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Sick in Guatemala

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Mira and I have become sick in Guatemala. We are fighting with full force the onslaught of some havoc wreaking virus. My head is feverous, my kidneys hurt, my insides feel wretched. I do not know what is wrong with me. But I do know that when in travel you will get sick. Travel sickness is for all travelers.

It is normal to catch a virus, a good round of food poisoning, and bacterial infections while traveling in Guatemala. It is not my assumption that there is anything a traveler can do about this. It is Andy’s theory that it is the food that makes travelers sick, and not the water. I must say that I agree with him. Food is often times not prepared in a very cleanly manner in public eating houses the world over. It does not matter if you eat in 5 star restaurants or from street vendors, the lack of care that people put into preparing food for strangers is usually the same, and it will sometimes make me sick.

Being a cook in a restaurant is a job. And, like in any other job, I am sure that they are sometimes not adverse to cutting a few corners to save themselves a little time and effort. It is a job. I can only imagine the shear number of times that I, myself, have cut corners while working. The only difference is that when a cook cuts a corner – when he drops food on the ground and then puts it right on a plate, when raw meat interacts with cooked meat, when the food is not the freshest, when his utensils and hands have not been washed in a very long time – someone could get sick. I think this is probably what happened to Mira and I.

I prefer to eat at street vendors rather than at restaurants because I can watch the person cooking my food. It is my stalwart assumption that the kitchen in almost any restaurant is nearly as grotty – if not more so – than the most squalid of street vendors. The cook that is making food in the streets has to live up to a certain set of health codes or else he will probably never sell a morsel of food to anyone. When choosing a street vendor I always go to the one that is feeding the most locals.

I remember in Copan, I would often eat tacos from street vendors for dinner. There was three or four booths of taco makers back to back, right next to each other. But one vendor in particular always had way more people than the others. A local friend told me that they made clean tacos, and I believed him as I never became sick from eating there. But one day these ladies were not working, and I really wanted to eat a taco. So I went to a different booth – one which consistently served nobody – and ordered my food. The girl who was cooking over the grill made me the most unclean taco that I have ever observed being made in Copan: she took the meat from a fly colonized stock pile, mixed raw meat with my prepared food, and she fingered all over my tortillas with incredibly dirty hands. It was so bad that I could not eat the taco. I found out first hand why nobody buys their tacos from this vendor.

But I do not fully know why I am sick tonight. I did not eat any food at a restaurant that is out of my routine, and I have been making my own dinners. Food poisoning is always perilously hit and miss. Clean food one days turns into dirt food the next. You never know what you are going to consume if you relay on other people to prepare it for you.

I have a suspicion that a shifty eyed waiter at the free movie theater may have poisoned my apple strudel and coffee, but Mira thinks that this is preposterous. Though, I assert, he did have shifty eyes.

The fact still stands that travel sickness can seldom be provenience.

I am looking at another night of hallucinations and fever dreams. Another night of rolling around in bed with harshly annoying thoughts in my head.

I dreamed of HTML code all last night. It nearly left me insane by daybreak. Though it did not prevent me from jumping out of bed early in the morning to run and check the site meter. Hopefully tonight my hallucinations will be oriented around big-breasted women in bikinis, as this would really annoy Mira and make me laugh heartily.

I like to tease, even from the sick-bed.

Sick in Guatemala. Enjoying the lazy night. Welcoming the viral fever that is sure to set in again soon.

This is a part of the travel experience.

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Filed under: Guatemala, Health

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Cincinnati, Ohio, USAMap