By Valerie Ellis
Current missioner in Cochabamba, Bolivia
Franciscan Mission Service
This post is about my health. Now before you get all squeamish, even though this is regarding the stomach and all sordid details, I promise to leave out the gross ones.
It starts with amoebas. Yes, they are little creatures living in your stomach, but I assure you that this is not the gross part.
“What’s the big deal about amoebas?” you ask. “I heard they were really common in Bolivia.”
Yes, they are. It is not as common to get them twice in three weeks. At which point your stomach turns into a breeding ground for bacteria. Then, you walk around all the time with an “inchado,” or bloated stomach.
These are the symptoms I will leave you with for now, as I promised not to get graphic.
Just picture this – you’re following your doctor’s orders, which means following a super strict diet, and then you find out you have developed gastritis. Which is caused by citrus fruits and vegetables. Which you have been consuming an unusually large quantity of, because you are only allowed to eat certain proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
The road has not been fun. However, I have been able to maintain a healthy outlook on this, if only through the sheer grace of God. Here’s what I am thankful for:
- I am able to seek medical attention. Sadly, most of the population of Bolivia simply does not have the resources to do so.
- I have stopped eating all junk/things that caused damage to my stomach before: cake, cookies, and any added sugar; dairy especially including cheese; and any added preservatives.
- I have started working out on a regular basis. This not only helps my stomach process food, but it also helps my sanity!
- I have learned a lot about what the people of Bolivia go through on a daily basis. This is accompaniment and solidarity in the strongest sense.
And now, since I have focused so much on food and would like to alleviate the mood, I leave you with my favorite silly song about food cravings: