Friday, December 5, 2008

Lots of updates

Okay, folks. This was a long time coming. Apologies all around. I'll pull a for those of you busy people and everyone who has a short attention span:

Story Highlights:
-Officially an "early return for medical reasons", i.e. my post was terminated in Guatemala.
-Currently getting massages for tension in my head, shoulders and neck that cause a lot of pain but, I think, are working.
-Was taking painkillers for 3 weeks but have stopped yesterday due to side effects.
-Still have constant headaches but they are less severe. More dizzy, having trouble speaking clearly, and had a weird episode of mixing up words. I'm hoping those were just due to the painkillers.

Alrighty, so on Nov 18, I got an email from CUSO that my post was going to be terminated because after 3 months of medical leave, your contract ends. We considered just postponing my return, but when we found out my next neurologist appointment is Feb 17, it was decided that was too late. Cecilia originally proposed a January return date, which obviously cannot happen.

All of my things, essentially, are still there. Carola is incredible and has packed up my stuff to ship back here next week. Hopefully the bank is able to transfer my funds to my account in Canada.

I'm currently volunteering at the Red Cross. I went in the last two Wednesdays to do research for different projects. It's hard with the massages to try to schedule things during the week since the day after my massages tend to be pretty terrible in terms of pain in my head and shoulders.

I've been getting massages twice a week. We're going to try reducing that to once a week. They're painful during and after. Last Thursday, my massage was very intense and I spent the next 4 days in a lot of pain. However, my headaches have lessened and I think the massages are responsible for that. I've managed to find time to work out most days, so I'm feeling healthier because of that, as well.

I got an apartment downtown. I'll be moving on January 1. Very excited. I'll be playing intramural volleyball at the University of Ottawa, right by my new place, which should be lots of fun!

I have no concrete updates on work or anything. I'm hoping to get a job with a development organization in Ottawa once I'm feeling better. I have no clue when that will be. Right now, I'm just booking a few short modeling shoots to get some extra cash while I wait for my Guatemala money!

In random personal news, I've been knitting up a storm. I have a lot of projects on the go. I ordered in beautiful needles for my birthday (thanks Lolo and Lola!). I'm also making [tomato, celery, carrot, meat, food colouring-free] soups and [wheat-free] breads. Now that it's freezing outside, I'm craving Guatemalan food less, which is helping my quest to eat more local food. And I get to take Mom's breadmaker with me to the new apartment. Score!

Jessica and I went to the rally for a coalition government yesterday, which was wonderful. It's a wild time in Canadian politics. Never thought I'd say that. Here are some of my favourite quotations from non-Canadians that were published in the Globe and Mail today:

"Only in Canada could they replace the least charismatic Prime Minister in their history with the least charismatic man in the universe. A coup in which whatsisface overthrows whatsisname."
- Babel69,

"I'm loving this! This is the best news since our own election ... Go, Canada! Go, Canuckians! Holy Jumping Poutine!"
- mattman,

"If this parliament was a dog it would be brought out behind the shed and shot. Rabid dogs aren't reformed, given second chances or trusted ever again."
- Rick Mercer,

The winner in my eyes (of course):
"It seems that Canadians are experiencing what we Americans experienced under 8 years of Bush. We are extremely relieved that there is now a change of guard. Keep knitting, it alleviates the stress."
- Monique,

Friday, November 14, 2008

21 years on this earth and counting

Well, I can't say I ever expected to be at my parent's house with a raging headache for my 21st birthday. At midnight, I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep through the pain of this stupid headache that has plagued me for nearly 3 whole months. While lying in bed this morning, awake since about 9:30am but lying in bed because of the pain, test messages flowed in, mostly from Toronto. Jeffrey finally got me to get out of bed after noon, after getting Brendan (who has a PD day from school today) to give me the phone.

I was surprised by a super phone call via Skype from Tiana! It's so cool to talk to someone live who is in Burkina Faso. The quality wasn't great, but it was cool to hear her little sick voice nonetheless. (Everyone spare some of your "healthy thoughts" for T so she can be nice and healthy to hang out with some other Canadians this weekend!)

