It’s been about two weeks since I was sitting in my Spanish course and noticed more than one person sniffling. A few empty seats explained away by the common cold. I was reminded and amused with this thought I had a few weeks before when I myself was sick. Verrrrry sick. And all this about five days before orientation begins, and alone in Madrid in my apartment with no idea what to do. I came to Madrid early to meet up with those other CIEE members that were already becoming friends, exploring our new home. Instead I was burning up, running out of toilet paper to use as Kleenex, sweating non-stop, and very confused with the contents in my stocked medicine cabinet. I asked my roommate (still at home in Gran Canaria) which one was for the flu/cold and he tells me just to google it. So helpful. Well, I googled through maybe 10 different things that went from strange antibacterial to heart medication to ibuprofen-infused pain killers. The one thing that looked promising was a near empty milky substance that I gathered from a laughable google translated info page was some sort of cough suppressant and fever reducer. I drank a dose. 20 minutes later I hadn’t stopped coughing but I did begin to suspect this strange substance may have been expired as I spent the next 12 hours close to the bathroom. By this point I just laughed, because what else can you do in such a miserable state? I hadn’t been sick once in the last 2 ½ years and here I was so excited to get out and start this Spanish adventure and instead I’m only able to stand up for 20 minutes before getting dizzy…Life gives you unexpected events, make do and laugh away as much as you can before a coughing fit sets in.
Now this last week’s events weren’t so unexpected. I knew this “job” was coming for a few weeks. My roommate’s dad is a doctor, and he comes to Madrid occasionally to give physicals to athletes of all ages. Usually his wife is his assistant but she couldn’t this time so they told me I’d help and they’d pay me nicely. For all they’ve done for me it was an easy yes, and I was assured it was super simple; have them fill in a few blanks on a form, weigh them, measure their height, and have them wait for the doctor’s examination. And most of them should be older so they’ll know enough English, which was all I cared about since my Spanish still sucks. Well 95% of the athletes I saw were children with parents that did not speak English. And they came in swarms of 10, 15 at once. All asking me questions pointing to the sheet or their kid or the bench that served as a horrifically disorganized queue line or god knows what as I stared at them defenselessly nodding, hoping they understood by my face I didn’t know what they were asking. And all this is in the hottest, most humid, BO drenched locker room I can ever remember being in. So I’m just sweating profusely trying not to drip on their little ones as I guide them to the scale and measuring tape, trying to remember who’s paid me the 15 euro, who’s next in line, and all the time just wondering what the heck am I doing here? Doctor Guillermo didn’t seem very concerned. He just went one at a time, did the tests, signed off their sheet and ushered over the next one. Me, I’m wondering how long it would take to run back to my flat. But each night, after a couple hours it would die down. The doctor would make jokes. I’d laugh and realize that it’s situations like these that are going to be those good stories you tell your friends years later. The week I was a doctor’s assistant in Spain sweating it up in the hottest locker room I’d ever been in, trying my best to pretend like I understood and spoke Spanish with clusters of frazzled parents. It’s already making me smile.