Tag Archives: Humor

Excess vs. Not-quite-enough

28 Jul

Aloha loyal readers!

I got good rest last night [with delicious (albeit interrupted) dreams!] and I am feeling fortified enough to risk savage bites on my flesh in order to type this blog post.

Can you feel my love?

These ants are small but feisty.
And their is a never-ending parade of them around my house!; my sink, my bed, and worse – invading my ice-cream-dreams.
They bite hard and steal food 😦

What else do I have plenty of?!
They still haven’t abated. In fact, they’ve worsened.
To combat this I am always moving limbs in order that they don’t land on me. This activity creates more exertion than necessary in this sweltering heat and I feel it is incredibly inconsiderate.

I also have had a spike in cockroaches.
I spied one on my bathroom door, marked it for dead, swatted really hard at it, missed, and effectively catapulted it directly towards me. This yielded hysterical movement resembling some really cool dance steps…I hope.
Also, I found a cockroach in my wardrobe, hanging-out in the cup of one of my bras. This was rude and awfully fresh behavior. And has resulted in me distrusting every article of clothing in my possession. I have since adopted a ceremonious shake-out of all of my clothes before putting them on…hours of my life will be wasted on this action…

On a (possibly) related note I cannot stop itching myself all over my body.

And, in a circuitous bug story: It’s intense guava season right now (short but emphatically prolific). I am currently on mission-guava-juice. I hate to see anything waste and am outside everyday collecting, washing, juicing. Still, pounds drop from the trees in seeming mockery of my efforts. I’ve gotten a few nasty scratches from my new-found hunter/gatherer instincts. I don’t mind the scratches (they make me look tough), it’s the gnats, covering every millimeter of my open wounds, that freak me out. They follow me around causing an uncanny resemblance to one of those starving African children in need of a sponsor.

I'll get you my pretties!

All of these things (bugs and guavas) I have in excess.
There are, however, some things that I am lacking. Or, at least, there is a noticeable absence of (water, electricity, and chocolate – off the top of my head).

More information:
Since I have returned from America the electricity here has been inconsistent (at best), the water scarce, and chocolate, well, it’s just missing.

Anticipating this, Peace Corps has thoughtfully provided a lantern and blue water canister, which really do help. But owing to sheer amounts of time-without-power I have hours to sit in the dark and ponder this lack of basic amenities.

Before I moved to Jamaica I was both always eating chocolate and never considering the topic of infrastructure. If someone had asked me where does drinking water come from I would probably have said ‘from the tap’, of course. The providence of electricity was equally mysterious. It seemed to somehow involve lightning, a kite, a key, and power inside walls.

This is all changing as I notice, with alarm, that current gets cut off daily, good chocolate does not reside in every country, and water is no longer streaming from the tap. I have resolved to reformat my life without chocolate (I mean, I did join the Peace Corps) but the other essentials?
Reflection has made me strangely poetic. Here is a limerick addressing the heat and water-shortage:

It’s my hottest summer on record by chance
So warm I opt only to take corpse-pose stance
No clouds are showing
Nor is the water flowing
Does anyone know a rain-dance?

Don’t worry yourselves, though. Because, while I am not exaggerating I am managing. There is a river out back for a quick bath, and water does occasionally fall from the sky.
This experience is simply giving me a few, er, ‘age-old’ questions to ponder.

In Peace Corps news, the new batch, group 82 (a high number, I know), arrived on our ant riddled island a few weeks ago. Through feedback from us (currently serving volunteers) our staff organized a Volunteer Shadow Day where the newbies were paired with ‘seasoned volunteers’ and saw “A Day in the Life”. I (being an aforementioned ‘seasoned volunteer’) was sent a trainee named Virginia; a flexible, adaptable, girl who is going to make a stupendous Peace Corps Volunteer. It was super fun imparting wisdom (slip on shoes are essential), scheduling meetings (that got canceled, just so she’d get the ‘real’ experience), picking guavas, making juice, shelling peanuts, liaison-ing at the high school, and visiting community members. Can’t wait to spend time with the rest of that bunch 🙂

And here’s a picture of my favorite farmer, Ledah.
Topics covered included: Where in the world is Jamaica??? And the specific countries that eat dogs. Ledah was shocked by this unknown fact but quickly recovered and informed me of some islands that he had heard about near Jamaica that actually eat cats. While I could neither confirm nor deny this we located said islands and imagined what dogs and cats might taste like. (Goose and Tyger looked up at us pitifully).
It was all great fun as the world is such a fascinating place.

