Category Archives: Central/South America

Paramedics on the Plane

kissthesky

Not the picture you were expecting with the above title, huh? Well, after my plane ordeal (turbulence and…yeah), I had to pay respects to the sky with a big smooch.

Before I delve into details, I just want to shout out #Deltaairlines , flight DL 849 on November 15, 2014 from Atlanta to Tegucigalpa.  Your kindness and professionalism really helped ease my troubled mind (and body). Now on to the news…

I decided to take a quick weekend trip to the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, to meet a friend who currently lives and teaches there. It was so cool how we met (I will tell you all that later)! Anyway, after mucho planning I was finally able to get myself there. She told me that Tegucigalpa was totally different from my most visited area of Honduras, Roatan, and I was eager to check it out. She warned me about how short the landing strip was into Tegucigalpa and how the planes typically brake really hard. She mentioned that people literally clap when they land safely there, as it’s deemed one of the most dangerous landings in the world.  Add to that my recent apprehension of flying (yeah, after having flown tons of times before), I was NOT looking forward to this.

I was super nervous flying from my city to Atlanta , but surprisingly calm when flying from Atlanta to Tegucigalpa. I was no longer scared about the short landing strip at all. I even struck up a conversation with the lady who sat next to me who just so happened to be in the medical field as I am.  It seemed like the 3 hour flight took forever, so I watched the movie ‘Lucy’ before dozing off to sleep. Then I awoke to this fainting feeling during descent.

Next thing I remember, the nurse I sat next to quickly sprang into action as I had passed out, stretched across the three seats of our row.  I remember feeling her lifting up my legs in the air, her wiping under my nose with an alcohol swab, the flight attendants asking me if I had a history of seizures, them discussing how many minutes they had until landing, them telling the other passengers to not leave the plane once it landed because paramedics would be arriving for me…LIKE WHOA. I heard the attendants  asking each other ‘how many more minutes to landing?’ The answer went from five, to three, to one minute.

OH
EM
GEE.

Still woozy but able to comprehend what was about to happen, I urged them to get into a seat and not worry about me. I didn’t want them to face a harsh landing, but the flight attendants ignored me. They were so concerned about me. I recall the lady flight attendant telling me to press against the tray/seat in front of me so that I wouldn’t fall upon landing. I mustered up all of the strength in my body to do just that and what do you know…the landing wasn’t AS bad as how I felt, lol.

Everyone clapped, too!

Next thing I know, the paramedics arrived to tend to me. I was so embarrassed because all eyes were on me and what the hell was going on. Drenched , the paramedics took my blood pressure and my pulse. I was starting to feel a bit better when I noticed my pulse was improving and my O2 Saturation was normal.

After sitting up a bit, I told the flight attendant I was so sweaty, even under my pants.

She then told me, ‘honey, that’s not sweat…you wet yourself.’

OH
EM
GEE!!!

Embarrassment to the max! I just cried and cried and cried. They kept reassuring me that it was okay and that they were concerned about me and they truly were. This made me feel a ton better. She asked if I had a change of clothes and I did, but it’s crazy though. The one time I tried packing light was the time I needed more clothes!

I thought it was over once I started regaining my composure, but when I tell you the paramedics didn’t let me out of their sight, they didn’t let me out of their sight. They escorted me to the on site medical doctor in the airport near customs. After the doctor checked me out and was comfortable with my release, they escorted me in a wheelchair to the front of the customs line (major plus despite the circumstances). I told them I needed to use the restroom. Oh my gosh, ya’ll. When I got up to go to the restroom, I then saw how much I peed on myself.  I almost started crying again, but I didn’t.

The paramedics got my friend’s contact information as she was in route to the airport. They stayed by my side until she came and gave her orders to let me rest and to not eat anything greasy. She let me rest, but she couldn’t keep me from the grease. I had pizza with friends later that night. 😉

thegang
Yum Grub Time!
hecaughtme
Mr. Camera Man Playing with My Ipod

 

 

 

 

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SistaVoyage Vs The Caribbean Sea

staring

If you knew of a person who had 2 sets of private swim lessons PLUS a group swim lesson recently , wouldn’t you assume that person knew how to effectively swim? Probably so, right? Well, tell me what is MY problem, lol!  Apart from showering, brushing my teeth and taking baths, the water and I are not the best of friends. At the age of 25, I took my first set of private lessons (4 total) where I discovered if you give me a noodle and some fins, I could swim without stopping. On the flip side ,take away the noodle and the fins and it would be a DISASTUH.

