Friday, February 27, 2009

in sickness to disco

Sometime over the weekend i made the decision to go see a travel doctor. The sickness i`d caught several weeks before just wouldn`t go away, i wasn`t getting re-infected as i thought. I became obsessive about disinfecting everything while my housemates ate food off the floor- yet they were fine and i was not.

A friend of a friend of a friend recommended a doctor in Antigua. He was able to see me right away, so we agreed on wednesday. The girls were going in for spanish lessons, i would go with them. Always nicer to have company.

But the night before a frequent patron and friend of Carlos` comes by, he`s excited to invite us all to a disco. A disco? Its for the dedication of a new school in town. It seems like he is somehow involved- and very proud i might add. He really wants us all to come, the volunteers in particular. Unfortunately i was there as the sole representative of the North America Brigade. I had to break the news to him that the girls had spanish lessons, and before i could even finish groans of displeasure erupted from both he and Johana- they can go another day, go thursday! Clearly one of us needed to represent, my appointment was later in the day, so i promised i would be there. The groans subsided.

The others were, to my surprise, really excited about the prospect of a disco party full of school children. When they explained how much fun it would be i could see where they were coming from, but i still really didn`t want to go. I wasn`t feeling well and the idea of being a dancing mascot to inquistive children for an hour or two just didn`t seem like fun. Anneliese thought she would skip spanish school, and Ivy was really excited about the prospect of disco. They were already planning what they would wear.

Come morning i felt even worse than i had for the last few days. My bowels erupted, and then i dry heaved for a few minutes right as we were about to leave- i knew i was in trouble, but social obligation held me tight. The walk there was bumpy and hot, i hiccupped the whole way (i really really don`t like hiccups). A couple of times i thought i might throw up, i asked Carlos if it was legit for me to barf in the street. He was grossed out by my even asking, but he said yes, do it to the side.

We wound our way through unfamiliar streets until we were in a part of town i had never been. We came upon some small gardens exploding with green, small children came up to greet us (they were very excited to see gringos). We could hear the echo of a PA system, someone was enthusiastically announcing something. We turned the corner and there were a couple hundred people seated facing us, a little uncomfortable for Carlos, apparently he had taken us the the wrong way. We found some seats and listened politely as they called out names and had people come up, sang each ones praises and handed out pieces of paper (awards?). It was pretty boring, like being at your younger siblings 4th grade graduation, except you can`t even understand all of the boring stuff they are saying. Maybe it was better that way, i got to play with Johana`s nephew Jamie, a super cute kid who rides an orange donkey around the shop.

Somewhere in there i got the rumble and i knew i didn`t have long. I made my way to the outdoor toilets and proceeded to lose everything i had eaten that morning. Usually this makes me feel worse, but i actually felt much better, like a burden had been lifted. Oddly relieved i found my way back to my seat in the sun. We listened for longer. I had a few more runs- false alarms. And after a while people started to move. What is happening now i asked? They are going to cut the ribbon, we will follow them.

So we walked up a small incline, following the crowd. For some reason Carlos asked us to hang back, not to go all the way to the ribbon. I suppose the ribbon cutting was for those who donated money or gave lots of time, our role, it seemed, was to line the streets in their honor. While there Carlos decided that it was Ivy`s fault that Palo was so worn out and that i was sick. He called her a hamburger.

Look at that face, it has hamburger written all over it.

We dawled a while longer while things dissipated, some fireworks were set off (by far the highlight of the morning) and while i was back in the stall school apparently resumed. Wait a minute. What happened to disco? At this point making a fool out of myself for little kids to laugh about didn`t seem so bad, and it sure seemed a lot better than the past hour`s activities. Nope all done. Was it a trick? Is that really what they thought would get us there? Disco? Well, it i guess it worked, we were there. Glitter and all.

We then walked back to market, passing some pretty foul trash sites on the way. Whether by design or gravity, all of the trash here seems to end up in the water sources. Bad idea. Its surprising that they wouldn`t know, or if they do that the social codes would allow it (because laws certainly don`t seem to mean much here). It even looked like there was a bus buried in the river of trash. Its part of the double edged sword of people having true freedom, just as they can build themselves homes appropriate to their means and the amount of space that they actually need (a concept foreign to the states) they can also pitch whatever they want into the river without any threat of legal action or social recourse. Its just the most convenient method.

At the market we split ways, Jamie and his mother went back to the shop, Ivy stayed in the market and i made my way to Antigua.

Although having had a rough morning i knew that the 90% downhill bike ride to Antigua would be fine for me. Along the way i ran into Anneliese, we stopped our bikes in the middle of the road and talked for a bit. She had had a fun lesson with her teacher, the highlight of which was when the teacher accidentally said poop when trying to say potatoes.

The bike ride to Antigua is really beautiful. I love doing it, its my favorite bike ride of all time, it even trumps riding through our nations capital on a warm fall night (sorry Sammie). The climax is in passing a series of mountains, visible from Maya Pedal. A deep ravine opens up and you almost feel like you are going to fly off into it. The mountains tower overhead and when the light is just right it pulls you to a complete awe-filled stop.

There are interesting smaller towns along the way with lively town centers and interesting hand painted signs.

There are also churches and markets, forest that almost looks like jungle (i don`t think it is) and a variety of homes, both rich and poor (Antiuga is a great center of wealth in the country).

