Mal Aire

I woke up in a cold sweat. I had gone to bed the night before with chills, aches up and down my arms and legs and deep in the pit of my stomach, but I had reasoned it was just the flu, or another small stomach illness that would leave by morning.

But something else was wrong, I could tell. I sat up in bed and the world tilted, suddenly, and I collapsed back into bed.

I few minutes later, I got up the strength to tiptoe down the thin concrete steps that lead up to my room and tell my new host mom, Cecilia, that I wasn’t feeling very well. She was in the kitchen, and I practically fell into the chair she held out for me.

” It’s probably mal aire.” She said ” Weren’t  you up by the school last night until after dark?”

It was true. The school that I work at has a decent wifi signal, the night before I had gone up and used skype to call my dad. I had come home well after the 6:30 sunset.

“You’ll just throw up any tea I give you, so first you need to go over to Abuelita’s house and tell her you need to be cleaned from Mal Aire.”

Abuelita, who made an appearance in this blog before, is now my host grandmother, and lives about twenty yards away. Cecilia handed me an egg, and I teetered over to where Abuelita was sitting, perched on her doorstep, as if she had been waiting for me.

“Hola mi bonita!” She said, moving her hand in the sign of the cross before beckoning me to sit down.

“Hola abuelita,” I whispered, suddenly feeling like I was on a rocking ship I couldn’t get off. ” Creo que tenga un poco de mal aire, puede limpiarme?” She nodded, standing up from her seated position  with a cane  and motioning me inside her house.

It was just like before when she healed me, except this time she poured a red liquid down my arms and over my head, and then started to rub the egg over my shoulders, arms, and chest. The whole time she muttered prayers. The more she rubbed the egg, the sicked I felt, until finally I told her I needed the bathroom.

She pointed me towards the back door. I stood. I took two steps, and then blacked out.

I came to with Abuelita bent over me, her wrinkled face close to mine, urging me to get up, that I couldn’t stay lying on the dirt floor. I obliged her, picking myself up, taking a few more steps, and then falling to the floor again. It scared me, really scared me. My inability to think straight, the world ducking and spinning around me. The third time I passed out I must have been out for a while, because when I opened my eyes another of Abuelita’s sons was leaning over me, whispering “chutika” while Abuelita wondered out loud if I had cholera.

Cecilia came and got me from Abuelita’s house. Holding my hand, gently reminding me to breathe through my nose she gingerly lead me back to my room. I was suddenly child like, unable to process what was happening. She made me oregano tea, and I sipped it, while I laid in bed, the only position where I didn’t feel nauseas. Everything hurt. My head felt like it was being ripped in half, my stomach like it was tangled in knots Cholera. I kept thinking. Cholera.

Vicente came home later, and before we left for the doctor he gave me another round of Mal Aire cleaning. I sat on my bed, willing myself to not throw up, and he rubbed the egg over my body, whispering the same prayers, interspersed with random Tandana related news: ” I’m going to announce the summer school over the village parlantes tonight, make sure we get everyone signed up” and “when should we go change the internet?” I thought how funny my life was in that moment, having an egg rubbed over my body to rid me of evil spirits, while talking about if we should up our monthly wireless plan.

We loaded me into a taxi, and went to see Dr. Sonia Garcia, who poked and prodded me, took my temperature (high) and my blood pressure (low). And finally announced that I had a severe intestinal infection. She gave me a shot of steroids, and a perscription for five different antibiotics. Vicente helped me with all of this, acting very much like my mother the whole time we were with the doctor (” She hasnt been eating very much at home… i think she picked up an infection at the market.) and then getting my medicine from the pharmacy. He took me back home, and I crawled into bed, where I’ve more less stayed until now.

I still can’t really eat, but I’ve been knocking back a lot of fluids and sleeping off and on. Getting sick so suddenly and so severely really scared me. But, getting sick like this is almost a necessary part of the travel narrative. A key part in almost every traveler’s story. But, I am guessing, not every traveler gets cured by a mix of catholic prayers, raw eggs, and high dosages of Bactiflox.

One thought on “Mal Aire

  1. I have mal aire right now i hate having it…i didnt really know what mal aire was until my mom explaainde it to me and after i read a couple of stories about it..

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