Monday, August 2, 2010

The Massacre at Priego (aka Priego Pandemic)

**warning this is an account of real-life events, the content of this blog may boggle the imagination and reveal TMI aboutboth known and unknown parties; nontheless this blog was kept factual for the full effect of the event**

The morning started out like every other in our little Priego village in Cordoba, Spain (in the south). About a warm 90 degrees and walking up to the hotel restaraunt for breakfast, just like every other morning. The kids were awakening slowly yet surely and arriving at the breakfast hall. Once again we situated our little teen gems as anglo, spaniard, anglo, spaniard to promote the mixing of teens and speaking of English.

Getting to my cafe con leche con hielo, as I do every morning and setting aside a small muffin and toast for my breakfast, I prepared for another ridiculously hot day in Priego. It wasn't just any other day though. It was the last full day of camp where the kids would have a surprising amount of Free Time, perform a Talent Show and go to their camp-end party (aka dance, reason to kiss each other, last chance for romance, etc.).

The day got off to an active start. Everyone was hurriedly preparing for their talent show debuts, groups went off into Orange, Red, Blue, White, Black, Silver, Silver/Black, Green and Yellow. I am the leader of the Orange group a unmatched group of teens at Priego on every level...but that's another story ;).

We got through the day, through the practicing, through the talent show and now it was time to get ready for dinner, pack and dance the night away. Little did we know what lay ahead of us. Dinner came and appetites were surpressed (probably from the excitement of the night...or maybe not). Ana and Beno leave the dining hall feeling ill after the first course. Meals at Priego consist of two courses, salad and dessert. They are not the first ones to feel ill. Hours earlier, Tom had been talking about ill feelings and being sick. Ana and Beno sit for about 30 minutes before sickness strikes, both losing what they had consumed during the day. Beno is very sick and retires to his room to rest and hopefully muster up the strength to go to the dance later. I'm feeling fine and get prepared to chaperone these teen trouble makers. Ana is not sure if she's better or slowly getting worse. Only time will tell.

The dance ensues with all the normal teenage drama of he kissed her, she danced with me, they kissed in the corner, what the heck is Ronjini doing? etc, etc. There is something strange happening though...Amelia approaches crying and complaining of stomach pains, shortly after Enrique announces his misfortunate bathroom trip just minutes earlier, Andrea and Becci are next, along with a trickling few campers that slowly feel sick to their stomach (literally). The night progresses and one by one, stomach pains, tears and weakness terrorizes Priego. 15 down and everyone else at the dance, this night is just beginning at 1:30 a.m.

I've gone back to check on Beno for the 3rd time, things are not looking good, miserable in fact. With the count up to 15 the doctor is called to the camp. An ambulance shows up 15 minutes later and is directed towards Beno's room, he is the worst....or so we thought. After the doctors administer shots for nausea to 15 patients; dancers, campers and sickos all head to their rooms for a night's rest before departure the next day.

Night patrol begins. The counsellors (including myself) are weary from the tremendous amount of hours they have put in over the past 14 days. They somehow have gotten acclimated to the strange lifestyle of watching over 94 teenagers 24/7. Night patrol is up and at 'em as teens show no signs of slowing down on the last night, but something is more peculiar than most nights. The patient count continues to increase. From 1:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. the count increases to 20+ patients overnight.

Wake up call is at 8 am on the last day of camp to get everyone fed and ready for departure. This departure was not as planned however. The reception hall turned into an infermery. We see campers walking up to the reception hall, not to eat breakfast but with pale white and pink faces grasping their stomachs. Slowly, I can feel my pwn stomach churning and taking a similar fate to many of the patients that gained the sickness overnight. What is this? My answer: Food Poisoning. Aching bellies, vomiting, diarrhea and fever hit the camp hard and claimed more than 30 victims.

Not a good day to go down. Nearly half the campers were quarantined, seperated from their new made friends on the last departing day of camp. Tears were already aflood by 9:00 a.m. because these destined intercontinental soul mates were leaving each other, but quarantine? What had Priego come to? Pandemic...

The Priego Pandemic hit hard. Healthy campers were promised to see their new bosom buddies before departure. The sick campers were promised to be able to say goodbye to their friends if the situation called for it. The sight was a sad one. Doors were locked from outside to inside. You can see weaping campers on the terrace, desperate to get into the reception to say a farewell to the sobbing teens on the inside. It was like a scene out of a horror film (or a zombie film).

Three hours later, talks began of departure. Thank god. What else can go wrong? The Anglos and Spaniards, after 14 long grueling hot days together, were seperated into 2 busses. Each bus was piled with half sick teenagers that had been administered a shot to the butt to clear their symptoms. With the camp director and hotel insisting that this was a virus, who is to tell if patients were getting the most efficient medicine for the clearly apparent mass food poisoning that had occurred that night.

Desperate to leave the camp, I had claimed that I was better (seconds after making a visit to the bathroom) and that Beno would be fine to travel. We just wanted to get the hell out of Priego and somewhere air conditioned for recooperation.

We finally get on the bus. 5 hours later we arrive in Madrid, where Beno passes out in the hotel room and I am required to chaperone 22 teens with a fellow counsellor to dinner. Not feeling like eating, I had little and made a meal of Aquarius (a Spanish Gatorade), Sprite and 1/2 a quesadilla. After the extremely slow service of VIPS, we left to head back to the NH Zurbano. The sickness was not over. In the span of time 2 more patients, made themselves apparent. One directly outside of the restaraunt.

Reaching the hotel, I was desperate for sleep, but checks. Does this never end????After making the rounds, and doing drop offs at the airport the next day, I took the recovering Beno and the recovered ME to the airport to head to Barcelona. The day from hell was finally over and behind us, but the memory of the Priego Pandemic will never be lost.

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