We’re still here in Tiquipaya at our homestays, experiences which have proved a combination of challenging and rewarding. Many of us have struggled with illness- some ate bad food or water and some simply overindulged. Sickness is always awful, but personally, I was thrilled when I found out I had parasites.
Unless you have experienced sickness in the home of strangers, it’s hard to explain the discomfort. It was almost out of body. Physically, I felt worn down and my stomach constantly churned uneasily. I couldn’t participate much in general life. But mentally, I was acutely aware of my presence in this strange house in Bolivia. How I only showed my face when I needed food or to go to the Dragons house. How my homestay sisters spent all day preparing my food and cleaning the house. How I relied on seeing my Dragons friends for interaction and happiness. How I was a useless American.
So, yes- when we went to the hospital I hoped that I had parasites- because I wanted medicine. I wanted to get better. And thank God for my amoebas because since discovering them I have been able to cook with Doña Marta, joke with Don Eduardo, and- best of all- spend time being silly and singing with my sisters.
Because I found out I had parasites, I became no longer Julia: useless American, but Julia: lover of Moana (and most recently Coco), bad singer, even worse potato-peeler, easily scared and pranked, lover of papas fritas and dulce de leche but forever too flaca….and useless American. And the people around me have changed too. My 16 year old sister is now Aurora: chiquita loca, fellow Moana and Coco lover, prankster, master chef, and source of happiness and energy and light. And my 18 year old sister is Vero: more serious than her sister but still silly, stronger than she looks, fellow teenaged girl worried about university.
So we are as a group much healthier and happier, not necessarily despite boughts of parasites but also because of them. Because maybe we wouldn’t know what we have now if we didn’t lack it before.
Also, we can’t wait to move on the the next phase of the trip, in which we will trek from La Paz to las Yungas!