the story so far

Blood and Harmonicas

Today has had its ups and downs. It ranged from children nearly passing out at the sight of tremendous amounts of blood to nasally performed harmonica playing. Unrelated? Yes. But all in a day’s work.

Admittedly I’m writing this blog post to take a break from the insane amounts of research I’ve been conducting on the state of affairs in Ukraine – research which I am doing alongside the overwhelming amount of paperwork required for legal and medical clearance in order to truly be accepted into the Peace Corps. For about two weeks now I’ve spent about seven hours per day between this research and these tasks. So this post is not about that, it’s about anything that’s not that.

It was recess time at school, which is usually a welcome time for an almost break in the challenge that is ‘the school day.’ But today and yesterday have been almost intolerably hot and humid, and combined with the rush of the year coming to an end, even recess is not restful. I had just sat down adjacent to the playground, supervising children at play, when one of my students came tearing across the yard screaming as if his life depended on it.’I’M BLEEDING I’M BLEEDING HELP I’M BLEEDING!!!’ Now I’m sure this is the sort of thing that typically sends teachers and caregivers into a state of heightened adrenaline, but I was particularly unprepared to address the situation, as I had about seven little girls clinging to my every limb. Despite the obvious emergency, they were extremely difficult to extricate myself from.

That said, it still only took me a few paces to bridge the gap between the panicked child and where I stood, and taking in the scene wasn’t comforting. His hand and arm were covered in blood which was dripping from positively everywhere and running down his arm and beginning to pool on the concrete. His flailing initially made it look even worse than it actually was, but as he kept screaming ‘MY HAND MY HAND ITS BLEEEEEDING!’ I assumed his arm was okay and held it still while we made our way into the school. I must have half carried him, as we arrived inside much sooner than I thought possible, and quickly rushed to a sink. I needed to find out where the bleeding was and stop it.

The blood disappeared down the drain and what was left was a finger tip, the skin of which had been all but completely ripped off. Who knew a single finger could bleed so much? I didn’t. The edge of the fingernail typically covered in skin and near to the first knuckle was clearly visible, sticking out from beneath a hardly identifiable flap of skin. Blood had pooled under the nail turning it a sickly purple-black, and the whole finger continued to bleed and swell. The poor kid nearly blacked out a couple of times looking at it. By this time several other teachers in the office had assembled around us as I rinsed the injury and applied a topical antibiotic and a giant bandaid. They each offered completely useless bits of advice which I summarily ignored with a “thanks for your help” smile plastered to my face.

I called his mother at work, who wanted a photo of the injury sent to her so she could decide if she should take him to the ER or not. So after having succeeded in finally bandaging the wound, it was like pulling hen’s teeth to convince the boy to let me unbandage, photograph, and rebandage the cut. She ended up coming to get him an hour later.

It wasn’t until speaking to parents at the end of the day during dismissal that I realized that his blood had dripped all over my feet and dried there for hours, completely unnoticed in the spur of the moment. Explaining to parents of other students why your feet are covered in blood at the end of the day isn’t as entertaining of a conversation as you’d think.

But that’s the life of a second grade teacher I suppose. I can’t imagine what this year would have been like without the countless occurrences of being covered in kids’ vomit, blood, and boogers.

And now we come to the harmonica, because that was the most amusing and redeeming factor of this day.

My father plays the harmonica, a bit. Or he has off and on over the years. He’s just recently reacquired one, and this evening he was sitting on the couch playing little melodies to himself. I don’t know why it popped into my head to ask if a harmonica can be played through the nose, I really don’t. But I asked that. With a slight look of confusion but more than a little amusement, my dad looked at me out the side of his eye. “Uhhhh…. yes? Why do you ask…?” I didn’t have an answer to that except “well can you do it? I want to see!” Again – I don’t know what came over me. But for some inexplicable reason, he humored me.

Watching my dad plug one nostril while playing a tune on his harmonica with the other side of his nose has to be not only my favorite part of today, but one of my favorite things to ever happen, ever. I’m sorry if that’s weird, but it was SO FUNNY. I can’t even explain why. But he dissolved into a deep dad-like chuckle of self amusement at the end which just made it that much better.

If nasal harmonica playing is what it takes to remedy a bloody ridiculous day, then so be it.


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