2008, we did the best we could.


January
Moved to Belize. *Carry-on bag wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment. Attendant made me take out bulge on top, which happened to be a Ziploc gallon-sized bag of underwear. Held underwear on lap for duration of the flight.

Lived on an Iguana reserve. Learned how to do laundry with a hose. Experienced Belizean wedding and funeral in the same week. Set out to teach everything I knew about conflict resolution, drugs, and AIDS. Learned everything I know about love. Got accepted into grad school.

February Caught a parasite, hiked to the top of a ruin, swam in a cave, experienced my first Belizean election and confirmation. Fought a piñata. Lost.

March Overcame fear of spiders. Discovered a new love for choco-bananas. Played with a monkey. Met real Guatemalan Indians in Guatemala. Bought skirt from them. Watched the Ruta Maya river race. Said goodbye to the Caribbean. Understood that life would never be the same.

April Got a niece! Heart opened a little wider. Fell in love with her.
Turned 27. Panicked. Cut my own bangs.

May Got another step-family. Danced! Celebrated! Laughed!
First laid eyes on my new city, New Orleans. Stabbed my foot with a parking lot spike.

June Went back to work at Boys and Girls Club. Happy to find that I still loved the kids. Got shingles. Thought I was dying.

July Sold everything I owned on Craigslist. Moved out of Fort Wayne (ten years!) Received Carrie Bradshaw as a parting gift.

August Moved to New Orleans. Found the two-story target, which I had previously thought was an urban legend. Took a family vacation to Destin. Came back. Became acquainted with city life. Loved it. Went to Tulane for student orientation after a month of waiting. Got evacuated for Gustav at lunch.

September Stayed evacuated for two and a half weeks. Went back to school. Dropped ten pounds for lack of friends.

October Made friends! Gained ten pounds. Heard that Taylor Fort Wayne would be closing. Felt orphaned. Dressed up like a ninja and fought pirates on Jackson square.

November Watched history unfold in the TSSW building with snacks and wine. Found out Bry and Jess are pregnant again. Went to Belize. Delivered school supplies. Painted a cafeteria. Provided flood relief with two armed guards on the Guatemalan border. Became acquainted with Big Mac and Quarter Pounder, the tarantulas. Realized I had not overcome fear of spiders. Had the sweetest reunions I could ever imagine at San Marcos School.

Learned that a plan is usually unfolding around me even when I am not still or patient enough to see it. Discovered that if I feel lost even for a second, all I have to do is ask for help. Understood the beauty in a prayer that goes, “Hi God, I’m an idiot and I don’t trust myself. Could you make this one clear for me?” Trusted completely. Found out I am purposed. Convinced Tulane I am purposed. Doing last semester internship in Belize!

December Wrote a thousand papers. Failed a final. Got all A’s!
Watched snow fall in New Orleans. Saw Lily take her first 3 steps.
Went to Chicago. Smile.

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Parasite, I think we should just be friends.

Yesterday morning, after dreaming I was in Indianapolis, I woke up in Belize and wondered who I was and what I did with myself.

And then it happened (it was bound to): I cried.
I cried in bed.
I cried while I was getting ready.
I cried all the way to school.

Europe felt like a dream—I had to look at the blog to see that it was really me.
My friends felt imaginary—I had to text to make sure they still existed.
I wanted a hug from my dad.
I wanted to understand one entire, full conversation.
I wanted to digest food.

I’d been sick since Friday and “caught a pain” every time I ate.
(I had only eaten one cucumber and one tomato all day Saturday, which is the day I hiked Xunantunich.)
One old lady said it was air.
Another lady said I don’t eat in time.
Another lady said I don’t eat enough.

They gave me boiled garlic.
They gave me lime water.
They gave me Pepto.
On Sunday night, when nothing worked and I turned down CAKE, Alice said it was amoebas.

Antonia said, “Come Brooke, right now,” and she hitched us a ride to Cayo on Monday morning.

We went to the Post Office and, incidentally, paid 95 cents for a package that came regular express mail—got here in 3 weeks, and had a blanket, crackers, PB & chocolate: perfect. (Thanks, Denise ☺)

Then we went to the lab.
They took two blood tests and asked for a stool sample.
I cannot produce stool on demand.
(Not even explosively)
They told me blood results would be ready at 2pm and would tell whether or not I had a bacterial infection. It would also rule out salmonella.
The stool sample was most important, the man said. It would confirm and diagnose the right treatment for the right amoeba. He gave me a little container and told me come back at 2.

Poor Antonia.
We ate huge burritos and walked around for 2 hours trying to provoke the problem I’d been trying to avoid for 4 days. I had 3 false attempts and sent out a mass text asking for prayer that God would supernaturally “move” me (which is ironic, since all weekend I was begging God to stop “moving” me—or to at least stop “moving” me in public places). But nothing.

