From My Corner: July 8, 2022

Understanding culture

This is something that goes beyond speaking the country’s language.  Many people believe that “culture” means education but it’s not so.  Culture is the way of life, customs, art, music, local attire, verbal expressions, philosophy, or anything found within that country, region, or group that defines it.  You get the point.

Something happened to me last week that made the bulb in my head light up.  Normally, I am reserved about my health issues but lately, I have been spending a good share of my time at Lawrence General Hospital, so much that nurses know me by my name and even the housekeeping staff.  Best of all, the Nutritional Department (the kitchen) knows what I like and how much.  A young lady who didn’t remember my name told the others that “the patient with the laptop is back.”

I’m fine and many people might think that I use excuses to be admitted because I like the food at the hospital and that’s a running joke.  That’s where my discovery began.

This time, the group pictured here came to visit me just to get my opinion about LGH.  They were Karen Costigan, director of Inpatient Services, María Vargas, Patient Advocate and Risk Management, and Haad Naeem, a pre-med student at UMass/Lowell, volunteering at the hospital.

They go around visiting as many patients as possible to get their input on how to improve services. We mentioned everything from doctors and nurses’ care to follow-ups from the staff until they mentioned the food.  When I said that the food was great, I would often hear that most people dislike it.

Our conversation continued about the community’s makeup, culture, habits, and even grievances.  That’s when I realized that it’s all cultural!

A very large percentage of patients at Lawrence General Hospital are Latinos who have grown up with beans, rice, fried foods, and different spices.  Their palate is looking for what they know and everything tastes bland.  Then, their relatives bring them food from home which may be contrary to their dietary needs.  On one occasion I overheard a patient asking her daughter to bring her mangú (plantains) with salami.

I watched incidents of complaints about not getting the staff to respond promptly or understand what they wanted.  This becomes a problem if the nursing assistant or laboratory worker doesn’t speak Spanish, while they go and get help.  I found myself translating for my roommates at times.

It’s obvious to me that LGH is assessing patients’ needs and is trying to understand their reasons.  I’ve been in this country for 59 years and fortunately, I grew accustomed to its culture, while retaining my own.

Learning English is vital to achieving a good life here and we should react with patience and understand the position of the person who couldn’t understand us.  Also, we should try being open-minded and adventurous when trying new things because it might be a very pleasant experience.


Pay increase for election workers

The Lawrence City Council approved last Tuesday the new rate of compensation for election workers as follows: Personnel to whom the duties of voting tabulations are assigned:

  • Inspectors, minimum hourly wage plus 20%.
  • Clerks, minimum hourly wage plus 25%.
  • Wardens, minimum hourly wage plus 30%.
  • Personnel to whom the duties of early voting tabulations are assigned, minimum hourly wage plus 25%.
  • Training for inspectors, clerks, and wardens is $20.00 an hour.

The motion was brought by City Councilor at-Large Ana Levy.

As a result of the re-districting this year, the city designated 2 additional precincts and will need more workers than before.


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