On Surviving Parasites: How “Power February” Turned into “Parasite February”

In February I planned on really getting my projects in my community moving- getting all of the data about my community put together, having a meeting with 15 women in La Jolla about selling pizza once a week, having a meeting with 15 women in La Cumbre about planning the construction of their own bakery, and sending a solicitud to the Alcaldia (mayor’s office) for support in these projects.
I even made a poster with all of my goals and posted it on my door with the header “Power February”. pupusas
Unfortunately, “Power February” turned into “Parasite February”.
On February 1st I got pupusas with my Salvadoran friend. Pupusas (think amazingly-delicious bean and cheese stuffed tortillas) are usually served with tomato sauce and “curtido”, chopped-up fermented cabbage. People usually don’t eat the curtido because it has a reputation for being a bacteria breeding ground.
I felt a bit cocky though- “I have been living here for the last 7 months, of COURSE I have built up tolerance to the bacteria”- and ate the curtido even though my Salvadoranhospital friend avoided it. This was a really bad call that would haunt me for weeks.
Two days later I was being driven to the hospital in San Salvador at 10 PM. Usually, when I have gotten sick, I have just had to go to the laboratory and gotten some medicine. This time, though, was especially bad. I was immediately hooked up to an IV and wheeled away to a hospital room.
I was shocked. I could not believe that I was staying in the hospital. I also really couldn’t believe it when they decided I needed another night after my first night.
But, admittedly, the hospital was really nice, especially coming off of my mountain. I could call a number next to my bed and get coffee brought up to my room. I could go to the bathroom in a toilet with a seat (!!!). I could take showers with hot water. Dragging around my IV was a bit of a drag but I had unlimited WiFi and Facebook chat. It really is the little things in life.
But, then, over the next few weeks after I was admitted from the hospital, I suffered. I could barely sleep. I could barely eat. I was walking 5-8 miles a day around my community to try to do everything in “Power February” and feeling awful. I had to go back to San Salvador twice for tests and had to cancel a ton of meetings in my community. I felt like I lost a lot of momentum in my community and was really beating myself up about it because I always feel like I need to be doing more for the people here. I still feel like I have to start over a bit from where I was in January.
“Power February” wasn’t a total let down, though; I did have a meeting with the 15 women in La Cumbre and made the beginnings of a plan for their bakery.
Also, parasites taught me some valuable lessons:
  1. Don’t eat curtido! Just don’t do it! It’s not worth it!
  2. Gringos will never have the tolerance of locals. Ever.
  3. Parasites are a really effective but awful diet.
  4. Really, don’t eat the curtido.
I am hopeful about getting the ball rolling again in my community in “Mas Marzo”- “More March”. Wish me luck!

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