“Dis a whole ting a school!”, he said in awe.

In upcoming events I have a party to go to on Saturday!!!!!
I’m so excited! It’s all my community has been talking about for months!
Dancing (well, kind of) and loud music.
I told Dita I’d be arriving at about 9pm.
“NO!”, she said. (Apparently that’s too early)
“Must be about 2am I’m going” she told me.

If everyone feels the way she does I’ll be the only one there for a few hours and then long gone/asleep by the time anyone else has arrived.
I’ll keep you posted.
Should be good.

Things you can’t have too much of:
Peace, Chocolate, Love & uncomfortable too-long hugs,
‘mi 🙂


11 Jul

Who: Samantha Travis
What: Undetermined; Best guess? A parasite.
Where: Jamaica, Hospital (Mental Ward) – 7+ hrs from home
When: End of May – beginning of June (3.5 days, 4 FULL nights)
Why: Symptoms; nausea, fever, pain in abdomen, blood in feces

Why am I smiling in this picture?

It was a dark and stormy night….
Angie Hoffard’s birthday (a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer and good friend).
I traveled to see her in the lush parish of Portland but felt sick the next day 😦
I called a Peace Corps nurse who told me to go straight to the emergency room.
I, being immature (this was before I turned 24), complained that it was dark (true) and raining (true) and that my symptoms could wait until morning.
“Absolutely not, Samantha.” I heard over the phone, “You need to leave now.”
Donned in my most attractive outfit (see photos), I braved heavy rains and took a taxi to the Port Antonio hospital where I hit my lowest low…

Night One:

On Sunday, in an understaffed Jamaican hospital, signing in took over an hour.
The nurses distractedly registered me as my pain level steadily escalated.
I moaned aloud, audibly suffering, while they chatted about the news;
“Ono ‘erd ‘bout da bridge ovah der suh?” one of the nurses asked.

They asked me both relevant & irrelevant questions regarding my past 48 hours:
Q: “What have you eaten since yesterday?”
A: “Gnips (fruit) and tea”
Q: “How many bowl movements have you had in the last hour?”
A: “2”
Q: “What is your religion?”
I paused.
A: “Agnostic”, I delivered.
The nurse looked up. “Repeat?”, she queried.
“Agnostic”, I wavered.
“What’s that?” She looked simultaneously puzzled and disappointed.
At this point, because of the effort it took to speak, I chose to take the easy route.
A: “Christian”, I submitted, much to the nurses satisfaction.

An orderly gave me a shot (in the butt), inserted an IV, brought me upstairs, assigned me a bed, showed me the bathroom (thank G-d), and promptly left.

No one told me (and later, told me in Spanish); My bed was with the cRaZies.

That first night, I fit right in muttering and sputtering alongside the rest.
I counted 18 beds of groaning patients before a relentless force insisted:
Bathroom, now.

Doubled over, I wheeled my IV stand across that disgusting hospital.
Don’t vomit, I commanded myself.
Once I reached, I was lacking the energy needed to maintain a squatting position; I resigned quickly, sat down on the toilet, and tried to ignore both the stench and sticky-sweet way my feet stuck to the floor.

After a time, I felt the wave pass.
I breathed a sigh of relief.

But wait…
There was no toilet paper.


This was a problem of *epic proportions* given the severity of my symptoms.
I continued to sit on the commode, praying someone would come.
No one did.
I soldiered up, did the best I could and immediately went to wash my hands.

No soap.

You have got to be kidding me.

