Week 21: The Culture of Being Sick

I should start off by saying I am sorry for the delay! These past seven weeks have been busy, busy as I went to our 3 month in service training, had a magical vacation in-country with my family and best friend and now have just moved out to live on my own! A lot of good things are happening, service is really starting to get revved up, and now that I have my very own WIFI box, I hope to keep this blog hip-hop and happening on the regular.

Thanks for following along and now back to your normal broadcasting.


I turned my neck left to right, up and down. There was no movement that was going to relieve this tension. My joints began to ache, freezing over like the morning grass on a cool Fall night. I put a sweater on, though the evening was still warm from the leftover of Caribbean sun.

“Pienso que estoy poniendo un chin de gripe.” I say to Eve. I was beginning to get sick, I knew. The sickness always began by festering in my neck. I hoped that it wouldn’t be anything too lethal…

-24 hours later –

I sit up in bed, awoken by a familiar but unwelcome feeling. I feverishly try untangling myself from my mosquito-net draped bed, leaving my chanqluetas behind to run to the bathroom in the darkness in just the knick of time.

I squat down, hugging the seat less toilet, I feel a lurch in my stomach, I spew yellow bile and water from the depths of my stomach into the weathered toilet bowl in front of me. Simultaneously, I also poop my pants.

Oh s***, literally, I think, as liquid violently leaves both sides of me. It was bound to happen eventually, I thought.

I may have sworn in as a volunteer October of last year, but it was right then that I unofficially became a real Peace Corps Volunteer. As the saying goes, everyone will poop themselves at least one time during service… And if you say you haven’t by the time you COS, no one will believe you anyway. While some professionals earn their stripes by work well done, we Peace Corps Volunteers earn ours through soiled pants.

Oh the honor.

I was exploding from both sides and frequently. Every 10-15 minutes I was brought back to the bathroom by a force that could not be ignored. Though I had nothing left in me, my body was trying to expel something insidious. After two hours of unrelenting expulsion, I decided it was time to get in touch with our Peace Corps medical staff.

The doctor agreed, it appeared I would be unable to keep anything down and was at the risk of becoming dangerously dehydrated. I had to find someone who could take me to the hospital at midnight in the middle of the week.

I called the director of my school who then called her son who then called his dad to ask he if could borrow his car. After about 30 minutes of coordination, I was picked up to be taken to the emergency room at the hospital in the nearest nearby pueblo. I brought a bucket and a towel with me. I wasn’t sure what this 15-minute car ride would bring and wanted to be prepared for any surprises.

Luckily, I arrive to the hospital, the car more or less unscathed by my bodily fluids. I have my Peace Corps doctor talk to the evaluating doctor at the clinic by phone. I am admitted and shown back to a corner of the hospital where I will be resting for the evening.

I look around. The hospital is barely clean, sheets of the beds are dirtied with stains from those who were here before me. If I didn’t feel so horrible I would probably care more. Instead, I lay down where I’m told. The nurse prepares the IV, sticking me in my left, dehydrated hand. She then tells me to turn on my side and to squeeze. I do, only to be poked again once in both butt cheeks. I was unsure of what exactly they gave me, but relief comes quickly.

My nausea dissipates and my body begins to relax. The two nurses and doctor do so, too. They decide to make chatter about pico pollo in my same room. The two nurses sit on the bed across from me, and the doctor finds a spot at the foot of my bed, resting a warm hand on my leg. They talk for awhile like this, laughing and talking and laughing and talking, loud and sin verguenza. I wonder if they decide to sit with me as a sign that they care, that I’m not alone, that they are there; however, I laugh to myself as I think about an American doctor sitting on the edge of an admitted patient’s bed, chatting about hamburgers or some other type of American cuisine.

Sigh, the culture of being sick, I think.

The next morning I wake up to a man cleaning around my bed. He tries to make small talk, commenting on how I have been sleeping a lot, as well as, asking me questions I do not understand in his thick Dominican accent. In a futile attempt to engage him, I grunt and roll over. He makes his way back in to clean the same spot on the floor again and again. Though its 7am, Im hooked to an IV in the emergency room and obviously trying to sleep doesn’t seem to bother him too much.

Eventually the nurse tells me that I am good to go, but before leaving I am told to poop in a cup. At this point, this mandate is not hard to adhere to. Quickly after, I find out I am infected with an amoeba- a nasty little critter than can cause a whole lot of damage. Amoebas are transmitted through infected water or food. Im actually surprised. I have been overly cautious when it came to what I ate and drank, but obviously not cautious enough.

I make it back home to find my host mom and neighbors concerned and caring. A kind old man, Carlos, had delivered me two coconuts, worried to hear I had gone to the hospital. Neighbors I barely know stop by to see how I am doing. My counterpart and his family come by in their car to check-in on me, but not without a little chastising first.

Por que no me llamó, Jordan? Usted sabe que la familia esta aqui, siempre a su orden.” He asks me why I didn’t call. I explain that I was just sick and laying in bed, I didn’t want to bother anyone. We go back and forth like this for awhile.

In a more dramatic act he proclaims we must not really be friends, jokingly I hope. He tells me when a person is sick in the Dominican Republic, the house is full of concerned visitors, there to add energy and motivation to the sickly. I think to myself, well that is exactly why I didn’t call… A house full of visitors there to listen to me spew my insides out did not exactly sound like my idea of a good time, but I appreciated the sentiment.

And although a house full of vecinos may not have been the way I wanted to spent my amoeba-ridden days, people cared and they showed it. They showed it with their natural remedy advices, they showed it with their concerned questions, they showed it with their showing up’s and stopping by’s, and they showed it with their freshly tumbar-ed coconuts.

I was beginning to find my place here in Gonzalo and it took the help of an amoeba to remind me.

Until next time


These Week(s) in Photos:

#ThrowbackThursday way back in PST
Youth Squad at 3-month IST
Vacationing is hard. My brother visiting me!
#Twinning in Punta Cana
15 bites and counting…
Some of my favessss #Vecinas
The new crib
Just taking a break.. on a dog
My wittle baby host hermana

2 thoughts on “Week 21: The Culture of Being Sick

  1. Jordan,

    Wow! What an experience. You have such an engaging voice in your writing style, I could just envision your situation. I think you are brave, and selfless for what you are doing. I keep you in my prayers.



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