Valentine's Day is swiftly approaching. This "special" day comes with a lot of mixed feelings for me. I adore holidays, yet a past Valentine's day stands out as the worst day of my life so far. So snuggle down as I tell you a heart-warming little story.
particular year, Valentine's Day festivities took place in sweaty Venezuela surrounded
by a group of sweaty people. I had the "privilege" of being chosen to be part of an team to make an excursion into
a remote village in Guyana to do medical work. Unfortunately, we had
to hike through the jungle to get to the village, carrying all the medical supplies as well as tents, sleeping bags, and all the meals we would consume for three days. The
hike was brutal and hot...filled with gigantuous bugs and prickly jungle
growth (the worst of which was located on my legs). We braved the humid dangerous wildlife and set up our clinic in a very rustic village. Yes. I pooped in a bush.
This village was filled with lovely indigenous natives who bestowed hospitality on us and provided us with some fascinating medical issues to resolve.
Then came the time for us to return to the main group. It just happened to fall on the fantastically over-hyped holiday...Valentine's Day.
There were only two of us who were female, and the lovely villagers informed our little group that the females and the luggage would fit nicely in the village dugout canoe. They could take us down the river
and drop us at our checkpoint, and the boys could hike without their packs and meet up with us around the same time. I thought this was a marvelous idea as I had recently watched "Anaconda" and was hoping to see Jennifer Lopez on our canoe trip down the Amazon River.
So A (the other girl), all our luggage, all the boy's shit (and men aren't light packers), all the medical and food supplies, and I headed downriver. However, all was not well in
our little paradise. *Cue ominous music*
We docked at a seemingly random point on the river, and the guide motioned that this was where he stopped. He also informed us in very broken Spanish (the villagers spoke dialect), that we needed to hike two miles to our checkpoint....carrying EVERY. SINGLE. BACKPACK. We stared incredulously, but there was nothing else to do. So A and I decided to be good sports and try to navigate through the thick rainforest growth...with no guide...carrying all the bags... We made
the best of the situation and loaded ourselves up with a giant backpack on our back, a giant backpack placed backwards on our fronts, backpacks and medical bags on our sides, and our machetes clenched in our teeth. It was intense. But we were still in a good mood...after all, I knew it would make a fantastic blog post someday. Eventually, we did make it to our checkpoint where we were picked up in a very tiny Cessna who flew us and our burden to a place the natives called "THE RUNWAY (no funway)"
"THE RUNWAY" consisted of a strip of extremely hot asphalt, located in the middle of nowhere. Literally. Nowhere. The plane soon returned to drop off the guys. We were instructed to wait on The Runway for a tiny plane which would take us two-by-two to our base...showers...food...and showers.
As we explored our new location, we realized there was no water, no food, no shade, and no sign of human life (besides the asphalt) to be
found. For miles. And after a few hours we realized that there was no tiny Cessna coming to pick us up.
The sun was
extremely harsh, and as luck would have it...I was taking a malaria medicine that
made my skin very photosensitive. After about thirty minutes on "THE
RUNWAY" my skin began to blister. I usually don't even burn. We could see for miles, but we still looked for a tiny sliver of shade. None. We had run out of food and water...and there wasn't even a big enough bush to offer potty privacy. There we
sat...hour...after hour...after hour...
FIVE hours later (with no
communication to anyone) we began to worry. There was nothing for
miles, and we were in bad shape. Bickering and fighting began. I got into an ugly altercation with a very socially conservative member of our group who disapproved of me offering the natives some contraceptives. I began to cry. Only I couldn't cry, I had no moisture for
tears. By now, my skin was horribly blistered and red.
Just as I was about to commit hari-kari with my jungle machete...a sound from heaven! A tiny Cessna appeared on the horizon. As the plane swooped in for a landing, it became apparent. The
plane wasn't empty. Apparently, two children from another village had
yellow fever, and we had to airlift them to a hospital. However, there
was a spot for one more person. Due to the condition of my bubbling skin, I was chosen by the group to be the first to go to base. I felt bad, but not too bad as I climbed in.
The plane...and my mood began to lift. The humidity, filth, and lack of clean water for three days had made me a little...um...ripe, so I was looking forward to a shower in (semi) clean water. I felt a tap on my blistering shoulder and looked into the extremely yellow face of an adorable child. I had saved a Dum-Dum in my pocket for emergencies and the kid was too cute to resist. Despite my hunger pains, I offered the kid my candy. He took it and showed his very yellow comrade. They smiled at me, and the good feeling of accomplishing good washed over me. Only joking. Vomit washed over me. But it wasn't mine. Yellow fever boy apparently had some airsickness. By that time, I couldn't even feel feelings, so I grabbed a roll of paper towels, and swabbed the Dum-Dum vomit off of YFB, the seat,
and my raw skin.
The scent of vomit was overpowering, but we finally arrived to our base. I SPRINTED to the "shower" (a PVC pole jutting from a concrete slab) and washed three days of filth from my severely traumatized skin. The base had one unreliable phone line...but it WAS Valentine's Day. I was the first person of our little group to get there...I GOT PHONE! I decided to call my partner to wish him a happy Valentine's Day since it was our first one as a couple. I eagerly picked up the phone...only to find the line was dead. A flood had wiped our remote phone line out. And that was the straw that broke me that awful day... I started bawling...sobbing....weeping out of control...but then I remembered! My mom
had given me a package when I left the USA and instructed me not to open it until Valentine's Day.
I ran to my pack and pulled out the little package. Tears and snot were pouring out of my face as I tore into the red and pink wrapping paper. I pulled out a a box. OF ANDES MINTS...then started hysterically crying. The candy was GONE! All that was left was the wrappers. The only thing I can figure is that when I checked my luggage flying from the United States to South America, some asshole airport security ATE ALL MY FUCKING CHOCOLATE! And
not just that...they also ate all my candy hearts too...you know...the disgusting ones everyone gets on Valentine's Day.
And so I went to bed.