March 23, 2017
“Viajando-te deja mudo, entonces te transforma en un cuentista.”
“Traveling-it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”Ibn Battuta
So, last week, you all read about my fascination with Argentine fashion and the mall, my scrutiny on the prices of fast-food here and the differentiations in climate. But, if you only KNEW what was going on behind the scenes. I was sick, EXTREMELY sick, the most ill that I have ever been in my entire 20 years of living. If you have been keeping up to date with my blog, I have particular food restrictions that inhibits me from eating certain foods, with one of them being dairy. Unfortunately, that’s not all. I have a gluten intolerance as well in which if I eat anything containing wheat, I get extremely fatigued, develop tummy aches, get excruciating headaches and brain fog, and to sum it all up, just can’t function right. I knew I had an intolerance to dairy for a long time, but I just learned about my gluten intolerance a few months ago, thankfully before arriving to Argentina. Last Thursday night, after a very fun and fulfilling day spent at Carlos Paz once again, we ate dinner a little bit more earlier than usual. (maybe at around 7:45 or 8:00ish) I was more than ready to chow down on the gluten free spaghetti that my host mom had prepared me. She always gives us huge portions of food (I have a special blue plate that I eat from) which always satisfies my hunger. All the food on my plate below is equivalent to the amount of spaghetti that I ate.
After eating all of my dinner, I felt full, and was very pleased that I had a nice home cooked meal once again. The next day, I ate the same thing for lunch but as I began to take the first couple of bites, my stomach began to ache a little bit. Brushing it off, (not a wise idea) I ended up eating the whole plate full of spaghetti because I was really hungry and there was nothing else for me to eat. As afternoon turned to evening, my stomach pains began to get worse and by dinner time, it felt terrible, yet, (once again brushing it off), I still ate every bit of my dinner. At around 10:00 PM that evening, I really started to feel sick to my stomach so much so, that I had to tell my friend that I was unable to FaceTime her. I curled up in my bed, hoping and praying that whatever was going on, would be resolved by the morning.
When I woke up Saturday morning, I did not feel normal at all. I had planned on buying a new phone and going shopping, but I knew that wasn’t happening. As soon as I got up out of bed, I felt like I was going to pass out. Later, I walked slowly to the breakfast table hoping that I could eat at least some of my breakfast, in which I couldn’t do. By the end of the day, it was difficult to keep anything down. My host mom was aware that I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t disturb me until lunch. In the meantime, I curled back under the covers in my bed and tried watching a good movie in order to take my mind off the aches and pains in my stomach and my muscles. When lunch was prepared, my host mom called me into the kitchen and the smell of food made me nauseous. I told her that I would try to eat something later in the day and when I got up from the table to go back to my room, everything around me got blurry. I said with my weak voice, “Me siento que voy a desmayar” (I feel like I’m going to faint) and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor with my host mom by my side rubbing my arm. (It was the first time that I had fainted in my life). As she began to scramble around in panic, I asked her if she could call an ambulance, because I knew something inside of me was not right. She told me that calling an ambulance can be expensive so my host dad called a taxi that pulled up in front of the house. I slowly went back to my room to get my money and my purse and stumbled into the cab that drove us to the hospital.
The students in the Spanish Studies Abroad program that I’ve talked to, said that they have already had their emotional breakdown since arriving in Argentina. I can say of a truth, that my time in the hospital last Saturday afternoon was when I had my first official emotional breakdown abroad. As I sat in the emergency room feeling extremely sick and not my normal self, and as other people looked at me in pity, tears began welling in my eyes. Why was my study abroad experience turning out like this? I haven’t mentioned it before (because I didn’t want too many people to worry), but ever since I’ve been here, it seems like I’ve been in and out of the hospital because of food reasons. Last time, my digestive system was acting up because I had eaten too much dulce de leche ( a type of caramel cake or cookie loaded with milk) for breakfast. I didn’t know the quantity of milk in it would be too much for my system. I would never have imagined that my study abroad experience would turn out like this.
About two hours later, after some treatment in the hospital, I was released, still unsure about what was wrong with me. I spent the rest of my Saturday resting, and that Sunday, I was busy doing my research. (on google, not a good habit haha but it’s always my go to if I have any symptom) I just had to find out what was wrong with me because I normally never get sick (maybe a small one day cold here or there) but not THAT ill. Even when the “Susky plague” at my university goes around every year, I never catch it. There were two things that I narrowed it down to.
1. A gluten cross contamination- There was a possibility that maybe, just maybe, my host mom had accidently mixed up my gluten free spaghetti with their normal spaghetti.
2. A stomach virus- It was possible that someone on the jam-packed bus had it and passed it onto me.
But it was very difficult to narrow down because both share similar manifestations such as neurological symptoms, muscle aches, tiredness…etc. I finally decided to give it a rest and went to bed hoping that the next day, I would discover the culprit of my mysterious illness.
The culprit: Expired spaghetti from September of 2013. I was food poisoned. After I found out that next morning, (thankfully my appetite was back) I lost my appetite again, went into the room, shut the door and tried to keep myself calm. I’m going to be 100% honest with you all. After everything that had transpired last weekend, I was ready to go online, book a plane ticket, pack my bags, and return to the United States immediately. I said to myself, “I’ll just stay an extra semester at my university, make adjustments to my major. I just want to go home NOW.” All of my frustrations boiled over inside of me this past week as I poured my heart out to my parents in tears. I was ready to cook my own delicious mouth-watering food from my cookbook at home and ready to go back to the United States to live a healthy life, despite my food intolerances. I no longer wanted to feel left out of the group when other students went to buy Argentine food such as their well-known choripan ( a popular sandwich consisting of thick bread with sausage and other veggies in the middle) empanadas (stuffed bread consisting of meat or cheese), or milanesa. (a breaded meat fillet) My host mom did make me gluten free empanadas and milanesas, but I know the taste isn’t the same. I was tired of everything and wasn’t in the mood to do anything or go anywhere. I just wanted to sit in my room and cry. (yet I still had to attend my first class)
After much thought, I decided to email the resident director here in Argentina in order to request a new host family. It just seems like so many mistakes have been made here in my first homestay, that I can’t risk getting this sick again and being a regular hospital patient, not during this adventure of a lifetime. After days of anticipating an answer to see if another family would take me in, I finally received word that on Saturday morning (March 25), I will be leaving my first homestay (I’m going to miss my spacious room) in order to go live with another family. I feel very sentimental knowing that I have to leave a family that has tried their very best to accommodate me, but I consider my health very important and I want to have the best experience here as possible, without any more major health complications.
The more I meditate on the events that have transpired within the last week, the more I realize that life’s a journey and the road is not always going to be easy. There are going to be bumps and certain obstacles along the way, but who’s to say I can’t overcome them? Who ever said that traveling in general would be a breeze? I’ve had many changes take place since I’ve been here in Argentina such as a new Spanish speaking partner and my soon to be new homestay. But as my roommate told me, (I will miss all of our laughs and great conversations) change can be a good thing. I get comfort in knowing that all things are working for my good. Keep your eyes open for my next blog (it’s not an easy road part 2) within the next week as I go through this transition. Until next time…