Dec 16

A funny thing happened today…

by in Life of Arlo, Postcard Valet, Travel

Today started out like any other day…

Does any story starting with that line ever finish with, “and then it ended just like any other day?” No.  No, of course not.

Today started out like any other day.  Oksana got up early for her four-hour, one-on-one Spanish lesson and left me sleeping in bed.  I woke up an hour or so later and went about my normal routine.  A few pushups, a few sit-ups, I grabbed a quick shower.  I was out the door at 10am.  After a week of classes, I had finally been invited to meet her instructor.

The streets in front of the language institute were crowded because today was a big day for all the local boys and girls.  School after school paraded their children in front of the judging stands set along the parade route.  The girls, no matter how young, were decked out in provocative mini-skirts and cleavage-bearing tops, while the boys were sharply dressed in 3-piece suits.  Hundreds (if not thousands) of drums and xylophones played the same song, mostly in synch, as the boys and girls marched, mostly in step.

I didn’t so much meet Oksana’s instructor as say hello and then stand behind her for 40 minutes.  It was impossible to talk over the marching music.

Afterwards, Oksana and I went back to the hostel to check our email before lunch.  The women that run the rooftop cafe during breakfast were rendering sugarcane syrup on the stove and, like magic, dozens of bees had found their way into the glassed-in room.  While uploading some photos to Facebook, one stung me on the Achilles tendon.  It was a completely unwarranted attack; I was sitting perfectly still!  I flicked the bee off and removed the stinger within five seconds.  It throbbed for 10 minutes or so, but that was about it.

We decided to leave the beehive and go get some lunch.  We walked the four blocks to Cafe Pan Rico and sat down in the empty cafe.  I had a banana batido (basically a warm, banana-flavored milkshake) and a nice fruit bowl, covered in yogurt and granola.  Oksana opted for just a blackberry batido. We stopped by the market on the way back and bought a couple of deep-fried banana and cheese empanadas, too.

I was feeling sleepy, so I convinced Oksana to take a nap with me.  She agreed, so we stretched out in bed and tried to ignore all the street noises coming from beyond our window.  The maid hadn’t cleaned our room yet, so we knew that we’d be woken up by a knock at the door before too long.

And, an hour or so later, that’s exactly what happened.  There was a knock at the door and I jumped up to get it before she had a chance to barge in on us.  Oksana stayed in bed, awake, but feigning sleep.

I answered the door; there were two cute maids looking up at me (I stand a full head taller than most women around here.)

“Would you like your room cleaned?” she asked.  Or at least it was something very similar to that, just in Spanish.

“No, not today, I don’t think.”  I reached around to the hooks on the wall and put my hand on two wet towels. “But maybe we can just change the…”

I guess that’s when I passed out.

The next thing I remember, I’m coming awake from the most glorious nap.  Seriously, it felt like I’d been asleep for a week. Except…

Except why is Oksana hovering over me?  Why is she holding me down with her hand planted firmly on my chest?  And why the hell am I on the hardwood floor between our bed and wall?

Oksana spoke first, “Are you okay?”

I was in the Jesus pose. Legs straight, arms out and slightly bent as if waiting for a hug.  I put my arms down. “What happened?”

“You fainted!” I looked over by the door and the two maids were now in the room, eyes huge, hands over their mouths.  Oh.  Oh, Shit.

I turned back to Oksana. “How long was I out?” It felt like forever.

“You weren’t.  Your eyes never closed!”  That must have been disconcerting.

“How did I get on the floor?  Did you put me down here?”  (I still wasn’t thinking so clearly.)

“No, you fell there!”

I didn’t see how that was possible.  I mean… even lying down, my feet were a good meter and a half from where I was standing.

Maybe 10 seconds had progressed since I’d hit the floor and I was finally feeling like my brain was working again.  I wasn’t sweating, I didn’t feel dizzy. I started to sit up to assure the maids that everything was okay.  Oksana wouldn’t let me, so I just told them from the floor.

“Estoy bien.” I could even manage the Spanish.

“¿Sí? ¿Está bien?” Shaky voices. They didn’t sound convinced.

“Sí, gracias. ¡Todo bien!” I looked to Oksana; she was rooting around in our snack cache for something sugary.  She handed me a strawberry lollipop.

“Todo bien, todo bien,” she backed me up.  And with that, and doubt written all over their faces, they backed out of the room.

When they were gone, I looked back to Oksana and asked, “Did I at least fall gracefully?”

