Chikungunya Took Me Down

chikungunya

Many of you out there probably have no idea what Chikungunya is. It’s ok, I had no clue what it was until I moved to Puerto Rico last year. Recently, the virus has gotten some coverage in the United States, because Lindsey Lohan got infected while she was vacationing in Bora Bora. So, why don’t we begin with answering some key questions:

WHAT IS CHIKUNGUNYA?

  • A viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitos
  • There are two species of mosquitoes of the genus Aedes: A. albopictus and A. aegypto that carry the virus
  • The infected mosquitos often bite throughout daylight hours outside
  • After bitten by an infected mosquito, illness often occurs usually between four to eight days later
  • The first outbreak was reported in Tanzania in 1952
  • “Chikungunya” derives from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning ‘to become contorted‘ and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

  • Causes fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, very itchy rash (see photo below), and fatigue
  • Joint pain is often very debilitating and can persist for several months, or even years
  • Inflammation of the eyes may occur

IMG_5392

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?

  • There is no cure for this virus, only treatment to relieve the symptoms
  • There is no commercial Chikungunya vaccine

    WHERE DOES CHIKUNGUNYA OCCUR?

  • The mosquito-borne virus can be found in nearly 40 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and also in the Americas

WHAT WAS MY EXPERIENCE?

  • Started showing symptoms on October 11, 2014. After researching, I discovered that the infected mosquitos like to be closer to the forest than by the ocean (where I worked and lived). With that information, I assumed I was infected the week before when I had a friend visiting me in Puerto Rico. We traveled to El Yunque Rainforest, went zip-lining in Toro Verde, and also went to Oktobeerfest which was close to Toro Verde up in the mountains as well.
  • My first symptom was red spots all over my body on October 10th. I thought that I had gotten a rash from something in the ocean… it was very strange. It didn’t itch or anything though.
  • The next day I woke up with severe joint pain, a fever, and felt very nauseous. I almost fainted when I got out of bed, and I could barely walk 4 feet to my bathroom my joints hurt so badly.
  • I still went to work, walked an hour to get there along the beach. I didn’t have a car in Puerto Rico, and my boss was out of town who usually was able to give me rides, so I knew the only way I could get to the hospital was for someone from security at the Ritz to take me.
  • When I finally got to the hospital, I got my blood drawn and a shot in my tush and spoke with the doctor who said it looked like I had Chikungunya, or it could be Dengue. He wasn’t too helpful to be honest.
  • The rash came back with vengeance over the next couple of days. It covered my whole body – and some extremely itchy no matter what anti-itch ointment was used. VERY IRRITATING especially paired up with the severe joint pain in my knees, ankle, foot joints as well as my shoulders, elbows, wrists, and finger joints. I honestly couldn’t lift a glass of water sometimes, or open a door handle, or even walk without holding on to something to keep me up.
  • I decided to go to a different emergency care facility to get help for the rash. The doctor there was much more helpful, and after blood tests she confirmed that it was Chikungunya and then prescribed me some drugs for my stomach and the joint pain. Apparently, the virus has some affects on your stomach, even though I didn’t really have any, I took the meds just in case. She didn’t prescribe anything for the rash – just said to pick up Benadryl from the pharmacy (which still didn’t work).
  • Doctors orders were rest at home and drink lots of fluids for a week before I could go back to work.
  • The joint pain has been constant for the last 3 months. The pain was worse in the mornings, sometimes it affected my sleeping habits. Chikungunya can stay in your system for up to 2 years, so I was really crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t have this pain for that long. I am a very active person, so this has been a very difficult process for me.
  • As I enter my 4th month (February 2015) with the virus, the only joint pain I still get are in some of my finger/hand joints when I wake up in the morning. The pain usually dissipates throughout the day though, which is good. I am able to start working out again – short runs and yoga – and not be in pain.

New Years Goals for 2015

Happy New Year everyone! Three years ago, I started a tradition where I create 3 new goals/standards to live by instead of resolutions. I would rather create standards to uphold throughout the rest of my life than create a ‘resolution’ that would most likely not last the entire year. In review – My 2014 goals were:

Travel to a new country each year

Write a random postcard/letter once a month to a friend/loved one

Read at least one new book every 6 months

In 2014 I did travel to a new country – Belize! It was amazing – the people, the diving, the food. I can’t wait to venture back there. I did go overboard, in a good way, with writing post cards and letters to lots of friends and family members this year while living in Puerto Rico. Physically writing a letter or postcard is such a dying act unfortunately with the invention in the internet and emails…but thankfully I got so many return postcards and letters in the mail that made my day each time 🙂 In terms of reading a new book every 6 months…I managed to read one full book and that was about it. For Xmas this year I asked for the hardcopy of Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please. I am excited to start reading that on the airplane home back to California in a couple of days 🙂 NOW it’s time for my 2015 goals:

1) Stay in touch more with family members No family is perfect. This past year my family made that even more evident than ever before. With the backstabbing and lying occurring all around me, I want to focus on my family members that are open and caring, especially the young ones. After working with children of all ages this past year, I know how important it is to be a part of their life as they are quickly growing, learning, and changing. This goal means more visits, updates, and interactions with family.

