13 July 2009

Sick in Sucre

It's never fun being sick. It's worse when you're travelling. It's worse still when you're travelling alone.

I feel like a donor-kidney and Bolivia is my destined host which keeps rejecting me. I am trying to connect - I like this place - but ever since I crossed the border I have been plagued with altitude sickness, headaches, and a sensitive stomach. Two nights ago things got a lot worse.

There are several possible causes of my illness:

1. I drank Bolivian water for the first time - though I was assured it IS drinkable
2. I was very cold at night - though this was probably the cold sweats and shivers I was experiencing as a consequence of being ill
3. Lowered systems after visiting the mines in Potosí - which are saturated with asbestos and silica
4. Drinking a few sips of alcohol for the first time in 2 months
5. Accepting those few sips from a kind guy I'd just met in a bar
6. One of the MANY street foods I ate during the day.

In the early afternoon I managed to shift myself to the hostal reception in a delirious wonder. Spartaco, the man at the counter, said, "Stick out your tongue... Ah, it's an infection." And he popped across the street to the market to get me some hot soup from the food market.

I spent 22 of the following 24 hours in bed, wrapped up in layers like a lethal, Chilean hot dog. I was forcing myself to drink water and I was getting up every hour top go to the toilet as a result - happily though, as I knew I was expelling toxins whilst doing so. Gradually my cold shivers reduced and I started removing layers. Until finally I had one LONG sleep (i.e. two hours) during which I sweated a lot and woke feeling a lot better - albeit after my reoccurring nightmare of failing my mathematics exam in highschool.

[Above] Experimental Street Food Number 1: Lagua. This is the first thing I ate. I don't know what's in it, but it was spicy and it tasted good. I sat at a table with a bunch of miners and they assured me it would make me strong. All that I am sure of is that the piece of "meat" at the top of the plate looks like brain.

[Above] Experimental Street Food Number 2: Medicinal green drink.It was warm and slimy and it was claimed to have an effect on the liver, kidneys, bile, nerves and stomach (below). And I can confirm that it did have such an effect. When I saw the police drinking it I felt confident that it was okay.

[Below] Experimental Street Food Number 3: Cow heart. I walked past the woman cooking it and it's smell captivated me - even now my mouth is watering just thinking about it. There were many people sitting around and eating it so I assumed it must be safe. What's that they say: You can't spell 'assumption' without 'ass.'

As I lay in bed, moaning in a confused state between pain and weakness, I reflected on what I learned from this experience:

1. How to make myself vomit. I have tried many times before but this was the first time I persevered long enough to success. Unfortunately I only brought up water and felt no better afterwards.
2. NEVER accept drinks or other offerings from strangers. Erick, the guy with who I shared a drink was a good guy, though I remember reading that in some countries seemingly 'nice guys' offer drinks and cigarettes laden with chemicals which render the victim unconscious and vulnerable to theft - of wealth, belongings and vital organs.
3. If it looks suspicious or sounds suspicious, it's probably not a good idea to eat it.

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  1. Anonymous08:26

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  2. Hi! I just found your blog through a random Google search about facturas. I read a bunch of your entries, and I love your sense of humor and storytelling. I signed on to follow your blog. Looking to read more about your adventures. Hope you're feeling better soon!

  3. Ara, So sorry to hear you are sick. We had some nice times in Bolivia (especially Tupiza), but it is generally sub par on the comfort level (especially rickety buses). You are a more experimental street eater than I. I can hardly pass up the 1 Boliviano empanadas to try anything else. I have decided I like them more than Taco Bell (but you might not know what that is).
    We made it to Argentina and therefore back to civilization. We are in Salta today, and I got on your site to see if you have any gems on goings on here. Tomorrow we hitch a bus for the 23-hour ride to Iguazu. Feel better! (I haven't had a voice in 2.5 weeks.)

  4. Poor guy! Hope you get better soon Ara. It's no fun being laid low like that. And the picture of the cow heart does look appealing!

  5. Thanks for all your support, guys!
    I really appreciate it.

    Katie - Thanks for signing on. It will be great to have you along on my journey :)

    Andy - When I heard it was cow heart I kept on walking. But the smell just chased me and drew me back 20 minutes later. And it tasted bloody good! I put sanitizing gel on my hands and ate with my fingers because I didn't trust the cleanliness of the utensils on offer. How's that for irony! haha
    Thanks for your well wishes. (And I'm happy to hear you survived your flight in China.)

  6. Anonymous06:38

    These problems are usually facing most of people & obviously it is horrible when you travel alone.

    Tulsa City Guide


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