How to be sick in Guatemala in 22 steps

Let’s get one thing straight: This is not a guide telling you how to avoid sickness while in another country, bereft of our mothers and boyfriends and best friends and anyone else that will listen to us whine, because look at us, we’re already here.

Maybe we neglected to eat vegetables for two or three months. Maybe sensible sleep has been elusive due to spiny mattresses and bottom sheets that won’t stay on and stifling humidity and crowing roosters and 4 a.m. explosions. Maybe, last weekend, we decided to consume a bath tub full of mezcal and beer and then dance the Macarena on top of a bar.

The reasons aren’t important. 

The fact is, we’ve been holed up in this 20 x 10-foot room with no ceiling fan and no moms and no BiteSquad, hacking up one of our prized lungs and wilting faster than a dandelion in Death Valley for three days now. It’s time for a game plan for at least managing this thing.

Here we go.

Step 1: Trick yourself into thinking you’re not sick. Haha just kidding, you’re in way too deep for that.

Step 2. Take zinc tablets. You brought some of those with you! Stop it. What’s wrong with you? It’s still too late. You might at well be popping Skittles. Actually that’s not a bad idea.

Step 3: Get some Skittles. Go ahead, mourn. You don’t have *time* to be sick, we know. You *hate* being sick. OK, registered. You’re *never* sick. Never! Maybe you’re just tired and you need a quick sugar rush. Or maybe not.

Step 4: Acceptance. Yeah, you’re sick. I’ve been trying to tell you for like 189 words.

Step 5: Go get some some soup. Lucky for you, the Guatemalan soup game is on point. Forget Campbell’s chicken noodle, there’s a good chance that hole-in-the-wall around the corner has Caldo de Garilla, which let me tell you is much, much better. Get some of that to go and take a few seconds to put it together at home. It’s basically chicken broth with rice and vegetables but in Guatemala it traditionally comes with big hunk of bone-on chicken (you’ll need a knife or fingers) and a bunch of big pieces of vegetables (same knife or fingers). Squeeze on some lime, add some salsa and go eat that mess in bed.

Step 6: Go get some snacks. Woman cannot live on soup or Skittles alone. She’ll need some peanut M&Ms, at least. And probably some drinkable items that I hear are good for you, like Gatorade or fresh juice. Oh, more good news: Guatemala also has that fresh juice game on point. See, being sick isn’t so bad here! Other suggestions: crackers (the ubiquitous sick food) and potato chips (the uniquitous bored food). Healthy junk food really does not exist in Guatemala, so scrap the unsalted roasted almonds idea.

Step 7: Go get some meds. Lucky for you, it’s possible to get almost anything over the counter in Guatemala. What you’re thinking of right now? Yep, they’ve got it. For your purposes right now, though, hone in on that cough syrup. With codeine. You read that right. It’s called jarabe con codeína and its an over-the-counter thing here. And, you know, be responsible and all that, but it’s pretty effective.

Step 8: Do all of those errands at once. What, you didn’t read ahead? Three separate trips are for healthy people, not dandelion lung-hackers.

Step 9: Clean up your mess. Honestly, whose idea was it to eat soup in bed?

Step 10: Try some thinking projects you’ve been meaning to get to. Attempt falling asleep on your back (not your stomach) even though you’ve literally never been able to do so since you were 4. Contemplate the merits and drawbacks of living without sheets. Or why that one place on your jeans always wears out before the others.

Step 11: Find some things to entertain yourself. Since you’re in Guatemala, it would be considerate to be immersive in your entertainment choices, even while sick. La Casa de Las Flores is a new telenovela from Mexico that distracts you enough to forget your sick, or at least come to believe those on screen are sicker than you. Books are good, too. I’m reading Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. And podcasts. I like the NYT’s The Daily. This isn’t #SponsoredContent but you can still watch and read and listen to these things if you like. There’s plenty of distracting sickness in all of them. Also, now is a good time to get lost in your Duolingo app Spanish lessons, so you stop requiring a blinking, 7-second pause to respond to any comment lobbed your way. That’s not sick, it’s just practical.

Step 12: Get outrageously bored of your entertainment. You’re a woman whose boots are meant to hit pavement!

Step 13: Online shop for the five different pairs of boots you would buy if your lifestyle and backpack afforded it.

Step 14: Realize maybe this is a good thing. Maybe you secretly like being sick, just a little bit. Maybe you’re just really tired. Lots of naps and book-and-pod time and a little telenovela bingeing sounds pretty good, after all. Hey, maybe you’ll lose your voice — just a little, like in the mysterious sexy way. You practice saying “hola chica” in a raspy voice.

Step 15: Realize this is definitely not a good thing. Who are we kidding, greeny-yellowy stuff is coming up and possibly reproducing in that pile of tissues over there.

Step 16: Consider a doctor. A bartender ex-pat recommended one, not because he’s been to him or has heard he’s good, but because the practice is next to a bar he frequents.

Step 17: Realize you don’t need a doctor. Have another swig of the special cough syrup tho.

Step 18: Consider trying to cure yourself via vegetables. Maybe that was the original problem? Go to one of the vegan places. Good news, there are vegan places here, and they serve exactly the type of watery, prickly, green dishes you would expect them to serve. Some are even good. Get a ginger shot, too. Ginger is good for your immune system, and it also makes you feel like you’re having a shot.

Step 19: Attempt to identify all the sounds coming through your open window. Hey, that’s the opening music to La Casa de las Flores. Wow, togetherness! Hmm, you don’t remember this episode. Wait. They’re …ahead of you.

Step 20: Practice meditating to tune out loud sounds, like episodes of La Casa de las Flores that you haven’t seen yet. LA LA LA LA. (That’s how you do it right?)

Step 21: Consider trying to cure yourself via carbs and alcohol. Because that was the original problem. Hair of the dog and all that. Go to the convenience store to get some beer. Or, wine? Take a few minutes and consider which of the two options — Cabernet and Merlot — would be worse in a $5 varietal. Then go home and figure out what you can cook. Make tomato-garlic-caper pasta, not because that’s a dish but because those are literally the ingredients in your shared kitchen. You barely live here after all. Take a sip of wine. Maybe throw a little in the sauce. Not too much, though. You miss wine.

Step 22: Surrender. Crap, that didn’t work either? K, maybe just give it five days and drink lots of fluids, like your actual doctor said. She should know better than me.

4 thoughts on “How to be sick in Guatemala in 22 steps

  1. Yuck. Your description was so convincing I actually drifted back to my own sick times, except you were far away from home and conveniences. But you found other remedies. Carry on girl!!

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