She gave a nervous laugh.  “No, no you did not!  You have no idea how loud a crash that was.  I can’t understand how you’re not bleeding all over the place right now.  It was so loud!”

Huh.  I didn’t feel injured, but, looking around, I couldn’t see how I wouldn’t be.  Two inches on my right was a wood-framed bed, an equal distance on the right was a waist-high shelf with all our stuff spread out across it.  My head was actually up against one of the backpacks stashed under that shelf.  Nothing on the shelf had been disturbed.  I fell perfectly into the one place that allowed an unobstructed pathway to the ground.  I would have said I was lucky… If it hadn’t been a parquet floor and if there hadn’t been a perfectly comfortable mattress to fall onto right next to it!

I only laid there another minute or two before climbing up onto the bed, but it was long enough to do a quick self evaluation.  I found a couple scratches on my upper arm and another on my wrist (probably caused by my watch catching on something.)  Later on, after flexing around a bit, I’d add a forearm bruising to my mental list of injuries.  Otherwise, nothing.

For ten minutes or so, Oksana and I talked it over.  She hadn’t actually seen the whole fall because her eyes were closed until she heard a gasp from one of the maids.   She opened them just in time to see me disappear below the edge of the bed, and loudly connect with the floor.  Was it graceful? No. No, it was not.

I remembered very little of the dizziness before the fainting.  I was tired, concentrating on making my point understood in Spanish, and twisting around to reach for the towels.  Then, nothing.

Oksana didn’t want me to get up, but I was feeling fine.  Under her supervision, I sat up slowly, waited, and then stood up even more slowly.  No dizziness at all.  I felt fine; Oksana admitted that I never even lost color.

I wanted to reassure the maids, so I opened the door.  They were still right there, in the hallway.  We did the whole “Are you okay, yeah I’m okay” exchange again before I had a chance to ask them, “¿Qué pasó?”

They told me I just went over backwards.  Did I say anything first?  Was there any warning?  Nope.  I just fell.  Are you sure you’re okay?  I did my best to reassure them that I was fine, and that they shouldn’t worry about me.  But I told them I was going to go back to bed, just in case.

Oksana and I have been wracking our brains, trying to figure out what could have caused this. Couldn’t have been low blood sugar; I’d had plenty of natural sugars with my lunch.

What was interesting was that this almost happened a few days ago!  Exactly the same setup: We’re taking a nap, maid knocks, I get up quick and tell her we don’t need the room cleaned, and this time, after closing the door I grabbed the shelf and said, “Whew! I stood up too quick there.  I felt like I was talking to her through a tunnel!”  At the time I was quite proud of my ability to speak Spanish coherently under those conditions.

So, it had precedence… but why was I so dizzy in the first place?

The first thing that occurred to both of us was the fever I had in the Galapagos.  I spent an evening with a high temperature and uncontrollable shivering, but the shipboard doc gave me a pill that broke the fever and a 5-day series of antibiotics afterwards.  Other than feeling incredibly lethargic the next day, I had no other symptoms.

(Well, that may not be true.  I experienced a loss of appetite after that.  Whether it was from the fever, a psychosomatic aversion to eating the food that might have given me food poisoning, or what, I don’t know.  But even though that loss of appetite has persisted, I haven’t felt any decrease in strength or stamina.  On the contrary, I’ve been exercising regularly since we arrived in Baños.)

Another thing we discussed was my apparent sleepiness over the last two days.  Both yesterday and today, I wanted a siesta.  Not exactly rare for me to nap on vacation, but over the last couple days, I’ve felt like I’ve needed one.

And then there was the shower incident.  The one where I slipped, had both my legs go right out from underneath me, and cracked my head something good on the tile wall.  Could I be experiencing concussion symptoms more than a week later?  Doubtful.

Which really leaves only the bee sting from this morning.  Even if we could blame the fainting spell on that, it wouldn’t explain why it almost happened before.

So, we talked about seeking out a doctor, but then agreed that without any other symptoms, there’s not much point.  I’m sure the diagnosis would be “dizziness caused by standing up to fast,” and the prescription would be, “don’t stand up so fast!”

And that’s some advice that I’m planning to take, anyway!

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Welcome to Postcard Valet

Postcard Valet is a travel blog and video podcast by Arlo and Oksana Midgett. They just returned to Juneau, Alaska, after almost three full years of travel and living abroad. Many of their stories, photos, and videos have yet to be shared...

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