Today was the day of the Tick In The Ear. One of the MDs was doing a first pre-natal clinic, and was doing a physical exam when he looked in Mama’s ear (we call all the pregnant girls “Mama”). He originally though that Mama had an absolutely horrible ear infection – the tympanic membrane appeared horribly distended and dark. Then he saw that the tympanic membrane had legs.

He went out into the hallway to announce this discovery and ask for a long, thin clamp (looks like long thin scissors but not sharpened), and I just had to see. So he happily invited me in, handed me the otoscope, and I peeked in her left ear. There it was. Huge. Interestingly enough, Mama felt infinitely better – she’d been complaining for a month now that she couldn’t hear very well out of that ear, and that sometimes it hurt, and that sometimes she wondered if something was in there. She said that she even came to the clinic to have it looked at, but that they didn’t see anything. Didn’t see anything???? This thing essentially covered the tympanic membrane. It. Was. Big.

I got to hold the pinna (auricle? I forget my A&P now) while the MD held the otoscope in one hand, reached in with the clamp, and after a few moments of trying, extracted a tick the size of a pea. “Ew,” said the MD. “Cool!” I said. “I wanna see it!!” said Mama, who had been lying on her side for this procedure. She sat up and grabbed her glasses from her husband. Many expressions of amazement followed her viewing of the tick. “Want to keep it?” asked the MD. “YES!” said Mama. I really, really liked her. She was 19 and funny and open and married to a guy with a good job. We put the tick in a UA container and sent her home with it, laughing all the way.

I was leaving work today and talking idly with one of the nurses and mentioned that my roommate and I had climbed up and around The Toes on the previous evening. I told her that we wanted to try for the top of the Big Toe this weekend. She got very quiet for a moment, and then warned me against going out exploring alone. “Many nurses and doctors have been raped who went alone, or in the evening. Go in the day, with someone else.”

This was the second warning I’d received against going out exploring by myself. It’s good advice regardless, but usually one is cautioned against going out alone in case you happen to fall and break a leg and need help. I haven’t usually considered hiking alone to be a danger. I used to drive to the State parks back in Wisconsin and hike alone; I hiked alone in Wales for several days; I walk alone at night in Milwaukee, and I rarely, if ever, feel threatened.

I suppose it makes me feel like this is one of those towns from a movie…you know, quiet and serene on the outside, but dangerous and threatening in reality. I WANT to go out walking and climbing on the rocks, but once Lisa leaves I’m essentially alone here anyhow. One of the nurses invited me over this weekend, but all of them have families and children. If there are any young, single, outdoorsy people at the clinic, I haven’t met them yet.

Still, although I am the perpetual optimist, I’m not entirely stupid (except about rez dogs). I can pretty much guarantee you I’m not heading out into the hills alone, and certainly not at night. And that’s not entirely a bad thing, because one of the best things I’ve noticed here is that the simplicity is very soothing. I got orders to go on a Thursday, and was at the airport by 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday, and that’s with 9 hours of a work and a whole day in Madison thrown in the middle. I had very little time to pack or plan, and I didn’t have an advance on my PHS allowance to ship 600 lbs. of goods with me. So I checked three suitcases and that was it.

So here I am, with a laptop with very limited and painfully slow computer access, a huge stack of nursing magazines and textbooks, a bunch of books on Indian culture and history, and a suitcase full of half-finished knitting projects. My cell phone doesn’t work, and I can’t call out without using up precious calling card minutes.

It’s nice.

I come home from a day at the clinic, I relax, I make a simple dinner (usually involving beans and rice and frozen veggies), I write up my reflections on the day, I read a little about Type 2 diabetes management and ARDS, read a little about Native culture, and then fall asleep and have the most bizarre dreams (Michele, you didn’t go into labor in the middle of a supermarket, did you??). Then I get up and repeat. I don’t have the millions of distractions that I have back in Milwaukee. Life just feels very quiet, and it’s nice, for a change.

Navajo phrases learned today (all in phonetic spelling):
1) Ya-t-eh — hello, how are you
2) na-a – here (as in “here, take this chart”)
3) ha-tah-alli – medicine man/doctor

Navajo traditions learned today:
1) Navajos do not traditionally say their own name. My supervisor said that this used to be problematic long ago at staff meetings, when people were asked to introduce themselves.
2) Navajos do not traditionally applaud, or clap. Again, this used to be problematic when people received staff awards, and non-traditional (white) people started clapping.
3) Don’t get hit by lightening, or touch anything that has been hit by lightening. It is bad news.

I recommend “The Scalpel and the Silver Bear” by Lori Arviso Alvord, M.D.

By the way, I will be getting access to the KHC computer system, and they do allow employees to check their personal e-mail on their breaks and after hours. So for all of you that have written – thank you so much for such amazing encouragement and support, and I promise to start writing back when I’m on the KHC network (which I think is still dial-up, but at least it’s not draining my calling card).

On tap for this weekend: post office, Laundromat, trading post, paperwork (yes, the PHS has managed to send me yet more paperwork. I love paperwork! Love it! Love it!)