There was no ‘gift shop’ (closed or otherwise) to buy essentials.
I was in too much discomfort to do anything but rinse my hands and pity myself.
I went to bed and laid there, writhing; little soundless whimpers escaped my lips.
Others around me echoed in reply.
It felt as though we were in a 1940s open-air, war-torn hospital.

After a few minutes I felt another urgent need to visit the bathroom stall.
My fever had still not broken.

I was feeling delirious when finally (finally!), a nurse walked by.

“Nurse, nurse”, I laboriously called out, hearing others do the same. — Clearly we were all in need of attention. Mercifully, she walked over to me!
My happiness was short lived — I learned she was from Cuba and didn’t speak English or patwa.
I froze.
I haven’t spoken Spanish in years (and only things like, “There are many books in the library.” Not frantic ideas; “There is no toilet paper or soap in el bano!”)

“Hola”, I started, but this composure did not last long and I quickly broke down:
“Dios Mio! Aydeme, por favor!” [Oh my G-d! Help me, please!], I sobbed.

My mind was reeling and my stomach spinning:
Which to address first; The pain? Or lack of amenities?
Seized by a spell, the decision was made:
“Siento owww.” [I feel owww.] (this, while holding my stomach gingerly)
“Necesito medicina!” [I need medicine!]. “Mucho”, I added.

Something connected because she left…
(I used this time to silently brainstorm various ‘toiletry’ words en Espanol)

…and returned with 8 pills!!
Bless her heart.
“MUCHAS gracias!”, I drooled, as I swallowed and prayed they were strong.

Now, to tackle this next topic…
I made an effort, cleared me head, and worked within my vocabulary.

“Soy sucio” [I am dirty], I confidently began after I took the meds.
She looked at me and raised her eyebrows.
“Si”, I continued, my head agreeing, “Muy”.
“El bano no es bueno. Necesito lavar mi (what is the word for hands?!)”
[The bathroom is not good. I need to wash my (frantic miming of hands)!”

She seemed to understand and replied in rapid espanol.
Oy Vey.
I listened closely.
hmm…what was she saying??
I heard the word for soap, jabon. (or, at least, I thought that I did.)

“Si!” [Yes!] I responded enthusiastically (without certainty of what was said).
“No jabon en el bano! Un problemo!” [No soap in the bathroom! A problem!]
She shook her head sadly. Uh oh.

“Es verdad.” [It is true.], she commentated, “No jabon en el bano. Nunca.”
[No soap in the bathroom. Never.]
“Nunca?!”, I repeated incredulously.
“Nunca.”, she confirmed.

I recoiled a bit.
“Tu lavarse (miming hands)??” [You wash your hands??]
“No.”, she replied.
I gasped.
She shrugged.
My vocabulary exacerbated, all I could do was lay back and watch her walk away.

4:00 – 5:00am
The 8 pills weren’t working.
I texted Angie, “if you visit tomorrow please, bring soap & toilet paper”

My fever rose, my nausea mounted, my abdomen burned, & no nurse was seen.

At this point I began bargaining with G-d:
Something about eating healthy and promising to learning Spanish if only…
…Seized with a bathroom impulse, I fervently increased my negotiating tactics.

Day One:

Monday, my first full day at the hospital. – Miserable is an understatement:
I was sick, in pain, alone, lonely, sitting in my own filth, and lacking sleep.

Angie and Ana called!
They came to the hospital but since it wasn’t visiting hours they were not permitted inside. I, however, was allowed to walk outside.
Bent in half (and pulling my IV stand), I received their smiles, doused myself in hand sanitizer (thanks, Ang!), and warned them against getting too close.

My eyes grew teary as they showered me with goodies! – The love was palpable.

We exchanged stories and treats: My health and status update, visiting hours (6-7pm) , soap, toilet paper, toothbrush (!), birthday news, information regarding mutual friends, ect.

Given my atrocious illness, I, unfortunately, soon had to excuse myself and go get some rest. I was exhausted! Once inside, though, I received good news; a call from Peace Corps! A nurse was on her way to come visit me!
“Yay!”, I gushed through the phone, “You’re rescuing me!”
“Well, we’ll have to see when I get there”, she realistically replied.

