Sickness and health

The heat
wakes me up, again. I drag myself out of bed, looking for some fresh air and..
the toilet. It was already my fourth day of being sick and the third of being
in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua and also one hell of a hectic place
because of the amount and intensity of the traffic. It’s not really an interesting
place to stay as a tourist, but it was close to the little village I wanted to go.
And also, I knew that I was better off in the city then in a quite isolated village
when you’re not feeling really well. Jep, sickness had me, or: a parasite had
me.

This ‘sick’
situation made me realize a couple of things. As for one of course: you realize
how vulnerable you actually are when
heaving health problems while being away from home and alone. Of course I’ve
been sick on holidays in Spain, had an leg injury in Tsjechie Republic as a
kid, got an ear infection in Thailand.. It’s not the first time I had some
health problems away from home. But this time I felt some differences: I was
alone, or: there was no one there to take care of me or to take advices from
directly; I wasn’t going home soon, so I had to deal with this right away and
it had to be fixed for the long term too; I was in a country where you can’t
depend on the health system in a way you can do that in a country like The
Netherlands –which is my home.

So when I
felt even worse the fourth day I started thinking about how bad it could be.
That was the first time I got worried. I noticed I couldn’t really think for
myself anymore and I actually needed someone to help me. I realized I was so
vulnerable. Something had to be done, otherwise I would’ve passed out at some
point. This sounds really dramatic, but you just feel like you can faint
anytime when you’re body has nothing to live off. And, all those days I thought
I just had to suck it up. It’s just travel sickness. Every traveller
experiences this once in a while. You ate something that wasn’t maybe clean or
drank the wrong water.. But then I thought, how can you feel better if you
can’t really eat and the energy that is left, is still leaving your body? This
wasn’t normal. How can people get better from this? I drank lots of water and
these ORS packages with salt and sugar, banana’s, crackers and bread. If I had
known sooner that there is such thing as a parasite..

I’m happy
to have had some nice help of people when I was sick. I can always ask Joan, a
medical student and a local friend, for help. He knows medicine and he knows Nicaragua.
Also, the owner of the hostel helped me getting the medicine; the ladies
working at the hostel warned me for bad hygienic situations, like the flies
who’ll sit on your food; a English guy, Joe, made some green tea for me; and
also that night two German guys insisted having some pasta they made. Having
those people you don’t even know, taking care of you, was so nice.

The second
thing I realized while being sick in Nicaragua, is how different live standards
can be around the world -and the resources that come along with that.  When I left Playa Gigante, being sick the
first day, there was no electricity and WiFi, so no opportunity to communicate
with home. Also, there was no water. Of course I drank water out of the bottle,
but I really wanted to take a shower and flush down the toilet.. I’ve had some
more hours or days without these resources before, but it’s just different when
you’re sick.

To tell
that I had the luck to just pack up my bags and leave for another place where
there was water, WiFi and electricity. But, does everyone has that? Well, no.
So, how fortunate are we in a country like Holland, where those resources are naturally
to us? When we don’t have electricity or water for an hour, we’ll already be
complaining and calling the companies to fix it. And they will, so it’s not
even a problem. No, then, it’s a first world problem. Here you can actually
cáll it a problem, especially when someone has health issues.

We tend to
take water, electricity but also good health care for granted. Of course health
problems are never fun, even in a country where the health system is really
good. But, sometimes we forget how much and how good those resources generally
are compared to other countries. When we have food poisoning or a fracture, we
know that we’ll be all right. No doubt about it. You won’t question the way
they treat you in comparison with how they treat you here. You can be treated
really well in Managua, where there is one of the best hospitals in Central
America, but there are also places where you’ll may not feel that safe and
secure about the treatment. My English friend, Joe, had fractured is arm with
canoeing and so he went to a hospital in Rivas, where they threw out the
needles through the window.

The third
realisation I had while being sick, was that we take health in general for
granted. I’ve been traveling for two and a half months now and I did everything
I wanted, because I could. I spend days in big cities photographing; I went to
beaches and surfed a lot of days; I cooked nice food and ate fresh local fish;
I’ve been to some good parties in Bocas; I spend a lot of hours in buses and
taxis; I climbed up my first volcano; I drove around an island on a scooter; I
spend a week in a indigenous village.. All those things I was able to do
because I was healthy. I just hopped on from one thing to the other, I was
living the life from day to day, I was making it all happen. And then you get
sick and you can’t move, literarily and figuratively speaking. It’s like they
took away your freedom. I didn’t even got a serious disease, but can you
imagine how that would be like? I can’t really, but I thought about it. You may
can’t be yourself anymore, because you have to let some things go. You have to
accept you’re limited, and that must be so hard..

So everyone
takes things for granted, including me. But I’m definitely more aware of it, of
which a lot of people can’t say. And that’s what travel can teach you: to be
more conscious about the world and yourself. Then I mean, traveling in a way
that you cán discover more about the world, which is not hopping from one party
to another. It means choosing for the unknown, changes and exploration. Even
though there are other ways to discover, I just think travel –if you do it in
the right way- is one of the most powerful ways to do so.

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