Monday, June 29, 2009

When All of a Sudden . . . KABOOM!

A nod to KLS there in the title . . . we thought our Peace Corps story was writing itself just fine, developing in new and interesting ways, when, during my Spanish language session, I suddenly noticed a large number of ¨floaters¨in my field of vision in my right eye. Then, a bit later, things that looked disturbingly like blood effects in a bad movie began chasing those floaters and . . . I ended up flat on my back in Panama for a couple of weeks. The good news is that my retina wasn´t detached, just a giant tear.

Now, I understand that there´s absolutely nothing more fascinating, to those of us beyond a certain age, than recounting and comparing our medical travails. I´ll try to keep it to a minimum here, though, so that I can truly fascinate you, dear reader, some time in the future, in person. The very short version is that in a remarkably short period of time I was transported from Chaclacayo, Peru, through the offices of 3 doctors in Lima, to a hospital in Panama, where I was instructed to lie on my back until told to do otherwise . . . which happened today, 10 days later. In the mean time I have had my eye laser zapped and surgically turned inside out, or something like it. I have a floater that looks like a bad movie effect sea monster, dangling tentacles and all, bobbing in the top part of my field of vision, and an air bubble injected during surgery that provides clever kaleidoscopic effects down below. The net effect of the two is quite disturbing, but less so that Panamanian cable TV.

Lying in my Panamanian Chamber of Boredom, I´ve gone through several books, the best of which was Michael Chabon´s ¨The Yiddish Policeman´s Union,¨which is brilliant and Í´m sorry I didn´t read it two years ago. Unfortunately, I was reading an old Sara Paretsky novel, ¨BloodShot¨this morning when a blood vessel burst in my battered eye, so now I will probably enjoy an extra day or two in Panama while that resolves. It´s a setback, but not an unexpected side effect of the procedures I´ve had. I also have trouble reading for very long at a stretch, due to the stitches in some remote part of my eyeball. Therefore . . .

I´ve been practicing my Spanish with CNN en Español, watching movies, and tonight in the restaurant saw a popular telenovela called ¨Sin Senos no Hay Paraiso,¨which my idiomatic Spanish renders, literally, as ¨Without Boobs There´s No Heaven.¨ Tonight, a major plot point involved visiting a strip club, just to emphasize the point(s). Forget CNN en Español . . . I´m also flat-out astonished at the round-the-clock coverage given to Michael Jackson´s death on nearly any cable channel that can figure out how to tie in to it. I hope I never see cable TV again after this, and I´ve sworn off movies with guns and explosions for the immediate future.

I´ve given up on guessing when I´ll be allowed to travel back to Peru, having learned the hard way, and repeatedly, the truth in the Jewish proverb, ¨Man Plans, and God Laughs.¨ I´m just hoping that there will be plenty of Peruvian Pilsner on hand when I get home to Jean in Huascaran.

By the way, I´m not the first Lawrence to visit these parts--my dad was here in the 1960´s, when it seemed like a neat-o idea to blast a new Panama Canal using a series of underground nuclear blasts. He was here doing some preliminary seismic work to determine whether it would send the isthmus tumbling into the sea or not. I´m not advertising this previous paternal Panamanian connection widely to the people I meet.

So, that´s the report from Panama City. I´ll happily let you know when I resume life as a Peace Corps/Peru trainee that I was becoming accustomed to, but til then, I´m not in pain, I will be able to see when it´s done. That´s all I can ask for now, but thanks for all your kind thoughts!



  1. Hi Russ
    Sorry you had to learn the Peace Corps medical process so early in your service. I did get to use an "on-site" medical kit when I fell in Kenya, but that's not quite the same. Plus now it sounds like you will have to have more books to read...

    I have my visa for China and think flight arrangements are being made. So thanks again for that opportunity! Barbara

  2. Hi Russ,

    A song comes to mind...
    Eye, eye, eye, eye,
    Canta y no llores,
    Porque cantando se alegran,
    Cielito lindo. los corazones.
    (Sorry for the bad joke!)

    I'm glad to hear you're not in pain. I wish you a speedy recovery and much more comfortable reading!
    --Eve from Hamilton