Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010 - No comments

Musings from my sick bed....

Tomorrow is two weeks since I had my tympanoplasty - fancy word for "snagging cartilage from the flappy triangular bit at the front of your ear and using it to patch up the humongous hole in your ear drum" - and I definitely can't say I'm back to normal yet. The pain is pretty much gone, but the energy hasn't come back yet. Getting off the pain meds helped a lot, but then when I attempted to do a few normal things around the house, I wound up right back in bed where I started. Slowly, slowly...

It was a super long and complicated process, trying to sort out if I would have my surgery (the need for which had been hanging over my head for years) at home or here, and in the end I was super happy to be able to get it done here. ("Here" being Istanbul.) Besides the fact that it meant I didn't have to leave the country - and essentially, my life - for an extended period of time, it also served to really bond me in with my "second home" even more deeply. A friend here who had her babies in another Central Asian country told me that the experience made her feel so much more rooted there, more settled knowing that her country could take care of her. I felt the same way - like this was some sort of milestone in "cultural adaptation." I was super pleased with the hospital and my doctor, and everything was over and above what I'd expected. It was nice to feel like, apart from a couple of really technical conversations, I could function in the hospital in Turkish....albeit more slowly when I was coming out of the anesthetic! (Plus, I've learned all sorts of new vocab words, like "narcotics," "discharged" and "anesthesiologist.") Feels good to know that I can get what I need here, and that "home" isn't the only place I can survive. Kinda like how when I first moved here, I had a Walmart list a mile long every time a friend was coming to visit, but now I've figured out how to make what I like with what we have here, and the list is down to a chunk of staple items. (Maybe one day we'll get proper brown sugar and non-waxy chocolate chips here - that'll save heaps of suitcase space!)

Being "the patient" in this culture was a new experience for me. A huge value here is community, and it is unheard of to leave someone alone when they are sick. Leading up to the surgery, I was a little anxious about this, cuz I wasn't sure if I'd be able to rest. Turns out I was pretty grateful to have my Turkish mom and dad by my side in the recovery room. (Mom even had to feed me cuz with the IV in, I couldn't hold my spoon!) It was probably good for me to have to let go of some of my "western independence" and let them take care of me. In the days that followed, I wasn't always fond of being babied or told what I should or shouldn't do, but it wasn't a battle I was up for fighting, so I left it alone. Not drinking cold water and staying out of the wind never killed anyone. :) I was grateful that most of the days I stayed with them, everyone was working, so I had some good alone time and peace and quiet - definitely good for my sensitive ears.

I survived the looong bus ride home (no planes for 2 months cuz of the pressure) and was super happy to get back to my own room and my own bed. Not to mention getting away from the cigarette smoke! I hadn't realized how much I needed to speak English and get all sorts of random stories out of my system, so the first night, my roommate got an earful! The first day back, I realized I was going to have to prepare myself for all sorts of visitors, even if I didn't feel up for it. Whereas in our culture, it is normal to leave someone alone and let them rest while they are recovering, here it is shameful not to come visit and keep the person company. We quickly discovered that keeping friends and neighbours away was gonna be impossible, cuz it would kill them not to be able to come say a "Gecmis olsun" - "May it pass quickly." Thankfully my roomie is a great buffer - she laid down the law and told incoming well wishers that I was super tired, so they couldn't stay long, that no sickies were allowed in (risk of infection) and above all, no being funny- besides the fact that it hurt to laugh, a good joke is not worth blowing stitches! They probably think it is horrible that I'm left in my room all day while not feeling well, but I am grateful for the space. Still, it has been really sweet to have people come over and Gecmis Olsun me - and I've even scored some nice soup, muffins, milk, cookies and plastic flowers out of the deal!

The part that has amused me the most is that, since I have to rest, the serving of the tea is now up to my roommate. It is customary for the youngest girl in the house (me) to serve the guests, so being the auntie, she pretty much never has to do it. But now that I get to lie around when the guests come calling, she gets the pleasure. We've got quite an array of tea-drinking styles amongst our neighbours - some light, some dark, some with lemon. Some drink it with sugar cubes held in their mouths, others spoon the sugar into their cups - it's a lot to remember, and keeping those tiny glasses full definitely keeps you on your toes. I am thoroughly sitting down while she has to keep her eyes scanning the room for empty cups. :)

So, here's to new experiences and to feeling like this land is that much more my home.