Sunday, 5 October 2014

Village Life

Mouse Tally: still 95

I write this blog on a Tuesday having returned to work after another day at home due to diarrhoea. Now I don’t want to go too greatly into detail but this form of the squits is not like any I’ve ever had outside of Bhutan. It begins with a belching and a bubbling (rather than a pain) in the stomach. The last time I had it, I tried to ‘tough it out’ and let it run its course without any meds. That was a bad mistake as it took me out of action for 4 days and left me several kilograms lighter (now restored).

Thus, on Monday morning, having cajoled Justine into being my substitute teacher, I headed off once more to the Basic Health Unit (B.H.U.), a clinic staffed by nurses. Now, how can I put this politely, the Bhutanese aren’t great at queuing. As an Englishman, I learnt queuing at the breast, it is in my D.N.A., it’s hardwired, it’s tattooed onto my consciousness ..I think you get the picture.

So, when I arrived at the B.H.U. there didn’t seem to be anyone around except a couple of giggling high-school girls probably wondering what was wrong with me. The B.H.U. doesn’t bother with a receptionist. I walked over to the consulting room which has a curtain rather than a door and heard voices within; I also noticed an A4 sign on the wall asking patients to wait outside until the previous patient has left. Thus I waited buttock-clenched until my turn came. After a few moments a member of staff walked past and told me to go right in. I pointed to the sign on the wall and said I would wait outside until it was my turn. He just grinned in bemusement and wandered off. Next came a heavily pregnant woman accompanied by three friends. Without a glance at the sign or a pause to consider if anyone was already being seen by the nurse they just walked right into the consulting room. My English indignation manifested itself – internally of course, had any of the pregnant party spoken to me I would have been all smiles and mumbled something like, “Please, go right ahead. I’m not here for anything too serious.” All the while thinking, “Oh that’s right you just barge on in. I’ll just stand here in a puddle of my own excrement while you just swan in like you own the place.”

Fortunately none of that unpleasantness happened. The four women wandered out as quickly as they had gone in and the patient before me made her exit. The nurse (a wife of one of my colleagues) called me in. After the usual questions and the blood pressure test I was given the magic anti-biotics. I was all set to leave when a female member of staff from my school (and one of the biggest gossips) just wandered in, looked at my tablets and exclaimed, “Oh, you’ve got diarrhoea.”

Well I thought, at least everyone will know I wasn’t faking illness for a day off. Mr Paul’s ailment will be known across the school in no time. It made me ponder our Western obsession with privacy and not wishing to intrude. Frankly I didn’t care that my privacy had been invaded – I’m telling you dear reader after all. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to appear on Embarrassing Illnesses just yet but I think that in our quest for privacy we can become lonely and isolated. I quite like feeling like one of the villagers.

p.s. Diarrhoea is always one of those words that I struggle to spell correctly. When I was at school it had that strange spelling (similar to encyclopaedia) in which 2 of the letters were inexplicably stuck together. We didn’t seem to do it for many other words, how did people manage it on a typewriter? Anyway, nobody seems to do that anymore. I’ve noticed that the spelling of encyclopaedia has morphed into ‘encyclopedia.’ When did that happen? Why didn’t I get a memo? Also, have you ever noticed that there are three acceptable ways to spell yoghourt? (yogurt, yoghurt) Why is that?

More weighty issues next time!

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