Apr 142012

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia.

I´d been looking forward to it so much: Moving down to a mere 200 meter above sea level, into the nice jungle of Bolivia: Oxygen and warmth!

Arrived yesterday in Rurrenabaque. And yes it´s warm (hot!). The oxygen however is still eluding me…

Booked a tour after arriving: Three days on the pampas, traveling in boats, swimming with sweet-water dolphins, fishing for piranas (no, not in the same spot!). Sounded cool!

I´d been coughing some, on and off, for the last couple of days. Nothing too serious, just a bit of a cold. Nothing some heat (and oxygen!) won´t fix.

But then yesterday during the afternoon and night my coughing got worse. In a damn-that-hurts-and-I-hope-my-lungs-won´t-come-out kinda way. The kind where there´s something stuck but you can´t get it out. Also not after coughing for the 100th time. Also not after coughing for 2 minutes straigth. That kind of cough.

So this morning instead of heading off to the pampas with my newly made German, French and Israeli friends (go to South America they said. Meet all sorts of nice Europeans they said (Isreal plays in the Eurovision Song Festival, so they must be European too, right?)), I was going to an even more intruiging place. The local hospital of a small backwater town (Rurrenabaque has some 13.000 inhabitants).

Transport here is by moto (kinda like an upgraded scooter), so hanging on for dear life as I tried not to cough in my driver´s neck. I kinda succeeded (hanging on, yes. Coughing, no).

At the hospital. There is a guy working on a moto in the main hall. The only person there so I talk to him. Yes, he actually is the reception… ´Please walk into that empty coridor, there is an emergency ward there.´ Ok…

There are some people waiting in front of a room. I wait with them. After a while two men get carted out, bloody and torn up. I really hope it´s not the operating room…

The room seems to be empty now. And the people waiting with me drift off. I have no clue what to do, so I patiently (or should that be paitiently?) sit and wait. For an hour.

At that time a friendly doctor / nurse / psychiatric-ward-inmate (she had a white dress on) informs me that I should be waiting a few corridors down. Thanks doc!

Getting there, I can immediately walk into the doctor´s office, even though there are a lot of people waiting. Did they take pity on me for waiting so long or do stupid white people get preferential treatment? Who knows, who cares?

In my best Spanish I explain to the friendly doctor that I´m coughing a lot and that my lungs hurt and the coughing syrup I bought doesn´t seem to be doing much (all of this in slightly less eloquent Spanish, but I got the message across).

And then I go right back to being 6 years old again, because for the first time in 24 years someone uses a stetoscope on me!

The verdict: Lungs are fine, go to the farmacy across the street (well, one of the 4 farmacies across the street), get antibiotics, something against asthma (?!?) and keep taking the coughing syrup.

I politely thank the good doctor and ask him where to pay. Stupid question, I give the money directly to him of course! The staggering amount of 20 Bolivianos (about EUR 2.20) changes hands and I´m free to go.

Off to the farmacy, where I trade another 40 Bolivianos for the medicine.

I´m hoping I´ll be feeling better tomorrow. I already got a flight back from Rurrenabaque to La Paz and it would be a shame if I can´t go and see any of the beautiful wildlife here. But then again, I´d rather be healthy than marveled…