How to Get Sick: A User’s Guide

The stomach of steel is a myth.

Sorry to break it to ya, especially you “tough as nails” folk, but ABROAD WILL TAKE YOU DOWN. It’s really a question of when rather than if.

But I – No.  I haven’t – No.  I’m tougher – Still no.

They lay it right out there during orientation – you will get sick. It’s far better to accept it, acknowledge it, and move on. Chalk it up to just another study abroad experience. Strange food, strange cooking, stress – your immune system just ain’t up for it for 4 months. So take heed of a few tips from those of us who have already lost the battle:


Give it a week before you go all “Bizarre Foods Study Abroad Edition”

I’m all for being adventurous – it’s study abroad after all – but let your system become accustomed a bit before you eat the worms.

No matter what country you travel to, there’s going to be something awesome and ethnic and cultural to eat. It might be cuy (guinea pig), it might be alpaca, it might be real live octopus, but chances are day two isn’t going to be the only time or the best time to try it. And farther down the line, it might not make you want to throw up, either. 😉

Aimee Schneider, MSID Ecuador 2014, considers her worm carefully before taking the first bite. There are all types of learning while abroad - even learning to eat worms!
The audacious Aimee Schneider, MSID Ecuador 2014, considers her worm carefully before taking the first bite. There are all types of learning while abroad – even learning to eat worms
The daring Emma Kaplan, MSID Ecuador 2014, tosses one back - one worm that is - while studying in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The daring Emma Kaplan, MSID Ecuador 2014, tosses one back – one worm that is – while studying in the Ecuadorian Amazon


Gettin’ Some Air

 While we come from a mile high, that sneaky altitude can still get ya. Some cities – such as Quito in Ecuador and La Paz in Bolivia – lie high up in the mountains (in the case of Quito and La Paz, in the Andes) where the altitude is almost double that of Denver. It certainly is an advantage to come from Rocky Mountain High where the sky is clear and the air is thin, but be prepared. My new friend Brenna had a horrible stomach ache the entire first week we were in Quito, which she attributed to nerves and new food. After taking every type of medication she had brought with her and several our host families had recommended, it finally occurred to her that going from Minnesota land of the flat to Quito at over 9,000 ft might have had some affect. After taking her altitude meds and drinking a lake full of water, no sign of the stomach ache since.

Take that 14ers! 9000ft weren't enough for us, we needed even higher altitude. Volcano Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador. (Maddie Doering, Aimee Schneider, Emma Kaplan - MSID Ecuador 2014)
Take that 14ers! 9000ft weren’t enough for us, we needed even higher altitude. Volcano Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador. (Maddie Doering, Aimee Schneider, Emma Kaplan – MSID Ecuador 2014)
Brenna and myself climbing Cotopaxi
Brenna and myself climbing Cotopaxi

The Thirst for Adventure

 Water. To drink or not to drink, that is the question.

In this case, do as the locals do. If they’re not drinking tap water, odds are you probably shouldn’t be either. If you’re really worried, however, or just don’t want to constantly be buying bottles of water, definitely look into safe water techniques. Chlorine tablets, iodine drops, and even UV lights that kill bacteria in water are all great options.

Look how refreshing that water looks! - MSID Ecuador 2014
Look how refreshing that water looks! – MSID Ecuador 2014

Going Native

Getting sick is all part of the experience, as is getting better. So as you want to heave your cookies, just think about what a wonderful experience this is to discover more about the local culture. When I got sick, my host mom made more tea than I thought I could possibly contain. I practically floated for two days. But I got to see how she made it all directly from the actual plant (no tea bags here!) and I did end up feeling better. I also got to experience “limpio de huevo” – the egg cleaning – technique to get rid of all my bad energy. She essentially rubbed an egg all over me then cracked it in water. Where the white floated to the surface was where my “energia negativa” was contained. So really, I’m just holistically a more well person right now.

egg doctor


So friends. Get sick and get some culture. Hopefully these tips will help you so that while you may lose the battle, you can win the war. Happy travels!

-Madeline Doering – DUSA Blogger


Where. Are. The Kleenexes?!

