Sitting in the airport during a layover on my way back from DebConf is one of the few times of year that time and motivation come together and routinely lead me to blog.

Each year's DebConf has been special in its own way. This year at DebConf 12, in addition to the usual routine of catching up with all my far-away Debian friends, and of making new Debian friends in a country I've never been before, I got a special treat: my first opportunity to experience the practice of medicine in a foreign country.

Last Saturday after arriving in Managua, I discovered that the very pretty paving stones making up the hotel walkway were also very slippery when wet, and the thin rubber strips that had been helpfully put in place to make them less slippery did not measurably succeed in doing so. So as it was raining that afternoon (as it does nearly every afternoon this time of year in Nicaragua), I slipped, and made the critical error of not falling.

Instead, I stopped my slide - as it happens, by using the big toe of my left foot as if it were a roller skate brake.

I don't recommend this, particularly if, as in my case, you already had it on your todo list to consult a podiatrist after DebConf regarding an ongoing feeling of weakness in precisely that part of precisely that foot.

So while everything seemed fine the next day, Monday I woke up early with excruciating pain in my foot which, having forgotten about the incident two days prior, seemed to come from nowhere. After favoring the foot for another day and trying to keep the pain at bay using just OTC drugs, by Tuesday my foot was quite swollen and a source of concern. So I visited the clinic on the university campus, where the doctor diagnosed me with a dropped arch plus cellulitis due to bacteria entering through some invisible cut.

Conclusion: university campus clinics are equally useless the world over. But at least in addition to pointlessly prescribing antibiotics, the doctor also prescribed some anti-inflammatory drugs to help bring the swelling down.

Nevertheless, my questionable mobility kept both me and Patty from attending the day trip on Wednesday, which was a real shame as I had been keen to climb a volcano that day with my fellow Debian Developers (which in the end didn't happen for anyone, but that's a story for someone else's blog). Instead I took it easy for the day at the hotel, together with a few others who had opted not to attend the day trip, catching up on email and other work and hoping matters would improve. But by the end of the day the swelling was as bad as ever, if not worse, and I had no idea what was going on. Was it broken? Was something dislocated? And so I decided that the following day I would go to the hospital.

The nearest hospital, as given in the DebConf local information page, is the Hospital Militar. It's a strange sort of thing as an American who remembers the 1980s to be seeking medical care from a facility operated by the Nicaraguan military; but accompanied by Fitoria, my native escort from the local team I had nothing to worry about; and besides, as a frequent international traveler I long ago learned the secret truth that people are people everywhere, no matter what flag they were born under. The highlight of the hospital visit was definitely when a member of the hospital staff, in full military uniform, shooed me towards a chair instead of standing to talk to her because "every patient has the right to sit, no matter what country they're in".

After six x-rays and a doctor's consult, the conclusion was that it's probably not a broken bone and that it will probably clear up in just a couple of days with an even-better anti-inflammatory prescription and taking care of it by not walking on it. And indeed, my foot was already feeling better by Friday and aside from a little tenderness is now just about 100%.

There are plenty of other entries on Planet Debian talking about the conference itself, and I don't think I have much to add to what's already been said there. But as for Nicaragua, I can conclude that it must be one of the best countries in the world to break your foot in - between the help of the hotel staff, the top-notch medical professionals, and above all the support of the DebConf local team (with a very big thank you again to Fitoria!), this is one brand of socialized medicine I can appreciate.