Saturday, March 23, 2013

From Nightmare to Dream

March 24th, 2013:

The past two weeks have been two completely different stories- one, like a nightmare and one, like a grand dream.

The nightmare started with a fever. At first, I thought it was a simple virus, I mean I am around a bunch of kids all the time; it is only natural that I would feel sick from time to time. I came home from school that Friday and went to bed. This never happens. My friend Angel always tells me I am like a bata, child, because I am constantly moving around and never get tired. I stayed in bed for 24 hours. My feelings went something like this- fever, chills, fever, chills, intense body aches, fever, chills, intense body aches… over and over again. I thought then that this must be more than just a common virus. I contacted Peace Corps medical (pcmo) to inform them of my situation because I wanted to see a doctor. My co-teacher took me to see a local doctor; however, he could not do much for me because it was Saturday and his medical technician had already gone home. PCMO wanted me to have a blood test to see if I had dengue, a tropical disease that volunteers sometimes get from mosquitoes. The doctor told me to proceed to the local Emergency Room. Well, the local emergency room was more like a slaughter house from a horror movie so I decided to just go back to bed. The next day I went to Manila.

Monday morning I went to PCMO office and I tested positive for dengue. Finally, I knew what was causing my misery. The entire week I stayed in bed. Each day I would go for a blood test so they could monitor my platelets and white blood cells. I had no energy to do anything else. No Energy. No appetite. No life. Luckily for me I was able to stay at the pension house and did not have to transfer to the hospital. There were other volunteers staying there too so I clung tight to the conversations I was having as they were my source of happiness.

After a week I started to feel like myself again. I wanted to run but had no running shoes. I finally wanted to eat. It was an annoyance to be a surrounded my food that I often crave at site and NOT want to eat any of it. My feelings reminded me of back when to when I got my invitation letter to join Peace Corps because I just wanted to jump and scream and everything in me was filled with joy. For someone who is a mover in this world, lying in bed for a week is really a nightmare. For some, this is a luxury. For me, it is the exact opposite. I mean the first few days were manageable because I felt so sick that the only thing I could do was relax. However, the moment I started to feel the slightest bit normal, the pressure to continue to do nothing was intense. Then, I went to the mall to buy a few things and felt exhausted. I really was sick. I wanted to receive a package of goodies from my mother, I kept thinking about how she would know exactly what to give me. I have never been sick like that before, never.

My energy slowly came back. Then, I got a rash. The doctors told me this would happen. It was probably the only time in my life where I found myself praying for a rash. Who would do that? I wanted it so badly because I was determined to get home in time to see my students graduate. To see the people walk across stages and get their diplomas who changed my life. They were my motivation. After the rash, the dream began.

Standing on the boat looking at Marinduque always creates excitement running through my veins, but this time is was more powerful than normal. I was home. I had survived my first tropical disease. I was thankful for my strong body. The first wave of humor came due to all of the stories as to why I got sick: 1) it was because I had too many banana trees at my house, 2) because I have white skin, 3) it was not possible that I had dengue because you can only get dengue if you are under the age of ten, 4) it was because I workout too much…

I went back to school the day of graduation. I made it. The entire time I had to fight not to let tears race down my cheeks. This was the kind of feeling that makes every muscle in your face hurt, trying not to cry couple with endless smiles is a facial muscle workout. As I looked at my students smiling and crying and singing and shaking hands, I realized in that moment why they meant so much to me. I realized that they were the reason why I survived my first year as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Every one of them impacted my life in such a positive way, whether it was singing to me, telling me a joke, walking with me, writing me a letter, smiling at me, listening to me. Youth are amazing that way.

The dream continued as I finalized everything for our Sports Summer Camp. Kim, Emmerson, and I had to visit the nearby elementary schools to invite them to out camp. Every principal seemed thrilled by the idea. Our visit was random but we were welcomed with more than open arms. We were welcomed with enthusiasm and pure excitement. The conversations were never short. After talking about the sports camp, the conversation took a turn to questions like, “Ma’am Gina when are you going to get married?” I kept thinking in my head that I wished I would have started to build this community relationship sooner. We were invited 10 pupils from each school but the principals always asked if there could be more. Our small camp could have easily turned into a gigantic amusement park like extravaganza. But, we chose to stick to our plan of small. One school had lined their entire courtyard with bottle bricks. We had done bottle bricks at my school as a simple way to decrease environmental impact. I had no idea that our project had branched further into the community, an added spark to the day. I had a thirty minute conversation in Tagalog. Honestly, I have stopped studying the language. I simply learn through living. It was neat for me to know that I can have a conversation like that. I am still far from fluent, I will probably never be fluent, I am not the linguistic type. But, I can still feel satisfied knowing that I can communicate. So, Summer Camp is happening. I have spent so many hours picturing the event in my head. I am ready to know what unfolds in reality. Will it be like my own creation? What will happen?

Now, I am waiting for my visitors. There are a handful of Peace Corps volunteers coming. Stacey is coming. It is going to be a good couple of weeks. I was challenged. But I recognize now how thankful I am for my mobility. I am so thankful I am not lazy. I am happy knowing that I can bounce back into motion after being knocked off my feet. This is going to be such a great way to start summer vacation. Unbelievable! 

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