The second set of lesson results (again 4 total) were a sad repeat of the first.  I was ready to practice my strokes, but I ended up nearly stroking due to the choking of water I seemed to always swallow. The only maneuver I could show off outside of the class was me pushing myself from the wall and swimming UNDER water. I couldn’t bring my head up for air to save my life!  While I didn’t give up, I left large quantities of la agua alone for a while. Then one day I got bold…kinda.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Well, it was just this year so it wasn’t much to remember, ha ha.

On Good Friday 2013 in Roatan, Honduras, me and two other ladies who were staying at the Roatan Backpacker’s Hostel decided to take a stroll to West End. We kept walking and walking and before we knew it, we were on West Bay Beach, where all of the action was happening. We noticed several people (mainly children and teens) jumping off of this wooden deck into the sea. ‘I want to jump in, but I can’t swim well,’ I announced to the ladies.  What did I do that for? ‘Well, I am going to dive in and I will help you out if you jump. I used to be a life guard,’ ‘J’ said to me.  I felt a mixture of nervous energy and curiosity throughout my body. She noticed my hesitance and started to mildly taunt me while mixing in a little encouragement. Nice.

So, did I suck up my sea fear or did I shrink back in it?  Well, I did a little bit of both, lol. See what actually happened in this short video clip below.

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Volunteering in Belize: Holy Cross Anglican School

Banner at Holy Cross School in Belize
Banner at Holy Cross School in Belize

Traveling to Belize again (first time was on a cruise) was super exciting, but volunteering made it totally worthwhile and memorable.

My friend who was born and partially raised in Belize, created a daily itinerary for me and 6 other voyagers a month in advance of our trip. Not only did she schedule days of fellowship, fun and connecting with her family, she made sure to include volunteer work.  This would be my first time volunteering in another country and I was super excited, especially after speaking via email  with Lydia, the school’s volunteer  coordinator, about their needs and her expectation of us during our time there.

 

Me and Lydia
Me and Lydia

 

On the day of our visit, we gathered in the lobby of the hotel we were staying in and met our bus driver who transported us to the school.  Despite my hands being full with donations, my camera and oh yea, my umbrella thanks to the rain (read more about that here), I made it into the office accident free, ha ha.  Lydia warmly greeted us and began to explain the school’s history and concept while guiding us throughout the school.  Once the tour was over, we were able to interact with the children and assist the teachers accordingly. We were warmly greeted with hugs, requests to read books, chats, questions and the children were happy to pose for the camera!

Reading Time
Reading Time

holycross7holycross4

My Hair's Always a Hit!
My Hair’s Always a Hit!

We decided to leave right before school ended to avoid the ‘yay, we’re going home!’ rush and the children were not happy!!! They wanted us to stay and we wanted to stay longer too, but the bus was there to take us back to the hotel.

Honestly, I was not expecting the ‘noooo, please stay longer!!!’ reactions from the children at all. In my mind, I felt that our short amount of time there didn’t make that much of an impact, but it proved quality over quantity can be significantly meaningful. Since that day, I have kept in touch with Lydia because whenever I go back to Belize, I will spend more time at the school with the staff and children, helping out wherever I can. Matter of fact, I am making plans now to revisit. :)

*If you’d like to learn more about Holy Cross Anglican School in San Pedro, Belize, click the link here: http://holycrossbelize.org/  

To see more of the school in action, check out the video below:

 

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The Extinction of My Volunteer Elitism

sandybay
Orphanage in Honduras

I have a confession to make that I am not very proud of.

You see, there was a time when I believed that volunteering my time and services to others in need ONLY extended within the United States and even then, there were stipulations of WHO should receive my help.

In short, I was a ‘volunteer elitist.’

Several years ago, I held tight to a mentality of ‘them over there vs. them over here,’ which developed over the course of time, sparked by debates with others on various subjects. One hot topic I remember discussing amongst my peers was Americans adopting children from other countries when there were children here in the United States who needed a home, too. ‘You shouldn’t take from one child and give to the other’ was a common retort that kind of shut others up who believed it was absolutely okay for those who decide to adopt to do so in other countries. I must admit, noticing this comment receive nods and ‘umm hums’ from the majority caused me to dismiss how I truly felt and I ended up believing the ‘shut em up’ group had it all right and I had it all wrong. Nevertheless, my mind still pondered ‘umm, isn’t this decision that of the those who adopted and them only?’

Fast forward to a few years later.

I got older (inevitably) and started to TRUST my own beliefs, opinions and instincts. I realized and accepted that my total allegiance in assisting others is NOT solely within the confines of the U.S. If time, money and effort exist in my life, I can donate it to whoever is in need or want, no futile debates necessary, no explanations to anyone on my part. Who cares if I am separated from others via miles of oceans, seas, jungles, mountains when I can hop on/in trains, planes, boats and automobiles to arrive at my destination! Despite there being several layers of cultural, race, religious and language differences, it has never discouraged me from giving/receiving and vice versa.

