Friday, September 21, 2012

3 Week Illness

    I have been sick for about 2 or 3 weeks. Not some sort of debilitating illness like malaria or Dengue fever--common in South America, though usually not fatal--but a looming nausea and general shitty-ness that makes simple tasks, like watering my garden, into seemingly monumental obstacles. I have just wanted to sleep constantly. Just sleep.
    Two weeks ago, the Peace Corps medical staff diagnosed me with a case of giardia, a waterborne protozoan parasite that afflicts the intestine and makes life less than enjoyable for a few days to a week. After biking 10 kilometers back and forth, searching through my sweaty, sickly stupor for any medicine that might bring me some relief, I finally received salvation from a concerned neighbor who brought the medicine from the next nearest pharmacy (some 60 kilometers away). He told me a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of caña (dirt cheap sugar-cane alcohol), and 2000 mg (half the pack) of the meds should cure me by morning. I took his advice, minus the alcohol and tobacco, and fell asleep that night hopefully.
    Gradually I felt better over the next few days. From around 20%, I’d say I climbed up to around 60 or 80% of wellness. It was preferable, but certainly not ideal. Whatever was messing with me, it wasn’t going down easy. I went into the city last week for blood tests to see if this persistent illness was something more serious. The tests, as my doctor informed me, came back negative for all the major stuff, however, I was informed that several hormones from my liver (that wonderful organ which processes toxins from your body) were higher than they should be.
    After returning home feeling nominally better, although not entirely physically recuperated, I almost immediately found what I believe to be the culprit of my sickness. After soaking some dry beans in water in preparation to cook them, I found something unusual floating on the top of the water. Thousands of dead insects, which I then realized had burrowed into the beans themselves, had been inhabiting my food for the past few weeks. These beans, which I had bought from my neighbor and had been feasting on almost nightly for over 2 weeks, had been filled with thousands more of whatever the hell bug was now bobbing harmlessly on top of this pot of dry legumes.
    Of course, this is far from a medical diagnosis, but from my own opinion and perspective, I won’t rule this out as the cause for my sickness. It explains the heightened liver activity (as all these little guys most certainly constituted a significant amount of foreign and unexpected substances in my body), it explains why the giardhia medicine didn’t do the trick, and it explains the sickly-sweet taste that has been a strange and yet regular feature of my meals as of late. When you live so far out in the middle of nowhere though, food 'options' doesn't really consists of what you want to eat, but rather if you want to eat or not. If you're hungry, you eat whats around. And I was hungry, so I did. Now at least, I can hopefully eliminate thousands of insects from my daily diet, although with that means also eliminating beans (whomp whomp), at least until I can travel the 2 hours into town to buy some disinfected ones. What a fucking life.

From Paraguay,
little hupo

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