Monday, July 19, 2010

It’s not exactly homesickness…

There’s something so strange about being sick when you are far from your home culture. I’ve noticed it before, but especially here in Bolivia. I’ve had an acute sinus infection over the last week, and as I emerge the other side of it (knock on wood) I feel like I’ve been somewhere else all together. Is it the altitude? I feel like I’ve started all over again in terms of adjustment. Climbing a flight of stairs winds me and sends me into a fit of hacking coughs. Is it the sinus medication? I sleep half the day to constant dreams of wild nonsense that when I’m asleep have seemingly immense Lewis Carroll-like meaning. Awake, I feel like I’ve lost my Spanish…especially verbs. I constantly conjugate verbs incorrectly and am unable to correct myself. Maybe it is the same when at I am at home and speaking English and it is only the lack of familiarity here that emphasizes this facet of illness. The world in which I felt so comfortable just a week ago now feels unfamiliar all over again. I can’t follow conversations, cross-cultural communication that I could work through rationally gets me angry and frustrated and, when combined with sinus pressure and fever, I find myself pushed to tears. The simple tasks of life, like laundry and washing the dishes, usually invigorating times where I can think, are at best exhausting enterprising and at worst insurmountable obstacles. All taste for adventure and new experience has dried up, not to be replaced by a wish for the familiar but a hope for the easy and simple. And like all illnesses and setbacks, this too shall pass, and in the mean time I just keep chugging along, taking care of myself as best I can and taking it easy whenever I can until the energy kicks back in. Life goes on and there is work to do.

Late winter has begun to settle into Oruro. I’ve been warned that August is windy, but the winds seem to have arrived already. When I go to retrieve my clothes hung out to dry on the roof, I must unwind them from around the line and search for the buried clothespins. The air is so dry here that even my tepid wet clothes appear to steam when I hang them up in the bright morning sun. Yesterday was the first precipitation I have seen since I arrived, a lightly falling mixture of snow and icy rain that momentarily cleansed the air of its constant dust. It’s finally begun to feel truly cold, the unrelenting kind of cold that is hard to ward off even when wearing 3 layers of clothing. I’ve been told that I look like I’ve lost weight, but the extra layers of long underwear make my pants fit more or less as always.

Despite the cold, fruit continues to come in from the lower altitude valleys, and I’ve fallen in love with what they call “mandarinos,” a hybrid between a true mandarin and the more common orange. We set them out in the sun on the window sill at the beginning lunch so that they make a deliciously warm dessert. They peel easily and break into perfect segments and are so juicy that I often squirt myself in the face as I go about removing the seeds from a section before popping it into my mouth.

It is excellent to feel myself getting back onto my own two feet after a week of being out-of-it-kinds-of sick. I’ve moved to a room on the second floor of the house and the window provides me a lovely view of the street, from which I watched a small parade this morning. The participants were dancing the “Morenada,” one of the traditional dances for which Oruro is famous. Yes, I’m even beginning to tell the different traditional dances apart. Looking out the window now, however, I can’t tell if the sky is just a dusty dusk or if another storm is coming in tonight. The garbage men are coming soon. I hear their harbinger, a junior employee no doubt, banging his two pieces of metal together as he passes up the street. It’s time to bring in the wash and cuddle up to the space heater with my neglected research materials.


1 comment:

  1. Feel better, sweet sister! I love you and miss you : ) xxxooo, Megan