Thankfully, this mentality guided me to volunteer at the Holy Cross Anglican School in San Pedro Belize and later at Sandy Bay Lighthouse ministries and Clinica Esperanza in Roatan, Honduras. I meet several AWESOME people during these times, ranging from children to adults. Now, whenever I plan a voyage, I make SURE my itinerary includes volunteer work before I enter into a country. I try my best to lend my skills, time, experience and generosity to others who share my same geographic location and to those who don’t.

A beautiful, meaningful song (circa 1985, not the recent auto tuned remake, but I digress :) ) comes to my mind when I think about the impact, small or great, we ALL have the ability to make GLOBALLY:


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Why Did You Stay There? That Place Looked Expensive!

At The Phoenix Resort, Belize
At The Phoenix Resort, Belize

When people view my videos or pictures of my experiences overseas, a question I tend to answer a lot is why I chose to stay at a certain resort/hotel.  Right after I am asked this, the comment that typically follows is ‘that place looked expensive! I can’t afford that.’

Of course, expensive is relative as one person may believe $150.00 per night is a steal while another may view it as if their money’s being stolen. It all boils down to what are important preferences to you.

Sooo…Why Did I Stay There?

I visit www.tripadvisor.com to help me narrow my lodging options down based on user reviews, pictures, and videos.  I purposefully choose the top rated accommodations for my initial visits to a particular country and I try not to stay over a week. Once I become more acquainted with the area, I then scope out cheaper options for my future travels , making sure I don’t skimp on quality and safety. For example, for my first visit to Roatan, I stayed at a luxury resort called Barefoot Cay (read here). The next time I visited I opted for the cheaper accommodation of Roatan Backpacker’s Hostel (read here). By me preferring to travel alone, I believe this is a smart move on my part. On top of this, traveling’s a treat for me and where I choose to lie my head reflects this. After preparing for my voyage, flying hundreds of miles to my destination and braving customs (whew!) the last thing I need is the headache of canceling reservations on the spot and trying to figure out where else I could stay.

 Question: How do you choose your lodging options?

 

 

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My Doctor Said ‘Malaria.’

                                                      Source
Source

I can attest that being a pharmacist definitely has it perks and problems. One perk is the amount of knowledge I have when it comes to both prescription and nonprescription drugs. One MAJOR problem is I know TOO much to the point where I am a physician’s worst patient. While I’ll agree to testing and examinations recommended, I am not so willing to take pills. Imagine my resistance to my physician’s plea for me to not just consider, but to actually take ‘for real for real’ antimalarial pills for my 2 week stay in Honduras.

What are ‘for real for real’ antimalarial pills you ask? An example would be Doxycycline vs Malarone.  Doxycycline, an antibiotic, has several indications, ie, treating acne, skin infections, lyme disease in addition to preventing malaria. Malarone is used to treat AND prevent malaria, thus it’s a ‘for real for real’ antimalarial pill.

I’ve taken Doxycycline in the past for a previous trip to Honduras, but I was only there briefly. The instructions were for me to take it at least 2 days before arrival and continue for the next 28 days after departure, but like I said earlier, I don’t like taking pills. Right before I left the country, I stopped taking them. Plus the side effects, ie, sun burn, yeast infections, nausea/vomiting, etc were not what I wanted to deal with while away.

Staying for 2 weeks in a CDC-warned malaria area of Honduras was a bit more challenging, though. I had to look at the facts and totally ignore my feelings.

Fact one:   Mosquitoes love me.
Fact two:    I hate mosquitoes
Fact three: Mosquitoes love me despite my hate for them and this increased my chance of acquiring malaria.

Image courtesy of [SweetCrisis] http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of [SweetCrisis] http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

I had a choice to make- prevent malaria or possibly contract malaria. Facing reality and reading about victims of this disease, I decided, albeit reluctantly, to wave the white flag to my physician and fill her prescription of (my choice) Malarone. I figured that the inconvenience of taking a tablet at the same time daily with possible minor side effects here and there was definitely worth not hearing my doctor say ‘you have malaria,’ which can be fatal.

Have you taken anti-malarials in the past? Why or why not?

Are you planning a trip out of the U.S.? Unsure if you will be entering a high risk malarial country? Need help deciding which prophylaxis would be appropriate for you? Check out the links below so that you and your health care provider can make an informed decision about your health and well-being concerning this matter.

http://www.cdc.gov/MALARIA/

http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/malaria.aspx



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Sometimes, HOSTEL-ity is Necessary

When you come back here, think about staying at my hostel,’ Mel, the owner of Roatan Backpackers stated to me in 2011.

