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Category Archives: Unexpected Blessings

Foreign Emergency Room – Spain Edition

img_1727No hablo español, and it turns out my son’s two years of middle school Spanish was not very helpful in a Catalan influenced ER. We soon realized we were on equal footing with the hospital staff since none of them spoke English. What amazes me though is how we all got by with only two real issues to speak of.

The receptionist in the ER wanted the typical information. I’ve had enough experience in emergency rooms to be able to guess the drill. I passed over ID, insurance card, passport, and pretty much anything else I could think of she might want to check.

She asked a long question out of which my son was able to translate one word, “pain.” “Left foot” meant nothing to her, so from my wheel-chair seat I brought my foot up over my head where she could see it through the glass partition. She nodded and wrote notes on the computer.

We frowned over her next question and she started google translate when memory clicked-in. How was I injured? I stood two fingers on the opposite palm and showed my little-hand person falling down, which, by the way, is actually the American Sign Language for “fall.” ASL can be quite helpful, as can vast practice with hand motions in general.

The Spanish hospital in east Cartegena was quite modern. We took a number and the six of us waited for the intake exam while watching a split screen of number calls and what might have been football (i.e. soccer) stats. Our crew tends to spread and took up about half the small waiting area. I think that’s why my number came up before other prior arrivals.

The intake nurse repeated the words that meant nothing to my brain. Pointing at my foot and signing “fall” let him fill in his computer page. His exam consisted of poking the bruise on my foot so I shrieked in pain.”Radiología,” he said. Common Latin roots are helpful in medical situations. Armed with a wristband for my name and number, our family of six was directed to a large waiting area at the front of the hospital where huge glass windows framed the pink, sand, and dusty green of morning sunshine on the mountainous terrain outside. Even at the hospital, Spain’s Alicante region took my breath away.

img_1661Other folks who’d waited longer were helpful when my number came up early with a room designation we could not locate. My eldest son pushed me where directed till an orderly took over and pointed him back. I think he was relieved to be relieved of his translation duties.

Neither this male orderly, who parked me blocking the hall for a while, nor the female orderly, who wove me through narrow passages to radiology and back, spoke any English. They were both chipper about it all, spoke to everyone in passing, and were even calling me by name.

The wider hall outside x-ray was half the size of my living room with eight of us waiting, two in their rolling hospital beds. Tight quarters by any measure, I was again left blocking what might have served as a thoroughfare. One person went in the far x-ray, and remarkably my foot took second place.

The attendant didn’t bother to talk after learning my lack of language skills. Unlike the US custom, she did not offer me a lead bib for protection, although there was one (was that dust?) hanging in the corner. She lowered the x-ray table and pulled out a pocket extension from the side of it whereby the x-ray could be taken with me still seated in the wheelchair. Terrific. I’d never seen the like, although I’ve been privy to three hospitals in two other countries for five x-rays in as many years. (I mentioned I have four sons, right?)

“Kristine-a” the orderly greeted as she wheeled me back to my family in the large picturesque room. Seats were fast filling. In my Dutch E.R. post I mentioned how entire families with grandma and grandpa, both parents and all the siblings were not uncommon in The Netherlands emergency areas. Spain was more like America in that only the one necessary driver appeared to accompany the injured. Our English-speaking, mixed-race family had become an island of word-game playing folk in a for-business space. This was the longest wait of day, and I loved how my husband turned this down-time into fun time for the children who were missing out on pool, beach, and ball play because their mom is a clutz.

Our youngest signing my cast poolside.

Our youngest signing my cast poolside.

The language barrier only became an issue in two areas. First, the casting room staff would not tell me what to do very well and were reluctant to cause me pain by situating my foot properly. This first cast shocked me. The expected cool, wet strips of casting net were placed from top of calf to tippy-toe on layers that quickly turned warm. Soon my lower leg relaxed in its heating-pad encasement. Ahh.

