Oh the joys of the developing world and the unique sicknesses it brings. After making it through most of the week unscathed by the plague, it was my turn Thursday night. What started as a tummy rumble quickly turned into the explosive rejection of everything that had entered my body in the last 24 hours.
Up every 10 minutes that night, it was a humbling and scary immersion into what almost every poverty-stricken child goes through in this country. With little access to clean water or means to purify the water they have, many families accept diarrhea and other preventable illnesses as part of life. Sitting by the toilet crying, with a temperature of 102.2, I started taking my Cipro, the king of antibiotics for foreigners in the developing world, and this is where our paths diverged.
I was provided with water, Pedialyte (I can’t even look at it at this point in my life), crackers and Tylenol by my wonderful interpreter and member of MTI, Gladis. Many times, I thanked my lucky stars that I was privileged enough to have access to all of these things, whereas many people, such as the ones I had just worked beside in Cumbre del Amay, simply have to hope and pray that it resolves itself without taking more than a few days of lost productivity.
It is now Monday and I just today could have solid food without nausea. It was a monster of a bug, taking down over 75% of our team over the course of the last 9 days.
- I am now in Antigua, a culture shock of its own compared to the widespread poverty and blatant government neglect of the Quiche Department I had just spent so much time in. Antigua is much less conservative, and the stigma around consuming a beer is gone, but seeing Guatemalans with money was (and is, to some extent) still hard for me. In a nation where the top 20% hold more wealth than the bottom 50% (who are in extreme poverty), the kneejerk reaction is anger at those whom fate blessed with wealth, and anger at the system that perpetuates the disparity. After becoming so close to the small comunidad outside of Chicaman, after seeing the smiles and hope and love of those people, it was hard to reconcile that knowledge with the privileged who spend their weekends at the pool instead of tending to their corn fields or mending roads the government had long since forgotten about.
Now that I am well again, I can look back on my sickness as another way of connecting with the community that I had already come to love in just such a short time. It made the work I got to do in their village gain even more importance; that having a sanitary latrine and hand washing station could really prevent the diarrhea and other disease transmission that plagued young children and sometimes took their lives.
It also reinforced my belief that it is pure luck where we are born in life, but it is not luck what we do with that privilege.
Below are some of my favorite shots in Antigua so far.