A Travellerspoint blog

¡Tengo infección intestinal!

Adventure to a Mexican emergency room

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This may not be for the queasy of stomach or those currently eating. I will try to keep the gory details to a minimum.

This weekend we took off for Mexico, San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, because we have now been in Guatemala long enough that we needed to renew our visas. It was not an easy arrival. This is where our troubles began. Midway through our 8 hour voyage via chicken bus, we both came down ill with cold sweats and desperate enough for a bathroom that we got off in the middle of nowhere and tramped up to only house to beg a bathroom. Unfortunately, there was only ONE bathroom, and while it was occupied by my compañero I became desperate enough to sneak into a deserted looking gully behind some ratty concrete buildings. Through my sickness crazed eyes, I failed to notice that this gully was being protected from unauthorized "squatters" by a very mean very angry dog who apparently served no purpose besides guarding this small plot of land. With luck, I was able to outrun the dog, who was tethered to his post. Otherwise the story may have taken an even more disastrous turn.

We thought we were fine after taking one antibiotic (as the travel doc suggests) and saying some embarrassed thank yous to the amused Guatemalan family who was gracious enough to grant us use of their bathroom (maybe just for the novelty of telling their friends about the gringos with gastrointestinal issues who had stopped by out of nowhere).

We were fine the next day, but after a dinner of quesadillas I woke up in the morning to feeling nauseous, which was shortly followed by 8 bouts of vomiting over the course of 2 and a half hours. This is when we decided to go to the Mexican emergency room. Ben wasn't feeling well either, but had at least managed to keep his dinner pushed down.

The admitting nurse at the Mexican emergency room was an armed police man. Very odd, but nonetheless we were ushered in to see a doctor within 30 seconds. Never had we seen such service! (Maybe it was a gringo advantage). Afterward, I was promptly treated by a doctor in the front trauma room (as there were no other beds open) while people passed by to look for their family members or possibly just to see what gringos were doing in the hospital (mind you this continued all through the time I had to "bajar mi ropa" for a very humiliating anti-nausea shot in the "trasero"). They sent us on our way, and while Ben went to the pharmacy, I nearly fainted in a chair near the exit. The kind doctor who had helped us before found me and took me back in a wheelchair to the trauma room. I was then pumped full of liquids, antibiotics, and some sort pain killer that made me go a little bit insane and paranoid as my eyes dilated to the point I could not see. Finally a blood test revealed that I had a intestinal infection from some dirty food I ate at some point, and based on the fact I have been sick off and on for two months or more, I have probably had it for a while, suppressing for short bouts of time with antibiotics, but never enough to kill it entirely. It is very likely Ben has had it all this time too, as we have had very similar symptoms at the same time.

We were there for six hours, and overall the service was more or less equal to a US hospital (except for the fact they don't seem to bother with sanitizer, plastic gloves, washing their hands in between patients, or keeping a clean bathroom). After all this, we found out that the whole service was FREE! What a luxury! All the drugs they pumped into me, the blood tests, and all the care as well. We only needed to pay about $25 for all the follow up medicine I am taking right now.

So that is most of what our exciting vacation to San Cristobal de las Casas has consisted of. If you have read this far, here are some pictures we took while not in the emergency room or sick in bed.

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Posted by KimJay 19:56 Archived in Mexico Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (4)

No estamos muertos... solo de vacaciones!

"But haven't you been on vacation this whole time?" you might ask. Well, everyone needs a vacation from vacation when that vacation is 6 months long. So after New Year's (which consisted of a celebration with bombas and sparklers with the kids in the backyard, the likes of which I have not known since New Year's circa 1998), we took off again for some highland "trekking" near Nebaj.

Trekking is very similar to hiking, except instead of an established trail paid for by the government you go traipsing around the muddy paths that border the barbed wire fences of people's land. People here aren't of the run intruders off with a shotgun persuasion, which makes the experience much more enjoyable than it would be in the USA. In fact, while walking to these towns--some of which are only reachable on foot--you are most in danger of being invited into someone's home to have a delicious meal for $1 (as we were one day). (As to the danger, I also could swear that I heard a jaguar in the bushes while we were in the mountains, but later on down the road I heard a pig produce a very similar growl.)

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Unfortunately, the highest part of the Guatemalan highlands is more like Oregon in March than what we are used to in Guatemala. And without a guide to advise us against our endeavors--only a poorly written trekking guide--we soon found ourselves ankle deep in a mix of mud and horse poop in barely passable paths in the pouring rain. Oh, how it made me yearn for home!

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(Here is the possible jaguar/pig. It is much cleaner than I was by the end of the day.)
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Having nothing but cold showers to look forward to at the end of each day, we soon wussed out. We headed to Coban to see the biggest Orchid nursery in Guatemala and possibly all of Central America. That was fine. Lots of flowers and such. Here is an orchid for those of you who don't know and also a picture of Ben in his orchid heaven (though they were rather light on the orchids this time of year).

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Still it was raining... so we went to the beach! Where we enjoyed 90 degree humid weather, releasing sea turtles into the ocean to be eaten by all of God's creatures, and long days reading and drinking licuados. There is not much else to tell... except that one night Ben got over 100 mosquito bites... putting himself at high risk for malaria.

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This is what he was like all week:
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Dirty beach dogs... doing what dirty beach dogs do all day... who knows:
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Ben eating a fish bigger than his thigh:
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We are back in San Juan now, hanging out and making our plans to come home (eventually). Here we are making tortillas! Despite our smiles, we both failed horribly at this task.