The second language issue was that I was given no after-care instructions, no way to get crutches, nada. We only had a photocopy of the break with the hospital info and “ibenprofeno” near the bottom. My husband wheeled me to the car wondering how we’d get around for the rest of week. Climbing into the car, I struggled to twist and lift the 20 pounds of lead on my calf.

“Maybe we can just get a cane,” I said.

“Maybe,” my husband frowned.

He got one alright. That’s when we discovered the awkward angle of my foot made it impossible to walk on that leg. Soon the plastic deck chair was back under my knee helping me hobble around for the rest of the week. My kids missed some playtime time with Mommy and sand castle building, but mostly I did what was normal. I lounged in the sun listening to the surf, watching my children play, and reading great ebooks.

Padded chair

Padded chair

There was an unexpected blessing as well. Unable to get a chair in the rental car, we still went out for the long-awaited paella I’d promised the boys ever since first raving about it on my writing trips to Majorca. We chose a restaurant next to a large beach/souvenir shop, and what do you think we found? A nicely padded wooden chair sat by the dumpster waiting to provide the assistance I needed. “Thank you, Jesus,” I said. My five guys saw the Punic Wall, Roman Theater, and other incredible sites of the port of Cartegena without me, but I truly believe our sons had great guy-time with dad they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

“Better me than one of the children,” I’ve said repeatedly since breaking my foot. It is so true.

Next up…Doctor Aghast in the Dutch E.R.

Related Posts:

E.R. Weight Limits (Life in Holland)

Holland Expat – Emergency Room Gate Keepers

Spain for Six – History in a Day

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Kristin King is an author and US expat living in The Netherlands. She got her first cast in Spain, her second in the Dutch ER four days later, and her third four days after that. Kristin sincerely hopes she is done with casts and broken bones for good.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Travel, Unexpected Blessings

 

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Pointy White Hats at School? (Unexpected Blessing – Christmas)

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.13.49 AMGrowing up in the rural south, I thought I knew what those guys in pointy white hats were all about. If you’re American and know about the KKK, you can imagine my surprise at walking into my sons’ international school and seeing young men and boys in white robes wearing tall, white, pointed hats.

The costume of the KKK, an image of hate and terror from my childhood

The costume of the KKK, an image of hate and terror from my childhood

I did not know the tradition of several Scandinavian countries to celebrate Santa Lucia on December 13th near the time of the Winter Solstice.

Around Christmas time….The celebration comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.

St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304AD. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name. (More here.)

Who could resist following the girls with their crowns and all the children in white to the auditorium? Not me. A beautiful older student stood in St. Lucy’s place leading the parade of children and youth. The fiery candles burning on her crown made me hope she hadn’t worn much hair spray. By candle light traditional carols drifted with the light smoke odor to my ears.

Our international school's celebration last year

Our international school’s celebration last year

The song from the procession repeated as the children filed out. Which carol was it? I wondered as I later read the first lines of three: The night walks with heavy steps, or Saint Lucy bright mirage, or the modern Outside it is dark and cold. Regardless, it was an all together lovely celebration followed by cookies and country displays in the cafeteria.

Living overseas, so much is entirely new to me yet parts of age old traditions to others. I find I am grateful for the unexpected blessing of those pointy white hats. A vision long associated with extremism, racism, and terror in my country has been, if not redeemed, at least altered. I have a new vision superimposed over the one of  hatred and violence. A vision of light and the love that Christ inspired in one young woman, a girl named Lucy.

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Kristin King is an author, US expat in Holland, and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa. Unexpected Blessings is a category of posts that includes Am I a Bad Mom? and Sunrise Over Port de Pollenca.

Feel free to comment and leave your own stories of the unexpected.

 

 

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Sunrise Over Port de Pollenca, Spain

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My blog used to have the subtitle “Night Writer,” so you might not expect me to catch the sunrise on my Majorcan Writers Retreat, but I did. That’s what I call an Unexpected Blessing when you’re headed to the restroom.