To celebrate, I washed my hands (with soap!) and wiped my bottom (with t.p.!)!

It's the little things

When my Peace Corps nurse arrived she ladled me with care and attention but, remorsefully, was unable to whisk me away until the hospital gave consent (we were not sure when this would be). Still, she brought many exciting toiletries (!) and stayed for over an hour (seeking out doctors and nurses) to answer all of my questions:

“Do they know what I have?”, I asked, wincing.
“They took a blood sample. Your bilirubin levels are high indicating jaundice. – But you aren’t yellow. (I grinned) They are going to take more blood and retest it. Meanwhile they are working on eliminating other possibilities including ecoli, ulcers, cysts, and salmonella.”, she expertly reported.

“And why don’t I feel any better?”, I pleaded.
“You are passing fluids too quickly; your body is not absorbing medicine. The doctor is switching your treatment – you will be receiving medication intravenously from now on. This will be more effective.”, she conveyed.

Once my nurse was gone I tried to rest but the lady in the next bed (green dress) would randomly (and shockingly) scream. Occasionally, men came, turned her on her side (while she literally yelled “rape!”), and administered a shot in her derrière to induce sedation. Poor thing! It was very traumatic for both of us.
— I curled up and eagerly anticipated visiting hour.

6:00pm (on the dot.)
Angie and Ana arrived!!!!!!!!
Bringing positive energy, they sat with me on my bed appraising the situation:
Angie was angry; My IV had run out hours ago and no nurses had taken notice.
Her displeasure and rage were comforting. It eased my burden; I felt cared for 🙂
She has her own blog and you can read her account of more of these events here: http://angies-everydayadventures.blogspot.com/2011/06/visiting-hours-in-jamaica.html

Visiting hour was way too short – the girls left with promises to return soon.

Eye of the Storm

When the nurse finally changed my IV she noticed that my needle had become dislodged; they needed to re-stick me (boo!) before administering my new medicine intravenously.

I didn’t think to ask if this changed was going to hurt. — No one mentioned it.
“Gaaaa!”, I started yelling! “Oh GAWD!”, I cried out! “It really hurts!”
“Hush”, mumbled the nurse as the liquid in my veins attempted to rip free.
I sobbed, grabbing at the insertion point.
A woman next to me started to scream.

Night Two:

12:00pm (approximately)
I could not fall asleep, the memory of antibiotics a cruel phantom in my veins.
The Cuban nurse passed by my bed. ‘It must be her shift’, I thought. Seated on my bed (the only nurse to do this), we spoke Spanglish: At first she told me about herself and her ninos [children] but then she asked me if I was still in pain.
“Si, senorita.”, I concurred.

Then she told me that it was all in my head!

“QUE????!!”I gasped, taken aback and unready for such horrendous accusations!
“Si”, she continued, pointing at my head and nodding ‘yes’, “loco en la cabeza” [crazy in the head].

I was appalled and insulted!
“No es verdad!” [No it’s not true!] I shouted, hardly believing her audacity!

“Si, si”, she patiently went on as I struggled to keep myself calm.

More words were exchanged but you and I know the exciting conclusion to this bilingual story — I was not the crazy one — I was sleeping in the mental ward.

It took minutes to sink in. – This was the only bed available.

As I was grappling with reality my eyes became heavy – The meds were working!
My Cuban nurse noticed this, gently put a hand on my shoulder, and whispered “Buenos noche” [Good night].

Day Two:

I was feeling much better; I hadn’t eaten in 48 hours and I finally felt hungry.
Great sign.

Antibiotics through an IV + Soap + Toilet paper = Fabulous!

