I remember watching a news broadcast about a photographer for one of those big, international magazines who was at a refugee camp in Darfur. He said he always brought a bottle of Tabasco sauce with him because it made everything taste better. He also said that he made it a habit to eat whatever the refugees were eating, not wanting to make them feel bad by eating better than them. So he said he added the hot sauce to everything from oatmeal to soups to animals killed in the wild and prepared in the most creative ways.
I tend to agree with him. Everything tastes better with hot sauce.
When I got back from my adventure on Saturday, I found out that the television at the apartment was not working. That and the fact that the internet was also down started to get bad feelings to roam inside my head. It seems silly, but I became really, really homesick when I was without television or internet on Sunday morning.
It wasn’t as if I was completely without internet, however. I bought a SIM card when I got here, and it came with 2GB of very slow data. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something. However, I sucked about a half a gigabyte of data out of my plan when I tethered the telephone to the macbook. So I decided that I was only going to use the phone data for posting stuff to the blog, to Facebook, or to Twitter. Maybe I’d use it to check the news, and maybe I’d use it to check some emails. But not much more than that. The rest of my internet surfing would have to be done at the university.
Again, it seems really silly to me, but I felt more and more isolated without television and without the web. So I went for long walks around the neighborhood, going to a pizzeria about a block away and sitting there watching a soccer game while I ate a slice of pizza. While the pizza tasted familiarly enough, the wait staff told me that they had no hot sauce for me to add to it, only some pepper flakes. As much as Barranquilla reminds me of Mexico, the food is just not the same. (Yeah, pizza is not Mexican food, but work with me here.)
At the university, there are several types of food available, but none remind me of Mexico or the United States. It’s all a variation of Colombian food. It’s delicious, but it’s not what I’m used to.
Everything took a turn for the better today. The owner of the apartment got a service call to repair the television service. As it turns out, a competing TV company’s tech cut the wires that led into the apartment. The tech that came today said that it’s a common practice for competing techs to cut the service. Then, when I would catch them roaming the building, they would offer to fix it for a fee… Or offer “better” service through their company. So the tech repaired the cable, and I told the building security what happened. I asked that they keep an eye out and not let anyone work on the cable box by the apartment.
I’ll slip them 50k pesos when I leave if I still have service.
The owner also got the wifi internet service hooked up, so I have very, very slow internet, but it works. It’s not as slow as dial-up, but not as fast as what I was used to at home or what they have at the university. Still, it works, and I’m uploading this blog post through it right now. (The internet service is a cellular data modem attached to a wifi router. Speeds are only as fast as the cellular connection, which is a bit on the crappy side.)
With internet and television working, I went to the store and got some tortillas (called “tortillinas”), a bottle of hot sauce (which was hard to find), some potato chips and a diet soda. I then came to the apartment and turned on the Argentina-Paraguay game from the Copa America, and sat back to watch it while eating potato chips with hot sauce. I then made myself a quesadilla at half time.
It’s not home, and it will never be so without my wife and my quadrupeds… But it’s comfortable now that I have cable television, internet access, soccer, and spicy food. And will make the next 17 days that I’m here much, much better.
I’m going to do great in Africa, aren’t I?
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.