Jul 30, 2005

My Malaria Malaise...

For the last couple weeks Tyler and I have both been in an odd mood. We have been going from one phenomenal experience to the next but along the way we´ve been feeling kinda disengaged and uninterested. We both loved Casa Rosario and really miss our teachers and the wonderful friends we met there. But by the end we were both kind of sick of it. Not really upset our unhappy but we had started feeling detached from a place we had cherished as a really wonderful home away from home. We didn´t really talk about it because we barely noticed it ourselves and everything seemed to be going well. We left San Pedro with a little geek graffitti in the dead of night.

Geek Graffiti

From there we got to travel with our dear friend Kristina through Coban and onward without a hitch. It was fun, mostly. We had no complaints and had a good time with great company but I felt only partially engaged. Not that I don´t have my down moments, but I generally try to engage with life. I like to choosing what I do and then pro-actively throwing my whole self into whatever that may be. That´s what ´Live Deliberately´ is all about. And I was doing that, I suppose, but for some reason I sort of felt like I was going through the motions. From there we went to Semuc Champey which is heartbreakingly beautiful. We ended up spending two full days exploring this phenomenon where crystal clear water (with an emerald green tint) cascades through a series of natural pools via waterfalls.


Although there were others there, it wasn´t uncommon to have one of these clear pools to oneself. I´d swim with tiny brightly colored tropical fish, exactly like those I had in a ten gallon aquarium in Albany when I was 13 years old. We swam in awe, looking around at the massive cliffs and jungle around us and thanked the universe for letting us be here. I enjoyed it,loved hiking around it and swimming amongst it, but oddly when I wasn´t totally dazzled I felt just a little detached from it and from myself.


We visited Semuc Champey as day trips from the nearby town of Lanquin, where we were staying at El Retiro a paradise of another sort. Nestled in the crook of a rapid river we could tube in those emerald water from some distant caves to the little collection of thatched roofed buildings we called home.


El Retiro was laidback and fun with a running tab on inexpensive food and drink, and a preponderance of hammocks. Not to mention there were so many scantily clad lovely travelers it was the place of my adolescent (and honestly, my current) dreams.

The Dutch Flower Sisters

Tragically I wasn´t, frusteratingly enough, the Don Juan my fevered pubescent adolescent self imagined I would be. It was still a wonderful place, I met some really cool people and the place was so comfortable that it was still just as much fun to stay solo. It´s not that I´m a playboy ever, but it did seem odd that for the entire six days we were there I barely even flirted with anyone. Have I just inexplicably given up on women, one of the better parts of my whole life? Although we were happy to stay there five days, on our last Tyler was chomping at the bit to leave this paradise as well.

It seemed odd, because it was a place designed for laidback human interaction with folks from all over the world. Or, in other words, Tyler`s ideal habitat. Tyler shares a very similar ´Live Deliberately´ philosophy with a powerful focus on the connections he makes with other people. Those of our readers who know him understand that when Tyler is with you he is focused on nothing but you which can make him intoxicatingly charismatic. But, oddly, Tyler was anxious to leave partially because he didn´t really feel like he was deeply connecting with anyone. We had a wonderful time I´d recommend to anyone but were happy to bust out of there and race north into the mosquito filled jungle around Tikal.


Tikal is amazing, it was the capital city of one of the largest and most sophisticated civilizations ever to exist in the Americas. But around 900AD, when the civilization collapsed, the city was misplaced. It´s hard to imagine that a city of upwards of 100,000 people could just be lost and forgotten but that makes it all the more fascinating. It wasn´t until 1848, nearly a millenium later, that a Swiss scientist stumbled across these ruins deep in the monkey filled jungle. Although only a small fraction of the enormous stone structures have been uncovered what there has been is staggering. Tyler and I spent a full day strolling around caught a sunrise and sunset from the top of two enormous temples and spent the night in a hammock sharing the jungle with screaming howler monkeys.


It was a phenomenal experience, of a life altering sort for a burgeoning history buff like myself. It´s a pity that we were both so blase about the whole thing. Don´t get me wrong, it was really cool and I´m glad we went. But it was so hot and humid that we were almost too tired to slap at all the potentially malaria ridden mosquitos circling us. So, after we´d seen and done enough to feel we´d been there we high tailed it out of there for a little Ecotourism destination called Finca Ixobel.


There we got to hang out with the house parrot, eat a great communal meal and swim in their pleasant little pond. While there we got to climb a "mountain" that was a perfect pyramid. After seeing those uncovered at Tikal Tyler and I are certain we were standing on an undiscovered Mayan temple but were both too apathetic to bring a shovel. Finally, one of us broached a topic that both of us were feeling but neither of us wanted to bring up. Why was it that while living such an utterly wonderful life were we not totally enamored and connected to it? Where did this subtle malaise come from and why were we both so uncharacteristically apathetic? We traced it back to three weeks ago, right before we left Casa Rosario. But what could possibly have happened?

A hill, or an uncovered Mayan Temple?

Three weeks ago we started taking our Malaria pills, Chloroquin. We´d heard of all sorts of awful side affects that people experience while taking their Malaria preventative medicine: uncontrollable diarrea, pain, nightmares, depression and violent rages. A week before we went into a malaria zone we took our first pill in the weekly dose with trepidation, unsure of what we were in for. By the next day the only side effect we´d had were some really vivid and bewildering dreams. That night, and I´m not joking, I was car-jacked by a very grumpy looking Napolean. It was more fun than anything, and we started joking about taking all the pills at once to see how cool our dreams would become. Now I´m rocked back, more aware than I´ve ever been of the subtle effects drugs can have on our thinking and our lives. More than that, because of how it suddenly appeared and subtly affected everything I´m painfully aware of the insidious effect of long term depression. It´s been the first really hard lesson of my trip.

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