Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Falklands Plague: June 22 - 28

After two days in bed I was damned if I was going to miss a single weekend in Stanley even if I had missed a few interviews. My fever had broken and I decided to spent Friday in bed again to recharge. It was a good thing, too, as Debs decided to have a dinner party. I sounded like a frog and I was still coughing, but I actually felt pretty good. On the advice of several locals I attempted to medicate myself with vitamin C and alcohol in the form of Vodka Fresh (i.e. screwdrivers).  That didn't really work very well, but I persevered. I do admit that it was rather annoying at Deano's to have to interrupt my dancing every few minutes to cough. But it didn't stop me from going to Vanessa's after the pubs closed. Sebastian was leaving the next day and I didn't want to miss the chance to say goodbye. No j├Ągermeister this time, though (thank goodness). Another consequence of the plague's bad timing came on Saturday. I had planned for weeks to participate in the Midwinter Swim, but decided that jumping in the South Atlantic with a virus would be rather suicidal and stupid of me. Knowing my inclination to do crazy shit, this meant I couldn't even go to the beach to cheer on my friends who were well enough to participate. The last time I went somewhere determined not to swim, I ended up in the Gulf of Finland in my underwear.
Since I didn't get in the South Atlantic, here's a picture from our 2008
picnic that ended up with all of us in the Gulf of Finland. One major
difference? It was summer then.
However, even if I couldn't go the swim there was still a party to attend. Mike's birthday (oh, and it was Miguel's birthday, too) started with a football match, delicious lunch, and finally mulled wine prepared by Andy P. Unfortunately my condition went from bad to worse. Somehow, over the course of the afternoon sitting on Mike's couch I managed to get conjunctivitis. WTF? So, I felt fine, but my eye was red and swollen, I was still coughing, and my voice was very croaky. I still made it out to the Vic and Deano's, but people kept asking me how I felt. I also met my first American in the Falklands - an American staying at the Waterfront and pursuing a PhD in Spanish. That is one of the advantages of staying at the Waterfront; Alex might take you to a birthday party on your first night in town. The party ended up back at Mike's, where Andy P progressed from mulled wine to hot rum. However, as people kept streaming in the door I realized that I simply did not have the energy for that much party. As it turned out, I missed some good music and the last party at Mike's as the festivities prompted a letter from his landlord. Still, my decision was probably for the best as my eye was completely swollen shut and crusted over when I woke up on Sunday morning. I stayed in and watched Italy eliminate England from the EuroCup in a penalty shootout. That was pretty intense.

I checked in with the museum on Monday, but Leona was out so I was on my own with transcription again. I did, however, get to test the National Health Service with a trip to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. My first surprise was finding Vanessa working the front desk. The swelling had gone down in my eye, but I knew from experience that the infection had spread to my other eye and I would need eye drops if it turned out to be bacterial in origin. I got to see the casualty nurse within about 15 minutes. She took a look at my eyes and entered me into the system, but unfortunately she couldn't prescribe the eye drops for me. She could, however, get me in to see a doctor in about an hour, but I would have to pay out of pocket for the appointment. Apparently overseas insurance companies have spent the past decade trying not to pay their bills in the Falklands, leading to the hospital's current policy of not accepting foreign medical insurance. During my 5 minute consultation with the doctor, he confirmed my diagnosis, prescribed the eye drops, revealed that he was a member of the Legislative Assembly, learned that I was an unpaid intern who had begged to come to the museum, and then he ripped up my paperwork. I'm not making this up. Apparently he decided that I shouldn't have to pay 90 pounds for a 5 minute appointment in which he told me something I already knew. How was I supposed to argue with that? I picked up my eye drops at the pharmacy, but I knew I couldn't leave without saying goodbye to Vanessa. Since she was supposed to process my payment information, she was just as confused by the doctor's actions.

While I did not spend all week in bed, I was still quite under the weather, what with the cold/flu bug and the conjunctivitis. I did get some transcription done, but I didn't have any interviews until Wednesday. Not my best work. The first one suffered from almost everything that can go wrong with oral history. I had almost no information on my subject and I was supposed to interview him while he was at work in the security hut at FIPASS.

FIPASS - the Floating Interim Port and Storage System built in 1982.
So, I was coughing and struggling to come up with questions while this guy concentrated on checking the permits on all the cars that came on and off the dock. Not really the best circumstances in which to have a candid conversation with someone. Oh, and I didn't hit record until 15 minutes into the interview. Whoops. It was bound to happen sooner or later, so I guess I was just happy that it happened during what I think was my worst interview overall. My second interviewee came to my house and that went somewhat better, but still wasn't my best work. This woman had amazing stories about growing up in Camp, but she needed a fair amount of prompting and questions to jog her memory and I just didn't know enough about her to keep her going. She would go off on a memory for a few minutes, then ask if I had anymore questions for her. I managed to keep her going for an hour, but I really think she would give an amazing interview to someone with better preparation. Unfortunately, I got a call from Vanessa on my way to the second interview. The hospital was onto me and I needed to come back to pay my bill.

I felt pretty sheepish slinking back into the hospital on Thursday morning, when I found that the woman who takes care of billing had recovered my torn-up paperwork and pieced it back together. She was very nice about the whole situation, explained that she had scolded the doctor, and even thanked me for coming back in. I now have a bill and a letter I get to file with the insurance company when I get back. Oh, joy. Lunch on Thursday was a treat. Every time someone has a birthday at the museum, everyone gets together and goes to the Malvina for lunch. The Malvina is the only place in town that could really be called a restaurant and I knew I had to try it at least once before I left. I had also been told that I needed to eat the squid rings as the local squid was the best in the world. Wow. I'm not really a seafood person, but the squid rings with sweet chili sauce were delicious. And then I had the pumpkin, spinach, and mozzarella cannelloni. Now that was a good lunch. Fortunately someone had thought ahead and scheduled my interview for the day a bit later than usual. I think this one made up for Wednesday's mistakes. We talked for two hours, covering topics of education, history, the Falkland Islands Government, and even dance. I think this was one of my most successful interviews of the whole trip.

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