My evil formerly-twin cousin Shawna (for some reason we look less like each other and more like our mothers every year) bought me "This is Spinal Tap". She thinks she's funny. I laughed, anyway. So every time I look at the cover, I can remember the worst 5 minutes or so of my life!

Last night, Dad, Mom, Bren, Jeffrey and I went to Mongolian (my favourite restaurant) and then to watch Madagascar 2. It wasn't as great as Madagascar 1; however, the first was about animals that escape the cushy NYC Central Park zoo to end up in the wilderness, so it was much more relevant to my life at the time! (I watched it with the kiddies in Guatey.) Tonight, I'll be watching Bren's hockey game all the way out in Orleans with the same crew. Obviously I wore earplugs to the movie and will do the same for the hockey game! Best invention ever. Earplugs have gotten me through living in residence, getting through Greyhound rides back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto, sleeping in the rainforest and surviving this stupid headache!

Anyway, onto the health stuff that people ask about. I saw a neurologist bright and early on Thursday morning. Mom and I were extremely early for once and nothing was open, so I knitted while sweating buckets in the waiting room. Our house is freezing cold so I'm really warm when I'm anywhere else (except maybe outside...stupid Ottawa!). If I do end up going back to Guatemala, I'm going to MELT. Okay, back on track. So she was awesome, asking me tons of questions and doing a lot of reflex and mobility-type tests. It was lovely to be with a doctor who took her time and was generally very nice. I think it's also a great sign that she took out her little supplies from an extremely well-loved little leather case. Makes her seem really experienced, haha.

Diagnosis? Well, she's going to get some radiologists to check out my MRI. She kept my MRI and CT scans and photocopied the results of tests and the list of drugs I was on in Guatemala. If anything interesting pops up, I'll get a call. In the meantime, her current theory is a tension problem in the right back of my neck. Most of the pain is concentrated in the back right part of my head. When she put pressure on my neck with her hands, I could feel the pressure much more on my right side than the left side. I thought she was just pushing harder there.

The current treatment plan is new drugs (Mom has the name...) for my pain and prescribed massages for my neck.

Mom thinks our trip to Belize might have done it. It's probably the first time in my whole life where I was really relaxed. My theory is, after getting totally relaxed for the first time, we experienced this:

We're both mostly kidding, especially since we don't know if she's actually right.

So now I wait 6 weeks to see her again. In the meantime, I'm supposed to take these pain pills daily, bumping up my dose once a week if they aren't working. This means Christmas is going to be spent in Canada, which is definitely not what I expected. The best laid plans 'eh.

No update on what is happening with my work/co-op situation at the moment. I promise I'll post on here if anything comes up on that front.

Carola is the best and put a bunch of stuff in my bedroom that was in the dining room area (i.e. the area with 3 walls) and saved it from almost certain destruction from wind, rain and rats. Yay! Let's hope my journal survived. I think it'll be great to read back on everything that happened. My goal for my 21st year is to start writing something, anything, in a daily journal. Maybe it'll keep me from rambling so much in my blog!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Still stuck in limbo

Well, more tests came back negative and the hospital lost some stool samples. I went to the travel doctor again last week and he made a referral for me to see a neurologist. The appointment hasn't been made yet. I'm really hoping she can squeeze me in soon! According to my travel doctor, the causes are most likely my malaria pills, a virus or a neurological problem, in that order.

It's pretty frustrating at this point because I don't know what's going to happen with my year, my placement and my thesis. I haven't been at work for nearly two months now. Aye aye aye.

It's been nice spending time with the family, Jeffrey and friends. Unfortunately, most of my friends are in Toronto or on other continents. I still have my Toronto cell, however, so texting has been pretty sweet. 416-280-1842 -I'm textable! Unless you're Francis or Tiana. Boo.

