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In which I tell the story of my first urine sample in Santiago. Just so you know what you’re getting into.

So. You go to the doctor, and they want to look at you every which way and then want to take samples of various fluids to boot. I don’t know about you, but in the states, in the case of the famous urine sample, I have been directed into a restroom with a test tube and instructions to “cleanse the area thoroughly” before filling the vessel. There are special little wipes for this purpose, foil packaged, made of some stridex-pad looking waffle weave with magic solution for “cleansing the area” impregnanted throughout. There might be a little list of instructions of what exactly this entails, or perhaps the wipe itself has a sentence or two on it. I’ve been doing this periodically for years, and I have to say, had never really given it much thought.

The truth is, I wasn’t thinking about it at all when it was time for me to give a urine sample (the first time) in Santiago. I was at a very lovely clinic, Arauco Salud (which I’m told will soon become a Mega Salud), in between working at the Mac Store and charging my computer because sad things happened to my stupid coaxial mac power cord, which when solved, caused me to take and post pictures like this:


(it’s a picture of my mac showing a picture of my mac with the miraculous cord that finally arrived after two weeks and much hair-tearing, and what is the matter with Mac anyway that they have to make a cord that breaks so easily and is so darn expensive, and if they are reading this and would like to refund me the $75 because the Mac service center in Chile would NOT HONOR my $300 Apple Care plan because I hadn’t called to activate it (what?), I would be much obliged. Oh yeah, plus $16 shipping, if you’re keeping track).

Anyway. They say you people like pictures, and goodness knows I can’t post a picture of the rest of the post, so I hope you enjoyed that one.

So. I’m at the fancy doctor, and I’ve arrived fasting, and with my bladder at the ready. I take a number, wait my turn, fill out my paperwork, sit down, again, and am called. Señora Barbara, they say (this being my stage name in Chile, apparently). And the nurse in her matching pants n shirt leads me over to a bathroom, and starts to follow me in.


Yo te hago el aseo,” she says. (I’ll get you cleaned up).

Perdón?” I say (WTF?)

Yo te hago el aseo,” Again with the insisting on assisting in what I consider to be pretty much a one-person job.

No… I say. “Yo lo hago.” (I’ll do it).

Bueno, she says (fine), but if you don’t do it right, and the sample is contaminated, you’ll have to come back and to it again.

We agree that though this is bizarre behavior on my part, this insisting on ensuring my cleanliness all alone, she will allow me to cleanse the girlie parts solo, as I have been doing since I was old enough to know how.

And then she handed me a tremendous was of cotton. Tremendous. Like an orange-sized wad of cotton. Big orange, maybe more like a grapefruit. Not gauze, just combed, de-seeded, picked, bleached and rolled cotton. And I look at her and I say.

Y qué quieres que haga con esto?” (What do you want me to do with this? dreaming as I was of the foil-contained wipes of the Northern Hemisphere.

And she explained how many squeezes of soap I should use from the hand dispenser, and the direction in which I should cleanse, and how many passes (three, one on each side, and one for center stage and ugh I cannot believe I am telling this story and Nomad, this is totally your fault, though I also blame Sara, Abby and Carmen for laughing so hard when I told the story that night at the secret decentish pizza place where thank goodness, Fernando and his three friends didn’t show up so we could get a table.)

And the nurse looked at me one last time, as if to say, I really don’t mind coming into that tiny room with you and helping you out, since you are so behind the curve on girlie parts cleansing. (and God help us all if I get hits on this for girlie parts cleansing, though I will let you know, for sure).

Determined to have my one smidgen of privacy left intact, I then headed into the bathroom, my mind swimming with all kinds of thoughts.

Really? Soap? As in gobs of it?
Why such a giant wad of cotton, what is she saying?
How crapola is her job that she has to do this as part of it?
What if I really don’t know how to clean myself, and I’ve been doing it wrong all these years?
How annoyed will I be if I screw this up and have to come back, but oh, I can go to Boost and get another smoothie, that wouldn’t be bad?
How am I not going to make a giant mess out of this?

And I turned my attention to the task. I divided the cotton into three manageable tufts, squeezed soap, applied same to parts and then stood there, paralyzed. There was a shower-head/bidet hanging from the side of the toilet, and I clearly remembered that there was a rinse portion to this wash cycle.

But how? from a distance? over the toilet? Pants on or not? I remembered a time when I was in Japan and got to one last squatty potty too many and I just took off my pants because I couldn’t figure out which way to squat and although I did not doubt my feminine cleanliness, I could not be sure I would not pee on my pants. At which point I should have just wet myself, and not bothered with all the squatting and breath-holding (bathrooms the world over have yet to conquer this insurmountable problem).

So. I turned on the showery thing, to what seemed to be the right temperature, considered also giving my hair a quick wash (decided against it, there was no conditioner) and set to washing off the massive amounts of soap I’d been instructed to use. I tried to imagine where the nurse would have stood in this room, and if I would have showered her as thoroughly as I showered myself. In the end, the answer is yes, pants off, and yes, backwards on toilet, and don’t turn the water on all the way.

And would you know? Though they’re generous with the cotton, the towels were not nearly so plentiful and between mopping up the muddy water on the floor and dabbing at myself, I may have used most of them.

And then I filled the little sample jar, washed my hands and opened the door in the wall where I was instructed to leave my jar in a secret compartment (cabinet). Because I guess a complete stranger can come into a bathroom with you, run soapy cotton all over your bits, hose you down and then watch you pee, but nobody can handle your jar of urine when it’s all over.

Oh, Chile, land of contrasts, how we love you.