It was February 2016. After having spent three months in this village the previous year, I had been anxiously counting down the days until I could return. Reuniting with all of my friends, or ‘students’ as many of the other teachers told me to call them, I enjoyed every minute of talking and playing and ‘teaching’. Actually it was during this month that I realized how awful I am at teaching. But I’m great at playing.
There were two schools that I switched between every other day. One had a hostel on the grounds where I stayed and the other was about a 20 minute drive away. It was easy to go there, the director would take me with him.. but he never stayed the full day. Because of this, I would teach from about 9 to 4 and then be stuck in the principal’s office until 5 or 6 when someone could take me back to the hostel. Once I was even forgotten. I liked the students at this school a lot, but having to sit for an hour or two at the end of every day was the bane of my existence and I much preferred to not go at all.
This resulted in me often pretending to be sick. I’m a foreigner in India so it’s perfectly believable for me to have diarrhea occasionally. After about two weeks of successfully avoiding this school, picture day came. There was no way out of it. I was dressed to the nines in someone else’s saree and someone else’s jewelry. They even forced a random girl to give up her bindi for me.
As the four hour photo marathon came to a close, the director told me I would be staying at this school to teach for the remainder of the day. Imagine my horror. Ok not horror, but slight annoyance that I would be stuck there for hours in a dress that I can barely walk in. I immediately said that I was too sick to stay. He and his assistant exchanged worried glances because this was the 5th or 6th time that I had been sick in just two weeks, though never consecutive days. I tried to cover my tracks by alternating between diarrhea and vomiting, but they probably knew what was going on and they tried to call my bluff.
They asked me if I would like to go to a hospital. For an injection. An injection?! I take tablets sometimes when I’m sick, but I’ve never gotten an injection (that I can remember). The director, having lived in Boston for fifty years, sensed my panic. He said that that is how they cure sicknesses in India. It’s a quick fix, just a small injection in the hand. In India they often call an arm as a hand so this didn’t really alarm me and I reluctantly agreed.
We went together to Captain Mathews Hospital. I filled out some basic paperwork and was issued a yellow card.I was escorted to a small room where the director and his assistant followed me for translation. They determined that an injection was indeed the best option and I was taken back to the main waiting area again. Then someone else came to bring me to the injection room.
I sat down and was noticeably shaking. You hear stories about foreigners being injected and then getting sold into prostitution or what if it was heroin or what if there was a bubble in the medicine and I die. She opened the fresh syringe and drew the medicine into the tube. Then she cleaned my hand. Not my arm-hand. My actual hand. I looked at the director, petrified. This is not where injections go.
I’m not even sick and now my lying has gotten me into a village hospital with a lady holding a syringe over my hand. What am I doing. I nod in agreement and look away. It actually didn’t hurt at all, I could barely feel it. She gave me a bandaid and we all piled into the car and drove back to the hostel.
All of the kids examined my hand then I went upstairs to pretend to rest since I was so gravely ill. I didn’t die. I wasn’t sold into prostitution. My fake vomiting was healed. I stopped pretending to be sick after that.