July 11, 2014
“Huele, huele.” (Smell, smell). The sharp sting of alcohol filled my nose making my head swim. As my preoccupied Tica mother scurried away, I discreetly moved the alcohol soaked cotton balls away from my face to get some fresh air. The gjngerale I could understand, but this?
I knew that it would happen, that I would get sick. The only question was when. The answer to that question arrived this morning around 5:30 when I woke up with a headache and a stomachache that could only mean one thing. Vomit. Whether it’s the change of food, water, weather, routine, all of those things combined, or just plain ol’ bad luck, it happens. The interesting thing is that when it happens abroad you’re at the mercy of the strange remedies and superstitions of that culture.
In a way, it’s almost fun… or, better said, it’s amusing (retrospectively) to experience the different ways we treat the common illnesses that plague us all. Last summer in Spain, it was an obscure fizzy drink that haunted me days after I finished drinking it, rest, and small portions. This time around it was a quick mysterious pill (heartburn medicine?) with a glass of water, then deep breaths (“como lo hacen en yoga, sabes?”, “you know, like they do in yoga.”), then a bit of gingerale, and then, the strangest of them all, cotton balls wet with rubbing alcohol. After the immediate threat of vomit was over it was a day of rest filled with saltines and more gingerale. By the end of the day I was eating normal food (mostly starches) in small portions.
In Spain, my host mom declared the cause of my illness was going to bed with my hair wet and sitting so that the a/c was blowing at my back, both unlikely culprits in my opinion. Here, my family concluded it was probably something I ate yesterday, which I can readily agree with. Regardless of the reason or the location, one thing has never failed to be true. I’m taken care of by the people around me. Maybe the concern is a mixture of guilt and nervousness that stems from the fact that the host families are getting paid to ensure my well being, but I don’t think so. The furrowed brow, tense voice, and tender motherly caresses convince me that the concern of my host mothers, friends, and family is legitimate. And that’s one of the beauties of studying abroad; you see the undeniable goodness in all people regardless of culture, upbringing, language, or religion. Sure, being abroad means you might have to endure unpleasant remedies and stomach down strange concoctions, but mostly it’s presents a wonderful opportunity to witness the good in all people.
Alive and kicking,