As I sit here writing, my stomach churning and head pounding to the rhythm of my heart, I can’t think of anything else to write except health. It is definitely not what I thought my first blog entry would be about, but taking into account how many times I have fallen ill over the past few weeks, it seems pretty relevant.

Remembering back to my training weekend in the UK, I think of the many talks we were given about how our health would change in El Salvador, and about how we would all most likely fall ill at some point. “Not me”, I thought, rather smugly. I tend to be a fairly healthy person who rarely falls victim to bad health or illness, but oh, how wrong I was!

Over the past three weeks I have experienced headaches, stomach pains and diarrhoea. Even now I am full of Imodium to stop myself from having to visit the toilet every twenty minutes! Is it parasites? The heat? The water?! I just don’t know! But everyone here is committed to finding out the cause and getting me better again. What I do know is I will never underestimate the health risks of an exotic country ever again!

Other health issues have cropped up amongst some of the other volunteers. For example, during the first week of our stay (in San Salvador), one volunteer had trouble acclimatising to the heat. Headaches and nausea ensued, but within a week she had gotten used to the heat and felt much better.

Mike taking part in the induction training

Despite my own misfortunes and the bad health of some of the other volunteers, others have had no ill health whatsoever, and in all honesty I actually feel a bit stronger physically as collecting rocks from the fields, sledge hammering and the daily work of building the wall for the school of bio-construction have all resulted in an increase in my abdominal and upper body strength, something I am really happy about.

Furthermore, the three beautiful square meals we have received from Leti every day have left nobody hungry, and everybody feeling nourished. Oh, and the coffee here is amazing! 

Just to clarify, the only reason this blog entry is about health is because of the way I am currently feeling. The majority of the time I have felt absolutely fine and everybody else has too! I wouldn’t want to put anybody off coming to this astounding and fascinating country! Besides, nearly everyone is getting a lovely tan from the sun, and if anybody were to get too ill then Dr Lionel is around to make sure we are okay.

On another note, I have had one of the most amazing and interesting three weeks of my life! I’ve met so many lovely, kind and just generally brilliant people, have seen many many breathtaking sights and been subject to loads of unique and unforgettable experiences! Roll on the next seven weeks and the wondrous things they will bring! Lastly, a huge thank you to the community of Santa Marta for being so kind and welcoming. I am truly humbled by what I have experienced so far. 

Written by ICS volunteer Mike Cavanagh