Sunday, 29 April 2012

The return of Victor, Migraines and my impending return to England

Victor has returned. I heard the doorbell ring but thought nothing of it initially and continued watching Charlie the Unicorn in my pjs. 10 minutes later, in he bursts to my room. 'Loren!' Oh dear. I had a glance round in hope that the lamp was in sight, looking like it was in regular use as he asked to see my arm. It was down the side of the bed, underneath a pile of Harry Potter dvds. This did not seem to bother Victor as he made all kinds of surprised and gleeful noises at the sight of my (now irritation free) scar. Naturally, it was all 'pochti ne vidno' and 'mne ochen' nravitsya!'. 2 weeks with this miracle technology twice a day is now, to him, a miracle cure for ailments of every kind. I obviously agreed with what he said, making grateful sounds and nodding vigorously at the appropriate moment, slightly uncomfortable that I haven't touched either the lamp or cream since he left. His trust in me to do things properly is very much misplaced. Fortunately the subject was quickly changed as he decided I was looking unwell, a nice cover for the reason as to why I was dressed in Family Guy pj bottoms and  spongebob top at 2pm, and told me to go to bed.

Unfortunately, it turns out that I really was unwell, and subsequently developed a migraine. I should have realised I was due for this earlier, because I'd been picking up 'phantom' smells for days, which is always a good warning sign, but the first indication I got of this, was the feeling that my eyes weren't working together. Then the vague sensation that I wasn't seeing quite everything out of the left eye. And then the prisms , which start in the corner and meander their way across to the other side, flashing and blotting out part of the vision inconveniently. It's a bit like looking through swiss cheese, only the holes keep moving too quickly to ever focus. Generally, this will last 20 minutes and then I will get the head pain, so it's a convenient warning sign. This time round it went, and then a different type of aura struck up, called hemiplegic. A weird combination of pins and needles and numbness started in my hand and then moved to the left side of my face, starting in the corner of my lips and spreading throughout, including in my teeth, which is possibly the strangest sensation I've ever experienced and really scared me the first time I had it, but now I just sit around and ride it out, mainly because it usually paralyses me down one side so I can't exactly go anywhere. The pain didn't materialise straight away. After 15 minutes I was convinced I'd got away with it and decided to paint my nails in a smug shade of purple.

The smugness was premature. 10 minutes and it hit, leaving me writhing in pain, attempting to bury my head in the mattress and feeling immensely sick. Eventually I fell asleep and when I woke 6 hours later the bulk of the pain had gone. Unfortunately it was almost midnight. And unfortunately, it appeared that my bed sheets were covered in purple nail varnish.
The visual aura is kind of similar to this. Everyone's is different, but this is the closest in terms of distorted vision I can find to mine.

So, I'm getting a lot of these migraines here, and they're ever increasing in severity. The neuralgia has spread too and is causing unpredicatable bother. I've talked to uni and decided it's better to go home early before they get out of hand. I'm hoping that when I get back I can sort out the issues which are stressing me out so much and they'll die down, otherwise I will be going home in June, facing said issues and needing to take exams during a massive episode. It's disappointing but there's not much I can do about it, it's just what happens. Migraines enjoy putting a dampener on things. When I was little, I always desperately wanted a Toblerone - they just looked so cool. When I finally got round to trying one, I enjoyed its honey and nougaty goodness for all of about 2 minutes before it floored me with a migraine which had me crying for hours. Sadistic.

I have just accidentally swallowed my gum, and according to the age old and 100% accurate playground legend, it will soon be twisting it's way round my intestines and I will surely be dead by the morning. It's probably time to go and eat some cottage cheese to counter it.



If anyone has any ideas for how to remove nail varnish from bed sheets, please do let me know. So far I have discovered that dousing them in nail varnish remover does not work, but does cause a vaguely alcoholic smell to linger on your pyjamas.
Answers on a postcard please, to:

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Generic blog post title about stuff I've done recently

Spoke too soon about the weather. The rivers are all flowing still, but they're on the rise because it's been raining for the last three days. Lovely. The temperature has dropped a fair bit too, but now that I've been out without my polar gear, I refuse to go back. As such, I am getting death looks from the babushki and stares from the general Russian population for being under dressed. Thankfully, however, Victor is in Voronezh for two weeks, so I'm getting away with going out dressed normally without being told that I'll catch my death without a hat, scarf and boots.
I don't know why he's in Voronezh, but I'm enjoying the break. Victor is lovely, but I'm not used to being mothered and I'm getting a bit fed up of being told that I'm not eating when actually I am, and getting told off for sitting against a wall because my back will suffer. And, of course, I've now been entrusted to complete the lamp routine by myself. Naturally, this means I've been completely neglecting it.

