Wild Young Minds: November 2015

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Patient On The Road

For those of you who are my friend on Facebook for more than a year already, you might know
that I have spent more than one day in a hospital whilst being on the road. Hospitals in Berlin seem to have a thing for me and always invite me right at the moment I have no time for them. But I've learned from the past, so I never go travelling without a good health insurance anymore. You never know what's out there, waiting to attack you. If it's not cystitis, it's a swarm of tiger mosquitoes, or, in this case... a poisonous plant. Nature is not fond of me.
So what happened exactly? About three weeks ago I woke up one morning with my legs covered in little zits. Ah, another mosquito who liked me a little too much, I thought. But the itch was unbearable, and the bites turned to blisters really soon. When I ran into Veerle at uni, it turned out that she had extremely itchy spots on her body too. She'd asked her professor and it turned out to be: poison oak. We probably got it during our hike in Big Sur, since we walked around with legs uncovered and it can take a couple of weeks until the poison oak rash starts to appear.
Since many of you probably don't know what this witch plant is - neither did I - let me explain it shortly. Poison oak is a plant that mainly grows close to the Pacific, so on the West Coast. It's similar to Poison ivy, which grows on the East Coast, and it's a plant that looks quite innocent but can do real harm. It's not deadly, nor lasting, but it's damn enjoying. The plant contains an oily sap called urushiol, that causes an allergic reaction and can stick to your clothes, so that you might reinfect yourselves over and over again. Pretty disgusting, yes!
After a couple of days I was convinced I had the same problem, because the spots had turned really dark red and started to show up on different parts of my body (luckily, not my face!). I made an appointment with the doctor as well - thank god appointments are free at university - and began another fun 10 days of antibiotics. Just before we were gonna go to Vegas, the city of intoxication :)
I also received a cream, which I was allowed to use two times a day. Not that much, if you die of itchiness all the time. When I had my second appointment at the doctor, the first thing she said when she looked at my legs, was: ''Oh my god!''. Thanks. She gave me bandage to keep me from scratching and to help the cream to really absorb. Very convenient in Vegas! But well, if my friend Nietzsche taught me one thing this semester, it's that you have to say ''yes'' to life and live it to the fullest. So, Vegas it was!
Emma, Lavinia and I had booked the Greyhound bus a couple of months before, and although I'd heard horror stories about this bus, I was very excited to hop on. If there's one American ''on the road'' thing, it's the Greyhound! Billy Joel sings about it on his fabulous ''New York State of Mind'', Kerouac writes about it, and now I could finally experience it too. Of course, there were some problems on the way, we had to change buses and it took us a few hours more than scheduled to arrive in Nevada. But we forgot about all of this the minute we drove from the isolated desert into the craziest city in the country: Viva Las Vegas!
Vegas is total madness. I can come up with many adjectives to describe the city, but madness might cover them all. Everything is based on the concept of making money, there's fast food everywhere, bars, fat Americans, casinos, pools. I honestly think some young Americans have thought they'd arrived in Europe the first time they went to Vegas, since it's crazy how much effort they've put into rebuilding the old European cities. Of course, the Eiffel Tower is very fake, but when you enter the Venetian, your mind is blown. They've created a small Venice in the middle of a shopping mall. Though it was a sunny morning outside, you feel like the evening has just started and the Italian restaurants are waiting to serve you. Your entire idea of time and space seems an illusion!
We'd booked one of the most amazing hostels I've ever stayed in: Hostel Cat. Really, if you're planning to book Vegas soon, DON'T book a fancy hotel, because I can guarantee you that you're gonna have a lot less fun. Hostel Cat knows what to do and where to go in Vegas (I sound like a sales person, I know). The manager has been able to sneak his guests into a pool party at the Monte Carlo for the last five years or so. He asks five dollars for the ride and what you get in return is access to a great pool, in the middle of the Strip, for which people pay 300 dollars a night. And we only paid 16 a night! About 30 people squeezed themselves into a small van, so everyone got to know each other pretty soon. What an adventure.
