Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meet Deliana Dale

This is Deliana Dale.
The first time I met Deliana she was busy stitching up a patient who’d come in that morning with several gunshot wounds. After the patient was bandaged up and sent on his way, the doctors in the La Carpio clinic sat around during a short break time and discussed their most recent patient, as well as the usual morning news of drug busts, car accidents, midnight robbing and murders. For some reason the local Costa Rica news channels enjoy starting off the day on a rather morbid note. All the gory stories come out bright and early while everyone eats breakfast. In any case, I watched Deliana as she talked, eyes wide with expression, shifting vigorously in her seat, as she declared emphatically that the only murderers who got tracked down were those who killed someone with enough notoriety and money for the police to make it worth their while. Her expressions and gestures were so animated, I hardly even needed to know any Spanish to understand her. A month later, when I began my Spanish class in which I interview people over the course of the trimester about different themes, she was one of the first people I called.

To understand why interviewing Deliana was so important, you have to understand a little bit about the area where she works – La Carpio. The shanty-town area of La Carpio, in the minds of Costa Ricans, is an area synonymous with poverty, crime, marginalization, contamination, and Nicaraguan migration. The people in this area are surrounded on two sides by rivers, and on one side by the city dump, which since the year 2000 has received 700 tons of waste. Daily. Half of the people living in La Carpio are Nicaraguan immigrants, many undocumented and nearly all scraping by on meager salaries. The average salary in this area, as estimated by the Costa Rican Joint Institute of Social Aid (Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social de Costa Rica) is between $130 and $165 dollars per month. The area is also wrought with domestic violence and crime, although some statistics and articles I read challenge that. Even with such dangerous environmental hazards, Deliana explained to me that one of the biggest problems she saw in her patients was their diet. Her patients suffering from obesity, hypertension, and diabetes find it too hard to make a complete lifestyle change to eat healthier. I'll post another blog entry soon about La Carpio for some more information on the area.

Over the course of our interviews, I found out lots of interesting things about Deliana. Deliana grew up in Ecuador, accepted Christ at age 8, and decided to serve God as a missionary doctor at age 16. 9 years ago she came to Costa Rica to work with Christ For the City as a family doctor in La Carpio. She drives a nice rose-pink 2002 Toyota Yaris. It looks practically new. I asked her if she’d had any trouble parking it in La Carpio. None at all, she told me. “Watch where you’re throwing those rocks, you’ll hit the doctor’s car!” she’d heard people on the street yell at each other before they took their target practice somewhere else. However, her car had been broken into in San José and Escazu. Escazu is the rich expat part of town. But it’s never been touched in La Carpio.

Just recently I’ve had to stop meeting with Deliana, and she’s stopped working at the clinic for a few months. Why? She’s carrying her and her husband’s first child, and her belly has grown so large she can’t even drive. I can’t believe she continued working in the clinic as long as she did. I think the final straw was when she began having trouble examining patients because her belly hit the table and prevented her from peering into equipment she used to examine them.

A few weeks into the interviews I met Deliana’s husband, Dan. Dan and Deliana Dale. Absolutely nothing I know about Deliana explains the bizarre story of how she met her husband. She only uses the computer to research medical problems and write an occasional e-mail. But within a month of posting her profile on a Christian dating website (, if you want to check it out) she got in touch with her future husband, Dan who's Canadian. They began their relationship purely on-line, and got to know each other from a distance. At that point, Dan didn’t speak any Spanish, and Deliana’s English was pretty limited. Over the course of two-and-a-half years they got to know each other better, through personal visits as well, got engaged, and have now been married for 2 years, as of March 24.

In Spanish, you don’t say someone is going to “have” a baby. It doesn’t really make sense in English either – anyone can “have” a baby, as long as they happen to be holding one. Even I can have a baby. Just this week I had a baby, in fact, holding her in my arms. In Spanish, a woman “gives light” to a baby. Deliana will be “giving light” to her first child within the next month (at the time I wrote this).

The photos I posted along with this article depict Deliana’s last appointment with a woman in La Carpio before she started her maternity leave. Some of the shots of La Carpio area I took at other times. The source for the information about La Carpio is from this article (linked), and this article (linked). It also includes some information I gathered in interviews with another person on my route, from the receiving end of the clinical work. Danice, a 26-year-old mom with 5 kids, actually lives deep inside the winding roads of La Carpio, and over the course of several weeks helped me with a number of my questions.


Kathie said...

Brendan, your writing is so wonderful, and captures so well the complexity and beauty of the people and places you see. Thank you for being a connection between our hearts and those of people far away, whom we have never met, but whom we can still love.

Forest Fisk said...

Great pics and great story. Thanks for your colorful updates. Did you have to write this in Espanol?

bboy said...

Yep, this was in español. I'm glad you both enjoyed it, I really have met some awesome people. I love telling their story so in a way you can meet them as well :)