Our research trip to Chile was my first time south of the equator and my first time on a Sourthern continent. I was amazed at how friendly the people were. They were very warm, despite the chilly winter temperatures.

The day I flew into Santiago was the same day of our first visit to the campamentos. I was sick by the 4th day, so I didn’t see much of Chile, but what I did see was the friendliness of the people. The night of our first visit to the campamentos with Un Techo, I remember Laura’s husband greeted us, and of course, Rosita was really welcoming. Even though I had no idea who she was, she was open hearted and not embarrassed of what she had and very clear about what she wanted.

I had an allergy to something in the campamentos that made me sick. The casita we lived in was cold, too, making it worse. By the 4th night I was very sick and quarantined myself. I spent the night in a hotel.

By Friday, the fifth day, I went to the hospital by myself. I spent a half an hour trying to find the emergency room, because I don’t speak Spanish. Even though the nurses didn’t speak English, the doctor’s were fluent and did their best to make me comfortable.

Seven hours in a hospital is sort of scary. I worried that I had H1N1. One person next to me had a seizure, there were screaming people in the hall, I wondered if I would ever leave. I started writing to occupy myself, about how I felt and what I would do when I got home. I was home sick. Finally, the doctor came in and said I didn’t have any serious illness, but that I had a bacterial infection that was not contagious and a cold, which was. I got sick because I didn’t have enough rest on the first few days, so I had no energy to fight the cold.

I wound up staying in a hotel for seven days. Marianna and David were very kind and came to visit on my second or third day. Dan and Penny came during the week and brought me soup, bread, and fruit. Andres came on my second doctor’s visit to translate and drove me back to my hotel. The last day, I was thinking, “What happened to people who get sick in the campamentos? Do they get the same royal treatment that I had gotten? Do they still have to go to work, shower in freezing temperatures with no hot water? How do they take care of themselves when they got sick?”

All these thoughts, made me feel really lucky about where I am in my life. I have my own house and all my family is with me. This experience makes me even more interested in health systems and health-related problems.


Here are x-rays of my head and chest from my hospital visits


erica with her xray

Side Note:

My background is in health and science, so when Erica expressed her interest in dealing with health related issues for the project, Dan and Penny thought we would make a good team. We decided to divide our health concerns into two categories, injury and illness. Based on the class’ observations in the campamentos, Erica and I identified 3 main health issues we would like to explore:

  1. Preventable injury from falling or slipping on a wet surface.
  2. Preventable illness from drinking contaminated water.
  3. Preventable injury from performing laundry and other chores.

These issues deal with the physical environment in which residents in the campamentos work with water. We’d like to explore ways to make it safer to work with and drink water, by avoiding slippery surfaces, making chores easier to avoid muscle strain, and treating water and preventing recontamination during storage.


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