Hi friends, Happy September! My birthday is in 6 days so you better hustle up and get my cards/candy in the mail 🙂 Just kidding, but kind of not really. This is, hopefully, a light-hearted post about the worst weekend ever (I alluded to this in my last post). One of the best parts of serving in the Peace Corps, besides changing the world and having adventures and all that, is the journey of self-discovery. Being plopped in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles away from home and not knowing a single soul in town really shows you what you’re made of. When you’re put in an especially tough situation, you are forced to confront your faults but you also learn some of your strengths. Fortunately, I have placed into countless of sticky situations, which have helped me to really learn a lot about myself. Through this experience, I have discovered that I’m lucky enough to have, for the most part, a positive attitude and I can always find the humor in any situation. This REALLY helped me from having a mental break down during the worst weekend of my life (although there were tears). When I told the Medical Officer about my weekend, she tried to make me an appointment with a counselor because she was worried I was so traumatized. I told her that I had gotten my tears out and now I just think everything that happened was hilarious. She didn’t believe me and called me 3 more times through out the week to make sure I was maintaining my mental stability. I’ve told pretty much all of my PCV friends this story and one of them, who happens to enjoy my blog and my silly commentaries, challenged me to somehow put a positive spin on my latest fiasco so here it goes…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
DISCLAIMER: IF YOU ARE A JUDGY PERSON, DO NOT READ THIS POST BECAUSE I DISCLOSE ONE OF THE MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENTS OF MY LIFE. IF YOU JUDGE ME, I WILL FIND YOU. Also, I hope you aren’t easily grossed out. You’ve been warned.
Ok, remember in my last post I said that at the end of July, we had a Project Management and Leadership conference at a resort outside of Barranquilla? Well, afterwards, some of us spent the night with another volunteer who lives close to the resort. We were exhausted from the week and after stuffing our faces with pineapple cake and homemade pizza, we passed out. The next day, my good Nebraska buddy, Derek, and I went to the fancy mall in Barranquilla and decided to be super American and treat ourselves to Big Mac’s and fries before heading back to the pueblo diet of plain rice and plantains. After lunch, I hopped in a cab to catch my bus. I had a slight tummy ache but just assumed that it was because I had just eaten a ¼ lb. of nasty meat smothered in cheese. Now, my bus is always incredibly full and to ensure that I have a seat, I always go down to the “station” (parking lot), which is in the absolute worst part of Barranquilla. Picture the pit of hell, plus the smell of a garbage dump plus crack heads and you have a pretty accurate picture. This is a place that was marked off limits (with good reason) by the Peace Corps and when the safety and security manager found out that I had been going there, he was not pleased. He found a car service that would take me to a safer spot to catch the bus and wait with me until I was safely on my way. Well that is fine and dandy but I had a week’s worth of luggage that I was not willing to hold onto while standing for 2.5 hours. I told myself that just this is the last time I would head down to the crack-head-garbage-dump spot and then I would take the car service next time. I confidently got out of my taxi, walked towards the bus and the next thing I knew, some dude had grabbed my backpack. It was now wide open and a butthead was running away with my wallet. I only had about $25,000 pesos (approx. $10 USD) in there but I also lost my Colombian ID, Peace Corps ID, copy of my passport, US debit card, Colombian debit card, my commitment to service, a nice my friend wrote me before I cam here and, most tragically, my Sephora Beauty Insider card. Luckily, I had planned on buying some fruit so I had put $15,000 pesos in my pocket before exiting the cab. I got on the bus, angry, embarrassed that I broke the rules and got robbed, and terrified to call the Safety Manager to report everything. I reluctantly got out my phone (which also, luckily, was in my pocket and not my backpack) and called our SM and confessed my idiocy. He was SO nice and was happy that I hadn’t been hurt and told me to just get home safe and we would deal with this on Monday. There you have it, Part 1 of the Worst Weekend Ever.
