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Friday, October 14, 2011

Mercy Hospital or Havana General?(or you can call me Papi)

If you really want to get a snapshot of life in pre-revolutionary Cuba, you really need to spend some time at Mercy Hospital.  Situated right on the water, adjacent to shrine of La Virgen de La Caridad del Cobre which is the patron saint of Cuba.  Here you can see all flourish of old Cuba in full display. 

As you walk into the hospital the first thing to hit you is the aroma of "cafecitos" emanating from the La Carreta restaurant  right in the lobby.  No fancy Starbuck's coffe here, you can have a cafecito, colada, cafe con leche, or a cafe Americano (which is regular american coffee).  Already you can smell the lechon which is being prepared for lunch. Garlic, onions, cumin fill the lobby with a distinctly Cuban (or is it Miami?) smell.

The second thing you notice is the sound. Working in healthcare, I have spent time in a few medical institutions.  Usually they are hushed places, like libraries, with hushed voices and the steady beep, beep, beep of the medical devices.  Usually, buttoned down staff walk around officiously, emotionally detached from their charges. They mutter inanities like "good morning Mr. Smith how are you feeling today?"

Not the case at Mercy. To my Anglo eye it seems like there is a lot of flirting going on.  It seems like there is a very fun party around each corner. I hear things like "Mi Cielo, please push eight for me," or "Mi amor, tu estas bella esta manana."  Lot's of chatter amongst the staff.  In one Doctor's office I can hear a young man singing boleros, beautifully. The patients to get into the banter as well. I saw two elderly Cuban gentlemen commenting on a particular nurse's "assets" in Spanish. The nurse instead of being offended, laughed. All around people are sharing coladas poured into thimble sized plastic cups as the day moves forward. 

Like my beloved Miami, Mercy Hospital just seems to have sex laden in the air.  Not like the "I'm bored let's have sex" feeling that goes on at most hospitals. But the" let's do something hot because we're in Miami" feeling you get on South Beach.  Hot pharmaceutical reps troll the halls in search of a doctor, and the unabashed way the men stare at them. The constant "checking out" that goes on among the hospital's denizens, both patients, visitors, and staff alike.  It's really a Miami thing or a Cuban thing or a Latino thng, I'm not sure, but a sudden round of flirting always seems to be just a moment away.   When they drew my blood today the phlebotomist said "Papi, just lay back and I'll do the work." I just love it when someone calls me Papi.