My Worst Illness Yet

November 30-December 3, 2007
Day 793-796

Eduardo, ever the Renaissance man, informed me that he was taking classes in poetry at the local university. I went with him to a recital, and was subsequently forced to read a poem to everyone in Spanish in which I didn't understand half the words. During the recital I got a headache and started feeling run down, which I attributed to nerves.

I still wasn't feeling well later in the night, but I decided to go out with Eduardo, Marina, and Ana Maria to a concert in an open air college campus. One band played a local version of salsa music, in which the dancing was much slower than that of Cali, and the next band played vallenato, an extremely popular home-grown version of the classic love song. In the middle of the concert, I suddenly felt the need to get fresh air, but I was already outside. I ended up vomiting all over the bushes in the parking lot. I felt better and drank some water, but five minutes later, the rest of the contents of my stomach were expunged until I could only dry heave bits of acid.

By morning, my entire body was emptied of its fluid contents, but I still couldn't eat or drink anything without puking it back up a few minutes later. Eduardo hooked me up with a ride on a cheese truck that goes to Cocuy National Park once per week, but it soon became obvious that I wasn't going to be able to take it. It felt like someone had pummeled my whole body with a baseball bat, and I ended up spending a couple days rolling around in bed hoping for sleep or death.

My illness was so bad that for the first time on my trip, I went to the clinic for testing. It turned out my guts were packed full of amoebas, and I was given heavy doses of antibiotics to kill them and a shot in the ass to stop the vomiting. I'm not sure what caused the amoebas to get there, but they most likely came from some of the river water I swallowed while rafting a few days ago. After a couple days I was feeling fairly normal again and was definitely ready to get on my way to Cocuy. I had already been cursed with bad info about the park and now the illness, but I was still determined to get there.

The only other major happening of those few days was that Hugo Chavez was defeated in his referendum to change Venezuela's constitution. Eduardo's house happened to be across the street from the local Venezuelan consulate, and all of the Venezuelans in town lined up to sing the national anthem before the voting began. I think that vote was one of the most important turning points in Latin American politics. If Chavez had won, it could have pushed Venezuela, and eventually all of Latin America toward full-blown communism. But the people have said enough is enough, and all appears to be calm once again on the political front here.

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