When I was in Istanbul in May I got ill. Thought it was a flu, but it didn’t get better. Back in Holland, in the hospital to do blood examinations, I heard I had malaria. Strange, I had been in malaria areas in Colombia, but one always thinks those things happen to others. I couldn’t do anything but accept this disease that ruined my stay in Istanbul and Holland.In recent years I always went to my home country Holland in summer. But many friends and colleagues are on a holiday then. So I decided to go in May, and make it more a business trip. Full programme with lots of appointments with media and photographers I work for/with. Also time for family and friends of course and as a little gift for myself, a week’s holiday in Istanbul. For I learned that my stays in Holland never are a holiday. You are always travelling to see everyone and you don’t relax.
When I left for Istanbul, where I would get to know my digital friends Fréderike Geerdink and Myrthe Korf, it was terrible weather in Holland: cold and rain. How glad I was to go to a place where it was around 25 degrees. But I could enjoy the city and my friends’ company only for 1,5 day. On a Friday afternoon I started to feel sick and after a few days it wasn’t better yet. Only after a visit to a hammam in Fréderike’s neighbourhood I thought I was improving. But the next morning I really felt bad. We went to a hospital that day, where they wanted to do all kinds of investigations that didn’t make sense to me and costed 800 euros. In little more than a day I would fly back to Holland, so I asked for antibiotics instead of investigations. Had to sign a paper in which I assumed full responsibility for refusing the medical aid and got my antibiotics. I left the hospital much better than I entered it. But in the plane back to Amsterdam I got my first attack of shaking. I couldn’t control it and it lasted an hour. It was clear that something was wrong. I was scared the crew of the plane would think I was a drugs trafficker. Fortunately they didn’t suspect me of anything and were very kind. I felt so miserable and was so awfully thirsty.
My friends where I was staying in The Hague took me to their doctor. She sent me to hospital to have my blood examined and warned me that I had to insist that they would examine everything very well. It wasn’t necessary fortunately. They took it very seriously and had me stay there for 6 days. I had to beg them to let me go. The first days were terrible. I was so weak and could hardly eat anything. Food was repulsive to me. The little I ate always came back after a few hours.
But after that I recovered rapidly and also started eating better. I was ready to assume life again after having lived like a plant for almost a week. I was alone in a room because the hospital had had to isolate me for fear of a hospital bacterium I could have got in Istanbul. It was great that I didn’t have to support the talking, crying and groaning of other patients, but sometimes it also was also very lonely. Fortunately friends visited me every day and my friends in The Hague were lovely: such a great help. They came every day with clothes, underwear, prepaid phonecards and not in the least, their company and friendship. Such a big contrast with my arrival at Amsterdam, when I was treated very rudely when I needed help.
What surprises me after all this is that in some way or another I succeeded in not feeling very frustrated. There was a lot of time to feel frustrated in that lonely hospital room. My goal of making a fruitful business trip had failed and I had spent a considerable part of my holiday in Istanbul in bed. The journey simply hadn’t been useful! And I am hardly bitten by mosquitos, so why did this bloody malaria happen to me? Of course I don’t know.
Why did just that trip that was planned so efficiently absolutely fail? As if life was playing a game with me. But I decided to surrender and not think about it, not get angry. It was my rescue I believe and after I returned to Bogotá, I got my reward. A big assignment from Dutch press agency ANP, to cover the Joran van der Sloot case in Peru. I still was a little weak when I arrived with my just unpacked and again packed suitcase at the airport to leave for Lima, but I was happy.