A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Galapagos Islands Part I: Unique Experiences

The Galapagos Islands are most famously associated with Charles Darwin. Though he was only in the Galapagos Islands for a short time (4 months) and at a young age (26 yrs), his mentioning them in his research and work to follow put them on the map forever. The Galapagos Islands are a group of volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador. Jen and I were interested in seeing all the different wildlife, the various landscapes and cruising around on a boat to the different islands.

Even before leaving Quito for the Galapagos I wasn't feeling well. I had one of the worst headaches of my life, my muscles, bones and joints hurt and I just generally didn't feel well. I thought I might just have altitude sickness and hoped being at sea level would cure me. However, upon arriving in the Galapagos, I felt even worse. I became convinced I had dengue fever, typhoid, typhus, malaria and menengitis all at the same time. Jen left me in bed and headed out for a long walk along the coast-line of the island and also to pay a visit to the pharmacy. After describing my problem in detail and explaining I had been living in Africa only a few weeks prior, several pharmacists put their heads together and came up with 4 different medicines they insisted would cure me. Jen brought them back these medicines with instructions in Spanish.

The next day we were scheduled to get on a small cruise boat and sail the waters for 4 days. I still didn't feel better. A few hours before we were scheduled to meet at the docks to get on our boat Jen convinced me to go to the hospital. There was a long line of about 40 Ecuadorian women with their babies but being the token tourist and white person, I was sent to the front of the line and saw an emergency doctor immediately. With Jen as translator, the doctor asked some questions, listened to my heart and lungs, looked down my throat, in my ears and at my eyes, felt my legs and diagnosed me with some bacterial infection. How could this immense pain be cause by a bacterial infection? I was not convinced but we had no time to argue. Jen and I slowly marched across the street to the pharmacist where we returned and exchanged the medicine from the night before for the penicillin and pain killers I needed. Only in a developing country can you bring medicine back!

I must admit, a little bit after taking the first dose I felt a bit better. A few days later, I was fine. Who would have thought a bacterial infection could cause so much pain. Certainly not me.

Taking my first dose of penicillin infront of the free hospital

Once out at sea we stopped at an island to mail our letters. The special thing about this mail system is that it's done in old whaling tradition - without stamps. You look through the pile of letters in a mail box and see if any are going to a place near you. If so, you take that letter and deliver it. You add your letters to the pile for someone else to take when they are going that way. So some of you, don't be surprised if someday someone shows up at your door with a letter from me from the Galapagos Islands. I have complete faith this system works. It might take a hundred years but...
Cruising around from island to island proved to be a bit much for me. I suffer from motion sickness normally and when you put me out on the open seas in a small cruise boat things don't brode well. At night we even were bracing ourselves in our beds as the boat dramatically heaved over the big waves. Jen, ever the trooper, tried to be a good nurse throughout these difficult times and she succeeded in making me still smile throughout.

Our cruise boat

What a friend!

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