It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but it’s not for lack of interest…this past month I’ve been writing my last chapter furiously in the hopes of completing my part of the manuscript by the end of the month—a paragraph here, a paragraph there, an edit for Nate here and there, squeezed in during my daughter’s naptimes and before I rush off to work in the afternoons.
It hasn’t been quite as hard a task as previous chapters, only in that a chunk of the writing was already started for me, a part that I did earlier that got carved off of my first chapter. The hardest parts have been integrating all the things that have happened in the six years since I’ve moved here, how they’ve changed me, and how they affect my outlook on the future.
Then it dawned on me. The real reason why it’s been so hard to find time to write is because of a recent spate of the subject I’m working to encapsulate in this very chapter: “hardships” (as they call them in the immigration annals); little things that make life here in Mexico particularly hard to deal with and have got us struggling to keep our heads above water.
It started in the end of May, when Margo cut his finger on a table saw and had to take himself to the ER (I was out and he didn’t want me to worry). You might say that accidents can happen anywhere, and I agree, but in this case I counter that it occurred because we don’t have enough resources to get an appropriate table saw with safety measures…this was Margo’s improvisational setup of a radial saw upside down clamped to a piece of plywood with an open slot for the blade. In his own words, “I am very careful…but some accidents are impossible to avoid.”
Then, the three of us had giardiasis. For those of you who don’t know, that’s hiker’s diarrhea. Except we haven’t been hiking since January. Giardia is a protozoan found in contaminated water. A Mexico specialty for its higher incidence in the population and lower hygiene standards. We spent Margo’s 38th birthday on Metronidazol (Flagyl), hence not a drop of celebratory spirits, except cake, which probably made us sicker.
Not more than two weeks later, I did imbibe at a quinceañera. I also got food poisoning that night. Probably Salmonella.
Three days later, I got a viral stomach flu. OK so that might also be pretty standard U.S. fare too but I threw it in because of its chronological order here, and also because I thought it might have been a relapse of the Giardia.
Then yesterday, less than a month after he went to the ER for his finger, I had to take Margo to the ER, yet again. This time, it was one of our trademark local arthropods—scorpion sting. Ironically enough, we’d attended a first aid course that morning and I’d asked the specific question, “If someone needed treatment for a scorpion, spider, or snake bite, where would I take them?”
The response was “Hospital General o Hospital del Niño y la Mujer.” So that’s where I sat yesterday at 6 pm, less than an hour after the babysitter had arrived to watch our daughter while we used the backhoe to transplant our banana tree to the other side of our yard. In preparing, Margo had to move a few cinder blocks out of the path of the backhoe, whereupon the scorpion had stung him.
“I even flipped it twice to check for scorpions—damn scorpion.” He was more upset about having our gardening project delayed for the second time.
I was just worried about getting him to the hospital fast—he’s allergic to their venom, and so when he was 4 years old the only reason they took him to the hospital was because he’d begun salivating—they hadn’t seen him get stung. When he was a teenager in la secundaria, he’d gotten stung at home but they took him to the local clinic instead of straight to the hospital, and patiently waited their turn. When the doctor saw them, Margo’s throat was already closing and he said, “What the hell are you doing here and not at the hospital?”
Needless to say I was determined for that to not happen, and by the time we found parking, made our way in to Urgencias, and I found the right person to talk to (no one was at the ER desk), the numbness had only reached his mid-forearm. Margo was laidback, since things move at a snail’s pace in Mexican institutions, and he knows he has a New Yorker now to sic on the attendants. I was proud of my ability to get him seen immediately. After years of stumbling practice, I can finally make biting but polite phrases in perfect Spanish, like “this is the ER, right?” in order to catch the attention of the young nurse who seemed more interested in flirting than receiving patients.
He was waved right in, where he received anti-venom, IV fluids, and was prescribed painkillers and antihistamines, which he’ll take for three days. I considered the trip practice for a real emergency, and feel grateful we have federal insurance (Seguro Popular) that covers these sort of catastrophes.
It’s not as grave as a snakebite, or a black widow sting, but they live nearby too (I’ve come in face to face contact with both), and I live in eternal fear/respect of them. But the point is it’s not quite the same neighborhood I grew up in, where the most I had to worry about were mosquito bites and poison ivy, or the next one I chose, that features poison oak and earthquakes. This is the home we have no choice but to be in. But it’s still home all the same, like it or not, at least for now.