Lurking in the shadows, Black Lung finally strikes!

Santiago Travel Blog

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I'd heard all the rumors: Santiago is one of the most polluted cities in the world, tons of tourists come back with horror stories about wearing masks and staying inside their hotels/homes on high-alert days, even one person who came back with a chronic cough due to all the pollution. 'Oh,' I naively believed, 'that won't happen to me. After all, I live in a big city, plus had relatively few issues in Mexico City (the most polluted city in the world, according to some estimates).' Well, Black Lung has finally struck-- not me, thank goodness, but Emily.

One day, out of no where, Emily started coughing like she was a lifelong smoker. As our host mom is sick with the flu, Emily's mom and I just assumed she was finally getting sick (I was sleep-sick in the beginning, and Em's Mom had small stomach problems our first week) but that it was no big deal. Her throat didn't hurt, she didn't have a fever, and she felt perfectly healthy. It was just a persistant, gross-sounding cough. When it didn't go away for a week and a half, we started to get worried. Talking to a few people, we have deduced it's probably the pollution affecting her. She's not SICK, as in pass-it-along sick, but sick from the particles in the air. Em's Mom and I find it a little amusing, however, as she was so proud of not getting sick the first two weeks when we arrived like we did. The only thing we are worried about is whether or not it will go away when we get to the States. We've heard it does, but no one is sure about it. And now I'm just hoping for this last week, I don't have any other problems.

It's funny in an ironic, why-would-you-be-proud-of-that type of way: when Rodrigo (the male teacher) heard our theory about Em's cough, he said in Spanish, 'You know, Santiago is the most polluted city in the world.' Em's Mom and I both shook our heads, as we had looked it up before we came here (one report we found says it's the 8th most polluted), but he insisted. 'In the winter,' he said, 'when all of the smog and pollution collects here in the valley, it is the most polluted in the world.' It seems that the pollution is actually a badge of honor around here, which we all find strange.

More later, off to grab the shower before the 8 other people in the house do!
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Santiago
photo by: Bluetraveler