It is another great trip. Awesome group, everything very quiet, nice weather, calm sea, good vibes and a work willing team of Guna captains. The third day of the trip I suddenly don`t feel well. I'm freezing cold, which is strange when it`s 35 degrees Celsius. I wait a bit, but after the daily boat trip, I feel 10 times worse. Half awake, I help Jean with preparing the lunch and when everyone is happily munching on their sandwiches, I dive into my hammock. Senora Rosa Linda, the owner of the island, an old Guna woman, comes in my hut with the eternal charm of her traditional clothing and colorful jewelry. "I have some warm blankets for your Sanne, to keep you warm.” I thank her, throw two ibuprofens down my throat and fall into a deep sleep.
My hammock is suddenly swinging back and forth. It is Mogui, one of the captains. “Sanne it is Patricio on the phone.” (Patricio is a Guna with great respect, he coordinates the captains and all contact with the islands). “Sanne, please go to the hospital now while it`s still daylight, Mogui will take you together with Cesar. Mogui called me worried that you could fry an egg on your forehead. Let yourself get checked by a doctor and please let Jean take care of the group.” Yacob, a guy from Israel offers to come along. He was drunk, but he speaks fluent English and Spanish and since my Spanish with my feverbrain was pretty far away, it seemed for the best to take him.
After half an hour by boat we arrive in Athu Tupu, a large island, just before the mainland. Mogui, Cesar and Yacob lift me out of the boat and stumble into the doctors office. The hospital is old, pieces of the ceiling have fallen on the floor and parts of the wall are not in much better condition. We find the doctor, he sits slumped behind the TV, with his feet on the back of the sofa. “What's the matter?” He asks without taking his eyes from the TV. Mogui replied back in Guna. It obviously concerns me, but that's all I can make of it. “Do you have further complaints, except fever?” He asks in Spanish to me without losing his concentration on the television. I tell them that I already have some days bladder pain, but this is normal. I can now start a museum full of loyalty cards to bladder infections. The doctor sighs, “Take her with me to the laboratory, end of the hall. I'll be right there.”
It is stone cold in the laboratory. “Uh, can we turn down the AC, it`s very cold in here.” asks Yacob. Again, letting out a sigh and with the total weight of the world on his shoulders, the Dr turns the AC up to 20 degrees. He begins to search the lab and comes up with a suddenly empty jam jar. He asks whether I am able to pee. My eyes dart back and forth between the doctor and the jar. There are remains in jar. “With all due respect Doctor, but the jar is still dirty, so you will find bacteria in any case.” “Oh yeah.” rinse but ietswat in the sea ...' With the courage sunk in my flip-flops, I walk with Yacob to the bathroom. It proved a tradtioneel Guna toilet; an intermeshing nailed wooden-box with a hole in the ground, above the sea. Rinsing out the game I leave it for what it is. There I see, given the close location of the toilets, not the point. I bag on my heels and try to pee all the skills in the game. Unfortunately shoot the most urine, very skillfully, on my fingers. Back in the lab, I ask where I can wash my hands. With raised eyebrows given the doctor me a roll of paper towels on more, he did not offer. He pulls a sheet off and puts it under the urine sample, at his desk with `steriele` needles. `I would like afnemen` a blood test, he says. `Would you please want to wash your hands first?" I ask as politely as possible. That was no problem, I had to just sit quietly. The doctor wiped his hands expertly on his pants and before I could say anything, he picks up a needle on table, looking at my veins and takes blood. `Ok you can go to the sister, she will take some information from you, while we wait on the results of your (jam jar) test.
After being weighed, measured etc the nurse takes my temperature. “What is the temperature?” Yacob asks the nurse. “Oh do not worry, the thermometer hits 40 degrees, this is no reason to panic.” “What!” Said Yacob with an exasperated look on his face. “She`s had four ibuprofens, that is way too high!” “Calm down sir” replied the nurse. “We have much more serious cases on the floor at this present time.” Yacob and I look at each other, all of a sudden my misery turns into a smirk of disbelief. What a joke.
The results are in and I get prescribed antibiotics. After having paid the bill ($3, ouch) we are back on the boat to Cocovendera, the island where the group will stay the night. I shoot in my hammock and immediately fall into deep sleep. The next day I wake up and feel a lot better. I burst out laughing, you can say a lot of my life, but it's certainly not boring.
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into 2,5 years and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto