. Then her good friend, Claris, the pharmacist at the Clinica de Divina Providencia, gave a lovely rendition of “Amazing Grace” in Spanish. After dinner, we presented Martina with a delicious cake decorated in pink and blue. The evening was topped off by the presentation of a beautiful charm bracelet from Philly and a locally-made woven pocketbook.
The Dominican interpreters demanded that Martina give a speech. She was very happy to spend her birthday celebrating with her American friends. I think that Martina enjoyed her celebration. I hope that the team conveyed to her the deep appreciation we all feel for Martina’s effort in making us feel at home in a hot, often confusing, country. Quince anos tenia Martina. She is a true ambassador of love.