Wait.
Maybe I heard wrong.
Just maybe she flipped the letters ‘s’ and ‘l’ around and meant to say hotels.  I mean, didn’t she know anything about ‘Hostel,’ the movie? Absolute travel terror. I knew more about that movie than the actual hostel option itself. Heck to be honest, I thought the term was only made up for that movie.

While I replied with a smile, nod, and the most fake ‘okay’ to her suggestion, my brain was like ‘no way, Mel-A.’

Me and I in 2011 at Barefoot Cay Resort
Me and I in 2011 at Barefoot Cay Resort

Fast forward to 2012. I decided it was time to begin my travel fund so that my future voyages would be paid for with cash and not credit. I saved up enough to purchase a round trip flight back to Roatan in 2013 for Semana Santa, with the remaining balance planned to be used for lodging, spending money and other extras. Gold star for me!!! Next step on the list was choosing where I would stay.

My fantasy was to go back at Barefoot Cay or another resort/hotel on that same level, but my remaining travel fund balance quickly brought me back to reality. I will be honest with you, Good People. I was SO tempted to slip into my old charging habits, but thankfully, I overcame it!!! I contacted Mel and booked the one-bedroom apartment of her hostel for one week for only $220 and I still had money left over in my travel fund! I even extended my stay and assisted her with running the hostel. This gave me business experience in a foreign country and definitely challenged my pequeño knowledge of Spanish.

IMG-20130729-00138
Bathroom in one bedroom apartment
IMG-20130729-00140
Sitting area next to kitchen
Kitchen in one-bedroom apartment
Kitchen in one-bedroom apartment

I really appreciated the feel and location of the hostel. It’s close to a main road where tons of buses and taxis drive, close to tourist attractions, the beach, and locally owned restaurants and bodegas. Because it’s in a residential area, it was easy to convince myself that I actually lived there, lol.

From interacting with good people from all walks and purposes of life:

Hostel guests
Hostel guests

Mel assisting me with volunteering as a pharmacist at Clinica Esperanza:

Nurse Carla, me and Miss Peggy of Clinica Esperanza
Nurse Carla, me and Miss Peggy of Clinica Esperanza

and enjoying a fun dinner night with Mel’s family other guests:
foodnight

Mel and I in 2013
Mel and I in 2013

staying at Roatan Backpacker’s definitely provided me with more of an authentic Roatan experience than a high end resort ever could.  Plus, the cost was super light on my pockets. I am glad I was hostel with my lodging approach. Traveling mission accomplished. 😉

 

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How I Am Paying For My Voyages…Now

Financial Wisdom from Caye Caulker, Belize
Financial Wisdom from Caye Caulker, Belize

As I ponder on the $15,379.53 credit card debt I eliminated in June 2012, I can honestly conclude that 50% of it was due to my travels in and out of the country.  During my psycho spending days, I did waiver between the feelings of uneasiness for charging my trips to the mindset of ‘WHATEVER!!! I DESERVE this, no matter the cost.’ As I found out later, arrogance is costly…literally. Back in the day,  looking at my credit card balances would make me feel defeated even before charging so much on them.  My mentality then was ‘oh well, I already have $1,000 on the card, what’s $200 more?’
Well, those of you who are familiar with your own debt can predict what happens with that stinkin’ thinkin’- $200 turns into $250 which leads to $1,000 until finally, in my case $15,379.53.

While I knew I wasn’t going to stop traveling, I also knew I had to be smarter about my financial decisions before and ESPECIALLY during my voyages. So, I decided to implement these two simple techniques and I must say, my budget has definitely benefited from them both!

-The Travel Fund Fund
Gone are the days of my mind deceivingly convincing me to rely solely on my ‘weak willpower’ to set aside funds from my paycheck for my travels. That deceit ran its course after seeing my credit card balances! I now have my employer deposit a set amount every pay period into a bank account I call ‘The Travel Fund’ Fund. Flights, lodging options, and spending money comes strictly out of it. It truly determines if I stay home or go on.

-The Envelope Method
Those of you who are familiar with financial no-nonsense guru Dave Ramsey probably practice this method or know someone who does. I decided to extend this technique from my everyday spending to my travels. The pictures of the envelopes below are from my voyage to Belize. I stashed money into each of these envelopes based on what I planned on doing while there. I even took it a bit further and estimated how much I could spend on transportation, food, and even tips while there. It really kept me financially focused from overspending and relying on credit.

moneyplan
So tell me, what financially savvy techniques to do you follow when paying for your trips?


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