My Body Can’t Keep Up: The Less Glamorous Side of Ilha Grande

Danni Askew
March 19, 2014

I already mentioned how wonderful our weekend was at Ilha Grande. What I didn’t want to include, was any/all of the struggles I had along the way…

Mentally, I felt invinsible. I had unlimited desires to explore different parts of the island and hike all different types of trails. We only had 5 hours per day of electricity and running water, but this didn’t phase me since I thrive in rustic environments. Even my classmates who were initially phased by the rustic atmosphere were immediately distracted by the natural beauty and constant fun.

Unfortunately… my body couldn’t keep up with all of the adventures I wanted to take. (I’ll save you from all of the gruesome pictures in this post, don’t worry.)

First time in the water on Friday, I stepped on a huge chunk of metal and got a gash in the bottom of my foot. The blood or pain didn’t stop me, though. I put some gauze and athletic tape on it and was ready to keep going. Next, we found a huge dock to jump into the ocean off of. It was so much fun!!  We went over and over, just climbing back up and jumping off right away again. A few of my athletic guy friends found a more efficient way to climb back up on the dock, via old rusty tires with barnicles growing on them. At the time, efficiency was my priority. However, while climbing with limited upper-body strength, my right leg was completely scraped by the barnicles. I won’t lie, they stung really badly in the salt water all weekend. But I didn’t let that stop me from making memories with my friends.

We laid on the beaches and went hiking the rest of the weekend. The only modification I made to my plans was to always carry anti-bacterial spray, gauze, and tape to re-treat my wounds after each time we jumped in the water. I tried not to complain much about those minor injuries, because the weekend was still amazing.

What I didn’t realize until the morning after I got back home to Rio, was that I got a first-degree burn on my lip and forehead from the sun, and I got food poisoning. My lip was severly swollen and discolored, my skin looked like a snake shedding, and I couldn’t even look at food. Keep in mind, all of this is in addition to my beaten-up food and leg.

The first 2 days of that school week were a little rough, to say the least. Speaking, smiling, drinking water, and walking were all challenges, which dampered my ability to focus in school or even have fun talking with friends in between classes.

After 2 days of healing, I was starting to feel better, until I woke up on day 3 with the “cherry on top” of this unfortunate sundae: pink eye. It was unbelieveable!! I just can’t seem to bring myself back up to normal health; it’s been one thing after another. Times like this definitely made me wish I was at home where family could take care of me and I could take a few days to just lay in bed.

With my international insurance plan, I am limited to one clinic (which is good because there are English-speaking Physicians), but they have no appointments for another 7 days. While I fully expect to be recovered by then, I reserved the appointment anyways just to be safe.

A not-so-uncommon theme: I underestimate how much more complicated daily processes are abroad versus at hom. It’s funny how a seemingly simple “run to the drug store for some generic eye drops” can turn into a fiasco. I knew the Portuguese word for “eye drop” to ask the cashier, but there were over 30 options to choose from, and I had no idea how to distinguish which one I should buy. After my roommate and I tried reading every single label to try to find commonalities and recognizable words from our extremely small vocabulary, I was starting to lose hope that I would get home with any success.

Out of nowhere, a woman my age comes up and speaks to me in English and offered to be a translator. As I describe to her what I need and showed her my eye, she explains that her dad is an opthamologist, calls him on the phone, and gets his advice and recommendation. WHAT ARE THE ODDS?! Within 3 minutes, I was out of the store with an inexpensive yet supposedly effective box of eyedrops, and had completely restored hope in maneuvering the city.

Even though it seems like I have already had a lot of experiences that are not ideal, I keep being reminded of how many MORE things are going really well. I think that’s an extremely important perspective to have while studying abroad (and in life of course, but especially abroad): focus on how many positive things are happening instead of any negative things.

I only expect to encounter more positive experiences and less positive experiences as time goes on, with learning the language, being more comfortable with the city, and becoming more confident in my independence.

There are two morals to this story:

Ilha Grande was amazing (even in spite of injuries) and I highly recommend visiting there is anyone is in the state of Rio.

I also highly recommend thinking ahead and prioritizing avoiding such health issues, since most of those were caused solely by my lack of attention to health on the island. Don’t let mistakes like that slow you down on the weekend trip of a lifetime!

Danni Askew

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I am a junior studying sociology, public health, mathematics, and leadership at the University of Minnesota. I&#39;m passionate about music and express that passion through an all-female a cappella choir on campus. In my free time, I enjoy playing classical guitar, percussion, piano, and writing music. During every summer, I work at a summer camp in northern North Dakota; I love outdoor adventures and working with kids.</span></p>

2014 Spring
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