 
 

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When Is Writing Not the Thing – Majorca Writing Retreat

The view from my writing station (photo below).

The view from my writing station (photo below).

When my host invited me to Spain to do a writers retreat together, I did not even know where in Spain she lived. It was definitely an Unexpected Blessing. What I knew was that my family’s move to Holland, arrival the week of school orientation, and busy schedule for my four sons and the settling into a new country had slowed my own writing to the pace of an inch worm–my own special form of writer’s block. Edits for others and publishing work were squeezed in here and there and even blogging about life as an expat in the Netherlands fit occasionally, but solid time where I was able to focus inward, to release my own creative impulses through written words were few and far between.

I refuse to let this year slip by without finishing the third novel in my series. The writers retreat is the time away from all other responsibilities to breathe life across the embers of characters, plots, and imagination. Although I did not finish the novel on my work-a-tion, the climactic scene came to me sitting on the balcony overlooking a Mediterranean bay on my first trip to Spain. Beyond the distractions of beautiful locale, walled-city market, sumptuous victuals, the writing is the thing.

One of my writing stations in Mallorca.

One of my writing stations in Mallorca.

Famous writers often mention how reading and writing dovetail. The only reading I brought was my own books, 2 novels and one novella re-read cover to cover, immersing myself in the world I created with the characters I was missing. Perhaps in a lack-luster environment I could have accomplished more, but what I got done was very satisfying.

Thank you dear friend for opening your home to me, talking writing every day, luring me out in the sun as needed, and being the ever gracious host and friend. Here’s to you and 23K+ words in seven days. And thanks to my husband who took the time off to spend with the children and encourages me in every way.

Writing would never be the thing without the people who make it possible.

Grateful. Every. Single. Day.

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 Kristin King is an army wife, mother of 4 sons, author, publisher, president of a nonprofit, and American expat living in Holland. Her first series, Begotten Bloods (BB), is paranormal romance.

Unsinkable Vampire (BB .5)

Cain’s Coven (BB 1)

Death Taint (BB 2)

Works in Progress: Blood Siren (BB 3) and Christmas Consort (BB 3.5)

 

 

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Holland Expat – Surreal Moment

Hoping for a deal on blue willow bowls...

Hoping for a deal on blue willow bowls…

Dishes get broken. This is a fact of life. Our family eats lots of cereals and soups. We use a LOT of bowls. When another of the everyday dishes we registered for when we got married broke this week, my husband said, “Go ahead and get some new ones.”

Hmm. The last time I bought blue willow bowls they were $5 each. The same make is $16 online now. Yikes! Occasionally though, the odd item will turn up at antique or 2nd hand stores. So I thought a quick trip to my local Antique and Vintage shop was in order.

Strange day.

Sun on the windshield when I headed out turned to slanting wind. Rain would follow–maybe hail like the day before.

In the shop there were no bowls in my pattern or anything with blue. But there were 3 bowls the right size with a different bird on each. The shop keeper set them on the counter for me.

“How much are they?”

He inspected the bottom where it said dishwasher safe. “You take them,” he got out paper to wrap them up.

“How much are they?” slower this time. Language and translation is sometimes an issue.

“You like?”

...surreal deal on these bird bowls. "Tjilp tjilp" is what birds say in Dutch. Cheep cheep!

…surreal deal on these bird bowls. “Tjilp tjilp” is what birds say in Dutch. Cheep cheep!

“Well yeah, I prefer blue, but the birds are nice,” I said.

“You take them.”

Hmm. I could wait this out. The prices here are reasonable all around, so I waited for the paper wrapping and bagging to be done when I was sure he would tell me how much I owed. Hands down this beats the “would you like large fried with that” suggestive sell I learned back in the day.

Finally he passed me the bag. Said nothing.

I looked around. “Thank you??” I asked in Dutch.

