Here's One Way to Become a New Human


imagesThis week, my work with First Things Foundation finds me recovering from Dengue fever. You may have heard of Dengue, but if not, here’s a bit of background. Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus occurring mostly in South and Central America, and the Asia- Pacific region. Dengue has four different strains that cause symptoms ranging from fever, chills, and headaches, to joint pain, rash, and bleeding. Dengue rates up there with Chikingunya, Yellow Fever, and Malaria in terms of mosquito borne illness. When young kids get it, it can be deadly. For people my age the only treatment is Ibuprofen, a good novel, The Blind side (twice), lots of waiting and water.

But, curiously, I believe that the benefits of Dengue outweigh the drawbacks. For starters, it is an excellent way to lose weight. I lost 13 pounds in 10 days, went one whole notch tighter on my belt, and all while laying prone. As with any weight-loss plan, copious amounts of water and a healthy amount of sleep are important of course, but in the Dengue Diet, food is largely optional and it is highly recommended that you do not leave your bed. Furthermore, your friends feel the need to dote upon you. I was fed, serenaded, and even gifted a new bed.  I am confident there is no better weight loss plan than the Dengue Diet.

A week into my Dengue Diet, we decided to go see a local doctor. We hoped she knew something we didn’t. When I spoke to her, she confirmed that I had Dengue with a casual wave of her hand. "Sleep as much as possible and drink lots of liquids. It'll be fine." My doctor’s composed response to Dengue was an archetype for every person I spoke to. For Guatemalans, Dengue is a passed off with a laugh. Not one person was concerned when we told them I had Dengue. It just didn’t seem like a big deal for them. Dengue in Guatemala is like getting Chickenpox in the U.S. when you’re two years old, albeit a little more extreme. For me it was high fevers for a week. For me it was the beginning of my life as a new human.

In Guatemala, I am a new human. In fact, I have measured my speaking abilities against a four-year old friend of mine-- she's better. From speaking Spanish, to the amount of time I have spent here, to understanding the culture, I am the equivalent of a four-year old and am certainly younger in some cases. And so it makes sense that I had Dengue. It is a part of the process of growing up in my new world here. Dengue was just as much my body’s response to Guatemala as it was Guatemala’s response to my body. And it was not an unfortunate, unforeseen obstacle to the process of living here. It was the process. A type of passageway. Without Dengue, I could not truly become immersed in my new Guatemalan world.