I, the illustrious and often confused Madeline Doering, have been under the Southern Skies now for over a month – a month and one week, to be exact – and by golly it’s all starting to come together. While living with a host family that speaks 0 English has been prodigious para mis habilidades lingüísticas, in a world of Spanish, I find myself talking to myself in increasingly frequent doses – and whether that’s good or weird (it’s weird, I  know), at least I understand what I’m saying – sometimes with a pretty snazzy Spanish accent even. Here are a few choice mutterings:

  • Where. Are. The Kleenexes?!

    Seriously, does no one blow their nose ever down here?
    I’ve noticed that where we typically compost and recycle as a luxury, and while widespread in Colorado, much of the United States remains criminally in the dark about the basic necessities regarding earth-friendliness and la Pachamama.don't pick flowers Here in Ecuador the Green Campaign is much stronger and much more of a habit – out of necessity rather than choice. There is always an Organicó next to the Basura, signs stating “sólo necesita un poco!” in the bathrooms (where sometimes you must supply your own paper), and no such thing as air conditioning or central heat. giant leaf 2So maybe it should come as no shock that something so wasteful as kleenex quite literally doesn’t exist – I’ve looked in stores, there isn’t any. But, I HAVEN’T SEEN ANYONE EVEN SNEEZE. What is the secret to this madness? And how can I too learn the ways?

 

 

 

 

  • I am not a cat, nor will I be eating one as a hamburger!

    Hamburgesas del Gato. WHAT? I don’t know what you all do here in Costaguatamexi-Ecuador, but back in America we do not eat cats.
    When we passed the Hamburguesas del Gato while going to “the bank” (I’ve learned “the bank” actually translates to 3+ hours of errands, one does not simply go to the bank) and I told my host sister Rosita that in no uncertain terms would I be eating a cat, she descended into a pile of giggles. No Maddie, gatos are people with blue or green eyes, sheesh. It’s basically hamburgers in the style of Europeans/Americans. Ridiculous. Hey, you people eat cuy (guinea pigs) down here, cats are just one step up. Meow.

  • Lets kiss then hug then kiss again. Then let’s do it again in 10 minutes when I leave.

    Saludos son muy importante around here. A mere, “What’s up?” or, the epitome of cool – the nod – will not suffice. I think when he saw my reaction, my Professor, Ismael, took pity and let me know it wasn’t a greeting requirement to kiss everyone, but hey, I’m lucky it’s not the double kiss in Spain or the – uck – triple kiss in France. ARMS LENGTH DISTANCE AT ALL TIMES, PEOPLE. Gracias.
    At this point, I’ve kissed and been kissed by more people than I care to ever admit. Ever.

  • No, I do not want mayonnaise on my carrots or my salad or my peas, why thank you. Actually, just keep the peas entirely.

    One does not simply put mayonnaise on everything! Especially vegetables! (yes potato salad, blah, blah, yuck) They make a big deal about everything being super natural around here – far fresher and more natural than in los Estados Unidos, por supuesto – but isn’t that slightly ruined WHEN YOU PUT GLOBS OF SLOPPY, GLOOPY MAYONNAISE ON TOP??????????????????? And peas. I actually just don’t like peas. I’m sure they’re very fresh and natural, though.

    El Mercado
    El Mercado

    photo 3 - Copy (2)

  • I’m going to eat it on one of these floors imminently, I just know it.

    Every surface is smooth and shiny – they really know their right angles down here. But for those of us that can, at times, trip over their own feet, this can portend imminent catastrophe. Skirt over head. It’s going to happen.

  • Am I the only person here who doesn’t know anything about soccer?

    Yes? Alrighty then.

  • In the event of a Godzilla attack, please proceed calmly and orderly to the nearest park.
    It will never find me in the park! - Actually, it's an artist's depiction of an earthquake, and the park is a safe place in the city.
    It will never find me in the park! – Actually, it’s an artist’s depiction of an earthquake, and the park is a safe place in the city.


    It’s the harbinger of DOOOOOOOOOOOM!
    Yeah, I don’t know.

Well. Perhaps talking to myself is not entirely healthy for my sanity. But I’m amused.

What it all boils down to, mis chicos, is it’s always an adventure and there is always something to laugh at if you just look. Maybe in the darkest times you’ll have to squint your eyes a bit – wipe away a few tears even – but there’s a silver lining, there really is. Buen viaje mis amigos!

colorful selfie

– Madeline Doering, DUSA Blogger