Picture of hospital food in Granada, Nicaragua. I was the only patient and they ordered the local version of KFC for me.
What a bummer. After my last post vowing I will go out of the city and explore as much as I can, it seems I may not be able to after all.
You see, I was sick for the previous 3 days. Woke up in the middle of the night on Wednesday with a fever. Took paracetamol and the fever briefly subsided, only to return later in the morning. This same pattern continued - fever of about 38.4 degrees Celsius, me taking paracetamol and the fever subsiding, and then fever coming on again. On Friday morning, Raul (homestay host) brought me to a small private hospital on the outskirts of Granada where I sought treatment.
Preliminary diagnosis? Dengue fever. This, despite the repellant I applied. Oh well. I was hospitalized for the next 24 hours and put on drip, and those 24 hours are definitely in the running for the title of most boring 24 hours in my life. Besides eating delivery Tip Top (the Nicaraguan version of KFC - I have no idea why they would order that for me as hospital food) and watching CNN/BBC/FOX (english channels available in Nicaragua), I was otherwise bored to bits.
Ok, who am I kidding? It was quite horrible too. It's no fun having needles poked into you. I was unusually cold sometimes and shivered even though I was in the tropical heat, and generally felt extremely weak. I also thought of home a lot more often than usual.
Thankfully, I've now mostly recovered. Fever's gone for good, and I feel healthy again. Something worrying though: my platelet count seems to be below normal, so I'll be taking it easy these few days and going back to the hospital tomorrow morning for another check-up.
Though I bemoan the waste of time (it's been nearly 72 hours since I did anything touristy, and I spent Christmas eve and much of Christmas on the hospital bed), I'm glad nothing serious has happened to me. And oh, thank god for travel insurance. You never know when you need it until you do.
Here are several thoughts I had over the past few days (yup, I had ample time for recollection and reflection):
1) I want to go explore the natural beauty of Nicaragua. I'm tired of city life, and I want to seek out those lush forests, steaming volcanoes and clear rivers my guidebook waxes lyrical about.
2) I feel extremely blessed and lucky to be able to travel. I've been to so many countries in the short span of my life, and I've learnt something new from each trip. Traveling is the most incredible and enriching experience ever, and I'm glad I've had the opportunity to backpack to so many places.
3) Through the time spent in the hospital, I got a chance to know my host Raul better. He shared his incredible life story, a story that's intertwined with the history of Nicaragua. He told me how he fought in the late 1970s with the rest of his fellow countrymen to overthrow the corrupt dictator Somoza. It was particularly insightful hearing from him the state of US-Nicaraguan relations.
Raul calls Ronald Reagan "the apocalyptic devil" and hates the US to the core (Reagan was responsible for initiating a 5-year western embargo of Nicaragua in the 1980s which almost led to its collapse. He was also associated with the Iran Contra scandal, in which the federal government illegally sold arms to Iran in exchange for money to support US-allied rebels against the Nicaraguan government). He hates the US as a country, but he does not hate Americans as a people, as he took pains to point out to me. According to Raul, the US has always deemed fit to throw its weight around in its supposed backyard of Central America, propping up inept, corrupt dictators loyal to American interests.
Considering how, as a Singaporean, I've always had a slightly positive view of US hegemony, it was interesting hearing these views from a Nicaraguan. It made me even more curious about the history of this region.
4) CNN Heroes made me tear. I realized just how fortunate I am and how insignificant my worries and troubles were when I watched the special episode of CNN Heroes on CNN. It was such a magical moment, watching selfless individuals around the globe getting honored by Hollywood celebrities and the elite of the media industry. The 33 Chilean miners who marched out proudly onto the stage, singing the Chilean national anthem, and waving their national flag for the world to see. The Cambodian guy who dedicated his life to clearing landmines in his home country and emotionally dedicating the award he received to his wife who passed away last year. The Mexican woman, who built and now runs a hospital in the country's most dangerous city, offering free treatment to anyone and everyone. And of course, the winner of Hero of the Year, the Indian woman Anuradha Koirala, who fights passionately against human trafficking and exploitation of young girls as sex slaves. All of these people look so very ordinary, like you and I, yet they are so impactful and powerful. They do not yearn for any recognition, and so it was especially moving to see them being recognized, praised and honored on stage in an event organized by CNN.
To me, watching this event on a television screen in a small private hospital on the outskirts of a Nicaraguan city on Christmas eve took on extra significance. Despite having spent less than a week here so far, I've witnessed abject poverty and the remarkable resilience of the human spirit. Children living in dirty slums that look like they would crumble apart any moment yet having the brightest, most cheerful smiles I've ever seen. There is so much to be done in Nicaragua; if only the world would stop to take a look.
This is why CNN Heroes gives me hope. There are countless individuals around us who dedicate their heart and soul to causes of greater good, ask for nothing, and indeed get nothing in return except for the laughter and joy of those they have helped.
Go watch CNN Heroes. I promise you'll be moved.