Far Away From Home

DSCF5595It started out like any other morning. I got out of bed, pulled on my dressing gown and settled in for morning meditation. Then, as always, I had a breakfast of fruit, yoghurt and a bit of cereal.

The day before when I was sight-seeing, I’d been deeply touched by a trip to a mission church on an Indian reserve here in the Arizona desert. The church rises up, white and ornately carved, a surprising contrast to the beige surroundings of the desert. One of the features that impressed me was that the original parishioners went in search of Jesuit Father Kino who was respectful of their religion and synthesized the two spiritual traditions.

The pamphlets about Mission San Xavier were beside me that morning. I picked them up to read and found that the site had been in continuous use as a parish church since 1692. Of course in those early days it was a simpler structure. Subsequent generations had improved on the building until, today, it stands as the finest example of Mexican Baroque in the United States, so says the pamphlet. Interestingly, it has remained as a working parish throughout the years. Its parishioners are still the local First Nations People.

DSCF5521I was fascinated watching the recent renovations of the original egg tempera paintings high up around the alter. A woman who worked on the Sistine Chapel heads the painstaking restoration, carefully removing the shellac a former restorer thought would preserve the paintings. In fact, the shellac darkened them.

But I’m getting carried away and forgetting to tell you what made this a remarkable morning. An hour or so later, having put down the church’s story to eat and then clean up the kitchen, I returned to read more about San Xavier. This is the scary part. I could see the letters, but I couldn’t make sense of them. They simply didn’t compute.

Terrified, I dialled a friend to take me to the emergency department at the hospital. He came and got me. We went to the local hospital where they did all the modern technical things; brain scans, heart monitoring and chest e-rays. They found nothing wrong, except that my normally healthy blood pressure was out of sight. They wanted me to see a neurologist, but this hospital didn’t have one. They’d take me by ambulance (for $1,000 plus) to nearby Tuscon’s larger teaching hospital. Here I remained for three days with every conceivable test on my brain and my heart. Still, there was nothing evident except high blood pressure. At last they sent me home with a prescription to lower my blood pressure.

Of course I had bought travel health insurance before leaving home. It cost me over $4,000. I felt sure I was covered, regardless of any catastrophe. The trouble is, there was a three day gap between one insurance company and the next. And when did I go to hospital, ride in an ambulance and spend three days in bed in the Tucson hospital? You guessed it: I lacked coverage on the very days I was hospitalized. I am now faced with a huge bill.

Maybe you’ve had the experience of your usually reliable body giving out far away from home. If so, you realize how frightening it is when familiar faces are not surrounding you.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? I’m sure I’m not the only one to have fallen ill in a strange country.

Photos from http://www.sanxaviermission.org

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