Groundviews

A Clear-eyed Assessment from Afar

Photo courtesy The Republic Square

Darkness, movement in the bathroom. No need for lights until somebody breaks a toe.

Ouch.

I would’ve never known it was broken if it weren’t sticking so clearly in the wrong direction. There is not that much pain, but a visit to the emergency room seems to be in order. And then I’m there and before I know it am in a private room. This is a good hospital, but Baylor Hospital (in Dallas) is also a teaching hospital so the first guy that comes in is clearly the new guy. There’s a brief exchange and he’s out of there.

I’m starting to feel so old. It’s not just all the professional athletes that look older than me nowadays, but the newish doctors, too. Then the x-ray people come. The guy asks me, “which toe is it that you want us to look at?” And I’m thinking, umm, sir, this is not my area of expertise, but maybe the one that’s pointed in an Eastern direction when the rest of the team seems to be fine with due North…

Later, the real doctor comes in and he’s quick because I’m not dying and this is minor. What could be more straightforward than a broken toe? And then he’s like, “what do you do?” And I don’t really have a good answer…because I don’t really know what I do…not anymore. Right now, the most honest answer to that question would be “I read a lot of newspapers,” but I decide not to say that. The doctor leaves and the pain has started to set in now, though it’s still very manageable.

I’ve brought a lot of reading material including some Sri Lanka-related stuff that I printed out before leaving for the hospital, so I get going on my reading.

I had been told that they’d help out with the pain and, once I settle in to reading, I figure out that by “help” they mean Ibuprofen, which is not useless, but not at all exciting considering this is a hospital visit. And then outside my room there’s a crazy person…I mean really crazy. At first I thought it was a joke, but the yelling is just too loud now, the ranting too…well crazy. Strange stuff…about conspiracies and some type of healthcare system in Arizona that, quite evidently, is a bit different from how things work in Dallas.

Then, a woman enters my room. She’s here for my money.

“Do you have insurance?”

“Yes,” I say.

“How will you be paying?”

“I can give you my card,” I tell her.

“Are you a student?”

“What? No, I’m not a student. Why do you ask?” Her question takes me by surprise, especially since she’s not a doctor, but has just come to collect.

“Well you have papers everywhere. It looks like you’re studying something,” she says.

I tell her that I’ve got a bunch of stuff with me because I didn’t know how long I’d be at the hospital. When she entered I was reading a piece on Sri Lanka, talking about Ed Miliband’s recent faux pas, when he’d seemed to have forgotten that there is a Sinhala New Year too… And that’s where the (random) Sri Lanka thoughts really begin this morning.

That smell of impatience, body odor and arrack outside the liquor store on Friday nights. The exhaust in my face as a chicken bus passes me by. Those lunch packets…because whatever the question, some part of the answer should always include more lunch packets, assuming they’re done right. That feeling of panic as I race for a bathroom, because if I’m unsuccessful there then nothing else matters. All those older men lying to me about how much it costs (for a tuk-tuk) to the guest house in Jaffna (right after I get off the Colombo bus). Let’s get back to the arrack, not the stuff with the green and yellow label that everybody’s always buying or even the flavored stuff. Let’s talk high life, let’s talk Old Reserve or maybe V.S.O.A…oh yeah.

Persistent Sri Lanka-watching from abroad is both healthy and unhealthy. Good for the mind because there’s so much to learn and take in, but bad for the body, because I’m staying up way too late to see what someone has just put on Twitter or reading some piece of what is essentially glorified gossip in The Daily Mirror or The Island. Now, the Sunday papers, that’s a different story…

Coming back to the question of change in Sri Lanka, it looks like some things are changing, but then I’m reading about this Rajapaksa comeback in The Guardian (and elsewhere) and it doesn’t really look like Sirisena has that much control over his own administration. I’m hoping that things are a bit more laid-back on the human rights and advocacy front, yet then I hear about people getting arrested over this talk of a movie and then I see the mainstream media in Sri Lanka talking about how those folks were working for Channel 4 – in spite of the fact that Channel 4 had clearly stated that they had no idea what was going on. The case for citizen journalism and places like Groundviews has never been easier to make. But I digress, I must get back to my toe or toes or right foot. I’m reading the literature:

Your caregiver has diagnosed you as having a fractured toe. A toe fracture is a break in the bone of a toe. “Buddy taping” is a way of splinting your broken toe, by taping the broken toe to the toe next to it. This “buddy taping” will keep the injured toe from moving beyond normal range of motion. Buddy taping also helps the toe heal in a more normal alignment. It may take 6 to 8 weeks for the toe injury to heal.

So the toe should heal in a month or two. For the mind and soul the prognosis is far more ambiguous. A clear-eyed assessment suggests that a visit to the island nation is what’s really needed.