Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Driving licenses

Yesterday was a landmark day for us – we got our Belize driving licenses. We had asked about driving licenses last year when we first got here and registered the truck, and were told that our US licenses were good for a year, and after a year all we had to do was present our US licenses and we would be given Belize licenses. Tom had stopped at the Ministry of Transportation at the beginning of last week, just before our official one-year anniversary here, and had been told to come back when he completed the full year. So, we went yesterday, thinking that all we had to do was fill out the form, show our US licenses and passports, pay the fee, and we’d be good to go. But, it wasn’t that easy.

First, they needed proof that we’ve been here for a year, so we had to get our passports copied with all the pages stamped to show we haven’t left the country. Then, we had to get pictures to be affixed to both the licenses we carry and the paperwork filed at the Ministry of Transportation office. Finally, we had to go to the government hospital and get a doctor to sign that we’re physically fit to drive. Nothing happens fast here, and making all these stops took the better part of half the day.

But, everything happens for a reason, and apparently the reason was that I was supposed to see a doctor. On Saturday night, I had stepped on Mel in the dark, and he bit me on the shin. It hurt when it happened, and it was sore on Sunday, but dog bites always hurt, and I’ve had enough dog bites while breaking up fights that I know they hurt a little more than other types of punctures. On Monday it was still pretty sore, and that part of my leg was a little puffy. By Tuesday, my leg from the knee down and foot were swollen, and the middle and lower parts of my shin were red and hot. Tom suggested that I see a doctor even before we picked up the driving license applications, but I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I didn’t want to take the time and didn’t think I needed to take antibiotics. But, since we had to see the doctor anyway for the license signoff, I told Tom I’d show the doctor my shin.

I was wearing a skirt that went down to mid calf, so when I sat, my lower legs were covered. The doctor at the government hospital is Cuban and speaks mostly Spanish, so we were answering her questions for the license certification in fits and starts, and we assured her that our sight was good, we weren’t epileptic, and we were physically sound. As we were getting ready to leave, I lifted my skirt to show her my leg and said in Spanish, “This is okay?” Her eyes got big and she said “No, that is not okay! It is infected! You need pills!” She tsked and shook her head, yelled at Tom and asked him if he had any infirmities he needed to show her, and wrote me a prescription for Cipro. We had it filled and I started taking it last night, and while my leg is still pretty swollen, the hot red area is smaller and I don’t think it hurts as much, although that’s hard to say since I’m sitting and typing with the leg propped up rather than running around town like yesterday. The only good thing about the bite is that it’s almost on top of my machete scar, so I won’t be adding another really obvious scar to the collection on my legs.

And, by the way, we returned to the Ministry of Transportation with our stamped, signed, and witnessed paperwork with pictures, and were given our licenses, good until our birthdays in July 2009.

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