Part 2: (This is where it gets embarrassing). So you may remember that I mentioned having a little tummy ache, or what I like to call “a rumble in the tumble” after eating McDonald’s at the nice fancy mall. Well, while I was sitting on the bus waiting it for it to take off, I started to feel sicker and sicker and realized I was not going to make it another 3 hours without going to the bathroom. I asked the nice bus worker if there was a bathroom around here and he laughed (remember, we are in crack-head-garbage-dump hell) and said MAYBE the little store would have one. So I made him promise not to leave me and ventured back out onto the terrifying street in search of a toilet. I found, what I could only describe as a porcelain hole in a closet at this crusty little bakery. Obviously there was no flushing mechanism so I tried to sneak out in shame when the cashier chased me to down to tell me it cost 500 pesos to use the lovely facilities they offered. I paid him and slunk back to the bus. FINALLY we were on our way home and as we were making our way through town, another volunteer called me. While I was on the phone, I realized that I was not going to make it another 2.5 hours without a bathroom break. I was panicked because, remember, I had very little money. If I got off the bus now, I was going to be stuck in Barranquilla with basically nothing. I was debating between getting off the bus or just sticking it out for the ride home when my stupid body decided for me. Yes, that is right, I pooped my pants. Obviously, I wanted to die right there but unfortunately, life isn’t that kind. I called the Emergency Medical Phone to, for the second time that day, confess my shame and beg for a night in the PC hotel while I recovered. SHE DIDN’T ANSWER. I had no choice but to get off the bus, grab the first taxi I saw and have him take me to the closest bathroom because my body was screaming at me that the worst was just beginning. The first place that popped into my head was the mall and I made awkward small talk the entire ride in an attempt to distract myself from the monster that was wreaking havoc in my stomach. When we arrived, I threw the rest of my money at the driver and sprinted inside. I got to the women’s restroom and IT WAS CLOSED OMG WHAT DO I DO?!?!? I knew there was a facility in the basement but worried I wasn’t going to make it. My concerns were valid because it turned out I was right; I definitely didn’t make it. I had now had 2 accidents, had no money and was 85 km. away from home. I obsessively called the emergency medical phone but I received no answer. I ended up calling my bff, MC, and sobbed into the phone while sitting in the mall cafeteria. She suggested I just suck it up and call the doctor’s personal phone number. I waited another hour and decided I couldn’t stay at the mall any longer. I called her number and it turns out, she wasn’t on call that weekend and had contracted out another doctor to take the phone. She immediately called the hotel and booked me a room and so off I went. My good buddy Michael stopped by and loaned me some money to get by and then I took the longest shower of my life.
Part 3: I bet you though the nightmare was over? Unfortunately, no. The worst had passed but I still had one big challenge before making it back to my town and my loving host family. After overcoming my tummy illness, I felt well enough and ready to go home. I decided to use the car service that was contracted by the Safety Manager as to avoid another robbing situation. Well, the poor driver had no idea where to go or what to do so we ended up sitting on the side of the highway for almost an hour. I was feeling stressed because it was starting to get dark (night travel is strictly against Peace Corps policy). After what seemed like an eternity, a bus finally approached. The driver flagged it down, I got on and breathed a huge sigh of relief-I was home free. I found a seat and finally relaxed. About 30 minutes into the ride, I was looking at my phone when suddenly the bus smashed into the back of a giant cattle truck (there were no cows, thankfully). I flew forward, smacked my face on the seat in front of me and my stuff tumbled to the ground. The bus was totaled. Everyone had to get off and wait, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere for the next bus to pass. I finally made it home, gave my sweet host sister a big hug and collapsed into bed.
There you have it, the worst weekend/most embarrassing moment ever. Even as it was happening, I could not fail to recognize the humor in the situation. I was providing a play by play to one of PCV friends who said, “This is why you’re going to make it, you just laugh at everything.” Even while writing this post, I laughed out loud several times and I realized that my “worst” weekend really wasn’t that bad. In fact, two positives came out of it: I learned that I can handle anything that life throws at me and I will never poison my body with a Big Mac ever again. Also, I was lucky to have the support of the PC Safety Manager and the Medical Officer and, of course, my PCV family. It was a good lesson that life is only as good or as bad as your attitude and laughter really can cure anything. So, here’s to another 15 months of laughing my way through my Peace Corps service. Cheers!
P.S. This post was approved by my PCBFF Mary Catherine, who is a marvelous friend but also likes to mess with me so hopefully this was internet appropriate. Another side effect of my Peace Corps service is that I have become incredibly candid, I have no shame and I don’t hold anything back. I’ve been told that I am very “authentic.” 🙂