I'm still knitting up a storm. I actually managed to knit a toque and 1 1/2 mittens. Almost a pair!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

links to check out

Nothing new to report. I'm just waiting on some more results to see if it's some parasite thing. We shall see. Bored as heck sitting around at home all day, knitting and watching TV with the volume down. It's annoying because the only going out that I do is to doctor's offices and occasionally grocery stores/pharmacies. It's too loud basically everywhere. I watched an intramural volleyball game at UofOttawa (Jeffrey and Jessica's team) and my head was really killing me afterwards. So I'm stuck in the house, doing a whole lot of nothing.

Last weekend, Jeffrey and I drove up to the cottage and hung out with Grandmaman and Poppa for an afternoon and dinner, which was really nice. Hopefully I have time to go up and visit again before I go back (?) to Guatemala. Unfortunately, after dinner, I was pretty sick so we had to speed to the depan

Update email from Carola informed me that my little puppy has gone missing. Audelio likely has Coquette, someone told her this week, which is a relief. He's a sweetheart so hopefully she'll be nice and healthy when (?) I return. And hopefully he'll be so attached he'll want to be her new dueƱo (owner) when (?) I leave.

Anyway, just a few things that I thought were cool to share with you all:

Google making an official statement against Proposition 8 to constitutionally ban gay marriage in California:

Palinisms: the Sarah Palin Random Quote Generator (don't forget, the VP debates are Thursday at 9pm EST!) -Facebook blocked me from posting this or putting it in my status.

my Tita Gina's travel blog about her trip to Italy! Warning: it made me very hungry

It's a neat time to be in Canada, getting to watch all of the election coverage on both sides of the border. Makes it less boring than it would be, anyway.

Hope everyone else is doing well and having fun wherever you are. If anyone would like a scarf, let me know :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

back in Otown


So that Wednesday, I went back to the doctor who told me that it most definitely was dengue and I just needed to wait a couple of days and then it would go away. Thursday, I was still feeling the same, headachy and tired. After dinner, all of a sudden, the world started to look different. I got this dizzy feeling like things were moving slower than my eyes were moving. Freaking out, I called Carola and Katie. Carola called around to get me a car and we were off to the Hospital Privado in Santa Elena, the best private hospital in the area.

Well, they checked all my vitals and I was looking normal except for the dizziness and headache. Scared to go back to the Cooperative, 40 minutes away from the hospital, they admitted me to stay overnight. After talking to CUSO, we determined that I would take the first plane of the day on the Friday to Guatemala City to seek treatment there. Carola went back to the Coop to pack some of our stuff to take with us to Guatey.

So they hook me up to an IV, wheel me to a room and plop me into bed. When they hooked me up to the IV, the nurse said “now, take a deep breath”. By the time I translated that in my head, the needle was already in. But one of the students who was observing had taking a gulping breath watching the whole thing happen and it took a lot for me to not laugh outloud. Twice during the night, my IV started leaking fluid and blood. To get their attention, I had to wheel myself (remembering I’m really dizzy) down 2-3 hallways. I had an argument about insurance with their secretary when she came in at like 3 in the morning to discuss it. The bathroom had a dripping shower and reeked of mould. The dripping kept me up basically all night. There wasn’t any soap in the bathroom. The AC was broken so it was either full blast or off.

In the morning, after ripping me off totally for the room ($300 for the night), they started arguing that I should pay in cash. Um, I don’t carry $300 worth of Quetzales around with me! The insurance told us they’d call them but after waiting over 40 minutes for a Spanish speaking person at the insurance company to call, I was going to miss my flight. They refused to take the IV out of my hand until 8am when my plane (which I didn’t have a ticket for) was scheduled to take off at 8:30. Fortunately, around 7:45am, the IV started leaking on its own so they really didn’t have much of a choice but to take it out anyway. I stormed out of the hospital as soon as I could while Carola waited what felt like an eternity for a doctor to show up to sign the forms. If I had a medical emergency, there wasn’t a doctor around to deal with it anyway!

He took forever, filling out this long explanation of everything they’d done…in Spanish on the insurance form that says “Must be completed in ENGLISH or FRENCH”. Which is stupid on the part of CUSO for having insurance that can’t be done in Spanish. The nurses had told me at the night that the doctor spoke English. By “speak English”, they meant he could say “Good morning”. Literally. Way to get my hopes up.

