Saturday, June 16, 2012

The strangest thing...

A lot of people ask me questions like "What's the strangest thing that's ever happened to you?" My answer is usually " I don't know." I've touched upon this before, how strangeness is really relative. The nature of stangeness means it can never be commonplace and yet it occurs often enough in my life that I no longer take the time to remember those moments of strangeness that happen on a daily basis. It's a paradoxical feeling of knowing that what is happening is odd and I don't understand it, but simultaneously it's expected to happen and not important enough to talk about.

I only realize this paradox in certain instances when I experience of do something that is strange and I think to write it down. This is such a moment. Just a few minutes ago I was wearing my head lamp (it's noon), cleaning my swiss army knife with hand sanitizer and proceeding to cut off parts of my foot. Let me backtrack a bit in case this seems alarming to you. A few days ago I was in Phnom Penh for routine medical checkup. We all get a thorough physical right before we finish our service. I've had a wart (looks like a callus) on my foot for years (I always thought it was from walking so much in nyc), but turns out it's caused by a virus that's infected my foot. I know at least 5 other volunteers with the same issue. To remove these warts you freeze them with liquid nitrogen, wait for a blister to form, then cut off the top layer of the blister. Normally, a medical professional does this procedure which occurs over a 3 day period. Unfortunately, I had to return to site and the PCMO felt confident that I could cut the blisters off myself.

So, after lunch today I proceeded to attempt this with my available resources. One thing I've learned in Cambodia is that I really dislike afflicting pain upon myself. One day not to long ago I was ordered to test myself for malaria. I had to poke myself about 8 times before I drew blood. It really takes a lot of conviction to stab yourself. Anyway, removing the blisters seemed straightforward enough except my swiss army knife is about the size of my pinky and has never been sharpened. Eventually, I started using the mini scissors which were much sharper, but there's a reason doctors use scalpels. Scissors, apparently, tend to make many small cuts and if you're not precise (I am not) you end up cutting in different places. Cutting the blister itself really doesn't hurt until the raw skin underneath is exposed to air. Then it really really stings. This entire time my leg is falling asleep because I have to be curled in a very awkward position on my only chair (made to fit a 5 year old) in order to see the bottom of my foot. All the while, I'm squirting hand san onto toilet paper (which I don't use for the toilet) in order to clean my instruments. Eventually I get to the part where I have to swab things with this giant q-tip of iodine. So now I have on my head lamp in the middle of the day, I'm sitting in a child's chair curled into an odd sitting position, in my left hand are tiny tweezers from my knife, my right hand is holding a giant q-tip dripping brown liquid and a swis army knife with tiny knife and scissors deployed. Next to me is a pile of toilet paper and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Not to mention I'm in Cambodia. If that isn't weird then I don't know what is, but for a while I didn't even notice how odd it all was.

In the future, if you ask me what the strangest thing is then expect an, "I don't know" because I really probably don't even remember the weirdest thing that's happened.

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