Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Not Quite a Poop Story

It's been a little while since I've given an update on my life in the Philippines. For that, I apologize. During February and March, I got pretty busy with the end of the school year, and I wasn't feeling too inspired to write anything. Then everything got crazy! With the exception of Holy Week, I have not spent more than 4 nights in the same place since March 23. I promise I have plenty of stories and reflections to share regarding graduation, Holy Week, hanging out with some pastors' kids, communication struggles, a wedding, family vacation, and finally feeling like I belong in my community and family. I will try to make some time this month to put these thoughts into blog form. Hopefully, I can also share some exciting news in the next few weeks!

It is fairly common knowledge that anyone who does a year with the YAV program will end up with a poop story, or multiple poop stories. While I could tell you a few stories about excrement, I think this one is a bit more entertaining, and a friend recently suggested this story was worthy of sharing.

I figured it fits in chronological order and requires a lot less critical analysis than some of the posts I hope to write next. So here goes!

We had our third YAV retreat in Palawan, an island that deservedly makes a lot of the "Most Beautiful Places on Earth" lists that make the rounds on the internet. We stayed in Sabang, where the famed Underground River attracts tourists from all over the globe every day. This beach had the finest, most beautiful sand I have seen so far in the Philippines. The big blue waves crashed into the shore with enough strength to pull strong swimmers away from land, evidenced by the red "No Swimming" flags we saw all week. This was no place to relax and float the day away in calm waters.

The majestic mountain, beautiful coconut trees, continuous waves, and jagged sea rocks that captured our awe throughout our retreat

Instead, we opted for hanging in hammocks and sitting in the smooth sand. In a move that was half inspired by the part of me that remains five years old and half motivated by a desire for the smooth skin that only sand exfoliation can offer, I decided to start burying myself in the lovely sediment. I burrowed my heels into the ground so it would be easier to cover my feet. I pushed the grains to the sides of my legs and eventually on top of them. Eventually most of my lower body was buried by the sand, and I had managed to get patches of sand all over my upper body, as well.

We were heading to dinner soon, so I decided to leave our group to rinse off as much sand in the ocean as I could before showering. This is where I really start channeling my younger years at the beach. I frolicked into the crashing waves and started to try to scrub each grain off of my body. I forgot one important factor in burying yourself in sand: those pesky particles get into any and every individual crevice on the human body. It took some serious effort to clean myself off, but I was enjoying every minute of it. I had to bend over to try to reach my shoulders and back, which inevitably ended in me tumbling over as a strong wave rolled me over. Then I was back to sitting in the very substance of which I was attempting to rid myself! Oh well. I laughed it off and renewed my endeavor to clean my body.

Once I had finally managed to eliminate as much sand as I thought was possible, I started back toward the shore. As a last minute effort to clean my hands and lower arms, I hung them in the water while I walked back to the mainland. I was still being silly and splashing around until I felt it.

It was a strange sting that started in my hand and was spreading throughout my whole body. Anyone who has watched a scary movie with me knows how much I react when something surprises me. I was jumping up and down, thrashing in the sea, waving my arms in the air like I just don't care. At that point, I did not know the source of my pain, but I fully felt the effects as the sensation jumped the synapses all the way to my neuroreceptors, which sent the adrenaline pumping through my veins, rushing to the scene of the crime, my hand just above my thumb. Oh, it was a sight to see. I was shaking my hand frantically, as if I moved it with enough frequency and force the pain would dissipate. Even in my chaotic reactions, I caught a glimpse of a translucent pink tentacle contrasting with the deep blues and white foam of the ocean.

That's right. I was stung by a jellyfish.

Somehow in my twenty-two years of living on this Earth I have never felt the burn of the jellyfish toxin flowing through my body. Who would think that I would stumble into this experience on the first afternoon of our retreat in paradise?

By the time I splashed my way back onto the beach, my fellow YAVs had noticed my incessant movement and inquired about the possible cause. Continuing to shake, I called out, "I was stung by a jellyfish! I don't know what to do about it! It just stings really bad! Now there are some bumps forming! And it stings!"

I thought back to situations I had heard from other people and thought about how awkward but necessary it would be to have our lone man Tyler urinate on my hand to extinguish the fire that was spreading from my hand. Kelsey, Emily, and Kendall suggested I take a few steps back and remember alternatives I should try first. Apparently peeing on jellyfish stings is only a last resort if you don't have access to something like vinegar or Benadryl. This has never happened to me before. What do I know?

Now this particular piece of paradise was a rather primitive resort that only had electricity from about 6 pm until 11 pm every night. They bought food from the market and prepared it as needed rather than keeping a refrigerator or food on hand. Our site coordinator, Dessa, advised that I ask our hostess about how people in Sabang, Palawan handle jellyfish stings after informing me that she had no Benadryl or vinegar in her Mary Poppins bag. I signed and explained what happened to my hand to our hostess. Her response was that I should go to the CR (comfort room, bathroom) and motioned that I hold my hand down between my legs. Dessa agreed that her family has always dealt with such incidents with those conniving jellyfish in the same manner.

At this point, my burn has dulled to a mere nuisance, and red spots began to emerge at the sight of the attack. I also start to notice a strange sting coming from my calf. The darned creature got me there, too!

With as much dignity as I muster, I strolled to my room and into the CR, leaving the door open (because it gets really dark with no electricity or window), and prepare to do the deed. I situate myself over the simple porcelain pot that has no seat or flushing mechanism. Hoping not to make a mess on the floor, it begins.

Urine is a miracle worker.

At the first touch of water, excess toxins, and salt to my irritated wound, relief flooded through my body. I never thought it would work this well, but my hand instantly felt as it had before the incident! As somewhat of an afterthought, I tried to maneuver myself, with little success, in order to reach the sting on my leg. I felt like a new person! It was amazing!

As a new person, I immediately wanted to cleanse my hand from all of the germs I had just exposed it to in my search for a remedy. Obviously, peeing on the wound was one-time immediate fix, right?! I learned the answer to that very quickly. The cold water I poured over the wound definitely hurt worse than the original sting did! How does that work? I like to think it was my body's way of getting back at me for trying to get rid of part of itself so soon, as if I were repulsed by what came from within me. My hand and calf continued to burn and develop small red bumps at the site of the sting, but the sensation receded to mere memory by the time our dinner ended.

Moral of the story: Jellyfish stings aren't the worst things in the world. Yes, urine works wonders in recovery from such stings, unless, of course, you are stung by a particular poisonous species of jellyfish, in which case, you should probably seek immediate medical attention. Maybe we shouldn't fear the products of our bodies so much. Jellyfish stings on day 1 will not ruin an entire event. This is simply another example of comfort zone expansion.

Sunset from the beautiful beach we used as our worship space for our retreat

1 comment:

  1. The worst is when you just peed in the ocean before you got stung, and then you have to get someone else to pee on it! I'm glad your retreat wasn't ruined! <3