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In the merry old land of oz

de (3-10-2010)

First stop for a tete a tete with Bon Jovi's number one fan-Program Manager Laura

It was a long summer.  Changing residences and moving around all over Romania for visits, conferences, camps and what-not.  And just before going back to my home away from home, after thirty-one trips on rail and bus over the course of seven weeks, to settle in with a new host family in the village I’ve known for over a year now, like the klutz that I am, I slipped and fell at camp, getting a nasty bump which led to a concussion.  Since school teaching and other responsibilities of the Peace Corps life were just around the corner, I thought it might be time to get my head examined, both literally and figuratively.  Luckily, I had a standing appointment to go to Bucharest for our Peace Corps yearly check-ups.  So off I went to the city to see the powers that be.

On arrival at the office around nine, Dana the secretary greeted me with her usual cheerfulness.  I got a shiny new ID card from  Mr. Ari so that I would be legit in-country for another twelve months, and shortly thereafter, I met with my program manager, Laura, for a quick sit- down to discuss the past year and to review expectations and plans for the next one.  After the pep talk, all I could hear ringing in my ears were the words, “It’s My Life, It’s Now or Never”, straight from Bon Jovi-speak (seriously, she’s their number one fan!) as Laura cheer-leaded me through the door and on to my next gig. She sent me off with a sense of “Hoo-Rah” rejuvenation in preparation for the next appointment-the annual tip-to-toe visit with the doctor.  Before I left there, I had a minute to have a nice pet with Maggie the mascot lab on the way out.  She’s bigger than a bread basket so I couldn’t take her along.

Dr. Dan Dishes Up Some Wonderful Wizardry Every Time

Dr. Dan, the great and powerful one, with his sarcasm, wit, and expertise in the medical field, whisked me into his office for the “Full Monty” examination.  He poked and questioned, poked some more, questioned again, and while he looked for tinnitus, bursitis, arthritis, pancreatitis, appendicitis, et. al., he kept the same sense of outrageous humor that we volunteers have been party to in training and medical information sessions. I’d love to share those jokes with you, although as always, doctor-patient privilege prevails.   Now being over fifty has it’s worries in the health department, but luckily, his supreme wizardry noted no permanent damage to my head and in fact, after a fine-tooth-comb review, body and soul, he pronounced me fit as a fiddle, at least for the time being, giving praises for my adherence to good living practices.  So I wouldn’t feel slighted, he sent me to the eye doctor for new spectacles so that I might continue to see the world through rose-colored glasses.  I was so relieved that I felt I could bow on the way out the door to his highness, but I didn’t as I thought he’d hear my old knees crunch thereby dampening the mood and I was more concerned now with what I’d have to endure next at the dreaded dental exam.

Geta the Goodnatured Dentist Made the Mold

Step-by-step, inch by inch, I made my way to the dentist office. I would have loved to have gone AWOL for this (if I only had the nerve) since I was rife with the memory of the last time I sat in “the chair” back in the U.S. when a tooth extraction which was supposed to be a piece of cake turned ugly.  Without the gory details, the gist of it is that, the five shots of anesthesia (I’ve been known to be a bit stubborn) didn’t take, and after the scalpel cuts, the bone grinding, and the elbows of two assistants pressing on my chest for leverage, I had screamed like a monkey.  Many hours afterward, tears streaming, I shook with fear, vowing never to let “them” touch me again. But here I was, unfortunately, at the beginning of possibly another trip to jaw-dropping hell, destined to be totally at the mercy of the people with the barbaric instruments that had caused me months of nightmares.

Right then, the sweetest-natured, most lovely ladies in violet-hued scrubs appeared and to my surprise and joy, they calmly and gently soothed my spirit albeit after a bit of gnashing of teeth, cringing and digging my nails into my own palm, protesting all the way.  Miss Alina and Miss Oana soothed me with some mint-flavored gum paste and then they worked their charm.  Lo and behold, I had no cavities, despite the constant reliance on sweets to offset any stress I’d had which I could not alleviate with herbal tea or the wonderfully relaxing, total-of-four -all-year bubble baths that I’d had the pleasure of at various vacation spots outside of the simplicity of the countryside where a quickie lukewarm shower or a week without one, was usually the norm.  The just as competent and “smiling with teeth that gleamed” Dentist Geta sent me off with a mouth guard to wear while sleeping… for obvious reasons.

