Pushing for change

The schools in Romania have been on strike this last couple of weeks to push for better pay and conditions. As I am on a Romanian salary at the moment of about $100 a month, I too have been supporting the cause, making my voice heard by staying in bed all morning then marching noisily up and down the high street complaining that I’m not nearly rich enough.

Last week I had the pleasure of going to see the high school talent show, which was held at the town’s civic hall. The place was packed, there were people standing in the aisles and the kids had been rehearsing for weeks. The performances were much more polished than you’d get in the UK and everyone had a great old time. But that wasn’t what I was reporting on.

On the way back, one of the other teachers at my school offered me a lift home in the car. Not being one to turn down a lift from someone of the opposite sex, I obviously accepted. On the way back though she dropped a bombshell. Sitting there in the car as innocent as you like she says, “Look I hope you don’t mind me asking but…how much do you get paid back in the UK?”

I squirmed and tried to get out of answering the question but she wouldn’t let it go. “I don’t mind” said she, “I’m just curious you know. Not that it bothers me.”

I was trapped. With another 10 minutes to go to my house I couldn’t evade or escape and she had me cornered. I was the deer in the headlights. I quickly done a bit of mental maths before realising that my maths is bloody ropey and decided that I’d do best just to take a few thousand off the national minimum wage and say that.

“HOW MUCH!!!???!!!” She screamed, the minute the figure left my lips. Well there goes my shag, I thought. The rest of the drive home was in embarrassed silence. I did TELL her I didn’t want to answer the question!

As we got close to my villa where I live with a doctor and dentist, I realised that my ordeal wasn’t yet over. I casually said it was ok to drop me off at the end of my road and I’d walk the rest of the way home, but she was havin none of it. As she dropped me off outside my place the last thing I heard her say as I got out the car was… “Oh my god it’s like a palace!” I cringed all the way inside.

I guess she must think I’m the prince of England.

Curiosity got the better of me last week. As I said I live with medics so I thought it would be a good idea to make use of the opportunities that this presents, so I mentioned over dinner that I would like to come into the hospital one day and see what it was like.

The doctor I live with works with babies, and one of the kids I tutor is the daughter of the gynaecologist and they work closely. So when I came home the next day I found out that they had arranged for me to go in and see a real live birth, if I wanted to of course.

And of course I wanted to! Chuh! I’m on holiday in a foreign country what better way to spend my evenings…

The next day after teaching a full day I got the call. “Are you ready to go?” she asked, “I’ve told the woman ‘don’t push don’t push!’ til you get here”

With the waters already broken, as well as every taboo in the English culture, I set off hospital-wards in the car while my host drove and discussed the problems she had had the previous night trying to look up gynaecological terms in English to make sure she could describe the scene in graphic detail without grammatical error. I love the Romanian way, always thinking ahead to make the guests feel welcome!

When we arrived at the hospital we were all set to go round to her office, which is at the side of the building. When we tried to get in though, the door was locked. I was thinking that the mother wasn’t going to hold those contractions back much longer when my host casually walked round the side and climbed through the window!

“Come in,” she said, “the window to my office is always open.” - On closer inspection it turned out that the window of her office is in fact always open as it had no window pane in it. The window had been broken some time back but the hospital doesn’t have the money to repair it. When I described this to my brother, a doctor too, he said that this is medicine in the trenches. It had an air of excitement about it. I wasn’t too sure about the use of a Coca-Cola bottle in an operating theatre for administering drugs but then what do I know about medicine.

I put on a white coat and went upstairs to see the pregnant woman taking a last look on the ultrasound at the baby. I was going into the delivery room in disguise as medical student.

When I walked into the delivery room, the mother to be was propped up, legs akimbo on the delivery table. I went to stand in the spectators gallery in the corner with my whistle and scarf to cheer her on.

Giving birth is a messy business. The action starts with this massive *splosh* and the mother sort of winces a bit. Then all this messy liquid comes out and there’s lots of screaming. Bit like taking a big shit really.

My gynaecologist friend showed me the first shock of hair covered in slime as the baby started to poke through and commentated very matter-of-factly as he casually handled this purple, slimy thing.

Push and push as the woman did, the little dude just wasn’t going to come quietly. Without warning, he grabbed the surgical scissors and performed an episiotomy, which is a quick snip down there to widen the exit. At that point, I remembered with a start that I hate sharp things and operations and I can’t stand the sight of blood.

The world went deathly white as I looked on. The baby, the mother, the fit nurse in the corner of the room with the slime vacuum, everyone disappeared from view and I became acutely aware that my legs were having trouble supporting my weight. Just before the world went black I dragged my sweaty, now-white ass over to a chair and sat down, with the sound of all the nurses laughing their heads off behind me.

When I came round a minute later, I found out it was my lucky day. There was another woman expecting a baby and her waters had just broken! Oh my life…

Plans for this week include watchin a Caesarean section and perhaps seeing someone having a tooth extracted. Well it beats watchin TV.
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