Anyway, Carola and I managed to just catch the flight. Despite attitude from the airline (the guy looks at his watch, squints at us, “hm, this is pretty late”. They hadn’t boarded yet and it’s a tiny airport where most people show up like 20 minutes before the plane leaves anyway) and difficulties paying by credit card (What? You don’t have $200 in cash?), we got on the flight. We were met by Dina, an awesome Guatemalan CUSO cooperant, at the airport.

Dina was invaluable throughout my experience in Guatemala City. It’s so confusing and figuring out things like cabs, which have a fixed price in Santa Elena, and where to eat would have been another stress on top of being sick. Dina rocks and I plan on visiting her again in Guatemala. Also, she’s very demanding and speaks her mind, which was EXTREMELY useful in the hospital.

I went to Centro Medico to get checked out. Right away, they did a tomography and some blood tests. We had a lot of problems with insurance (hospital’s fault) which meant I was in Emergency for over 9 hours. Not so bad for me, except I had to pee every 10 minutes because of the IV and I had to unhook my IV and walk across Emergency every single time. But poor Dina and Carola had to stand! There were no chairs except one really uncomfortable stool that they rotated. And, trust me, we asked. Some of the nurses were kind enough to get me dinner even though my insurance wasn’t figured out yet.

In the end, CUSO ended up Western Union-ing over thousands of dollars to put up as a guarantee at the hospital because they wouldn’t accept our insurance company. (Props to Tina from MEDEX for trying like crazy, though!) Without CUSO’s help, I would have had to try to pool all of my cash and credit cards to cover it, which barely would have done it. I already spent $600 of my own money on treatment and plane tickets (which will be reimbursed) and the $3000 guarantee needed by the hospital would have cleaned me out. (In the end, my treatment ended up costing MORE than that!)

The hospital was very nice. Great facilities, most of the nurses were great. The doctors frustrated me immensely. My main doctor lied to my face about what was wrong with me, I think to get me to stay in the hospital so he could keep making money off me. He told me that I had a cerebral edema and needed to stay in the hospital for treatment. Well, I now have a copy of that test which is totally normal, including a statement by the radiologists who say my brain is totally normal looking. He also told the insurance over the phone that he had done all of the tests he could do, when I had just gotten a second opinion from another neurologist who listed a number of tests that hadn’t been done and asked me why they hadn’t been done. And after that doctor told the insurance he’d done all the tests he could do, (within MINUTES) he ordered a battery of other tests. Uh…okay.

On the 7th or 8th, my headaches were really painful and none of the medication they were giving me was working. So to relieve pressure in my head and check for other evil things in my body, they did a spinal tap. HELL. Imagine having a needle in your spine and then having a doctor calling out instructions to you in Spanish when you’re only at a conversational level. It was awful. I was bawling and they finally got Carola back in the room to show me, on the floor, and describe in more simple words how he wanted me to move. MOVING WITH A NEEDLE IN MY SPINE. And because I was too tense (ya think?) they had a brutal time getting the needle out of my spine. It was a drill to get it out. The sound and feeling of a drill. Today, a week later, the most pain that I have is just recovering from that spinal tap. My headache did get better afterwards, but I think the brutal pain of my back just made the headache not seem so bad, haha. Nothing was abnormal in the spinal tap.

In the end, both of the doctors at the hospital determined that my headaches and dizziness were caused by depression. Their reasoning? I am a young woman who doesn’t live with her parents or husband and I eat a lot. Without telling me, they put me on a pill for manic depression. Fortunately, I got Mom to look it up (they never directly answered the question about what it was for, saying to take it before bed, implying it was a sleeping pill) so I didn’t take it on my own. Culturally, to them, they couldn’t understand how a young woman would actually want to go to a foreign country by herself. And the food thing is just weird –I’m an active person, so I eat a lot! Considering I’m on the lower end of average weight for my height, I don’t see how this is an argument at all. Plus, I’m very content with my life and one of the happiest people I know. Not so much on the depression.

