When I began researching Africa, I knew I would be entering some dense jungle parts that required some vaccines.
Luckily I already had yellow fever from a previous long trip in South America, and since that is for life, I had one less needle to prick in me. However I still needed to update my typhoid, hepatitis A (maybe B & C), rabies and polio – yes, I guess polio made a come back. By the time I compared prices to a few US travel locations, I would be paying well past $500 for these. I find it absorb that we pay so much money into insurance and yet so much is considered optional.
That’s when I knew I would be getting all my medical needs in Europe, prior to entering the continent. like Africa, I always held Spain on a pedestal, and knew one day I would visit when my Spanish was a bit better. I had a couple friends living across the country so it seemed like the perfect time to take the trip.
I am so grateful for Alexander because without him, I wouldn’t have know where to make the appointment months ahead of time. Turn out free healthcare in a foreign country still beats traditional American standards.
The clinic was modern and full of people. While I had an appointment, I still found myself waiting for an hour. There could be worse things. also very grateful for my Spanish friend because there are so many medical terms I do not know in Spanish, and he is fluent in five languages. Surprisingly not a lot of people in Spain know English as their second language so it would have been extremely difficult for me to ask questions.
I brought my travel vaccine card from many years ago to help communicate what I had already from the past. Alex works in the medical field, so this was probably just a typical day for him. I however dislike hospitals very much. I’ve only had three doctors successfully draw blood from me, and I just get uncomfortable in the sanitized florescent lighting with them poking around on me.
When it came time to sit on the chair I approached with hesitation. I watched him wiping all the syringes and anticipated four shots in both my arms. I didn’t mind the first one, ironically the one he said would hurt the most, however the second, third and especially the fourth stung. I know this is completely normal to most people and I should just suck it up, but I hated every minute of it.
Alex seemed entertained by it all. At least one of us was. The doctor pricked me in both arms, but by the third shot I was very shocked that he started wiping my thigh with a prep pad. I was not expecting this, but before I could ask questions the next shot was delivered straight into my leg! I guess there is a first time for everything. The fourth may have been the worst and I squeaked with a little panic. I definitely caught a grin on Alexs’ face when it was finally over. The last surprise was when I went to pay, it was a shocking $48 for the entire visit!
We celebrated over wine and tapas, and more wine. As the night progressed my entire body felt stiff. My legs were especially sore as we got off the midnight train to his house just outside the city. Anyways that was my experience with Spanish healthcare and I would highly recommend getting your vaccines at a local clinic in Spain before you Travel south to Africa!
The first leg of the trip didn’t start so well. Catching a small cold a few days prior, my phone battery died upon entering the Denver Airport, and even lost flight reservation. Apparently they couldn’t locate my flight because the third party did not enter my birth date on the itinerary. While all the US counters and overseas airlines were closed after hours, luckily, I came early enough to sort over an hour long phone call.
Despite all the set backs so quickly, I know they are lessons for future check ins.
Had a long layover in NYC where I was able to take a much needed sleep at my friends apartment. She kindly gave me her keys while working as I surprised her with a matcha latte. I was so grateful for a quiet place to close my eyes. The white noise of construction outside pushed me into hours of sleep. Managed to squeeze in lunch with an old friend, but all I could stomach was ginger beer. I crawled back to her apartment couch where I slept for a couple more hours.
Realizing how rough the other half of this flight will probably be, I grabbed the subway back to JFK where I connected my next leg, Ponta Delgata. This little island located far off the coast of Portugal seemed like a beautiful place to call my final destination. While it was tempting, I went through customs, got my passport stamped and continued to my final flight into Spain.
The medicine was catching up to me and I felt delirious arriving into Barcelona. I was mildly surprised that I didn’t have to go through customs or get a stamp. I brushed off the idea that I illegally entered the country and was ready to dust off my Spanish. Navigating the train from the airport was challenging as it did not correlate to any of the previous maps I pulled up when I had Wi-Fi. Each time I asked for instructions, I would only recall the first part of what they said and would proceed to ask the next person. It was a constant game of breadcrumbs leading me to the next train, the next metro, the final bus.