Since it was Halloween during our Vegas weekend, the city's craziness was doubled. My idea was to dress up as a scary fairy, so I bought wings, a headband and a tutu at Goodwill (best store in history) and I think I've never looked so pinkish before. No one believed I was gonna end up being scary, but with the help of a Dutch girl at the hostel, my face resembled the Joker's (or at least, I'd like to think so) and we were ready to ramble!
Whoever thinks Vegas is expensive, is wrong. At least, if you're a women, it's not. One of my friends gave me the contact details of a promotor, who put us on the guestlist for every single party at the big clubs in Vegas. Nicki Minaj, Steve Aoki, Tiƫsto, Hardwell, Afrojack. Vegas sure loves Dutch artists. In the end, it turned out to be a little less romantic than we thought, since the lines for the parties were extremely long and it'd take us two hours to get in. So what was the use of a guestlist, anyway?
Another problem was that we couldn't resist the temptation of intoxication (it's Vegas, after all!), so we ended up dancing in random bars with even more random people. I wrote about the Cara comparison before, but in Vegas it was even worse. People coming over to me and thinking they're the first ones mentioning it, people who wanted to take a picture with me. Even with face paint on my face, it couldn't be stopped. Ah well, I still take it as a compliment and besides, I'd found a soulmate in the hostel. Ryan Gosling's twin brother from Canada was there, so he knew what I was going through. Tough life...
On our last day, we recovered from our hangover on the rooftop of the Venetian, because, once again, women run the world in Vegas. Feminists might not enjoy the idea of girls being objectified, but I didn't mind that much. We deserve to be honoured, girls! So keep those party tickets and drinks coming :) The entrance to the pool also turned out to be free and they had an open bar! On top of that, it was 30 degrees and there was music. What else to wish for? A couple hours later, we were smashed back to reality. A 16-hour bus ride with shitty chairs, so sleeping was not an option either. The airco was too strong as well, so my body suffered quite a lot.
And so did my poison oak rash. Back in San Francisco, it seemed to get only worse, so that afternoon I went back to the doctor and accepted what I'd refused a week before: a prednisone cure. I didn't know that much about these medicines before, but I knew that they have many side effects and make you very vulnerable to any small sickness. In other words, poison to your body. But I really wanted to get rid of this rash, so I agreed with 20 days of prednisone. The funny thing is that they have the same effect as drugs in the beginning, so you feel very active and high. I didn't experience that much difference, but when I went running, it felt like I was flying. My own private doping experience!
At the moment, the spots have turned purple and the itch is almost gone. I will beat this plant, that's for sure. But Europeans amongst us, beware. There are some nasty plants out there in nature. As for me, I'm gonna stay in the city for a while. I wished our Vegas trip had lasted a little longer, but then again, a week might've been too much. The overload of capitalism would've killed me. I didn't gamble a lot by the way, since I was too intimidated by all those stern looking Asians. I was also slightly disappointed by the casinos, they seemed a lot more impressive on tv (in the great show ''Las Vegas'' for instance). In reality, it's mostly gamble machines, where sad and lonely people drink their beers and smoke their cigarettes in the hope of becoming rich one day.
So, unfortunately I didn't come back to San Francisco as a millionaire. I still have to pay attention to the costs of my groceries and drinks, but I've gotten pretty good at finding free events, so that's not a problem at all! I visited a free concert at Brick & Mortar in the Mission a couple days ago, I went to a cool Couchsurfing event yesterday and tonight is another First Fridays event in Oakland. So much to do, so little time. But I'm doing my best to stop thinking about the little time that's left and enjoy the States while I'm still here. On the side, I also have to write big essays, but since one of my topics is on Jim Morrison & Nietzsche, I don't mind that much. As Morrison said: ''No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn''. Live your life to the fullest.