Things that jumped through my hospital window:
1. A cat

Apparently a cat (or several) live outside of the hospital thus accounting for some of the screams I had been hearing. Fittingly, there was a woman in my ward who fancied herself as a cat. She and the felines would converse (argue?) for hours. On this particular Tuesday, however, one kitty decided to confront her adversary face to face – it jumped through the window and onto a bed.
Pandemonium broke loose:
The woman jumped on the cat, hissing!
The cat reared on its claws and hissed back, narrowly escaping!
The woman chased after it on all fours, yowling and knocking things over!
The cat saw an opening, pounced, & retreated, exiting the hospital quickly!
The woman scampered on, leaving in her wake pandemonium and madness…

On a separate occasion that same day, a different lady in my ward got vexed and began throwing anything she could get her hands on (!) until a security guard wrestled her into submission! Shoes, pillows, cups, all weapons of assault! I ducked, kept still, and was happy to not be a victim during her violent outbreak!

Needless to say, I eagerly anticipated visiting hour; confessing to the girls that I was in the psychiatric ward and relaying anecdotes, we laughed and laughed.

Night Three:

It never got easier to tolerate that medicine inside of my veins.
Things that night were somber and excruciating 😦

Day Three:

The doctor came to see me (!)
“Do I still have jaundice?”, I asked
“No. Your blood is normal. Do you feel well-enough to leave?”, he questioned.
I got excited. “Just about!”, I tried to keep my voice even.
“Good”, he continued, “you need an ultrasound and we don’t have the facilities here so I am sending you to a specialist downtown.”
My heart sank. “So, you’re not discharging me?”, I inquired glumly.
“Not yet. Your appointment’s at 11:00am today. Get ready.”, he finished.

I took a taxi and arrived for my ultrasound with a full bladder (as instructed).
I waited; No one was there. First patient of the day and ‘doc’ was late to work.
Uggh, I really had to pee.

‘Doc’ breezed in the door and, fortunately, was ready to see me immediately.
This is good because “my bladder is about to explode”, I told her.
She smiled and got started; laid me on the bed, lubed up my belly, applied her device, looked on the screen, and then promptly informed me that my bladder was “too full”. Will I “please empty half of it?”
A difficult task, indeed.

Awesome news in the end, though! No ovarian cysts 🙂

6:00pm (visiting hour)
Thank G-D for Angie (and Ana)!
Ang was at my bedside yet again bringing treats and advocacy. A HUGE help!

Night Four:

After the arduous torture-medicine entered my veins, I fell right asleep 🙂

Day Three.five:


They discharged me!!!!
Peace Corps picked me up (my diagnosis was ‘parasite’), stopped by Jerry, Kathy, and Angie’s to say bye, drove to Kingston, and got me registered into a hotel!

Now, this particular hotel has a past of being unpleasant (ie dirty, grimy) but…
I had my own room!!!!!!!!
I took a shower (!!!!!!)
I turned on the AC (!!!!!!!!)
I lay in bed with clean(ish) sheets (!!!!!)
I turned on the television (because I could!!!!)

I basked 🙂

Peace Corps kept me in Kingston for two nights, picked up my meds (so many pills!), deposited me in Elim (home), and checked up on me regularly. Their care was comprehensive and compassionate. — Thank G-d I’m out of that hospital!

Given a clean bill of health, I was allowed to travel to The U.S.A. one week later.
And I did just that! It was marvelous. (see previous post)

I am sorry I was unable to blog before I went on my sojourn (but recovery can’t be rushed) and I am thrilled to share all of the sordid details with you now.

For those of you who sent kind words, healing thoughts, or any prayers (especially to my dear mother) during (or after) this ordeal, Thank you!!! Your sentiments are greatly appreciated and your energy is highly valued!
Thank you, sincerely, for taking an interest in my welfare 🙂

From the newly-mature 24 year old, here are some Words of Wisdom:
Do your best to avoid parasites.
Don’t under estimate the power of hand sanitizer.
Always keep toilet paper in your immediate possession.
Loving cats is great – it is unbecoming to think you are a cat.
Emptying half of your bladder is less enjoyable than emptying it all.
If your friend is in the hospital, go, visit, spend time, bring love, and repeat.

endless love & healthy vibrations,

Welcome Home

14 Apr

Hello World!

