Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Worst Week of our Service. We hope...

So, it´s been a rough week.  This is probably one of those blogs best done by both of us, but Ben is off finishing the leadership seminar that we were both supposed to be at.  I´m sure I´ll mess up the details of his part of the bad week, but I´ll try to summarize as best as I can!

!Beware, if you´ve been ¨freaked out¨ by our blog in the past, you probably shouldn´t continue on.  If you do continue, prepare yourself for lots of poo talk!

Last Thursday, Ben traveled to the carribean side of the country to the province of Bocas del Toro for his Agro-Business seminar.  (He´s the co-coordinator of the initiative - he represents the business sector, while another volunteer in our region, Kat, represents the agricultural sector.)  Bocas del Toro is ¨famous¨ for it´s tourism - beautiful islands, surfing, etc (I haven´t been yet).  As such, there´s a lot of gringos roaming around up there.  To get to the beautiful islands, you get off the bus in the town of Almirante, before the end of the bus line, which is in Changuinola.  So, usually lots of gringos get on the bus in David with their large backpacks, and then get off early.  Ben was going to the end of the line for his seminar.  (I´m building to it, it´s like a math question from middle school).  So, what happens when all the other gringos get off the bus in Almirante?  The ayudante (literally, helper, or the guy who takes money and handles baggage on the bus), gives Ben´s large backpack to the other gringos.  Ben arrives in Changuinola with only our computer case.  Mayhem ensues.  The company deduces that they took it off early, but who has it?

That evening, they thought maybe it would come in on the next bus, it didn´t.  So, with everything closing for the day, Ben decides to take up the hunt the next day.  Friday he goes to Almirante and asks around.   He talks to the police and tries to get the water taxi manifest with passenger names so he can find the other tourists.  He calls our office, because the bag had his Panamanian i.d., and he files a report.  Then he goes out to the touristy island and actually finds this couple in a park.  They tell him that when they got in the taxi, the driver put the bag in the back and they didn´t realize it until they arrived at the boat launch, where they refused the bag and the taxi driver said he´d take it back.  Back where? 

Ben goes back to Almirante, talks to cab drivers in the area and using a description from the tourists, they figure out who it is.  They try to flag him down, he won´t stop.  That took all day.  That night he wrote up a statement and estimated the value of everything lost.  $1,275!!!!! Saturday, Ben goes to the DIJ (roughly the department of justice) to actually file a report ¨denouncing¨ what happened.  They take him to Almirante yet again and to the house of the cab driver.  He wasn´t allowed inside, but the guy was apparently very defensive and no one saw anything.  Then they were supposed to go to the office of the cooperative that runs the bus company to file the complaint so we can get some amount of compensation and they were closed, and wouldn´t be open until Monday.  Everything, EVERYTHING takes so much time here. 

Ben couldn´t stay because of the leadership seminar he´s now at, so he left saying he´d come back again to file the report with the company.  So, the bag is gone, and in it - the camera, back up hard drive, the backpack itself, all of his Ngobe clothes made for him, other nice clothes, shoes, toiletries, medications, well, just about everything of value that we own now.  What a blow.  And it´s gone.

We´ve come to terms with it more now, but after giving up so many material posessions and comforts just to be here and do this, it´s hard to lose pretty much the only things of value that we did have.  So, now we´re at Saturday.

I´d been in our community agonizing over this issue waiting for phone updates.  Saturday I came down to attend the going away party of our former regional leader.  But when I arrived in San Felix, I decided that I really just needed to see Ben, and the heat was killing me, so I jumped on a bus to David.  About an hour after I arrived, the diarrhea started.  To set the stage, a week earlier, I came to David and went to the clinic for 6 months of recurring symptoms of diarrhea, and was diagnosed with giardia.  I got my medications and left.  So, diarrhea again, story of my life.  Never have I had so much diarrhea in my life as in this year and a half, hell, never have I had so much as I have the last 4 days.  It came on fast and violent. 

By the time Ben arrived in David that night, it had quickly escalated into nearly constant, extremely painful diarrhea, and I lost my appetite.  We went to bed and I didn´t sleep because I was up probably over 50 times with the diarrhea.  At some point in the middle of the night, I noticed the blood.  LOTS of blood in the diarrhea (how many times will I say diarrhea?)  It wasn´t getting any better.  I felt faint, had a raging fever, still had the pain, if not more, and couldn´t face sitting on a bus for 5 hours in the morning to go to our seminar (you´re not allowed to poop in the toilets on the buses in Panama).  I woke Ben up by saying I was going to the hospital.  I got there at 8am to be told that the doctor would arrive at 930am.  I dozed off a couple times and finally was in, and almost immediately admitted into the hospital.

I waited some more, got my first IV, and then got the poop and pee cups- what a relief, I was going to explode.  They ran those tests as well as blood tests and came back with the exciting results.  Giardia (not gone), a bacterial infection AND amoebas!  I´m such an overachiever.  All three of those alone give people wicked diarrhea.  Monday they seemed to get ready to discharge me until I said I still had diarrhea.  Then the main doctor came and said that because of where I live, and how bad I really was, I needed to stay until everything was dead, that meant at least 2 more days there.  Yesterday, at about 1am, the nurse came to give me new meds (I think they loved waking me up) and she blew threw the vein my IV was in on my left hand.  Time to try a new vein, new hand.  First try she blows my vein.  So, the third attempt goes in on the side of my right hand.  My hands are messed up now.  Typing this pretty much sucks.

But, I was discharged today after four days of laying around watching American TV channels and receiving about 10 gallons of medicines through my IV.  I feel MUCH better (aside from the hands), and I have a mountain of medications to take over the next week. 

So, it´s been a full week.  Not a good week.  But we rise up and continue on!  Earlier this week, we both discussed that this was probably a much better time in our service to experience these setbacks, rather than earlier.  I´m looking forward to seeing Ben sometime soon (everything this week made even harder by not seeing each other but for one night) and we know that we´ve probably got something good coming our way soon!  Things can be replaced, and my health is restored!

15 comments:

fladroma said...

Hello my fellow Peace Corp Volunteer. I hope this message finds you well. My name is Farfum Ladroma and I am an education volunteer in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. I am writing to you all today because I need your help! My students and I at GPS MATAMAKA (an outer-island Government Primary School in Vava’u) are pursuing a “POSTCARD PROJECT.” I am asking for other PCVs outside of Tonga to please send us a postcard from your host country. We are trying to collect as many postcards from around the world, especially in countries where Peace Corps is currently operating. This project will help enhance my student’s understanding of other cultures and share what Peace Corps volunteers do all across the globe. I will keep a running list of all the postcards received with their origin on my blog at: http://farfumandtonga.blogspot.com/. You may check if your postcard successfully makes it to Tonga. This will be a great cultural exchange for everyone involved and a lot of fun. Please help out if you can and tell everyone you know (even your friends and families back home)! I would greatly appreciate your participation. Thank you very much and malo ‘aupito mei Tonga.
Please send postcards to:
MATAMAKA GPS
c/o Peace Corps
P.O. Box 136
Neiafu, VAVA’U
KINGDOM OF TONGA
SOUTH PACIFIC

Best,
-Farfum (aka Feleti)

PS. Hang in there!

Carole said...

UGH !! How AWFUL - I hope it's your worse week too ! I have lots of folks sending prayers your way to help with the recovery from both adventures !

What stories you will have for your children and grandchildren !

Thanks for relaying the details - even the diarrhea chronicles ! We miss you and long to hold you tight once again as parents do with their beloved kids ! Let us know what you need and Sandra will bring it soon !

Love, Mom, Dad and critters !

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