I stumbled into my hostel around 2:30pm or whatever time it was in this foreign zone. Upon checking in I immediately went to my bed, took off my shoes, and without hesitation, proceeded to fall asleep for another many hours.
Awoke in the evening to unfamiliar voices out the window. The streets were alive and people were emerging from their dwellings. I decided it would be a good time to catch sunset at the Sagrada Familia Church. I’ve always been drawn to the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. His whimsical, oriental and gothic style challenges the world of engineering. I love the way he stays playful while introducing functional innovations in his building.
I returned to the Wi-Fi of the hostel to find ramen. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in over 72 hours and I had just enough of an appetite for a warm soup. The first spot was closed so I circled back to the hostel entrance to use the Wi-Fi to find another location. The second spot was sold out of ramen. I must have circled the neighborhood three times until I finally found a small Chinese den that served homemade noodles.
Five euros later I was walking down the bustling street, with the hint of my first smile. The night was young and I cradled the warm bowl of Togo noodles as if it was the only thing that mattered in the world. As far as I was concerned, in this moment it was. I had yet to invest in anything in this new place and had zero expectations aside from devouring this hot soup and waking up tomorrow morning with a fresh hope for the future.
It seems as if my life has been a series of rapidly falling dominoes since April. My grandmother passed (at the beautiful age of 96). I fell over my handlebars in a frazzled family state of affairs leading to a serious concussion. I created some healthy boundaries with my mother as I seek nothing but love. I quickly realized my jaw was still locked after weeks of trying to slowly move it open. I answered the door to a police officer who was delivering subpoena papers to my landlords upstairs. I spiraled into researching a better living solution. I requested three weeks off work not knowing where I would spend it. I contacted my dealer and impulsively put a lot of my savings into purchasing a practically new 2022 Van from across the state. I started packing my house in four days. I locked in a storage unit out west. I applied for a new PO Box.
I got out of Dodge. Aka the limbo I was stuck in for a year also known as Evergreen.
So this is my life in another universe. I wake up to the morning sun and walk around the woods with my cat. I spend the evenings riding my bike around the hills of Colorado looking for the next sign. I drift from mountain town to mountain town in question of my next permanent destination.
Every day is a new day, and I am so eager to live it all. I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t die on impact that day months ago when my temple hit that rock going 25miles downhill with no helmet. Trust me, I always wear helmets and that is how frazzled I was that day.
I was driving out to Grand Junction one Friday morning on I-70 – daydreaming about how much fun I was going to have this weekend with my friends cross country skiing.
In the blink of an eye I was quickly rattled out of these thoughts. Suddenly I lost control of my tires on the black ice and started Fish tailing. Each swing of the car got bigger and bigger until I knew I lost control. Of my steering wheel, of my entire existence.
It all happened so fast, but I’ll never forget the moment before impact when a voice calmed me. They said “you’re going to die, try to relax” At that moment I hit a guard rail on direct impact which sent my flipping over the right side of this bridge. Vail is known for their ice and cliffs. For some unexplainable reason, I did not flip off the bridge. The airbags that I LITERALLY HAD REPLACED 12hours prior detonated. My windows shattered and my phone managed to steadily play “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere”
I am surely dead. Is this what the afterlife looks like? I quickly want to be the furthest distance away from this machine that almost took me. The abrupt blare of a truck horn jolts me back into the safety of my car, despite all the exposed, broken glass everywhere.
I feel a soft throbbing pain on my head and reach up to discover my hand is filled with a small pool of blood. Suddenly I am filled with panic. What just happened??? How am I alive and without something rammed into my body?
I see a young man running toward my from his pulled over truck. I lift the flap of my deflated driver door airbag to talk to him. Tears are suddenly flowing down his eyes as he is immediately relieved to see me alive. It was as if he saw the entire scene from a distance and together we witnessed something unremarkable.