After hearing that, the insurance company was adamant that I get back to Canada for testing and treatment. On Sept 9, I left the hospital and went to a hotel. I spent a day and a half bumming around with Carola. On Sept 11, with a nurse from Flying Nurses International (such a cool idea!), I came back to Ottawa. Kathy, a nurse from Philly, met me in the hotel the night before and we took off bright and early. She stayed with me to check my blood pressure and pulse a couple of times a flight and make sure I got a wheelchair to get me through the airports. Mostly, she kept me company. She would like to apologize on behalf of her country for George Bush. She said at least half a dozen times “I didn’t vote for him”. Haha. Cool lady.

On the 12th, saw Mom’s doctor. Did some tests which all came back normal.

Got very sick on Saturday and went to the hospital Sunday morning. Had some more tests done there. Results will be back today or tomorrow. I’m now feeling better, just with the headache and dizziness still.

It is almost certainly some sort of virus that, unless my conditions deteriorates to the point where they think I’m dying, will never be identified. I just have to wait it out. What this means for my placement, I have no idea. I want to go back to Guatemala, I intend on going back to Guatemala.

It’s been 3 weeks of this headache and it’s been incredibly frustrating. Glad to be home now with people to take care of me. A washing machine, big blankets and no bugs…ah. And a flush toilet! You knew I was going to bring that one up.

It’s very emotional being back. When we walked in the door from the airport, poor Jeffrey and Mom had to watch while I broke down. With only 2 days to mentally prepare to come back…I can’t describe it. And the reverse culture shock has been tough. I was in awe in the airports at how clean (and cold!) everything is.

Mostly this experience has made me very sad for the average person in the 3rd world. Who can afford what have now been many thousands of dollars for tests, hospital bills and travel expenses? We discovered that my positive dengue result from the lab in Santa Elena was wrong. So people are spending their Q100, which probably means less food on the table, to be tested in a dirty lab where their results are likely not even accurate! Also, a false positive could mean that something else is wrong with them, like malaria, that needs to be treated but they’ll go home just thinking they have dengue and will try to wait it out. A night in the hospital at $300…I don’t think I know anyone in Guatemala who has $300 lying around. I had people at the Cooperative to drive me to the hospital at 9pm. The microbuses that many people rely on stop at 6:30pm. You can’t just call a cab or even if you could, you likely couldn’t afford to have it drive you into town.

They do have a public health care system, which is known to be horrendous. The private health care I got in Santa Elena appalls me. I can’t even imagine what the public one is like. If you don’t have dengue, malaria, parasites or pregnancy, they have no idea what to do with you. At the cooperative, they have a trained “nurse” at the clinic who took my blood pressure incorrectly. All of these things are adding up to a population of people who can’t afford treatment or are getting the wrong treatment based on inaccurate diagnoses.

I am so grateful to be in Canada with our health care system and to have access to health insurance, both for travel and prescriptions.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

mini-update from a sickface

So I left work a bit early last Monday because I was feeling really drained and exhausted. Figured I was coming down with a bit of a flu or something. Wasn't feeling better Tuesday, so stayed home. Well, Wednesday the bad morning migraines started. Thursday, went to a clinic to get tested for dengue, tested positive. Went to a doctor, who was very nice and calls me Angela with a hard "g" which I never hear down here, who diagnosed a UTI based on the tests but said I didn't have dengue because I have no fever. Talked to Dr Wise, the program Dr in Canada, who said I probably DO have a bit of dengue because of the pain in my head. This pattern of terrible night and morning headaches continued with constant head pain during the day -just enough that it's hard to read, i.e. WORK. Went back to hard "g" doctor who prescribed migraine stuff and some anti-allergy stuff for a rash I had on my arms on Monday.

Well, this stuff didn't work at all. So Tuesday, back to Santa Elena I went, to a different Dr (after a whole day of figuring out going to Guatemala City with the university, CUSO and insurance, someone mentioned this good doctor!!! ARGH. It was frustrating) who said it could very well be dengue without a fever. Just to be safe, I'm being treated for malaria which sucks hardcore.

Basically, I'm tired, have a constant migraine, can't sleep because of the pain and am bored as heck. My computer power cable broke so now I can't even watch some movies or write blog entries to kill the time. Hoping that it's over soon because I'm eager to get back to work and hanging out with the kids. The sound of them laughing makes me cringe now because of the headaches, which is too bad.

In other news, Coquette brought back one of her stolen puppies last Wednesday. Today, she followed me onto the microbus and refused to stay at the Cooperative. The only option I had was to leave her on the highway where she inevitably would have been run over by a truck. So she is currently at my feet after a frustrating afternoon lugging her around. Pictures to come soon!!

Missing Canada a lot, especially the medical system, at the moment.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"It's like camping!" - Mom's visit from Ange's perspective

Wow, so Mom’s really gone! My house is so quiet!!! After she left, I talked to Jeffrey for nearly an hour, called Erin and talked her ear off for a while after work and then blabbed away to Jeffrey again for a while. So I’m easing myself back into the routine of not really talking much.

Anyway, here’s an update on our 2 week adventure from my perspective. If you want the short version, just stick with Mom’s. This is a 4 pager! (Quick update on the goat: she still hates me and I have lots of deep cuts on my ankles from her strategic attacks, wrapping the rope she’s tied with around my legs. I’m really hoping to get the fence fixed this week so I can untie her and be forgiven.)

Day 1: Mom’s stupid flight doesn’t come and I find out my dog is probably dead. Bad day. (Update on August 23: she came home! Insanely skinny, tired and starving for attention from me, she’s back!! I have no idea where she went and the kids were just as surprised as I am. We all thought she was dead. No one had seen her in 3 weeks. She freaked out a bit at the giant goat/sheep in the backyard but got over it.)

Day 2: Mom comes in a whole 24 hours late! I spent the day in town with Carola and then we came back to the Coop. Mom is in good spirits despite being in airports for 2 days. I make a very Guatemalan dinner: cucumber salad, guacamole and refried beans with handmade tortillas. We hang out, watching stupid videos on my computer and then crash to try to squeeze in some sleep pre-BIG DAY.

Day 3: We called Dad in the morning and Mom told him, “It’s like camping! But with a stove and a fridge.” No false advertising on that one: there really is a cockroach containing outhouse, buckets for night bathrooms, garbage washing and sometimes difficulty getting pure bottled water.

This was our BIG DAY. Everyone said it couldn’t be done but it went off wonderfully! Waterfalls were lots of fun and being there until 1 was the perfect amount of time. We did all of Yaxha and got to see the sunset, too! It was a lot of driving but it worked out perfectly. Whoohoo. We were told incorrectly that there would be water for sale at the ruins so Mom and I were hiking around for over 2 (nearly 3?) hours, running up pyramids and sweating our buns off after splitting one small water bottle. Fortunately, we didn’t get dehydrated, chugging drinks from the closest open tienda we could find on our way back to the Coop.

Day 4: Belize. I stocked up on delicious fresh roasted cashews in Belize City, we met a cool DJ named Antonio and I got a cute pair of sandals. We enjoyed Belikin, the yummy Belizean beer, and had a great lunch in town. Nikki, owner of Maruba Resort Jungle Spa, picked us up in their truck and we had another hour and half on a sketchy highway. I had a terrible allergic reaction to a tiny ice cream I bought in Belize, making the already painfully bumpy trip even more brutal. But we were greeted with rum punches at the door, so it was all good.

Day 5: We chilled at the pool, got some spa treatments (my first time!), and read a lot. We pretty much had the pool to ourselves all day.

Day 6: We stayed at the pool all day. There were very few people there and we got a lot of reading done! I played in the pool with Chloe, a 5 year old who we kept bumping into, for a while. My handstand impressed her, haha. I’m fated to socialize with people less than half my age while I’m in Central America.

Day 7: We had to head out early in the morning to catch our bus from Belize City. I bought a lot more cashews (which I suspect I shouldn’t have been able to bring over the border). We bought tickets on the Linea Dorada bus, which was more like a Greyhound bus instead of the van we took there. And it cost the same! It was a lot nicer and got to lie across a row to sleep.

