There are currently over 8,000 Peace Corps Volunteers serving worldwide, and each of us is having a distinctly different experience based on lots of different aspects, but specifically location. Each site has its ups and downs, and though I’d like you all to see Bocas as a beautiful, welcoming place full of warm days, stunning beaches, and nice people, the whole truth isn’t quite as sunny.
The thing is, we get sick a lot.
The region of Bocas del Toro is notorious for a lack of sanitation, poor water conditions, and, unfortunately, parasites. After hearing that the previous volunteer in my site was constantly plagued by various ailments, bugs, worms, etc., I was ecstatic (and too early) in thinking that I had managed to escape the same fate.
About a month ago I started having slight stomach issues but shrugged it off and figured that it was just something food related, since my diet is never constant or normal anymore. Unfortunately for my stomach, things kept getting worse and I spent the better part of the last two weeks in my hammock debating on whether or not to call our medical office. I realize that this might not make sense to those of you back in America (sorry, mom) but picture it this way: You’re really, really not feeling well and have no bathroom. Do you really want to hike 45 minutes to wait on sporadic busses that will eventually take you the hour and a half trek to the lab unless you are 100% sure the reading is going to come out positive for something? I know I didn’t.
In my debates about whether or not this little issue was worth the hike, I asked a friend who had dealt with amoebas how she knew for sure she had them. Her answer- “I shit my pants three times in one night.” Apologetically laughing, I assured both her and myself that I was not at that point. Maybe it was the laughing that did me in, maybe it was just meant to happen all along, but two days later, I too knew I had amoebas and left first thing in the morning for our regional capital.
As odd as it sounds, getting the official diagnosis of amoebas almost made me feel like I was finally a real Bocas volunteer. For example, the reaction I got from telling friends back home was usually apologetic, but the reaction from volunteers here went some thing more like, “Awesome! Congratulations!” or “Oh, good!”
Here’s to hoping that being a real Bocas volunteer will continue to err on the sunny, beachy side of things in the future.