Being sick is a part of life in Haiti. You eat food off the street or don't wash your vegetables, and you get sick to your stomach. Rains come, mosquitoes breed, and you get a lot of bites. You might get malaria or dengue. There are also serious infectious diseases and superbugs like tuberculosis, HIV and MRSA.
There is a hierarchy of sick. Amongst the missionaries and expat aid workers, the worse the disease seems to indicate the cooler you are. The illnesses appear like reluctant merit badges. The more you have earned the more bragging rights you have, or swagger as the kids say.
I have a sinus cold: runny nose, sore throat, stopped up coughing, ordinary cold. Like some sniveling kid in commercial meant to exploit a stay at home mother's emotions. A sinus cold = no swagger.
I know someone in Haiti who had MRSA and malaria. At. The. Same. Time. But... I am out of cough drops. If we were comparing scars, malaria+MRSA is like a scar earned from broken shards of glass while saving orphans from a burning building, while I have a paper cut on my pinkie toe.
So based on this hierarchy, if you have a sinus cold you cannot complain too much even if your voice sounds like a gremlin. You certainly cannot get a sub to rest up because, as previously mentioned, no one has any sympathy. You gotta suck it up.
Early last week this is what I did: I fought through the myriad of symptoms to lecture to, read to and quiz my students. On one day I did all of this on NyQuil. I do not know where this bottle came from, but in the middle of last week I knew it was about to be my best friend. I unscrewed the cap and took a long pull straight from the bottle. Katie asked how much I was taking. I shrugged and went to bed.
The Ticket, my favorite radio station in Dallas. I rolled over to ask Katie how she was getting The Ticket... but she was still asleep next to me. I realized I was still severely drugged up. I was having auditory hallucinations. (Only a good, strong P1 would hallucinate about The Ticket) So I did what any normal, responsible person would do: I got dressed and taught impressionable teenagers.
The day was a blur. Everything moved in slow motion and most people sounded like they were underwater. I also found my self-control inhibited.
In one class a student started talking with a Jamaican accent. I did not hallucinate this- he had done it before. A normal, sober teacher would have gently corrected him. I wanted to point out how silly a Haitian-Canadian speaking like a Rastafarian is. So I told him. For 3 minutes. In a loud Scottish Brogue.
I stumbled home at the end of they day and immediately went to bed. I do not mean to glorify this behavior. I am aware that NyQuil is basically one part grain alcohol + one part hallucinogenic snow-cone syrup. And it is considered a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamines.
Rather this is a scary and terrifying testimony of the lengths that I am willing to go to avoid calling in sick when I do not have a major communicable disease or a mosquito-borne illness.