The summer after my freshman year was when I lost everything I took for granted and gained a necessary new perspective.
The most impacting part of the trip actually began before even arriving in my destination country, Peru. I was traveling with my brother, Colin, and about twenty other teenagers and leaders. Our destination was the steamy, tropical jungles of Iquitos. Since my elementary days, the Amazon seemed like an unreachable part of the world open only to the prowling jaguars and crotchety crocodiles of my imagination. When the opportunity to travel there presented itself, I leapt upon it with the gusto of a monkey snatching an unsuspecting tourist's sunglasses.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Our layover was scheduled in the tiny, musty central airport of San Salvador. Armed militia shot suspicious glances at anyone who gave their massive weapons more than a cursory glance. Small restaurants crowded with sandwiches and foreign fruits called the naive tourist's stomachs. Me being a naive tourist, I purchased a "chicken" sandwich from a thin girl wracked with heart-wrenching coughs. After consuming my suspicious fare, I rejoined the group and continued to Iquitos.
The effects of the sandwich hit me mid-trip at midnight. Our team had already traveled upriver to islands with inquisitive monkeys, built homes in riverbeds where running water was poisoned by the government, and provided medical care to people who had never seen Caucasians (they were especially fascinated by my blond hair and our Asian pharmacist's eyes). Everyone was exhausted by the duo of 110+ temperatures and consistent heavy work. I felt particularly ill and jittery, but I took it as dehydration and ignored all signs of illness.
I can only remember bits and pieces of what happened next. I remember feeling extremely cold, extremely hot, and intensely aware of my surroundings. The wood of my bunk bed bit into my skin with a vengeance and the whispers of my roommates were amplified past screaming point. I can recall being thrown over a shoulder and carried to the road while my brother flagged down a cab. I was loaded into a contraption of metal and plastic attached to the back of a motorcycle and taken to a clinic. Repeatedly I was shook and told not to fall asleep. The last memory I have of that night was a thermometer thrust out of my mouth and the words "108 and climbing."
I awoke the next morning feeling miraculously recovered. The room I was in was classic Iquitos: small, but bright and cheery with beautiful windows. I was wrapped in multicolored blankets with cheery sayings in Spanish. Doctors and nurses greeted me with smiles and information in multiple languages regarding my condition. I had survived typhoid, they said, and explained aftereffects, involving the ability to get tired easily and the possibility for the disease to reoccur. The Peruvians' eagerness coupled with their smooth brown faces and wide white smiles assured me that I would make it out of Peru alive. I left the clinic that day feeling more alive and ready to tackle challenges in the jungle.
The trip concluded smoothly. I was able to see the sun set indescribably on the Amazon, hold a baby sloth, and tend to medical needs so fantastic that I cannot fully describe them. I saw the beauty of Iquitos and later on the architectural prowess of Lima. My brother supported me the remainder of the trip, and we grew closer from that point on.
I almost lost my life, but in the process I gained a new zest for life, a closer relationship with my brother, and the insatiable appetite for adventure.
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