Friday, September 13, 2013
It’s ironic that I scheduled a post just yesterday discussing cooking, food, and ordering school lunch. I was on a shwarma high while writing that post.
Today, I’ve had nothing but 7-Up, cassava crackers, and plain noodles. Because, you’ve guessed it (or infer, as I tell my students), I got food poisoning.
I honestly think the last time I got food poisoning was when I was a junior in high school. I got Salmonella, to be exact, from eating at a Sunday hospital-hosted barbecue. Trust me, the irony doesn’t escape me.
By the week’s end I had lost four pounds. I didn’t understand why my tongue looked drier than the Sahara Desert, my mouth had a constant ache, and every time I went to the doctor he wanted to see my tongue. What did my tongue have to do with my body seemingly turning inside out?
That Friday, I was in the hospital for a few hours getting an IV because I’d become dehydrated. I still remember the cold feeling of the drip as it hit my bloodstream and traveled up my right arm. I missed my dance team’s end of year dinner; got disqualified from junior final exemptions because of too many absences (my high school said juniors who passed the state exam, had an 85 or higher average in their classes, and no more than three absences could opt out of their Spring final exams); failed my impending Pre-Calculus final that I REALLY had tried to avoid; and realized that the only time my stomach was flat was when my body refused all foods and liquids for a week.
Then, at 7:17 PM Caracas Time on Thursday, September 12th , 2013 I ate shwarma with falafel for the first time.
Granted, I was chatting away on Skype for over an hour before I actually began to eat and, granted, there was some sauce that maybe needed to be refrigerated while I was chatting away, but my body started rioting fifteen minutes before it was time to head out the door to work.
And there began another lesson in work-life balance.
At my first teaching job in NYC I got sick in the hallway because I got overheated (I have a knack for getting sick in public places; when Salmonella hit me in high school it hit two minutes before the bell rang and my peers flooded the hallway where I was).
When my triflin’ boss click-clacked by me in her patent leather heels, and I told her what happened, all she said was “Oh my goodness” and continued walking without even turning around. I had a classroom full of fifth graders just out of sight, a trash can in front of me, clammy sweat all over me, and her response was an offhand “oh, my goodness.” Two co-workers swooped in while I went to get water and cooled down.
I vowed after that hellish teaching experience that I would always put myself before a job because I was replaceable. I don’t care how the company/school talks about we’re a family and a team.
It’s a business. They want a certain product and you deliver it or you don’t. If you don’t, they find someone who will or who will damn near die trying.
At that same job I also contracted Bronchitis twice because my immune system was shot from the stress.
The first time I contracted it same triflin’ principal had the nerve to want to e-mail me asking why I hadn’t turned in my weekly lesson plans on time. I replied that lethargy was a symptom of Bronchitis and since I had it and my body was trying to recuperate, it was a little difficult to work.
My phone rang three minutes later with her trying to butter me up with a “of course you’re sick; the kids and everyone miss you.”
But I’m not bitter. Nope, not at all.
So, fast forward to my new school and me sick all over again. It’s the work-life balance test.
I called my supervisor to say I’d been throwing up. He immediately said to stay home and asked if I wanted to use my emergency lesson plans or e-mail the day’s lessons.
I called back and said I was coming in because I think the sickness had passed. You know. In fifteen minutes.
All I could think about is how bad it looks to call out on a Friday or a Monday from work. I needed this new job to help me pay off my student loans since they’re covering basically all expenses (rent, transportation, light, etc…). I needed to make a good impression. I needed to get to work and just lay down in the Nurse’s office during my break, teach sitting down, etc…
I needed to have stayed my black behind home.
I realized I’d made a mistake the moment I tried to start walking up the steep hill to my classroom. The school librarian, whose sarcastic humor is hilarious, stopped and offered me a ride. “I see you’re moving kind of slow,” he noted.
I told him what happened. He said I should’ve stayed home and proceeded to hit a speed bump at three miles per hour.
That did it. Car was stopped, door was opened, and I was sick. When the same thing happened with the second speed bump four seconds later he told me what I now confirmed to myself. I needed to go home. The school secretary, who also witnessed this scene along with a few students (this is a school where kids come 45 minutes early!), promptly called me a taxi and I was on my way home.
The taxi driver didn’t get the memo about hitting speed bumps at dangerously high speeds, but he got it delivered with high alert when I was saying “estoy enferma, estoy enferma” and tapping on the window.
Never in my life have I leaned half out of a moving car not caring who or what saw me. But I needed to this morning. He pulled over for me and rolled down the windows so I could finish and get some fresh air.
Of course, the tears came when I got home.
As I’m tired of writing about, the water’s barely on in my building. When your body’s…how can I put this politely…expelling toxins by any means necessary a functioning toilet is a necessity.
But I only had one flush.
Luckily, I have two toilets. So, I divided my time between the bathrooms depending on the need and called my parents crying because I realized yes, I was home sick. But I was also homesick.
I knew what I was doing here. I was coming to teach in a new environment, grow as a professional, perfect my Spanish, and pay off my student loans.
But at that moment I didn’t know why I’d decided to move to a place where—without the school’s help—I wouldn’t be able to articulately describe why I was sick or even understand someone over the phone. Speaking a foreign language over the phone is a lot harder than in person because you can’t use body language to help you understand the meaning.
I’m actually coming to love this school. I think I already do love it. So, I wanted to be there. But that was not the logical place to be.
Consequently, I slept, took some medicine, messaged back and forth with a best friend via Skype, did a load of laundry (couldn’t miss that 12:30-1:00 water time!), and slept some more.
A friend and co-worker dropped off the 7-up and the Cassava crackers and I’m feeling OK now.
I’m still horizontal 99% of the time.
I’m resting on a work day and, most importantly, not feeling guilty about it.