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Posted by KimJay 15:41 Comments (1)

Planificación Familiar

Need a vasectomy? Then Guatemala may be your best bet!

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10 things more expensive than a vasectomy in Guatemala:

1. A personal 8-inch pizza.
2. All-you-can-eat pancakes in Antigua.
3. One night for a single bed with shared bath in the cheapest, dirtiest hostel we could find in Antigua.
4. One hour of Spanish classes at San Pedro Spanish School.
5. Postage to send 1 postcard from Guatemala to the US.
6. A worn out, second-hand American T-shirt.
7. A large bag of Cheetos.
8. 4 imported Snickers candy bars.
9. A pair of flip-flops in my size.
10. A five-minute taxi ride in any large Guatemalan city.

Just a little context: Not too long ago, there was a flier posted at Centro Maya advertising a weeklong Family Planning Clinic. Aside from standard family planning advice, it offered vasectomies for men and tube-tying operations for women for Q25 or about $3.15. Both Kim and I asked if it was a typo and were assured that it was not. Low, bargain prices are the only way they can get people to even consider these operations. This is a particular problem with men who typically don´t want to do anything that will compromise their masculinity, although it is widely known that vasectomies are way safer and less invasive than the alternative for women. Family planning is a particular problem among poorer families who cannot afford to support the kids they already have, let alone any new ones. It´s just unfortunate since many men feel that the more kids they have, the more masculine they are compared to other men. Machismo at its best!

Anyway....for any men considering a vasectomy you might want to consider Guatemala since $3 has got to be cheaper than the operation in the US, even if you have insurance.

Posted by BenjaminE 09:11 Archived in Guatemala Comments (2)

Los Padres in Guatemala!

The parents were here for Christmas, which made for an exciting ten day sweep across the country. We started out in Antigua where we saw all the usual churches, museums, and what-not and my parents started to see that Guatemala was not as shabby or dangerous as the US State Department warnings may lead you to believe.

Unfortunately, they came in on the same day as a tropical storm, and so the first few days were a big wet as you can see by our garbage bag outfits that we are sporting below.

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After that, we headed off on a long and uncomfortable ride with the cheapest van you can get from Antigua to Copan, Honduras to see the ruins there (for the record we invested in a nicer and more expensive van from Copan back to Antigua). In Copan we not only saw the ancient mayan ruins but also went to a Macaw reserve that houses a number of shunned pets that never should have been pets like Toucans, Macaws, and other colorful loud things. Everyone got to hold at least one of these big squawkers before we left the park.

Here is my dad being viciously attacked by overfriendly macaws:
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Then we took the folks up to Lake Atitlan for Christmas with our new family. We went to midnight mass, which turned out to be partly in Tz'utujil, but it didn't matter anyway because the whole thing was overpowered by a billion bombas exploding for nearly the whole hour. For Christmas, we ate the required tamales which were delicious and polished off the night with a campfire and smores. Unfortunately, I was having too much fun to remember to spoil it by taking pictures, so you will just have to trust me on that one.

We also subjected my parents to a grueling several hour walk along the lake which followed a path on the side of a cliff. Luckily they were rewarded with pretty pictures. After that we took an amazing coffee tour to see the coffee collaborative processing coffee to sell.

Here is the grueling lake path:
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Us with coffee:
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Talkin coffee...in Spanish!:
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All in all it was a very eventful trip, you will have to ask my mom and dad for the details and the rest of the pics!

Posted by KimJay 12:54 Comments (2)

Mucho más divertido ser Católico en Guatemala

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We´ve already discussed the bombas before, during, and after masses every Sunday here, but this week we found out a new reason why being Catholic in Guatemala is way more fun than in the US. This week we celebrated ¨El día de la Concepción de la Virgen,¨ Guatemalan-style. Though I guess you can only celebrate it Guatemalan-style since I have never heard of any other country that celebrates it. Then again, maybe I just haven´t been in Latin America long enough.

For all of you non-believers and non-catholic school byproducts out there, this day celebrates the day when the angel Gabriel came to tell the teenage Mary that she was pregnant despite her immaculate life without sin. This day-December Eighth- is when Catholics venerate Mary for accepting this news graciously instead of freaking out. It is also the day they transport a statue of the Virgin Mary in between the many different shrines in town--she occupies a different one every year.

The night includes several stages with bands and each one has a carpet designed of colored flowers or colored corn meal in front of it. About three to four hundred Catholics parade the statue of The Virgin around the streets to be serenaded before taking her to reside in her new home. While being toted around, The Virgin Mary sits on a float with the Angel Gabriel, and both of them are covered in Christmas lights and accompanied by their own traveling musicians on either side. Of course this day is supposed to be only celebrated by Catholics and Evangelicals aren´t supposed to participate in all this Virgin Mary veneration, but it is quite the spectacle and so basically the whole town is there to watch the precession and of course the fireworks.

During the four hour pluys parade, there were at least two solid hours of fireworks. We aren´t talking somewhere in the distance behind a protective barrier type of fireworks, but bombas exploding right over your head and showering you with burning gunpowder, ash, and at times pegging people with still flaming remnants of paper. Only twice did failed bombas decend toward the crowd and explode five feet above people´s heads. So, it was moderately safe.

You can see the pictures below of the parade as well as some of us putting up the Christmas tree with the kids from the family. Also, there is one of Ben and Fray playing Jenga, because we play a lot of Jenga these days as all our friends seem to be between the ages of eight and fourteen.

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Posted by KimJay 15:11 Archived in Guatemala Tagged events Comments (2)

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