Médecins sans frontières

This is the second time I’ve had occasion in foreign parts to thank Tina Chancellor. There was the incident-filled school trip to the Ardèche where I rang Tina in the middle of the night from a coach on a French motorway due to concern about a lassie on the bus. The lassie was fine, but a staff member was soon requiring hospitalisation: however, this is not the place. Get me onto the subject over a pint somewhere…

The second occasion where thanks are due was today, or rather last night or something, depending on where and when you’re reading this. Laurie had shown Tina one of my rash photos and she passed on words like “antibiotics” and “cellulitis”. So, this morning I skipped school and headed off to Dr Ginige (Gi – ni – guh, with both gs hard) who was recommended by Sera and Poornima. In fact, I had often seen his surgery, all shut up and derelict-looking, as it is right next door to Anura’s café in the Fort: there had been some discussion about my going last year in connection with spider venom.

I feel I ought to say Dr G was very professional: I don’t know why I feel I ought to say it as we would take it for granted at home and would probably only comment if things were not up to scratch. When I arrived more or less bang on 9am with one guy ahead of me in the queue, the two nurses / assistants were just opening up and to be honest the inside wasn’t much better than the outside in terms of dereliction. The waiting room, a concrete cell which gave straight onto the street had two internal doors and a heavily barred and boarded up window to “Reception”. Apart from the “Staff Only” door to reception, which was really little more than a dingy, ill-lit walk-in cupboard, the other led into the Surgery and was lockable: locking the door seemed a pointless tactic as, like an old swimming pool changing room door, there was a gap of about two feet at the bottom and the same at the top. Poornima had explained that she thought the Doc started at 9:00am (it was in fact 9:30) and it was a free-for-all until 10:30, after which some booking system operates. As today was the first time out of the dozens that I’ve passed the surgery and it was open, I assume he’s out on his rounds about lunchtime.

I was called into the surgery whilst the guy in front of me was still in: he was lying on a couch with a big patch over one eye whilst the Doctor examined my rash with a torch, the room being a bit on the dark side. He was particularly interested in the initial photograph, which he described as “artistic”, but he was referring to the configuration of the three weals rather than lighting, composition or other similar qualities. He agreed that the antihistamine was a good idea and asked me to continue with that. He also prescribed something called FuciCort, an antibiotic / cortisone cream. His consultation fee was about £8. Although the surgery is also a dispensary – the guy with the eyepatch was sent off with a couple of bottles one of the nurses made up – I had to go to the Pharmacist for mine, at a cost of about £4.

I was impressed over all. It must be difficult working in conditions like Dr Ginige’s: true, it’s not Syria or any of the other places bombs rain down and doctors work under intense pressure in appalling circumstances risking their own lives very minute, but day after day in a dusty, dirty, ill-equipped surgery must be depressing. I waited half-an-hour in total and most of that was due to me being early for a doctor who wasn’t scheduled to see the public until 9:30, though he did start a few minutes early.

However, the proof of the pudding will be in the healing of my leg. I’ve slapped on one dose of cream and am about to do a second but there’s no miracle cure so far.

When I got back to base, Poornima wanted to know how I’d got on and was particularly keen to know what the doctor thought about me eating pineapple. She was disappointed I’d not mentioned it as she and Sera are sure it’s an allergic reaction to pineapple. I really can’t comment on this other than to say it seems unlikely to me as I’d have thought a more general and less “artistic” rash would have been the result. However, Rick told me a story about how he had once had an embarrassing allergic reaction to mango juice. He lowered his voice and almost giggled as he told me the story, so I suspect he’d rather I didn’t broadcast the specifics.

I have just booked my weekend away. I’m going to a place called Deniyaya, which is one of the gateways into the Sinharajah national park. My outdated guidebook refers to Sinharajah as “the last extensive tract of lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka…one of the island’s outstanding natural wonders and an ecological treasure-box” . I just hope the current guide doesn’t have a paragraph beginning “Since logging started in Sinharajah…” I don’t think that’ll be the case and Sonia provided an up to date  synopsis of the limited accommodation options in Deniyaya.

I’m not a great fan of the telephone, an admission that may come as no surprise to my nearest and dearest, and talking by phone with Sri Lankans on my el-cheapo E-tel with its two number 5 keys is generally a challenge. Things didn’t start auspiciously – a popular word out here – when the guy on the other end, whose voice was breaking up, asked me to ring him back in 5 minutes as he was “just coming”. I think it was a vehicle I heard in the background.

The second call went much better: I have a room booked – with breakfast – for under £25 a night and my day’s all-inclusive guided walk will be a shade over the same figure. It looks as though bus transport from Galle will be relatively straightforward. There is an “express” bus that takes three and a half hours to do the under 90km and another, involving a change in Akuressa, that takes about 5 hours. I got that information during the phone call, but getting any more detail from the SL bus timetable website proved too much for the system. I’ll just have to go to the Galle bus station and sort it out from there.

I’ve stopped going on about the weather, so you’ve probably – and rightly – come to the conclusion things meteorological have calmed down. We’ve not seen rain for a few days now, though past performance is not necessarily a guide to the future.

When I wrote yesterday about the animal life at Sera’s – monitor lizards and flying ants, not to mention monkeys – I should have spared a sentence for the cows which are often to be seen, even on the busy roads around here, wandering in ones or twos along the sides – or even the middle – of the carriageway. When they reach Sera’s, it’s quite common for them to veer off and amble round the grounds until they are gently shooed back outside the gate to continue their peregrinations.

You know those outriggers that cranes, big lorries and the like sometimes have to stabilise them? They usually come out horizontally from the sides of the vehicle and have feet that go down to brace the whole structure and stop it tipping? That’s what a monitor lizard looks like when it walks – its “upper” leg stuck out at right angles to the body and then turning vertically down at the knee. No wonder they seem to waddle as they walk.

It looks like, after about 10 attempts, I’ve managed to upload the photo of the monitor lizard from yesterday, but the coconut harvesting photo refuses to cooperate.

Anyway, I must go and anoint my leg with unguents. Good night.

monitor

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