My objectives for this placement is not only to experience maternity care in Mendoza, but to try and place it in its social context, to have an insight into the city and some of its people, which is how I ended up in several conversations using Spanglish (a mixture of Spanish and English) with various individuals about the $100 pesos bank note.
$100 pesos bills are hard to change, coins are like gold dust. Taxis and shops refuse to change them even at the cost of not selling you anything. Of course if you are paying for dinner which would amount to $100 pesos or more, you get change but wanting smaller notes exchanged? That’s hard work and not something, I am informed by a friendly Argentinean, that you go to a bank for. Even cash machines don’t give you $100 pesos in smaller notes for example, say two $50 pesos bills. Cash machines can give $10, $20 pesos notes but frequent cash withdrawals from ATMS for foreigners equates to bank charges back in the UK. Obtaining change seems to be a challenge.
I therefore curiously asked why large denominations continue to be printed and why currency exchanges give travellers large denominations when it is widely known that in-country, large denominations are hard to change. Conversations about Argentine politics then ensued; I was informed about inflation and some of the melting pot of issues that affect the people. Some were familiar to me such as: inflation, corruption, changes in government policy, the benefits system and the people who are seen to take advantage of it and the low salaries of public sector workers. Even in a different time zone and continent, Governments seem to be the same.
During a group outing, I met a four-month-old baby girl happily relaxed in her mother’s arms. My housemates eagerly informed mum that I was a ‘estudiante de parteras’ (essentially a student midwife) and she happily told me her birth story (the intensive Spanish sessions were a huge benefit as I understood her). Her baby was delivered at 36 weeks because she had type 2 diabetes, that she was worried about how the early birth would affect her baby but that she was healthy. I congratulated her on her beautiful baby and we went on our way.
That brief interlude in the day renewed my excitement about starting at the hospital; to learn more about the prevalence of different conditions and provision for the needs of pregnant women in Mendoza. I am aware from conversations that the role of midwives in pregnancy and birth may be different from their role in the UK, I am looking forward to finding out the differences and similarities on my placement.