19 hours in Antigua.

As fun as Semuc Champey was, it was also exhausting. Matt and I decided it was worth it to our sanity to extend our time in Lanquin one extra day, and kick back and relax.

But do you ever wish that you can see into the future? You know, look into a crystal ball or something, and see what lies ahead.

The hassles you could avoid, if only.

In this particular case I am referring to spiders.

I mean, had we just stuck to the original plan and got on a bus at the crack of dawn the day after the excursion, I would never have ended up being bitten by a spider.

But I’m sort of getting ahead of myself.

I was overly exhausted the night before, and so opted to take a Gravol, which if you don’t know basically puts you into a comatose sleep. It’s perfect if you need a really good nights sleep, you’ve used up all your ear plugs and your next door neighbour has an angry rooster with a averaged 4am wakeup time.

Anyway, popped one of those bad boys, and before falling into a blacked out slumber vaguely remember a slight pinch on my hand. “Matt” I called out, “There is a mosquito in here” and then I was out cold.

The alarm went off the next day, and we set out for our usual breakfast of french toast and fruits (side note: the breakfast is amazing at El Retiro). There I noticed the knuckle-less, chubby looking surface, that used to be my hand.

I mean, if you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you’ll know that I am allergic to mosquitoes, and swelling is a normal side effect of an attack. But this was different, my hand was straight up unrecognizable. And the weirdest bit, was that I couldn’t even see the actual bite. With no time to really analyze the scene, I disregarded it instead, and headed on to catch our bus to Antigua.

As it turned out quite comically, we were this bus full of cripples. One girl had fallen backwards off the rocks in the caves, hurt her back, and was high on painkillers. She was comparing which drugs she was taking with another gentlemen who also hurt his back in a truck and experiencing the same troubles. An English girl sitting in the back was also experiencing some mild discomfort with her head, and as it turned out to everyone’s advantage was a pharmacist back home in her “real life”. She was a lot of help to me, and immediately started inquiring about my hand. She asked how long the swelling had been, whether it was increasing, and if it was hot in temperature, to which I gave her an all-round “yes.”

She seemed quite concerned, and quickly administered me two anti-histamines, along with a steroid cream that I would apply sparingly on my hand. To my relief, I was out cold in less than half an hour, which made the 9hour drive to Antigua quite relaxing, all things considered.

Our ride pulled up to Jungle Party around 5pm that evening, and we opted for the attic dorm. For 8US your welcome to an open room with approximately 15-20 mattresses on the floor, and a locker for your valuables. One night, and the hostel wasn’t busy so we set up our things. Quickly after, and likely due to the move, my hand was itching uncontrollably. When we went downstairs into the bar, our company turned it into something out of a Freak-show and my hand was its main attraction. Understandably so, my hand was really swollen by this point, and I was still unsure to the reasoning why. Following the commotion, a lady appeared in the back of the crowd, took one look at me and smiled (still really not sure why) and said “my dear, that’s a spider bite. you need to go to the hospital.”

This lady also continued on with that same creepy smile, telling me the bite on my face was surely bedbugs and to take my entire bag to the laundromat to have it dealt with. Sure it was nice to have all my clothes cleaned, but I had just washed half of it and that kind of cleaning is pretty expensive, if not unnecessary. Also, my favorite one-sie that I knew not to bring but could live in if it were acceptable ended up getting lost in translation. OH and I didn’t actually have bedbugs according to EVERYONE ELSE including the doctor, so I really loathed that sly smiling Lady by the next day, but moving on…

We took a tuk-tuk to the doctors, which is hilarious to drive in down cobblestone roadways if your a child inside like myself. Not so fun for my giant friend Matt who is too tall to even be in a bouncing tuk-tuk, but we made it there, and headed into the Local public hospital, since all the clinics were closed. The whole way I was mentally preparing myself for the horrors I could endure, as foreign hospitals are my least favourite pastime since my ordeal in Koh Phi Phi. Not so luckily we had to wait just as long as we would have in Toronto, and what a sight it was sitting there for over 2 hours. The hospital reminded me of an old school soap opera. The nurses and doctors were suited up in vintage outfits. You know the nurses in blue dresses and those white hats that don’t really do anything practical but are for show, and the doctors in head to toe white. And I’m not sure if this is the same everywhere, but in my experience at a hospital, when linens are covered in blood and other bodily fluids, they are usually changed. Not in Antigua. There were kids screaming, men moaning in pain. I saw a police officer pull his holster down, so a doctor could shoot him in the ass with something right out in the open. Don’t even ask me about the state of the washroom. Oh, and nobody could speak English.

Finally they called my name, or a variation of it anyway, as Jaime is actually pronounced Hai-Me in Latin America, and brought me into the next room. Trying to explain what happened to my hand was near impossible. No one could understand me, but I swear to you they were discussing that amongst themselves in a humorous manner. They kept looking at me, trying to ask a question. I would in turn look back at them with a sad blanked-face stare, and they would giggle, smile, and move on. This continued for half an hour, until finally I started understanding some hand gestures, and was able to present them my hand when they came over with an IV line. it was definitely not the worst IV I have ever had, and Koh Phi Phi will still forever haunt me, but it was a close second. They left me with the drugs slowly entering my system, but all the while I was noticing that blood was coming out of my hand staining the tape covering the needle, pouring into the line the opposite way the drugs were going in. Try explaining that to the giggling spanish nurses. I opted to hold my hand over my head, until finally I came up with “IV no bien” saying that over and over until finally it was done, and they took it out.

We exchanged some more glances, and tried to converse, me in English, the doctor in Spanish. I asked If I could go home, and the Doctor replied yes, but next thing I knew I was sitting in a hospital bed with a blanket and more fluids, coming through another IV. Another half hour later the doctor, having brushed up on his English asked me if I would like to go home. I couldn’t get up faster, yelled “Si”, nodding like a bobble head doll version of myself and they let me go.

I was half expecting to take a hard hit to the wallet after all of this, but to my surprise the public hospital is completely free, even for foreigners. That certainly made the Laundry mishap more bare able, but I was hadn’t yet known that I was one-sie less.

They sent me with antibiotics and more anti-histamines, but like the mess in Thailand, I was left with no real knowledge of whether it was actually a spider bite, or if that inappropriately smiling informer was wrong about that to. I guess I’ll never really know. I never did end up getting spidey-senses either, to my dismay.

We had time to hit the Market the next morning before our bus to Lago Atitlan, and though we only spent our time in Antigua in a hospital I did get to hit the fruit section, and purchase a bundle of fresh apples, and my absolute favourite vegetable, snow peas, for the first time all trip. We sat again, overcrowded in a shuttle, this time even picking up a woman and her child and shoving them in an already full back seat. We left our troubles in Antigua behind and set out for our next adventure with an open mind.

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