Traveling and being abroad is mostly amazing, but it would be a lie to say that it is always easy. The things that you encounter in your everyday life, with your familiar structures around you, most of the time even go unnoticed. You know who to go to, you know where to call, you know what the procedures are. Not being in an environment where you know all this is generally not a problem, but as soon as something happens you realize just how far away from what you traditionally would call home.
Here’s how it was:
I went walking last Sunday in the Bosques de Chapultepec. The day was just beautiful and I had such a sense of presence that morning. I’m the kind of pessimist that never claims something to be good until I’ve seen it, but this day I even posted on Facebook that it was a perfect day, although it wasn’t even noon yet.
Let’s just say I got my payback right away. Around half-way on my walk I started to feel like I had my worst heartburn in years, my head felt dizzy, and the sun that had felt so refreshing just a few moments before suddenly felt burning, frying, the air thick. Convinced that it was gastritis, I stopped by a pharmacy to get some meds for my stomach. I saw that the door to the consulting room was open so I figured I might get myself checked while I was at it. CRED to the pharmacy doctor that diagnosed my appendicitis with a few knocks and leg lifts, because when he later on referred me to a real hospital they discarded the option because they couldn’t see the appendix. When I 8 hours later changed hospitals because of some unbelievable insurance trouble and came to one where they took me on directly, it turned out that the first diagnosis had been right. My stomach had turned into a ticking bomb of puss. I’m sorry. It’s true, though.
Long story short, I got to stay for three nights in a hospital that had the service of a five star hotel (like, they would actually call me up before each meal to give me three menu options to choose from), in a room that was warm like a Swedish house and the operation itself went smooth. Obviously walking around with three holes in your belly is less than comfortable, and I feel sorry for my once really deep belly button that is now but a shallow dimple, but under the circumstances I think I have to say I got away very easily. When things like these happen, you are just immensely thankful to be so privileged as to have access to full coverage travel insurances.
I guess we can all agree…
…that health is the first preoccupation when you get sick. But here’s the thing, when your health is compromised and you don’t know what’s going on around you, the loneliness almost gets worse than the actual sickness. I have experienced it before, with dengue in Guadalajara and Chikungunya in San José. Spending hours at the hospital alone, wondering what will happen next, where they’re going to cut you, how long it will be, how the bureaucracy will work – it eats you up when you have nothing to distract you. And it is in those situations that any help becomes invaluable. In Costa Rica, the taxi driver that didn’t charge me the 500 colones that were missing so that I could get to the hospital safely. In Guadalajara, the stupid jokes that my companion was telling me while the nurse failed seven times to get the needle into my left arm before getting some extra help. Any and every greeting on Facebook or WhatsApp that you get from people. And so this time, I was just overwhelmed with the support that I got. During the three days I was at the hospital I think I was alone for a total of 4 hours, there was literally always someone with me. I received a whole bunch of messages of concern that I was too tired to answer but for which I was (am) so thankful. My friends and boyfriend literally did everything for me as regards processes and admission and paperwork, they came by to entertain me, drop off things, and just to check up on me. Although I had never been so much time at a hospital before, and never had been operated on before, this was easily the least difficult foreign sickness experience. Between the confusion, pain and my mum trying not to panic on the phone, I was actually never worried that anything would go wrong.
Here are my cheesy conclusions
I had had a few really bad weeks. Literally it felt like the whole world was turning against me, I was feeling alone, lonely and down. When this happened I really felt like I hit rock bottom, and I even lost a job with it. But I actually start to believe that I needed it to get back to reality. I saw that not only are there many who care from afar, but that I also have quite a few people who were willing to take considerable amounts of their time and efforts to make sure I was ok. It seems to be so much easier to focus on what you don’t have, than what you do, and yet you can’t do much with just recognizing what’s missing. You can only construct the world you want based on the strengths that you do have in you life.
The last times I have faced difficulties during my travels I have had to face them much more by myself. And I have pulled through, and I daresay I have come out stronger on the other side. In a way, it is going through these trials that makes traveling so addictive. Don´t get me wrong, this doesn’t in any way mean that I’m abroad to get a kick out of getting sick. But knowing that you made it makes you more confident to take on more trials.
This time, however, I didn’t have to prove that I would get through this on my own. And for that I am immensely grateful. In the end, it’s good to know that you can get through difficult situations on your own. But it’s more important still to know that you don’t have to suffer just to suffer. Having support around you is a beautiful thing and you’ll have to forgive my cheesiness when I say that my friends, new and old, really moved me in their concern. Most of the time we are not alone, but we need to open up to the bonds that we have with others. Because no matter how strong we are alone, we are always stronger when we have someone by our side.