They asked me to quickly describe what happened. I said I fish tailed and sort of blacked out the rest. I didn’t actually find out until later that I flipped. Then followed a series of questions, the last setting the tone for how I would handle this entire aftermath. “Who is the current president” and I respond “Biden, but it depends who you ask” he laughed and walked me to the ambulance.
Unable to open the other doors, which were lodged in, escorted me around the shoulder of the highway into the ambulance. It was once a peaceful, still morning. Yet now at the early hour of 7am over ten people were chaotically walking around. A large clean up crew to pick up all the debris that left my car in the crash. I wonder if a fragment of my soul is to be found on the cold concrete. I was in a daze, walking toward the warmth of the ambulance as people asked me questions and walked the scene. In the ambulance they were stunned. Expecting to tell me I had a concoction. Certainly waiting for me to release the paperwork that we were all going to the emergency room to stitch the blood coming out of my head.
They thought I needed one to two stitches, but that was probably because they wanted me to get checked out regardless. In my brief experience with ambulances I just know you don’t want to ride them. What country do we live in that encourages people to avoid basic needs such as health care, in order to avoid the financial impact?
Continuing the jokes I responded “guys, you’ve been great, thank you for the blanket, but offense, I do not want to ride with you”. They first attempted to tell me that I was stuck on a highway and that I needed to find a way off. Knowing they were not my only option out of this mess, I just said, I can walk, honestly I probably need to. That’s when they said that is not safe and spoke with the state trooper to take me. I signed my release form and got shuffled into another warm vehicle.
The state trooper was young, dark and handsome. I tried to get ahold of my nerves as I watched him fill out his paperwork. That very moment felt like an out of body experience. It was as if I were dead and I was going through the daily routines of these strangers. Kind humans that were just doing their job.
He asked if I had anyone to call who lived around Vail. I almost said no, but then one name came to mind. The name of someone who immediately upon realizing I was alive, was my one call. I’ll never understand why I didn’t call my brothers or sister. Perhaps I didn’t want to scare them and this man felt like someone who would actually be there in a flash. And I was starting to realize I really needed someone there. As independent as I am, this was not a day I could have done alone, without the help of so many people.
The state trooper quickly picks up on my rush of adrenaline and wise-cracking jokes. I was quickly realizing my car may be completely totaled, $12,000 vanished into thin air, yet I was SO DAMN GRATEFUL TO BE BREATHING. He even wrote me a ticket and I thanked him.
He attempted to draw out the scene. He was incredibly perplexed and quiet staring at the paper. He then says “you flipped.” I shoot a look of bewilderment “really?”
“Yeah, check out your roof. You can see the damage. What I don’t get, is how you flipped and managed to land like that. I’ve seen many, many accidents working in this field for over a decade. Yet I have never seen something like this. You are incredibly lucky to be alive”.
I sit still, attempting to process those words. Then immediately stumble on my words as I reply “I know. I don’t know why, but I know.”
We eventually leave the scene two hours later and I am dropped off at a nearby gas station (because he can not legally take me to a hospital). I am recognized upon entered the doors as “the girl who had the big accident this morning”. The mountain town cashiers and people were very kind. The owner of the gas station brought me tea and offered to clean the goosebump on my head with hydrogen peroxide.
I shook my head yes and started crying as an overwhelming amount of attention and love swarmed me. I could feel it. He patched me up and was one of many hero’s that day.
My one phone call man drove two hours from another town when I thought he was currently in this town that morning. He saved the day and showed me again what it looks like to turn lemons into lemonade.
I am forever thankful for the kind souls the universe has placed into my life. It appears I just became a little more spiritual afterwards: I couldn’t understand why I was given this second chance, but certainly felt more purposeful because of it. In this life, it is understood that we really only get one, and we must live it to the fullest.
Yet now that I’ve been given this incredible gift of a second chance, what would I do differently? For starters I would immediately get out to the desert.
Wow Texas, you have changed…or have I? Upon arrival into this beautiful state I realized a lot has changed as far as structures and local spots, yet a mentality that I was once blind to is still prevalent. Continue reading “Reverse culture shock”→