Day 8: I worked and Mom spent 2 hours washing our laundry by hand. I was proud. She took pictures of the fruits of her labour.

Day 9: We took our time getting up, having a nice lazy breakfast at the Comedor, the restaurant the Coop. The profits from the restaurant go back to the Coop. It was delicious. Then we made our way to Santa Elena, where we got a bus to Tikal. We dumped our stuff in our room at the Jungle Lodge hotel, took a quick dip in the pool and headed out to Temple IV for the sunset. A guard told us that was the best place to check out the sunset which is apparently part of this big guard scheme. After 6 pm, the time we got to the temple, you’re not supposed to be able to be in the park without a guide. When we bought our tickets at like 5:30, the person at the front desk neglected to mention this. Taking pity, the guard at the bottom said we could go up to the sunset. As Mom said, I held out and we got to see the sunset after bribing the guard only $5 each. Even more beautiful than the sunset was the moonrise on the east side. Mom busted up her ankle on the tour we joined for the way back, so that was the end of her Tikal hiking.

Day 10: I was up at 4:09 am to go out on the sunrise hike. The sunrise was a big disappointment but it was an interesting study of how people cannot SHUT UP! The guides tell everyone (there are over 200 people sitting on top of Temple IV at like 5:30 am) that they need to be silent for half an hour. Um, no. People were shouting at each other, giving instructions on how to climb up to higher sections of the pyramid (Mom would have had a heart attack, so it was good she was still in bed, injured.) until enough people yelled at them to shut up. Then people were eating loudly. And people felt the need to whisper commentary throughout the whole thing. Pathetic. We did a tour after the sunrise, went back for breakfast, and then I went off on my third tour which, as you know, Mom joined for a little bit. I recommend doing tours of Tikal, but sunset and sunrise would have been enough. The third tour was pretty repetitive.

Our bad luck in Tikal wasn’t over! Somehow I managed to lose our ticket for the bus to go back that afternoon. Which may have not been a problem since they had our names down anyway. While I was looking for the ticket, people behind us got into the bus, filling it. Past Mom, who was limping around with a cane. Classy. So the jerk with San Juan Travel (oh yeah, I’m naming names, lol) told us “Well, it’s full anyway” and drove away. I walked back to the hotel to try to get back into our room to search for the ticket and wait for the next bus. I bumped into Antonio, General Manager and awesome tour guide for all three of my tours (not be confused with Antonio the DJ from Belize) who mentioned that one of his drivers was going out to El Remate (which has a lot of buses to Flores going through) so we could tag along. This van only had a few other people and I got a window seat, so we were quite pleased. Well, when dropping us off at El Remate, Mom paid the driver Q100 (although we thought it was going to be a free ride…) because we were just so thankful. The driver then (suddenly inspired by this demonstration of cash, I suspect) offered to drive us all the way back to Horizonte, which was amazing since it meant Mom wouldn’t have to try to walk around and we wouldn’t be cutting it close with the last bus, for Q150. I thought he meant another Q50 but Mom and I agreed that even if he meant an additional Q150, it would be worth it for the lack of trouble. When we got back to the Cooperative, he informed me that it would be another Q200 since it was further than he thought. So it’s usually Q30 one way per person to Tikal. We paid Q150 per person to get back!!! It was totally ridiculous and I was fuming. We just paid it and trudged back to the house after buying a few beers from the front tienda :)

Day 11: I dragged my butt back into work. They fumigated, so Mom had to limp over to the restaurant to drink coffee and read her book. I bought two fresh fish from the tilapia farm project that they keep in a pool at the restaurant for sale. Achala handed me the bag, told me she was impressed that I would be cooking them, and Mom and I started walking home. Turns out the fish were ALIVE in this black shopping bag and started to move a few steps out of the restaurant! I had made a joke about this to Mom while Achala was getting them out of the pool but I was absolutely 100% kidding. So the whole way back, we were laughing our heads off as I jumped every time the fish moved. Their deaths were not the most humane but we don’t need to get into that…We watched the Sex and the City movie with terrible Spanish subtitles that night.