It took me a while of asking around to finally find Higher Grounds Cafe, where Erin and i had agreed to meet. I was several hours late at this point, the not-disco went on far longer than expected (and also started later than scheduled). Fortunately she was so enveloped in downloading music and movies that she refused to leave- it might also be that shes really kind and patient, but she claimed movies.

Its funny, things here can be so... imprecise. And its just expected. Like the disco not actually being a disco and starting hours after we were told it would. Or how when i asked for directions to higher grounds several people assured me they knew where it was and gave me totally false information. Others just pointed in a general direction and said its that way. Half the time people don`t seem to know the street names in their own town- taxi drivers even, you say i want to go to this place, they dont know it, okay, its on this street, don`t know it- so you just kind of drive around and guess where you`re supposed to be.

And along with ruins, no tourist trap would be complete without...
a McDonald´s

Erin was kind enough to show me around her favorite haunts- the high end food store (which actually sold trader joes stuff for twice the price) the chocolate shop (where the doting store owner gave her, more than the ususal amount, of free samples) and the DVD vendor who was supposedly holding titles for her.

After waiting behind some indecisive gringos for what felt like a half an hour, we finally got to talk to the kid behind the DVD stand. He didn`t know what we were talking about, the boss would be back later. The timing was perfect, i needed to get to my appointment.

Erin was kind enough to stick with me through the evening, i sensed she had been ready to leave hours earlier but waited it out to be polite. What is it about Canada? Or really, what is it about us?

Fortunately, the directions to the doctors were more accurate than to the coffee shop and i made it in time. My doctor was a friendly man, he listened patiently while i tried to describe to him in the best detail that i could (using lots of hand gesutres and funny sounds from my mouth) all of the things that had been happening over the last month. He called it puje y tempeso, or something like that. The name seemed to make him laugh, i didn`t get it.

He checked my blood pressure and hearbeat, said they were perfect, weighed me and announced that i was 134 pounds. Before i came i weighed around 160, and there was no way that 26 pounds slipped away unnoticed. I politely suggested that perhaps his metric scale was off (i said nothing of his calculations). He insisted in its accuracy. Arguing the point seemed useless.

He felt around my stomach and found some gurgles- here he said, here is where the diarrhea is. Good to know, there was still some fun left. He said it wasn`t worht doing bloodwork, or a stool sample. He gave medicine to take care of the most likely suspects, basic amoebas and worms. Take it for a week, if you dont get better come back. After a day and a half i definitely feel better.
Luckily the visit didn`t take that long, and Erin had a book she was engrossed in anyway- Bill McKibbens Deep Economy. Next were the meds. They were by far the most expensive part of the whole shebang. Sometimes its easy to forget that the Quetzals we trade in every day aren`t dollars, they are worth much less. I guess i`ve gotten used to living on 50Q a week, making 500 feel like a lot. (For perspective though, the total for me was a little less than 75 dollars for the visit and the medicine combined- in the states it would be several hundred dollars, uninsured).

In one of the pharmacies i went to, i was amused to see the local beer stocked on the shelves, right between Pepto-Bismol and Ensure.

Having completed the health mission for the day, we returned to the DVD guy, the boss was back but the titles still hadn`t come in. Erin was disappointed, i picked up two films Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionare, both of which i had heard were really good. The thought of Brad Pitt cheered Erin up some.

I suggested we get some dinner, excited to have some food closer to the quality of that at home. Erin wanted to eat at a local joint, i resisted, but she refused to eat elsewhere. I lucked out- no vegan options. Aha, why don`t we eat at the vegan/vegetarian cafe where we presented last week? The thought of delicious vegan food won Erin over, and we wandered to Rainbow Cafe. Interestingly, this time the first person to give us directions seemed totally confused, but claimed it was "that way." We didn`t believe her, but she was right.

Dinner was awesome, i had chicken fajitas that were absolutely delicious. Erin ordered Israeli falafel, and in typical matthew fashion i helped her finish it. Mmmm, i miss really good food. Especially food that doesn`t require me to bleach it first.

Enjoying the atmosphere and live music we took our time, sharing stories from home. (According to Erin, street hockey is a very important part of thanksgiving). I talked a lot about my sweetheart whom i am very excited to see come April, Erin was kind enough to humor me. Our leisurely meal left us busless, which was just as well, buses are targets after dark. We considered a hostel, but she reasoned it`d be cheaper for us to hire a taxi back. She was right (she usually is).

Last bus of the night, definitely not going our way. I love the bling on these things, they get really into decorating their buses and tuk-tuks

It took a little bargaining but we were finally able to secure a ride that didn`t mind the bike coming along. He was a really friendly guy, we talked most of the way in spanish, though he was pretty excited to use his english. *side note, the most common thing people have said to me in english, just random strangers on the street, is "very good," which they pronounce more like "berry guuuhhh," no idea why*

The ride was uneventful, as i`m sure my mother will be relieved to hear, and we arrived back at 9:00. Erin had the foresight to get our drivers number for future use. Our housemates were a little concerned, there was no way to call, in either direction. But we made it up to them with Erin`s chocolate and Benjamin Button- interesting movie, subtle but impressive special effects.

Thats all for now. The medicine is going fine, though i did spend yesterday sleeping. Good chance to catch up on my reading. And Batman.


tpdteatro said...

tempeso? you mean tempestad? you have a storm in your belly!! HAHAHAHA!

Matthew Corson-Finnerty said...

yeah dude, that storm ain´t no joke!

Ivy said...

This is phenomenal--so good to read through to reminisce and also see what's happening now. What's your email address? Sweet medicinal trick y'all played on Palo.
-thee hamburglar