With paved streets, luxury cars, and large homes, it's very easy to forget that Cochabamba belongs to a third world country. There's the occasional Latin American chaos--water deliveries several days late, municipal protests, street blockades--but nothing that you would consider out of the ordinary in any extrenuating circumstance in any part of the world. This is all until you come down with a mysterious illness that has you clutching your stomach in pain, being unable to scarf down the Pique Macho you once loved, and losing your handle on any language you might be able to speak. Spanish? English? I speak OwMyStomachHurtsAndICantThink. Thus began my foray into the world of third world medicine.
Having been sick for several days and starting to dread the consequences, I finally mustered up enough courage to visit the Clinica de los Olivos, which is a very nice, clean, hospital down the street from my house--not close enough to walk to, especially when you're writhing in pain, but close enough for a five minute taxi. There I met with Dr. Jaime, who assessed my symptoms, poked my stomach, and injected me with a massive syringe of clear Bolivian medicine. I still don't know what was in the needle, but the fact that we're so close to the Amazon, the biggest natural pharmacy on this planet, cushoned my anxiety. After some preliminary tests, Dr. Jaime suspected that I had a parasite (or two) probably caused by something I ate under not-so-stellar sanitary conditions. (Oh, you mean that empanada that cost me 5 cents isn't good for my digestive system?) I was advised to return the next day for a blood test. WAIT, I HAVE TO COME BACK?
So, lo and behold, the little gringa went back to the hospital at 8 o'clock this morning for the blood test. This was after anxiety woke me up at 6 and inspired me to clean the bathroom and wax my eyebrows, as well as refold all my clothes in the wardrobe. The second visit was not nearly as frightening; the nurses giggled at the fact that I only had one last name and didn't know my own cellphone number. My blood was taken, I was sent home with three prescriptions, and I'll know my official results later this evening. As for now, I feel great. I don't know what was in the clear syringe, but I really, really want to start importing it.