Being sick is never fun, especially when you get older. I remember usually enjoying sick days when I was little. I got to stay home from school, eat soup, watch T.V. and, if I was lucky, my mom would take me to my grandma’s house because she always made me feel better. It’s not so bad being sick when you’re little because you know someone is always there to take care of you. Even though we might feel gross and sick, it makes it better knowing someone we trust is right there to help us through it.
Last week, I contracted (for my second time) a bacterial infection in a foreign country. I was up all night with stomach cramps and in the morning they were so bad they thought I might have had a kidney infection. I rushed off to the hospital to find that I had just eaten something with a bacteria that caused me to have “un colico” or basically painful spasms in my stomach and back. An easily treatable and common side effect of eating something that wasn’t washed properly.
My experience in the Peruvian hospital was actually pleasant. The doctors and nurses were very nice and knowledgeable about what was going on. I honestly believe it would have been more of a hassle if this would have happened to me in the states. Because these doctors are used to the area, they know the bacterias and are used to seeing people (especially tourists) effected by them. The doctors visit was only 15 soles (5 dollars) and 5 soles (1.5 dollars) for the medicine. Simple and easy. The process to get checked in and see the doctor was really quick. I was confused as to why there were so many people in the waiting room, but I found out that culturally in Peru its uncommon to go to the doctors office alone. There were babies, kids, parents, and grandparents all piled in the waiting room waiting for the doctor we were all going to see. Being able to watch people go in and out of the office made the time pass quickly until it was my turn.
This idea makes sense because we always feel better when we are sick if we are surrounded by people. I also felt comforted by the presence of so many families in the hospital. It reaffirmed in me that we always feel better surrounded by people we trust and love.
Since this was my second time being sick abroad I wasn’t as scared, but it still wasn’t fun. The first time I was sick and abroad was during my sophomore Mayterm to Egypt. I drank a street smoothie and ended up with a parasite that caused me to throw up uncontrollably for almost 12 hours. I remember being so scared. Not being “with it” is something I hate. Not being able to control what was happening to my body was the scariest part. It took a lot of trust to know that everything was going to turn out okay (thank you, Dr. Shahinpoor and Tessa Pappas for nursing me back to health). Eventually, I was able to laugh about the situation, but that didn’t stop me from being scared to get sick again while I was traveling.
The first time I traveled after being sick I was cautious about everything I ate. I feel like I actually allowed it to take some of the adventure away from trying new foods abroad. My trip was to Cuba for four weeks, and I think I only ate rice and beans the entire time…
Even here in Peru I have been quite cautious with what I have been eating. My friends thought I was being crazy when I would wash the outside of the avocado before cutting it, and it started to become something important for me. I couldn’t eat something if I didn’t know it was washed properly. Obviously, this didn’t work and I ended up getting sick anyways.
I think that these unfortunate experiences have really taught me a lot. If you know me, you know that I hate being sick. You would also know that I like to be in control… of everything. It could be the reason I hate planes, because even though I know that a car is much more dangerous than a plane, I have no control over the plane. This need to control came out when it came to the food I was eating abroad. In my attempt to control everything that I was eating, I’m sure that I missed out on cultural experiences. And still ended up being sick!
The biggest take away for me from this situation is to just live life (what is it the kids are saying these days?? yolo?). Don’t take anything too seriously and learn to trust the system. Most people in the world have your best interest in mind. Take Egyptian or Peruvian doctors for example. At the end of the day, the people around you are going to help you when/if you get sick. So be adventurous! Eat the guinea pig (they really do that here in Peru), drink the street smoothie, and live life without fear. Because you might miss out on some really cool experiences if you spend your whole time worrying about something as silly as getting sick.