Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Stitches

So, last weekend--the weekend of the sixth, right after my last entry--it rained all weekend. In the immortal words of Danny the Brit, "It's not funny anymore."

Although, to be honest, I still thought it was funny. And fun. On Sunday, the sun peeked out for a moment or two in the morning, and so we made a firm decision to go to the beach in the afternoon. We grabbed our snorkel gear and took a bus to St. George's, the nearest town, from whence we walked to Tobacco Bay, the nearest and most popular sandy beach.

It was quite cloudy, but still delightfully warm. I went for a snorkel and saw some really lovely fish--huge parrots and bright butterflies, as well as a moon jelly. I never get tired of how different coral reefs are from the (still beautiful) rocky reefs we have back in California.

But as the afternoon wore on, the clouds became several shades darker and more menacing, and finally a few drops starting falling. And, as seems to be the tropical standard from my limited experience, within three minutes the drizzle had turned into a downpour.

Everyone on the beach crowded under the few umbrellas and awnings outside the little snack and gift shop. On a tangent, this shop particularly annoyed me, because I feel it to be the primary function of any beachside snack shop to provide beachgoers with ice cream. I am aware that few people in the world share the degree of my fondness for ice cream, but it seems not unreasonable to expect ice cream at a beach. But the Tobacco Bay snack shop has no ice cream! None! Not even bars in a freezer! The closest they have are frozen italian ices. I find this totally unacceptable.

Anyway, there we all were, soaked because the wind was blowing the rain right under the umbrellas, waiting and waiting for it to let up. Sometimes, in Bermuda, downpours last five or ten minutes. Sometimes they last all day. This time turned out to be one of the latter. The rest of my group made a dash for the bathroom, which was fully dry, while I took the opposite path. Reasoning that I was already entirely soaked, I went back in swimming.

First, however, I waded through the rapidly forming pools to ask the people working the snack bar if they could call us a taxi, which they did, and said it would take about half an hour.

So I spent the next half an hour kicking lazily across the bay, watching the rain spot across the water, and keeping an eye out for the taxi.

And that was the weekend. But on Monday, we woke up to a brilliant sky and a sun blazing some of the humidity out of the air. It was a gorgeous day to begin the week of our data collecting for experiments. But, before we could start our lab experiment, we needed another catch of fish to feed to the squid.

So we set out for Horseshoe Bay with the groups doing field work in the bay, unrolled our seine net, and started looking for fish. The silversides were schooling, or rather not schooling, in frustratingly small and scattered groups. Finally we caught a few, and I started carrying the bucket back to shore. As I was wading through a few feet of water, I walked right into a rock. It hurt. So I said "Ow."

I kept moving, because I'd scraped myself on these rocks before, and it was just something through which to grit one's teeth for a moment or two. But it kept hurting. So I said "Ow" a few more times, quite loudly and distinctly, but, I was told later, calmly.

A few people asked if I was okay. Curious about that myself, I lifted up my knee to look at it, and was startled to see it gushing blood. Carefully I set the bucket down in the rocks, and, remembering my first aid training, put my hand over the wound and applied pressure.

"Are you okay?" someone asked again.

"I don't think so," I answered. "It looks kind of bad."

Beth came over to look, and I lifted my hand for a moment to show her. She was rather surprised, and instantly worried, and we decided I'd better get back to the station if not to the hospital. I felt incredibly stupid for hurting myself, but there we were.

So Beth carried me through the water back to the sandy bit of shore where I could get out, and people crowded around, of course. I asked someone to get my shirt to tie around it, but my lab partner Rebecca offered her purple shirt, which was close at hand. I said I didn't want to use her shirt.

"It's not my color anyway," she said, which I found incredibly sweet and cute.

I tried to convince people to go and catch fish, while Beth ran back to the station to get someone to come pick me up with a car. Everyone was so nice. Danny carried me piggyback up to the road from the beach, and Daylin sat with me and talked while we waited for a vehicle.

One of the girls in our class, Diana, works full time as a lifeguard, and she was the one who came to get me with her scooter. She untied the shirt, looked at my gaping wound, pronounced me in need of stitches, wrapped it up with real bandages, put a helmet on me, put me on the scooter, and took me back to the station, where we called a taxi to take me to the hospital.

The rest of the story isn't really that interesting. I shall simply note that I was treated by a Nigerian-born doctor who lived in England and spoke perfect British English and was quite competent but quite rude. The injection of anaesthetic was excruciating but mercifully brief, and watching him put in the stitches was really interesting. The fact that we still have to take a needle and stitch wounds together so that they heal seems unbearably medieval to me, though. I can't explain it very well, but I feel we ought to have much more sophisticated techniques by now.

Speaking of sophisticated, I did get a very neat square of something like sticky saran wrap over the stitches, which was all I had in the way of a bandage, so you could see the stitches and the blood around them as it dried over the course of the next few days.

The huge bummer about all of this was all of the things I couldn't do. As the taxi was driving me into the station, I saw the boys out playing Monday soccer, which I had been so looking forward to playing again.

And I couldn't go in the water, rendering me useless for collecting feeder fish--a critical part of our project, as you may recall. Fortunately, I could still feed the squid, and put little red Legos in the water, and watch them try to discriminate between horizontal and vertical Legos, and take notes. Maybe I'll write more about the lab work, and our project, later on. Suffice it to say for now that I could do all of the experimental work with stitches in my knee.

I got a couple of new nicknames out of the whole experience--"Stitches" and "Gimpy", predictably. Gimpy didn't last, because I stopped gimping after the first day or two, and Stitches unfortunately didn't either--unfortunately, because I thought it was pretty cute.

It didn't last because by the end of the week, I was no longer the only one on the station with stitches.

On Friday, I was just coming out of my room after an afternoon nap when I saw Beth racing up to her room from a taxi that was just outside housing. When she saw me, she stopped for a moment. "Danny cut himself on a rock at Whalebone," she said. "We're going to the hospital for stitches. I'm getting his wallet from his room."

"You're kidding," I said, and started laughing. I walked over to the taxi with a big grin on my face, and poked my head in to see Danny sitting there, a bloody bandage around one forearm and a disgusted expression on his face.

"There was no reason for this to happen," he protested, as soon as he saw me. "I was in maybe this much water"--gesturing less than a foot--"and I set my arm down on a rock, and picked it up again, and it was gushing blood."

"I know exactly how you feel," I said.

"How many stitches did you get again?" he asked me.

"Five," I told him. "See if you can beat me."

He did. He got six. And they cost less than mine, which irked me significantly. At least, I feel it to be significant. If our irk were measured over the time from our wounds, mine would show a statistically significant spike at this point.

So, yeah, I'm being nerdy again. I've acquired quite a reputation as the nerd here. I've also got a reputation for being responsible and a good artist. Who knew? Consequently I ended up being the one to design and draw our class t-shirt. But that's a story for another day, as it's already getting late, and I'm supposed to write the introduction for our paper tonight.

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