Monday, January 3, 2011

Shame in my Belly Button

Although I have had plenty of episodes of not so great health since I’ve been in Peru, I don’t think I have had such a bad day as I did this past week. I am not entirely sure what caused it but I was miserable, throwing up, even had a fever. And it definitely does suck to be feeling sick in incredibly hot weather. But instead of being able to curl up on the couch or in my bed at home, I am in Peru and everything is different. For one, I had a good half of days laundry to get done, and at first that wasn’t so bad, I didn’t start feeling really sick until closer to the end. But then when I started throwing up and realizing I couldn’t keep any water down, I started panicking. I don’t think I would have worried if I were home. But I knew that it wouldn’t take long to become dehydrated if I couldn’t keep water down, and then if I became dehydrated, that meant that it would be harder to get up and get out of bed. And if I couldn’t do that I knew I’d be looking at being sick much longer then I ever wanted too.
Anyway, once my host sisters realized I was sick they made it their duty to not leave me alone. I was able to get a few hours rest in while they finished up laundry, but after that, they somehow thought asking me every two seconds if I was feeling better might somehow miraculously make me feel better. That didn’t happen! So since women here are incredibly sensitive about their food, my family instantly went into blaming the food and alcohol from a wedding I had attended a few days earlier. First they claimed all the cooking was done in the sun and that could have made me sick. If that were the case I would have been way sicker much sooner then that. Then, they blamed me not being used to drinking. That was frustrating because I am 26, I’ve obviously had a few drinks in my life. Besides I didn’t even drink enough that day to feel anything. And then I through out there that drinking out of the same glass that is their custom probably is what made me sick. They kind of looked at me funny when I mentioned that one.
Later, when I was up making myself some water, my host sister pulled up my shirt and put her finger in my belly button and claimed she was trying to feel my shame. Because apparently, having shame can make you sick as well, I tried to explained that wasn’t it. Then she explained to me that sometimes during that time of the month for a female they could have pains associated in their stomach, and she asked me exactly where the pains were. Again…I’m 26 and I think I’ve had my period more than a few times in my lifetime.
All that I wanted to do was lay in bed and hope that as long as I hydrated myself it would pass. However, my host sisters thought differently. The forced me to come and sit with them outside my room, and the entire time commented on how my face looked sad. Then they kept telling me that I needed to walk around because if I stayed in my room I would just become sad, and being sad would make me more sick. All of the insights are very valuable to my work here, but at the moment I just wanted to be left alone and not have anyone guess anymore about me and just lay in bed and relax and rest. They also kept trying to force me to eat. I would go to the table to oblige them, and then I’d take two bites, say thank you, and leave the table. I know they always like for you to finish you food, but if you are going to force me into something I already don’t want and said over and over again I wasn’t interested in eating, then you might get your feelings hurt when I barely touched it.
They also claimed that they NEVER get sick, and this was as my oldest host sister was sitting there looking absolutely miserable fighting a cold. When they mentioned she should visit the doctor, she said she had shame and that she would just take pills from the pharmacy she has in her house. I guess maybe being sick is shameful because they aren’t stronger. I don’t know…but I thought that was a poor excuse for not going and seeing the doctor.
Fortunately, I believe in part to my rehydration salts and lots and lots of water, I felt much better the next day and didn’t have anymore problems other then just feeling kind of week which took a few days to wear off.
I had the opportunity to talk to my friend Brittany who lives about 6 hours away in Piura Alta, and she told me that she had also been sick over the same time span I was and like me, she would NEVER tell her family again because they also had problems leaving her alone. They blamed hers on washing her Mango with COLD water. There is a myth in these areas that believe COLD makes you sick. This includes and is not limited too, cold water for drinking and washing, as well as the cold from your refrigerator, and ice-cream. So unfortunately Brittany has never heard the end of her terrible mistake.

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