The all powerful lamp
Victor means well. The problem is that he thinks everything can be solved with his bloody lamp. The scar healing technology he so worships originates in China (and I am suspicious over the reliability of their results) and his lamp is Russian. It has nothing to do with the medical 'technology' from China, and I'd happily put money on it being completely ineffectual, although I suspect there's an element of the placebo effect at work. My flatmate here has experienced the lamp, and agrees it's bull. Victor also likes to place a stone between his ribs every so often and smack down on it, because it 'makes him strong'...somehow. Like me, the strongest protest he's been able to summon is 'bolno, Victor....bolno' - ie, that hurts. The thing is, with me, it really really really hurts. When I tell Victor that maybe we should forget the 'Chinese face massage' because the neuralgia is playing up, he takes that as cue to get the lamp out and press into the side of my face afflicted with what is fondly known as 'the suicide disease'. It's not doing me any good, as attested by the dentist, who I visited for the 2nd time today.

The accordion trance which so accosted my ear when I rang for the original appointment was definitely not an indication of poor care. I went to the top private clinic in St Petersburg, opposite Kazan Cathedral in one direction and the Church on Spilled Blood in the other. Prime location. A little thrown by the claim of being an 'international clinic' when nobody seemed to speak English initially, the cleanliness of the place and the unusal friendliness of the staff calmed me down. We muddled through the actual examination in ruglish blend of languages and I was given medication and a wonderfully small bill. Today's appointment revealed that, surprise of surprises, I need to visit a neurologist. I don't really get what's going on with my body at the moment, but my feet are, well, vibrating- or it feels like they are, and I'm dropping everything and tripping all the time in addition to having weird sensations like water trickling down my arms and face. Declined the offer to make an appointment with the neuro there in the hope that my email to my own doctor will shed some light first. If I can actually make it through a term without ending up in hospital over something, it will be a miracle. My year abroad tutor will be so proud of me.

In lighter news, my friend had a birthday last week, and we all went to TGIs to celebrate. It was nommy. I had decided that it was completely necessary for him to receive a balloon on his 21st, and so earlier that day I wandered around looking for something appropriate.

Once I'd seen it, I knew it was perfect. Passed up the usual Happy Birthday round balloons for this beauty:

Introducing Jerry the Cow
I have previously talked about the need to blend in when in Russia. Carrying this around the city did not help. But I love him. Apparently, his name is Jerry.

Then, on Sunday, it was Russian Easter. I think this is just Orthodox Easter, because it's also when the Greeks celebrate, but whatever. Over here, there are no chocolate eggs. It's purely a religious holiday, rather than the Festival of Chocolate which it really is at home. Certain supermarkets in England, so I'm told from someone behind the scenes, have had chocolate eggs in since Boxing day, which is absurd in every way. Here, you wouldn't have known it was Easter other than the abundance of specially baked 'Kulich'- a type of cake with fruit in and some kind of topping. It's really pretty good, although I quite enjoy the packaging of Easter eggs at home...I'm easily taken in by advertising, clearly. Fortunately the supermarkets here play such intensely awful music, similar to that you'll hear on the sims, that I don't stick around long enough to be taken in by anything.
Easter cake - 'кулич'
It's staying light until almost 10pm at the moment, a sign that Summer is indeed coming, not that anyone really seems to believe me that it will get really hot, because the weather has shown zero sign that it's capable of anything over 15degrees. When I was here in first year it was at least 30 by 8am and the night just didn't come - it's strange, but something most people are excited to experience. I have 61 days left until I go home, and it's going much quicker than it did in Yaroslavl. Possibly because I'm not being reminded of how many days I have left by other people this time round, but also because it's just more enjoyable here. I should also seriously get on with my year abroad project, which is rapidly starting to induce 'The Fear' in me.
Where is the time going? Probably to the same place as Sir Rolf, my beloved koala, who is lost somewhere in Russia alone. Sad times.

On a final note, I have been drinking tea. A lot of tea. And it's still utterly disgusting. I don't know who came up with the idea that you grow to like a taste, but I can't say I agree. I even tried coffee, but to no avail.
I will never be the pretentious hipster type sitting in Starbucks with a mac and a tall froppamochalattechino now.
Kak zhal. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Victor and his lamp

Not very good at updating this regularly, am I?

First thing's first: Today it hit DOUBLE figures. For the first time I went out without my down coat. Spring is here! :D
Still very happy with my new homestay, it's very clean and the bedding has already been changed twice (although they have Russian style covers, meaning the opening is right in the middle and consequently I wake up every morning trapped inside, which is a little disconcerting, and trying to get the duvet in in the first place is a task which has seen me swear and stamp my feet a fair amount) which is a marked improvement on Loony Lyudmila's place. Funnily enough, these people actually seem to care about me too, which is just a bit odd given that my experience of homestay tends to be one in which you are given your meals, exchange some niceties and then are left to do whatever the mood takes you.
Victor is a chiropractor. He likes alternative options. The family is also mormon, which is extremely unusual here and consequently have a lot of missionaries and the like to stay. The guest books which people write in after coming to visit are full of entries singing the praises of a family in whose home 'the holy spirit is felt throughout', both in Russian and English. I am somewhat sceptical of a religion which has so many different branches varying so wildly from one another, but they are nice enough people. It is a mix of this kind heartedness and the opportunity to have a live-in guinea pig to experiment on that I think makes Victor constantly check up on me.

He works for a Chinese medical company and is using their products to try to reduce the scars on my arm which I've had for about 7 years now (horse riding, incidentally, 3 operations later having had metal plates in and out and my arm probably looks a bit of a mess to most people I suppose.) He also has this lamp thing, I think it works with red light to break up scar tissue, so every morning and night we have this ritual where he chats away to me in Russian while treating the scars with cream and light.
Now, every so often I get this nasty red patch of irritation on the scar on the inside of my arm, right next to part of it which has healed perfectly and is barely noticeable. It's partly due to my neglecting the skin but always fades eventually. Victor, however, is taking it's disappearance as a sign of the miracle technological advances of his company. I'm not going to rain on his parade by saying that, actually, no I don't think it's amazing because any wound is going to improve in appearance with regular moisturising and massage. Every time he comes into my room with a bowl of fruit and jug of water (because apparently I don't eat and he's going to have to tell my mother if I don't start - a. I eat when I'm out and b. HA.) he takes a look at my arm. This is where it becomes extremely predictable.
His observations are as follows:
1. Oh ty! Mne OCHEN nravitsya! - translation: wow! I really like it!
2. Kak zdorovo!                                translation: how great!
3. I like it!                                         translation: um...yeah he speaks english
4. A zdes...pochti ne vidno!              translation: And here...almost can't see it! (that would be down to
                                                           the 7 years of healing...and that's the bit that was already healed)
5. Mne ochen ochen nravitsya! get the idea.

I'm a little peeved that the credit for this healing is being handed over to a sodding lamp, when in reality it's years of hard work by my body with a dodgy immune system, but whatever, it's amazing language practice. Plus now I seem to have been entrusted with the lamp by myself, which means that I don't always do it and get out on time in the mornings. Tellingly, Victor is still seeing progress in the scars despite the lack of treatment. Hmm.

So anyway, I currently am in less than great health and have been having migraines all over the place while my trigeminal neuralgia is conveniently changing its pattern, which is extremely bad news and difficult to manage over here. On top of that I've had serious pain in one of my teeth and the surrounding area plus eyes, neck and ears. My wisdom teeth never quite came through. But Victor doesn't seem to understand that I'm likely to need neurosurgery at some point which will include a bit of a stay in intensive care in order to deal with some of this, and he is insistent on using his lamp, which has actually made it worse because he uses a lot of pressure. My tooth has been screaming at me for this and tomorrow I am off to the dentist. Less than appealing prospect. But I did ring them up and book it in Russian! Ura for me! (after 10 minutes being put on hold and suffering the trauma of a uniquely Russian kind of 'on hold' music which can only be described as accordion trance. As if the dentist isn't bad enough.)

I should probably go to bed now. I am hoping next week will be more successful than this. I have broken my kindle and cover, iphone charger and had my debit card stopped because some nonce in Liverpool has used my details to buy a bunch of crap online. What a dipstick.

I promise to write something more interesting, less whingy and more happy next time.
Like, I just washed my hair and it's given itself a zigzag parting all by itself. What a clever head I have.

Spokoinoi Nochi.