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Enfermarse es super caro acá” (Getting sick is so expensive, here!), I said to my (I think) Bolivian pharmacist downtown this morning, as I was purchasing my pricey new meds for what I’d feared was an ear infection or a nearly-ruptured eardrum.
No lo esssss” he said, (no it issssssn’t), he said, drawing out the S like a snake. (This along with the way he looked, and the fact that he was friendly made me guess that he was Bolivian).
Sanarse es lo caro” (Getthing healthy is the pricey bit), I said. And he smiled, with the very Chilean,
Así es” (so it is).

There had been clicking. And squeaking, and a generalized heaviness inside my head localized to the left side. And I thought to myself, “Señora Barbara,” (this is my medical name) you are flying ten hours in a little over a week. Do you want to be seized with blinding ear pain on the flight? No! I said. I do not.

And so I found myself at the friendly neighborhood Integramédica where I get all of my medical stuff done. It’s close, cheap enough with my health insurance and they all remember me well from a very exciting digit-slicing event earlier this year, and still like me in spite of it and the hysteria that ensued. So there I go.

Turns out my nose and ear aren’t communicating properly, the lines of communication are shut down. I don’t know if there’s some kind of work stoppage, tiny little protesters with even tinier pancartas (protest posters) in there, but whatever it is, these parts, they are not playing nice. Sneezing feels weird, coughing is best not to talk about, and last night I imagined pools of warm liquid pouring out of my ear as I tried to fall asleep.

So off I went. I had a longish wait, during which I was subjected to lots of things I don’t care about on a flat-screen TV, and a very nice woman who traded me a 100 peso coin for 10 10-peso coins because she wanted to make a phone call, and who am I to stop one of the five remaining people in this country who don’t have a cell phone from making a call?

The doctor did call me Barbara, as they are wont to do, but did not ask me any of the repetitive questions people ask foreigners in this country, and then put on that great strappy headband with the convex mirror that otorrinos (ENT docs) wear I’d hoped it had a really cool name that I could report. It’s called an “espejo frontal.” Yawn (also makes ear feel weird!). That just means front-side mirror.

I left the office just about $10.50 poorer than I went in and then proceeded to spend a fairly atrocious amount of money on jacked-up slow-release sudafed (Frenaler-D) and Nasonex, of which I have been instructed to administer 2 “puff” into each nasal cavity every evening. Where “puff” is the Spanish word for spray, one would suppose. The meds cost 47 dollars, and while I was looking that up, I noticed that the US dollar is below 500 pesos for the first time in a long time. Which is decidedly ungood for US dollar spenders in Chile. And may I add that when I first got a cold here in Chile and tried to buy anything, anything at all with the Sudafed ingredients in it, I was turned away, with them saying “we don’t sell that.” Not true, apparently. But at the price I just paid, I probably would have run away screaming at any rate.

With any luck at all, the Nasonex will act like teargas (but less burny!), dispatching the roadblock located on that great nasal-aural highway located behind my cheekbone, and all will be well in the world of eardrums, and I will stop imagining liquid streaming out of my ears. And if the dollar climbed up a little, that wouldn’t be too bad, either.

This is the stuffy-eared Señora Barbara, signing off from my comfy green couch in Barrio Brasil. Now get to work! (me, not you).