Change Yourself…Change The World.

The Coldest Night of My Life
May 22, 2013, 10:00 am
Filed under: Paraguay

To continue on this week’s blog theme, “Things that Have Gone Horribly Wrong“, where I feature ridiculous situations from my Peace Corps Service, I’m proud to PRESENT: The Story of the Coldest Night of My Life.

It was the Winter of 2012, and it was bitterly cold (picture me holding a flashlight up to my face and saying this in an urgent, whispered voice). My best friend Mira was visiting me from the United States, and so I decided to take her on a little tour of Paraguay to see some interesting sites. We first stopped by Encarnación, my favorite city in Paraguay (perhaps because it actually has a river, or because of the plethora of Asian cuisine- but that’s for another post!), and then decided to continue on to Trinidad, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Jesuit Ruins. It’s beautiful, and definitely worth visiting.

Mira and I in Trinidad.

Fortunately, one of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and G-mates Julia lives in Trinidad, and she graciously offered to let us stay in her house for the night.

Julia in Trinidad.

Now, this is the point where I should probably tell you that I had scabies. Scabies is a seriously annoying and temporary skin infection that at least half of the Peace Corps Volunteer population seems to get during their service. It’s annoying because 1) it itches like crazy, and 2) you have to basically burn all of your clothing to get rid of it. Okay, I’m exaggerating. Wash the hell out of all of your clothes, sheets, covers, and pillowcases until they resemble a mere shadow of their former selves. And while you’re at it, douse yourself in enough special Scabies soap and lotion that you also resemble a pink, liquidy monster.

Don’t ask me how I got the scabes, because I have no idea. My Peace Corps doctor thought it may have been the stray dog I let into my house a few times, and that the scabies got into my bed linens. Or it could have been from a hostel bed in Asunción that didn’t wash its sheets from the last Volunteer (I can think of a few places that don’t do that…)  Or, it could have been from the house of another Volunteer that I was visiting recently. But wherever I got it from, I got it in the worst place of all time. On my butt. So naturally, Mira and I started calling my affliction ‘butt scabies.’

So, it was a merry day in Trinidad with Mira, Julia, me, and my butt scabies. We visited the Jesuit Ruins twice (once in the daylight, and once in the evening during their eerie but beautiful light show), cooked a marvelous dinner, and then prepared for bed. I had of course, notified Julie about the butt scabies, and we agreed that it would be best that rather than share her bed, I sleep on her cement floor. Julie graciously set me up with a Yoga mat and a blanket. I was not prepared however, to sleep on a cement floor on the coldest night in Winter 2012, where it was in the 30’s. Did I mention that Julia’s house is constructed of wooden planks, full of large holes to let the night air come wafting in? Also, did I mention that I was sleeping on a cement floor?

Julia managed to capture a picture of this timeless moment.

Thankfully, I had three companions that were initially lifesavers. One was my water bottle, that has been my ultimate savior in the Winter. The second were all of my clothes- yes, all of them. I wore about three layers of clothes, and my socks, and my shoes, to bed. Third was Julia’s small space heater, which was mercifully on the floor next to where I slept. The first half of the night was frigid, but I survived. I curled up next to her little space heater, feeding off of the heat. I affectionally dubbed it in my mind Lifeforce.

What Julia didn’t realize however, was that the space heater was acting up. It kept hissing and spitting sparks. At some point in the night, Julia got up to use the bathroom during one of it’s hissing fits.
“Brittany, I’m really sorry but we need to turn this off,” she said, unplugging Lifeforce. “This could get really dangerous and start a fire.”

I glared at LifeforceWHY DID YOU GIVE US AWAY?!?! I screamed at it silently. THIS COULD HAVE BEEN OUR LITTLE SECRET!! It was then that I realized, while talking to an inanimate object in the dead of the night, that I had gone crazy. Five minutes later, without the warmth of the space heater, I was reaffirmed of this fact when I wished to dear God that Lifeforce would have started an electrical fire. It may burn Julia’s house down, but at least I’ll be warm, I thought deliriously.

The next five hours of my life were something of a living hell. I drifted in and out of consciousness, occasionally creeping into Julia’s kitchen to boil hot water for my water bottle, which seemed to go completely cold every hour. I contemplated all of the ways I could turn on Lifeforce without Julia noticing. I tried to visualize fireplaces, hot springs, Bikram yoga- or at least when the sun would come up, and I would finally be warm again.

Finally, 6:00 AM rolled around and the first rays of the sun started peeking through Julia’s wooden planks. Exhausted, freezing, and completely disoriented, I jumped off of her yoga mat and ran to her front door, fumbling with her lock and key.
“Brittany?” came a groggy voice from Julia’s bed. “What are you doing?”
I don’t even think I answered. SUN. WARMTH. Were the only things I could mentally formulate.

That’s how Julia’s neighbors found a strange American, dressed in 3 layers of clothing and a blanket, drunkenly stumbling around her front lawn at 6 in the morning, desperately trying to find a patch of sun to stand in.



Like this post? Tweet it.

Want to read more ridiculous stories? Check out Inappropriate Things I’ve Said In Paraguay.

Thanks to Julia for being such a gracious host and good sport! And thanks to my butt scabies– for being gone, hopefully forever. 

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[…] Want to read more ridiculous stories? Check out Inappropriate Things I’ve Said In Paraguay, and The Coldest Night of My Life. […]

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