If you’re reading this you probably already know that I decided to start a blog. Yup: Share. Chat. Work on writing/general English skills. Update you on what I’m currently doing (err, typing and sitting in front of the fan — it’s hot here). Recount events and anecdotes. (Try to) put things in perspective. Give virtual hugs. And much more.

You also might know that I just got back from my first trip to America in over a year.
I stayed for 12 days. — and got back two days ago.
It was a gust of welcome, fresh air.

And I know, I know, most people start a blog for the duration of their Peace Corps experience. That is, at the beginning.
I’m a bit late. — 13 months late, to be exact. The customs official told me (when I re-entered the country on Tuesday) that I have 405 days left on this often sunny island [I swear, I didn’t do the math!! (this time…!) ]

So since I’m breaking traditions I don’t plan on stopping.
Imma start with an excerpt from my journal of how I felt BEFORE I left for America. Not all the sad, misery, woe-is-me details I admit I’ve been experiencing while in Jamaica, but rather the sense of excitement and anticipation of entering a culture I felt fluent in 13 months ago but now am slightly intimidated by, yet still admire and adore:

I kept flitting back and fourth between thinking the transition to being in the US was going to be invigorating for me and then conversely worrying that I would be overwhelmed and pushed to a nervous breakdown from pretending that I have any idea about what’s going on. Like someone would start to make a pop culture reference (Charlie Sheen?), mention a social must-know (tsunami), or anything about politics (Um, the government almost shut down?! seriously?) and I was just gunna nod my head noncommittally and look like a real poser.

I kept wondering, ‘is there a way you can pretend to know what’s going on and just *listen* without coming off like a total jerk? What if there’s only one other person involved in the conversation?? Or am I more of a weirdo if I say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, can we go get something cool to eat?”

*Sigh* it’s just so much easier to think about the weather in Jamaica.

Speaking of the weather in Jamaica- it was really hot before I left. 92 degrees at 8am. — in MARCH! Now that I’m back though, things seemed to have cooled down a bit. 88 degrees with scattered, welcomed, showers.

Back on track, k. If you haven’t read my e-mail update (ask and I’ll send it your way), I’m sure you are breathless — what was it actually like when I went back to the land of ‘milk-and-honey’ earlier this month???

Emotional break-down in Panera Bread? Check
The best Thai/Sushi/Tofu I’ve ever had? Check
LOADS of clean, washing-machined clothes? Check
Hugs, love, snuggles from friends and family? Check
No mention of Charlie Sheen? Check

The trip was powerful.
I feel much better.
And now I’m back. 🙂

Exciting Things:

–Started a womens walking group. We will be meeting 3 times a week. Met this morning for the first time! Walked for over an hour with 3 women. Huge success. Saturday is our next walk.

–I’m bicycling into Santa Cruz/market for the first time tomorrow!!!

–A mentioning in the Green Initiative sector bulletin.

–A few calls from fellow PCVs (Raz), welcoming me back to island.

— My supervisors wife telling me “we missed you while you were gone”.

–It just started raining!!! (the gorgeous sound of pitter pitter pitter on my tin roof). It’s gunna be a great night.

— I brought ‘stuff’ to The States with me and now my home in Jamaica is less cluttered! It’s awesome. I still haven’t unpacked or anything (ha!) but there’s time…

–The Agricultural High School where I teach might be merging with the local college of the West Indies (super exciting, in my opinion). There are intense feelings on both sides (for and against). The high school has contacted me and asked that I help them write a business plan and budget proposal.

–I made popcorn over the stove, to coincide with the sound of raindrops 🙂 Plus I am drinking cold water from the fridge (It’s the last cold water bottle, but I’m motivated to work on my blog and am not filling the empties up right now… Ah, well.)

–Earth Day is coming up! (April 22nd)

–Easter weekend (read: extra long holiday for PCVs, and the Basic School – not to mention Patricks birthday)!

–Mid Service Conference is in the first week of May!! (and Ms. P is not coming with me this time :))

That’s all for my first post.

Hope this finds you happy and well.
And that everyone around you ignores Charlie Sheen.

Love and sunshine,

PS. A huge thanks to Taylor for the blog layout!