Day 12: Another day at the office. For dinner, I was all ready to cook the poor fish. Mom asked if I knew how to clean them but I explained I didn’t need to: Tono just shoved metal rods in them and put them over the fire when we ate fresh fish at the laguna. Well, of course, I baked them with oil, lime, onion and spices and they smelled AMAZING. I opened the tin foil only to find that they were full of worms and a beautiful, unhealthy emerald green colour. So we ate cashews, steamed broccoli and rice for dinner. I was pretty bummed about it.

Day 13: Turns out there is a bit of dengue epidemic going on. About 8 people had it at this time, including 2 with hemorrhagic dengue who were coughing up blood. So they fumigated a second time and my poor gimpy mother had to walk to the restaurant to wait. They’ve since had people cleaning up garbage and did an extra garbage pick up to try to discourage mosquitoes from hanging out here. By Saturday, when I’m writing this, my house is basically back to normal, being full of mosquitoes again. However, I wear DEET everyday, burn anti-mosquito coils and sleep under a net. Carola is also lending me this liquid stuff that you plug in that keeps mosquitoes away. Most of the people here just aren’t used to wearing repellent (and the stuff sold in the grocery store is only 5%) or using nets. Hopefully things will change soon because there is no dengue vaccine or cure.

On a lighter note, we had a really nice dinner with Carola for Mom’s last night at the Cooperative. I made papaya chicken and salad. We also had Chilean white wine and fair trade chocolate. It was a really nice night. I was able to translate pretty well for Mom and Carola and I don’t think we missed anything because of language. There was a bug incident that you can check out on Facebook.

Day 14: In the afternoon, Mom and I went to Flores. She was a great sport and we did a bit of walking to go to a restaurant with internet, got souvenirs for the fam and then went back to La Luna for another really delicious dinner. They were slow on the bill but when the waiter came by, he was bearing two shot glasses with rum on the house. So that made up for it! The power went out at the Hotel Isla de Flores where we stayed, which was terrible since we were on the 4th floor (which Mom picked without considering the fact that I’d have to carry her 40 lb suitcase up all of those flights of stairs!) and it was over 40°! Everyday for Mom’s last week was over 40°. We were boiling without the fan, AC or running water. Fortunately it was off for only 30 minutes but the cable stopped working so my one night of cable TV (I got to see maybe 3 minutes of Friends!) was not to be.

Day 15: Mom leaves in the morning and then I bus back for a very productive Friday at work. As I write this on Saturday afternoon, Mom should be landing in Ottawa after overnighting in Houston.

It was a great trip with some awesome memories. It was nice to have someone here who knew where I was coming from and could appreciate the difference in culture and lifestyle from what I’m used to. Mom was a great sport, despite being injured and living in conditions that are so much more uncomfortable than what she’s used to! We were woken up in the middle of the night multiple times by fireworks, dog fights, and loud music. There were days where ranchero music was blaring from the house next door (including a whole CD that was like Alvin and the Chipmunks Mexico style or something) and she survived!! Plus, her Spanish definitely improved –she’s got numbers, some food and stuff that sounds like French- and is better at converting Quetzales to dollars than I am.

She brought lots of fun toys and gifts that will keep me occupied for a while yet. Brendan sent me tons of CDs that are going to get me through many more days of cleaning. Jessica got me addicted to Lost (which we were both watching last night! We texted. It was like we were hanging out, haha). I have a lot of colouring books and stickers for the kids from Mom, Dad and Grandmaman that I still haven’t taken out. I need to wait for a day when I have a lot of energy and that hasn’t happened yet! They’re going to freak out. The big hit so far has been this chicken magnet that has magnets on its hands and feet which are on strings so you can pose it on the fridge. Fridge magnets alone will entertain these kids for hours, but this chicken…kids of all ages are loving it, haha (see pictures on Facebook). I’m looking for the perfect spot for my Canadian flag that Mom got on sale. I have oodles of books to read in my hammock (complete with a pig bookmark)! Mom also bought me some candles which have a melted top layer during the day here because it’s so hot, haha. I’m so spoiled. I ate all of the soft pure maple leaves Mom bought me already…not so good on the rationing.