Decisions Decisions

It was just past noon, and I was on the move again to the next office faster than you can say “Ipana” as Liliana, Dr. Dan’s secretary, came to whisk me away to visit the eye doctor.  There, once again, as I’d done for years, strained to read the charts to get the right prescription so that I might see more than an elephant right in front of my face. I knew the game oh-so well, i.e. “E…mmmm…P….mmmmmm….O….I think Z….or 3…”and so on.  Finally, I was able to recite the magic letters and went to be fitted for new glasses.  Liliana and I rushed over to the optometrist office post-haste to choose my new frames.  I selected basic black with a bit of curve to fit my “teacher” lifestyle and my “little black dress conservative” mentality.  I loved them and Liliana graciously concurred.

With a bit of time to spare before the fourth and last appointment, a mammography, I made a quick lunch of six Oreo cookies, washing them down with a steamy-good  cinnamon cappuccino (without regard to the newly polished set of keys I’d gotten earlier) to celebrate my good fortune.  Then I took a quiet nap in the peacefully friendly   Flowers hotel until three.

The Lovely Liliana Accompanies Me with My Records

Later on, after sprucing up my nails with some French tips and watching a bit of CNN International on the tellie, Liliana returned to accompany me to the mammography center.  She brought the films that I’d sent along from South Carolina (before being eligible for the Peace Corps we all have to go through a battery of tests to clear medical requirements) and after a nice conversation in the waiting area with the other women, I went in and then quickly went out, of the imaging center, happy to be finished with all of the day’s activities:  appointment free, pain free, worry free, and illness free!

Around six, before going out to a really great dinner at Zet with a couple of my favorite volunteers, and dear, new Romanian friends, I complemented my hair with a nice shade of “cashew nut” after a long, hot shower and some lavender aromatherapy.  Donning a summer dress, just because I could, I bounded out the door with a lightness that I hadn’t felt in a while, to meet my pals. There at the restaurant, under a clear sky, dotted with stars, as the water fountains flowed like rainbows after a mist, we toasted the wonderful weather at the turn of the season and laughed while consuming dishes fit for a queen.

Now, that’s how we like to pass the day away, and I swear, that when I first arrived at the office that morning, I was sure I’d even seen Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion, too.  I think, maybe, that the remnants of the knock on the head were at play there to even imagine such a thing.  It was all perfectly executed, right down to the good night’s sleep, thanks to the care that I’d received from the Peace Corps and their Bucharest staff.  As always, they deliver the goods and treat us with competency and kindness all the way.  They all really deserve a medal for the efforts they put in every single day.  It doesn’t get any better, and being out in the field all year, in surroundings mostly foreign to our everyday lives back in the U.S.,  it’s nice to know that we have a bunch of folks who know what we need and are there when we need them.  It warms my heart!

And to top it all off...

As for next year, I know that there’ll be more appointments to keep, but I might even look forward to it a bit as long as I don’t break my neck sledding with the kids over the winter, or have a run-in with a territorial goose on the road.  Anyway, all the while I’ve been here, I’ve thought about the words “there’s no place like home”, and despite the fact that I’ve got a true home back in Charleston, I’ve got a second home here in Romania for the time being and with the Peace Corps at my side, well, it’s the next best thing to being there.  So here’s wishing skies are blue for all my fellow Peace Corps volunteers out there (Give ‘em all you’ve got, Group 27 Romania!)  in this “merry old land of ours.”  And a shout out to sweet Glendene in Azerbaijan, amazing Jeanne Louise in China, and darling Elena in Macedonia—A big Peace Corps hug, good luck, be well, do good work and keep in touch!

As an aside, during the day I never actually did see that “horse of a different color”, but he was there in my dreams that night singing a couple of “Tra-La-Las”.

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