On my brother’s birthday I was laid up in the nurse’s office sick again. At least there was a nurse’s office. At one school I worked at in NYC the nurse was only in three times a week (thank the cutbacks, I guess). You had to really schedule getting sick.
This time I couldn’t even blame a restaurant. I had fried up some plantains the night before that tasted a little funny when I ate them. I didn’t even cook the other half of the plantain because I figured it was overly ripe.
The next morning my “overly ripe” plantain had me following the same pattern as two weeks ago.
Clearly, I didn’t learn (or master, as we teachers say) enough of the lesson about work-life balance from my last run-in with stomach issues. This time, I knew it would look too suspicious if I was sick on Friday. Again. So, I crawled into work.
I think I’m an exhibitionist when it comes to getting sick. The man who dropped me off at work shook his head while watching me get sick and said I needed to go to a doctor. I told him I would try to leave work early (as in after I taught all of my classes) and got a ride up to my classroom door.
Thirty minutes later, my co-teacher walked in on me sitting in our dark classroom, my head on a desk and a trash can beside me.
“I just need to sit down while you lead the class,” I whispered. “I can’t go home on a Friday again.” She looked at me like I was crazy and said that I needed to go home. She then added that she’d worked with foreign hire teachers before and she knew I must be missing home and my family.
With those words, I burst into tears. I don’t know why, but when I get sick I just want my Mom. And, as I’m realizing, to be in The United States. I don’t care if it’s Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, or New York. Just let me know I’m home.
She told me to go sit in her classroom until the nurse arrived. I e-mailed my supervisor telling him what was going on and did just that.
When I described my symptoms to the school nurse she immediately wanted to alert the front office. Unbeknownst to me, another teacher landed in the ER dehydrated because those same symptoms that he thought would pass were of a more serious nature.
The way I cried and pleaded in Spanish for her not to tell anyone you would’ve thought I was auditioning for a telenovela, the Razzies, the Academy Awards, for everything.
“Tranquila, tranquila!” she exclaimed, patting my arm as I explained that it would look too suspicious if I was sick on a Friday again. They would think I was going partying on Thursday nights! I needed this job. I wasn’t at a unionized school. I have Sallie Mae to pay!
A few minutes later none other than the school director (equal to the superintendent) came into the office. I was praying she wouldn’t tell him I was behind the partition, but she did. So there I was, in the fetal position, face I’m sure was still stained with tears, talking to the man who hired me like it was another normal day in the neighborhood.
I think word’s getting out that I’m not overly-willing to ask for help and/or keep myself at home when it’s necessary because he said to come talk to him or the other administrators if I needed anything or just needed to talk.
After sleeping until third block (my next teaching assignment), I went back to the classroom and sat in the back while my co-teacher taught.
I know. I was tons of help to the students that way.
In my inbox was an e-mail from an office staff member asking about my symptoms. She’s the first one we call if we need to go to the hospital. I told her I was beginning to feel better, but then I received another e-mail from a different staff member. You can’t keep anything under wraps at this j-o-b.
Before I knew it, I had an appointment with a doctor.
I didn’t get home until around 6:45 after waiting in the doctor’s office for about three hours and visiting two pharmacies.
By the day’s end, I think another one of my barriers fell harder than the Walls of Troy.
In the two months I’ve been here I’ve shared a bed with a co-worker on an overnight trip (I didn’t know until we arrived at the posada that it was planned for everyone to share a bed) and will do the same on the next trip; told co-workers who then had to translate to a doctor about my bodily functions; and laid in a gauzy gown while the father of a student I teach (who is also a doctor) examined me. Never mind that another co-worker now knows my bra color and there were five of us in the room while I was getting examined.
Diagnosis? Some sort of intestinal infection accompanied by a battery of curative and preventative medicines that I’m giving the side-eye to. People’s responses to medicine and doctors is a whole ‘nother topic that I’ll leave to the medical anthropologists. Back in high school I didn’t want to take my Salmonella meds either and I only prolonged the pain.
Thus, even though I’m positive it was another, milder case of food poisoning I’m not going to take any chances. I gave up on the medical career after college Chemistry so it’s best that I leave this one to the professionals.
I’m going to swallow every pill and hope if I get sick again it won’t be on a Friday.