I had given up all hope and started to feel crazy, like I’d made the entire illness up, and decided I probably didn’t have amoebas anyway…

When lo and behold, in the computer lab, I moved.
Antonia stood up in suspense, so did the lab worker and the 3 other people checking their email—and I gave a victorious thumbs up.
It was 2:15.

“Right now, Brooke,” she said. We gathered our things and went straight to the lab.
I handed over my sample proudly (and all but bowed and curtsied), then waited 15 minutes for the results.

Results:
2 Amoeba (parasites)
1 E. Coli
1 blood infection

We took the lab results, thanked the man, and headed for the doctor—an internist Antonia’s sister works for. First, though, we stopped at the furniture store to pay a bill. It wasn’t until we were leaving that I realized we paid an electric bill, and that the electric office was in the back of the furniture store…

The doctor looked at the lab tests, stuck a thermometer in my armpit, and conducted a physical-like exam. He answered all my questions and gave me 3 antibiotics: two for the amoeba, one for the blood infection.

We paid about $200 BZ (which is about $100 US) for the blood tests, stool samples, Dr. visit and antibiotics.

Sidenote: Antonia’s father told me that the water filtration/cleansing machine broke recently, and, No, they do not have little scrolling “boil water advisories” at the bottoms of the TV screens here. You either know those things or you don’t. We don’t drink the water, but all of us bathe in it, and I definitely brush my teeth with it.

My issue (we think) has more to do with no refrigerator and eating food that has been sitting out but not reheated. Its too hot for that. Bacteria grows. We tried to explain the bacteria to Ms. Ida, but she doesn’t believe me. She thinks my stomach is just allergic to cold things. She insists that I shouldn’t drink cold water or sprite. Only coffee.

Bottom line: Ms. Ida does not have a refrigerator, and we just don’t waste food, you know? Bottomer line: there is no hand soap to be found among the kids. I don’t prepare my own food, and I play with the kids all the time.

*Interesting insight, an email from a friend said: “Pray that God uses this to help you understand what people in different places go through, and that maybe others don’t always have the means to take care of it like you do, or as quickly.”

When I got home, I called Hillside (a clinic in PG with doctors CFI knows and trusts) and double-checked everything with Patricia. She said they are taking good care of me and that she would have prescribed the exact same meds. She told me to boil my water bottle and toothbrush, and then echoed everything the Dr. said. She told me I’d be feeling better in a few days, fully recovered in about 2 weeks.

Then she invited me down to PG for a weekend in March!

I took the meds, slept all night, washed my sheets this morning and have enjoyed a nice relaxing day in front of the fan with my trusty little MacBook and gmail chat. Thanks for the concern, and for chatting with me today, friends!

In the meantime, I have decided to name the parasites Samantha and Jon, after our first cats. They died.

Pray for a quick evacuation of all things buggy. Also, I couldn’t help but remember the Kirsty Alley episode where they tell her to go to a developing country and get a parasite to “reduce” and I laughed about it all day. Funny. I’m definitely reduced.

Week four, look out! You’re almost over.

(In all seriousness, your e-mails and comments and phone calls mean a lot. I have been really homesick this week. Thank you.)

Coconuts and Mayan Ruins. And Mayan runs.

Whatsoever things are praiseworthy
(write them in my blog)

I am up to 5 friends.

Sabrina’s sister, Sara—friend number 2, said on Friday, “Let’s get some coconuts,” and then she handed me a machete because I am the tallest. We chopped 3 coconuts from three trees.

Then we were attacked by fire ants.

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We dug holes in the side of each coconut to drink the water, and then we chopped the coconut in half and ate the inside. Delish.

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Today (Saturday) the Infant 1 teacher, Ms. Miguelina—friend number 3, invited me to go to Xunantunich with her husband, Domingo, and her daughter, Diana—friends number 4 and 5.

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We took a ferry across the river

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Passed the local arts & crafts market

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And spent the day hiking up & down the ruins

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Original Mayan Art, on the side of one wall
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Tip: look for the pink shorts

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Ms. Mig & Domingo
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On the way home, we stopped at the San Ignacio farmer’s market, and I met Ms. Miguelina’s father, who sells vegetables.

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And then we drove home in the back of the truck with our little cokes and sprites in plastic bags

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Now, for the down and dirty (read at your own risk). Yesterday morning I “caught a pain” in my stomach, and hadn’t been able to eat all day. I went to bed last night with a low fever and a sore throat, so I took some Tylenol and begged my mom to pray that I would be able to go to Xunantunich today. I woke up feeling fine. I made it through the entire day, problem free, then came home and crapped my pants.

Now there’s a praise and a prayer request in the same sentence.