Frying Pans to Fires to Face-Ache
On Thursday night I tumbled in through the front door in my usual state of lazy disarray and feeling particularly pleased with myself as the following day I was going to Centre Parcs with my parents and my big brother like we did when we were little! Yay! I slumped onto the sofa, flipped open the laptop and began my regular Hotmail/Lovefilm/Facebook routine. There was an usually large amount of little red message alerts on the facebook taskbar and most of them were from the i-to-i internship page; from other interns discussing whether or not the rumours were true that the internship was cancelled, it seemed some of them had had calls. I looked up at the phone – the voicemail light was flashing. I dialled i-to-i’s number as quickly as possible and waited whilst I was put through to ‘Emily’; the i-to-i short-straw tasked with giving out bad news.
“i-to-i is dedicated to providing the best possible experience for all our teaching interns and as a result we’ve been re-evaluating our relationship with our Thai teaching partner, the Lawoe School of Technology. We no longer feel that they are able to provide the absolute best experience so we have taken the difficult decision to cancel the coming internship and work with another provider on the next one in October.” Her voice had that braced-for-impact edge that I recognised from my own years of drudgery at the end of a phone giving bad news. She’d clearly been shouted at all day, I couldn’t be mad at her. All I could think was ‘but October’s no good, my flight’s booked for April 27th’. I couldn’t think what to say.
“Hello? Do you understand?” She queried uneasily.
“You need some time to think about your options of course, there’s the next internship in October, China in August…” She rattled off alternatives, none of which were acceptable – didn’t she understand that I was going to Thailand in April? ‘I’ve put my notice in at work’ was all I could think, ‘I’m going to Thailand in April.’
“…of course we can refund you in full…”
“shall I call you back on Monday when you’ve had some time to think?”
“…thanks for being so understanding.” Ah I recognise that gratitude; you know you’ve been the tool of an evil machine and someone’s had the decency not to blame you.
I dropped the phone onto the sofa cushion and stared at it. Stared at the door, stared and the wall, picked my nails, fiddled with my hair, what the hell was I going to do now? I had ten months or so to kill in Thailand and not nearly enough money to not be working at least half that time. Not for one second did I contemplate pushing the trip back. I’d just have to find teaching work some other way. It would be fine, it was better in fact – now I would have all the money back from the internship to add to the pot and I’d never been 100 percent sold on it to be honest, it had seemed a bit gap yah whereas I’m not taking a gap from life I’m hoping to start it. I have a phobia of contrived authentic experiences and sometimes it had felt like one. In a demented and worried way I felt a little bit relieved.
Karen rang and I told her what had happened and that I planned to still go. She was impressed and told me I was like all the travelled people we gush about and get inspired by who do crazy things like buy one-way tickets to Thailand with 3 grand in their pockets and just see where the wind takes them; that made me feel kind of cool when I thought about it like that. I got off the phone and my lip hurt so I peeled it down and looked in the mirror – ulcer. I always get them when stressed although that’s got to be a time record. ‘I’m not stressed’ I told my lip, so calm yourself. This is actually exciting. Still going to Thailand – just got no work and nowhere to stay when I get there!
The next day my dad and I were packing the van for Center Parcs and I was periodically checking the i-to-i facebook page to see if anyone had come up with any good solutions yet when another internship company popped up – they were looking into running a tailor-made course for all us jilted interns, evidently good opportunists. It would be easier to know I was going to something definite. An hour later whilst I was checking-in online they popped up again – no can do, too short notice according to their directors. Stupid wireless keyboard started playing up while I was checking-in; I pressed the buttons, no response – stupid fecking bastard stupid keyboard – bang! I brought my fist down with a furious crash on the desk.
“Everything ok?” Called my dad.
“Fine!” I trilled and exhaled. I didn’t want to pay a company loads of money anyway. My head hurt, damn it – this was my last proper weekend with my parents and my brother for who-the-hell-knows-how-long and I was not going to spend it feeling rough!
I spent the first few hours in Centre Parcs in the bath and in bed. I was cold to my very bones and Conan the Invisible Barbarian was jabbing his meaty fingers into my temples every time I moved my head. I lay flat in the bath, finger-tips together à la Mr Burns and contemplated what to do about my brain. I’m not stressed, this is exciting. If it’s psychological that I’m not feeling well then I can fix it with psychology. I. Am. Not. Stressed. I drank a crate of Strongbow with my brother and felt better.
The next morning I woke up with 11 ulcers creeping over onto my lips which was particularly unattractive and started the jibes about me looking like Lesley Ash. Still determined (aggressively) to enjoy myself, I frog-marched up to the Park Market and purchased some Bonjela – which felt remarkably like squeezing acid into my mouth. That aside though it was a wonderful weekend and really valuable time spent with my family, even if my brother did start calling me Baron Harkonnen when I woke up on Sunday morning with a grand total of 16 mouth ulcers and people started giving me funny looks in the pool as though I was contagious. The only thing I was stressed about by that point was the increasing number of sores on my mouth!
Myself and some of the other interns decided to contact the Lawoe School of Technology ourselves and see if they still wanted us despite i-to-i cancelling – success, they did! I’m doing the exact same thing I was going to be doing before, in the same place, but I’m not paying i-to-i a grand for the privilege; all’s well that ends well hey. Still no-one has passed the message on to my chops though. It feels more intrepid too, less like contrived authenticity and more like a proper employment agreement. If we don’t like it we can vote with our feet since we’ve made no financial commitment to it. Not that I plan on doing that. Everything’s perfect. Except for the gob. And my face. On Monday the pain was excruciating but I was determined not to let it spoil the last day – the total of ulcers had gone up to somewhere around 20 but had got hard to count. I managed to ignore it long enough for a last round of crazy golf and a drink outside the Jardin de Sport.
On the way home I started to feel ill, all I could think about was how painful my face was and when I got home I went straight to bed. The next morning I didn’t recognise myself in the mirror, the reflection was puffy and swollen and my glands were so enlarged it was hard to make a clear distinction about where my neck ended and my chin began and my lips, oh god my lips – I looked like Pete Burns at his worst. I rang the doctors for an appointment and battled with the engaged tone for 15 minutes until the receptionist answered and told me there was no spaces left. I’m not proud of what happened next but I burst into tears; proper, snotty, 5-year-old-with-a-scraped-knee tears.
“Are you ok?” the receptionist asked gently.
“I’m, sob, urgh…. Sorry, I’m… sob… sorry…” I just couldn’t speak! Not for a good 5 years have I cried like that. Eventually between gasps I managed to explain to her that I had septic ulcers and that they were unbelievably painful. She got the doctor to call me back and thankfully I was calm by then; he had a nervous tone to his voice which suggested he had been pre-warned I was likely to be hysterical. He wrote me out a prescription for steroids and antibiotics immediately on the basis of my description and I’ve been in bed ever since, nursing my massive ugly face. Fun times. Today I discovered Vaseline – it’s the shiz and I totally recommend it if you ever grow 25 septic ulcers in the course of one weekend (which I totally do not recommend). I’m going back to bed now before my face falls off. Damn you i-to-i. 50 sleeps exactly.