Stuffy Nose and Unpopped Ears


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Published: February 23rd 2014
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Yesterday was when I officially started my journey to Guatemala; I had a flight that left from Calgary at 7:15pm and took me to LA where I’d have to board another plane to Houston, and then from Houston to Guatemala. Let me take it back even one more day; I woke up on Sunday feeling like I was getting sick, it was a devastating feeling to say the least. Shortly after waking up I immediately started taking Vitamin C pills like they were candy, as well as taking some of my homeopathic medicine. Sunday night I took Tylenol extra strength cold and flu to knock me out so that come Monday I’d be –somewhat –okay to fly.



Monday finally rolls around and at first it’s all going smoothly, it feels like I have all of the time in the world and everything is great! Next thing I know, I blink my eyes and it’s already time to go! Matter of fact I was running a little behind so I didn’t even have time to triple check everything. I had my passport and my phone so that’s really all I needed (oh, and my money). I breezed through security, and went to wait at my gate to board the flight. The first leg of the trip was from YYC to LAX; it only took 2 and ½ hours or so to get there. Everything was going well until my ears started to pop and unpop. At first it was normal, just like any other flight I’d been on… Things went downhill from there. About 30 minutes from landing my ears had popped and didn’t unpop, instead they continued to build immense amounts of pressure and with that came pain, almost like getting stabbed in the ear. Not fun. No matter what I did I couldn’t get my ears to unpop; I figured that once the plane landed my ears would unpop and go back to normal. I was wrong again. My ears did not unpop as I hoped they would, instead they stayed popped and made it difficult for me to hear –every time I spoke or coughed it was an echo inside my head. I chewed immense amounts of gum, went upside down numerous times and even tried the pretend blowing your nose trick. The only thing I got out of that was a small stream of air coming out of the corner of my eye. In the meantime I was trying to find my terminal all while trying to deal with messed up hearing. I asked multiple people until one was the most helpful and said that if I went outside and walked across the parking lot, it’d be there. Here I am thinking to myself, okay, sounds great. Yeah, not so much. It was across multiple parkade’s and besides the fact that it was dark outside, it seemed really sketchy, all I could see was parkade’s, walls/ fences and what looked to be the backside of buildings. Coming ever so close to a mental breakdown I found the right terminal, got through security and went to my gate. Now I was beginning to freak out so I frantically contacted my mom and consulted google as to what I should be doing. Well, I’d done just about everything google had suggested with no good results. It was useless. The only I hadn’t tried was drinking something so I went to buy some water and a snack from one of the only places still open, once I got back to my gate I tried drinking (aka chugging) my water but even that didn’t help. My aunt told me that taking antihistamines, such as the Tylenol cold I had with me could help, but I was about to board and I didn’t have time to dig around in my bag for them; it would have to wait until I got to Houston. The flight to Houston went well between falling in and out of sleep; my ears began to unpop so I thought for sure it was going to stay unpopped this time. Nope. My ears popped as we landed and once again I was stuck with messed up hearing. I decided to take my aunts advice and take the (night time) Tylenol cold medicine. I downed two of the extra strength once in hopes it would kick in soon. Note to self; do not take nighttime Tylenol cold medicine on an empty stomach. Found out the hard way that this was a bad idea, felt nauseous and wanted to pass out pretty soon after taking the pills. I tried to avoid throwing up and passing out by finding myself something to eat; at this point nothing was appetising but I knew that if I didn’t eat something things would get worse so I settled for some granola +yogurt and a banana. It wasn’t long after eating my banana that I passed out in the chair I was sitting on. It must have been a good hour and a half falling in and out of sleep because before I knew it I had to head over to my gate to board. I was seated next to a Guatemalan couple and we got to talking in Spanish and she was the sweetest little thing. Soon after they closed the plane doors I fell asleep; it wasn’t until an hour later that I woke up, expecting to be flying over Mexico that I realized we hadn’t even left Houston. Apparently there was some excess oil where there shouldn’t have been and they wanted to make sure nothing was wrong with the plane. Nothing was wrong with the plane thankfully and soon after we took off, which is when I fell asleep once more. I woke up just in time to see us flying over Guatemala getting ready to land. Guatemala is gorgeous to fly over; unfortunately I didn’t snap any pictures. Once we landed we went through immigration, which apart from the slow moving line went smoothly. I got my bags and headed outside; now it was the real test, I had to find that one person holding a VIDA sign in a sea of people holding up signs as well. I took a quick scan as soon as I got out of the airport and not spotting anyone immediately moved to the side. I told one of the guys that had asked me if I needed a taxi which group I was looking for and he (thankfully) knew who it was, and even remembered seeing him! He told me to not move from the sidewalk and he’d be right back. Sure enough, moments later the coordinator from VIDA showed up with another volunteer that had apparently been on my flight. We still had to wait for other volunteers to show up so we stood off to the side while Danny –one of the VIDA coordinators went back to the sea of signs to flag down other volunteers.

It wasn’t long before we had a huge group together off to the side; by this point I thought that we had most of the group but we apparently we still had to wait for more. By the time everyone was together we had around 38 volunteers, and we were waiting for 4 more that would come later! It was a humongous group to say the least. We loaded the buses side-window style, just like we had in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and headed off to the bank to exchange money. I had exchanged over a bit of money before traveling to Guatemala so I didn’t have to exchange anymore. The bank we were going to was inside of a mall –a huge, gorgeous one at that. The mall was 3 levels and had a fancy waterfall type contraption complete with lights that gave different designs as the water fell from the top of it. Fitting thirty-some people into a bank is not an easy task, especially when the security guard says that we cannot all go in at once… The man had a gun so I was going to go along with whatever he said. We had to line up just outside of the bank which wasn’t an easy task either: we blocked the doorway to another bank that sat just across the one we were going to and confused every local because they weren’t sure which of the three banks we were in line for. It was a bit of a cluster screw but everyone eventually got their money exchanged and we headed to the hotel! I definitely want to come back to this mall though; they have a VS Pink, which is having a 60%!o(MISSING)ff sale. Yes.

Once we got to the hotel we got our luggage out of the buses and began to check in, the front area of this hotel is not big by any means so cramming in 30+ people plus all of our luggage was extremely difficult and took a lot of skill. We sorted out roommates and my roommate and I headed to our room to drop everything off. It was so nice to drop off my luggage finally, all I wanted to do was shower and sleep, but I knew if I did that I wouldn’t wake up in time to go the welcome orientation dinner happening later. Instead, I changed quickly and my roommate and I went out to go walk around and find a place to eat. Walking down the pedestrian only street was very cool; it reminded me a lot of Mexico, which I loved. After contemplating where we should eat, we stumbled past this one very chic looking restaurant that sold crepes. We decided to eat crepes because who doesn’t love crepes?!?!? We were greeted by the security guard –also armed with a gun –and sat down. My roommate ordered a crepe that looked good but when I asked her what was in it she wasn’t too sure, it must’ve been good because she ate it all. I ordered the crepe with raspberries and cream with Nutella. Oh my goodness was that ever good; everything tasted so fresh, it was as if heaven was having a party in my mouth. I was surprisingly cold in Guatemala, even after getting off the plane, so when the sun hid behind the clouds and the wind picked up even more my roommate and I decided it was time to head back to the hotel.

Trying to pay the bill was a whole other issue in itself. Neither of us were familiar with Guatemalan currency so we were trying to figure it out plus figure out a tip, so here we were, the only two white girls in the restaurant, laughing our asses off because we were overtired and couldn't figure this shit out; I swear the waiters were probably thinking ‘oh my god, what is wrong with them’. Luckily we figured it out and made our way back to the hotel, making a quick pit stop at the pharmacy beforehand. I was out of Tylenol cold and if I was going to have a chance at sleeping I needed more. The pharmacies aren’t like the ones at home, they have an area where you can stand and look at all the medicine which is sitting behind a wall of bars, the same side as the pharmacist, and a small cut-out in the bars so that you can pay and get your medications. They didn't have Tylenol but she gave me a medication for multi-symptoms for cold and flu (it was 10 Quetzal ($1.35) for 10 pills). The package on the back literally said multi-symptom. Going back across the street to the hotel we walked up the stairs to rest before having to head downstairs for dinner. I downed one of the pills I had bought along with more vitamin C as soon as we got to the room, which was where our 3rd roommate already was. We met her and soon after we headed to dinner. Dinner was a chicken and vegetable soup with a side of rice and avocado, I began eating the avocado and rice and as soon as I starting on the soup I was instantly full. I felt bad that I had barely touched my chicken but I felt like I was about to burst so I had to leave it. I got the key from one of my roommates and headed to the room before they served dessert. I can’t tell you how excited I was to be able to shower and brush my teeth! I was getting everything ready when I go to grab the bag that held my lotion and shampoo (among other important things such as my sunscreen…) only to realize that I left the bag at home! At least I was somewhat smart enough to pack a bar of soap and the MSM cream my aunt had bought me a while back so I used the bar of soap and the shampoo+conditioner combo from the hotel. As soon as I got done my shower I packed my stuff up and was ready to sleep! Orientation day is tomorrow!

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