“You’re welcome,” he turned to other matters.

Huh. I left the shop with my–not purchases–free gifts? I was still trying to work out what happened. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything there before, certainly no large purchases. Huh.

The wind knocked my hair about with a light spray of water. My mind cannot seem to get past this experience. “What happened?” it asks.

“I think the antique shop just gave me free bowls because they were ‘too new’ for them. Has to be some reason, right?”

Surreal Holland.

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Kristin King is an author, publisher, and expat living in Holland.

 

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Am I a Bad Mom?

(Wednesday…)

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 10.14.01 AMAnd is there any mother who hasn’t asked herself that same question at one time or another. Well, today was one of those days. Here’s how it happened.

Our Lil’Man has a tendency to complain. For a couple days it was his upper arm. In play I gave him a “good job” tap/punch on the arm, and he was all “Ow, don’t do that.” I apologized, listened about his arm for a bit, gave him a hug. I thought maybe he’d bruised it at the Play Gym he went to with a friend over the weekend.

Sometimes he’s not wanted to ride his bike to school even when the weather was nice. He’s had a tendency to fall behind, complain about his legs. These sorts of complaints are fairly common to him, and they are only voiced when he’s doing something he’d rather not too. For instance, fairly often during homework.

I’ve assumed a couple things. 1) He was wanting some extra attention. And let’s face it, he’s too cuddly not to get it while at the same time I try to downplay the complaint itself and focus on expressing my love and appreciation for him–anyway. 2) He’s not really hurting that bad. I mean, he’s fine at recess, right? (Yes.)

So yesterday when his eye was bothering him, and he made such a huge deal of it we put on an ice pack, gave him some children’s tylenol and lots of pats. I thought I listened, but those two assumptions were there. Even in the car after dark when cringed away from headlights and said “ouch!” I suspected maybe he had a mild migraine–my light sensitivity is tied to those.

Then TODAY he wakes up with the tell-tale pink eye that really looks like he has pink eye. I called the doc, got the morning appointment, dropped of the other kids at school and side-lined the to-do list.

The doctor says it might be pink eye, but with the light sensitivity he wants to rule out another infection (didn’t quite catch the name of that one). We get an immediate appointment with a opthamologist and drive across town (it’s not far) to that clinic.

Then comes the moment when BAD MOM feelings descend.

“Does he not complain of aches or pain in his joints?”

Uh-oh. Joint versus arm is pretty much the same in my kid’s language. The way they all consider their foot or ankle “leg.”

Needless to say Lil’Man does not have pink eye, and all those little complaints are also tied to a larger issue. We have a referral to another specialist, and I don’t know what is in store.

As a parent, though, I have to address these feelings that I’ve let my child down, that I haven’t done my job the way I’m supposed to. And I have to acknowledge that the Bad Mom thought is a lie. It’s a lie from the Father of Lies to tear down moms and dads, to make us feel bad about the relationships where we wield the strongest power, the life long influence.

I reject the lie. I reject it on behalf of all mothers who love their children, who do the best they know how, and can’t possibly be prepared for every eventuality.

I thank God for Unexpected Blessing of the pink eye. The one that sent us straight to the doctor, and to another doctor, and to as many doctors as my son needs to address his issue to the best of the ability of modern medicine.
The pink eye that reminds me that I am not in control, that control is a seductive illusion. That my child and I are both in the hands of the One who’s the whole world in His hands. The One who gave me these children and made me a mother, because He believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself.

Related posts: Unexpected Blessing of Flight Doing a 180, Getting a Migraine

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Kristin King is an author, publisher and President of Future Hope Africa. She lives in Holland as a US expat with her husband, their four sons, and their golden-lab.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2015 in Moments, Unexpected Blessings

 

Holland Day 4 – Migraine (Unexpected Blessing)

A migraine that sent us rushing home and foiled a break in. Unexpected Blessings