Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Old Woman

Hanging out on top of "Pa Tree" in Falealupo Rain Forest.

Villagers coming back from the plantation. (I can carry more coconuts than them!)

Cammi being the lollipop mobile to every child in Savai'i.

Old woman
It has been about a month since the boil incident. The Samoan name for what was wrong with me is called, “Old Woman” because of the way you lift your arm, and walk with your arm up to make you look like an old woman.
There is a scar about the size of a giant staple below my armpit, which to me is pretty amazing because I remember crying to everyone last month about the pain I was in from the giant thing growing there. The amount it grew daily was incredible, and all I had was my friends telling me it was normal, and they had gone through the same thing. By the time I finally made it to Apia to see the doctor it had grown to a size bigger than a half dollar and was keeping me up all night from the pain, despite the Ibuprofen I took. My family told me I was doing the wrong kind of treatment (I was treating it like it was a boil) and that I would never heal, which frightened me.
The problem with living on Savai’i, is you never want to go on the long trip to go to the doctor, so many times we try to self treat, which usually goes okay, but sometimes we don’t know we are in over our head until it is too late, and we really, really hurt!
The day I made it to see our medical officer (on her day off, she is amazing!), it reassured me that I wasn’t being a baby about the entire situation. I was so happy to know that I wasn’t crazy and the pain I was in was valid.
Later when I went to the doctor’s office to get my “old woman” drained, it was nice to be in the presence of someone who lived in America for many years for medical school and for work. I didn’t feel like I had to hide the pain I was in as he allowed me to scream curses or whatever I wanted to come out of my mouth when he put the atheistic in me (for what seemed like several minutes).
I didn’t look at the procedure, until afterwards when they were cleaning me up. I was amazed with all the bloody puss that came out of me from the “cleaning”. It was everywhere it felt. I was prescribed medicine, and was allowed to leave.
I walked to the reception area, and realized I was unable to walk straight or see straight. I felt as though I was drunk. I had them call me a cab, and realized I didn’t know if I should be left on my own yet. (I have always been this way leaving doctors, they have often notice me turn ghostly white and make me spend some extra time there.) I felt as if I was going to collapse any second.
When the cab came, I got in, and I had a cab driver that loved to talk. I could not get him to stop, seriously. Trying to communicate in a language that is not my primary one when I felt like this was the worst possible thing for me. I then came to the realization that I did not have enough money on me to pay the cab. I was in tears from the entire situation as I tried to figure out how to use my cell phone to contact people to see if they could meet me to pay for me. Sadly no one was answering their phone. The phone was getting harder to figure out as I was getting more and more nauseous. As I was crying, the cab driver continues to ask me about my fictitious boyfriend (I thought making one up would stop the conversation).
When I arrived at the Peace Corps office, I had the driver wait for me to run in (or stumble like a drunk) to get money. When I entered the resource room crying, thankfully my family came to the rescue, and Super Emily ran out to pay him.
People kept asking me what happened and I told them I didn’t know, since I didn’t see it, and when the doctor tried to explain it to me I was not in a good state to comprehend. (Think of talking to a belligerently drunk person, that is how I felt after the procedure. There is no point in talking to anyone in that state, just like there was no point in discussing health care matters with me.)
I knew they sliced my underarm open, and gross stuff poured out of it, and that they had put something in to drain it, but I was not sure what since it was as though I was not present for the procedure. I thought it must have been something big to drain it since I had an enormous amount of bandages in my armpit, and I was in more pain trying to lower my arm than before seeing the doctor. I was so sleep deprived and in so much pain, that I just wanted to sleep. I got into bed as soon as I could, and had the worst time positioning my arm to be in as little pain as possible. I had pillows stacked up high so I could keep my arm elevated and finally I was able to get some much needed rest.
When I awoke up, Rachel came by to cheer me up with some ice cream. She had found mint cookies and cream, and spending the time with her was cure in itself.
I was still in pain the entire weekend, but was happy it was Thanksgiving weekend, which meant I had my entire Peace Corps Samoa family with me, and you can stay sad with these amazing people around you.
One night we all decided to go out, and everyone laughed at me as I acted as if I was in junior high again drinking Shirley Temples all night long. With the exception of three, all of Savai’i Peace Corps was there, with a few Upolu-ites as well. Rachel, Dan and I are originally from NY, so when the DJ put on “Empire State of Mind”, we immediately headed to the dance floor, knowing it was probably going to be the last time the three of us would dance in Samoa together again, since Dan was to head back to NY the following week. (We secretly envied him, as he was about to embark on the land with delicious pizza, bagels, Boars Head meats and deli sandwiches…)My arm was in pain as tried to never lower it as I danced the entire night.
Even though going out to a club is probably not what the doctor would order for an “old woman”, but it did the trick for me, as I was finally able to put a much needed smile on my face.


  1. Lol. Do the cab drivers and soles ("soles" as in Samoan for men, not the part of your feet) hit on you as in this comedy skit - I love the 'Laughing with Samoans' comedy duo. As far as the Samoa goes, they are spot on with their skits

  2. Wow, I didn't even think of soles being on your foot...I don't think i have heard that in awhile...Sole is always a person in my book.
    Probably.. I am not sure, I've seen the dvd and it is hysterical, but don't know the scene you are talking about.