Family Goal

2) Make more presents/gifts for people instead of buying new thingsAfter utilizing Pinterest this year for my job, I’ve realized that it is so much more satisfying and thoughtful to make a one of a kind gift than an easy scapegoat gift like a gift card. I especially want to utilized recycled items in my presents for people – you’re helping save the planet and you aren’t spending a lot of money on something new – it’s a WIN-WIN don’t you think?! Use your creativity people 🙂 We learned how to make an angel fish with a palm frond at work a couple of days ago – pretty cool huh?

Angel Fish Palm Leaf Weave

3) Go SCUBA diving every year I’ve been certified since 2006 to explore the oceans underwater. Unfortunately, I haven’t gone SCUBA diving as much as I would like to have over the past 8 years. This year I did A LOT of diving! Since I moved to Puerto Rico in February of 2014, SCUBA diving was much more easily available whenever we had time off of work. I went on 3 different dive boat trips in Puerto Rico, and then I did some dives in Belize as well this past year. If you’ve never been SCUBA diving, I suggest to start putting some money aside in order to get certified. The earth is 75% water, so you essentially haven’t REALLY seen the planet until you’ve seen it under water 😉

Chanel Hason and Sea Turtle

Ritz Carlton Reserve Photo Walk

After being sick and out of commission for over a week with the mosquito virus, Chikungunya, I decided to grab my camera and go for a walk around the Dorado Beach, Ritz Carlton Reserve property. The fresh air was much needed! I have to admit, I work on one of the most beautiful properties in the world. From the gorgeous beaches to the sub-tropical rainforest, there is beauty everywhere you look. Hopefully I was able to capture some of that beauty in my photographs. 

ALSO – Please visit my NEW ADDITION to the blog – the VIDEO section 😀

Swimming With Wild Dolphins

There are moments in your life you never expect. 

There are moments that you can only imagine.

There are moments that leave you speechless.

There are moments you can only hope for.

There are moments that are unreal.

There are moments like this…

http://vimeo.com/chanelhason/dolphins This happened after a couple boat dives off the coast of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. On our way back to the marina, the captain spotted a pod of dolphins swimming in front of us. As we got closer, they started to play in the wake of the boat. Soon, the boat slowed down to a stop. My friend Sara asked the captain if we could hop off the back of the boat and get a closer look at the dolphins. He was hesitant to say yes, mostly because he didn’t want to get our hopes up, since often the dolphins immediately swim away when people jump into the water with them. BUT- we took the risk 🙂 I only had my dive fins, and I didn’t want to fuss with putting my booties on, so I just grabbed my mask, no snorkel, and jumped into the open sea with my GoPro. WOW. All I kept saying was:

“THIS IS SO COOL!”

I had no other words. I was speechless. It was a moment that compares to no other. They were Atlantic spotted dolphins, which I had never seen before in the wild. You can see that the older dolphins had more prominent spotting, and the younger ones were more uniformly grey with less spots. They were BEAUTIFUL. One of the most amazing things about swimming with them was listening to their clicks and whistles underwater – the sounds were so magnifying! They were swimming in small groups of up to 3-5 individuals, and bouncing between one person floating in the ocean to the other. They swam amongst us for at least 15 minutes (which felt like an eternity). I honestly didn’t want to get out of the water. Yes, I did understand that I was interacting with wild animals. Dolphins do sometimes show aggression towards humans (it’s been video documented). But, in all reality, if I had to get hurt by something in the ocean, I wouldn’t be ashamed if it ended up being a dolphin. Luckily, the dolphins we encountered were very friendly and curious, just like the fascinated humans staring back at them in the water.

Definitely, one of the best moments of my life.

 

Rincón – New Favorite Getaway

I just had one of the best weekends of my life. My housemate/coworker/best friend here – Sara – and I went on a 2 hour road trip west to Rincón (the surf capital of Puerto Rico). Although, right now is slow season, we still had an amazing time. We stayed with a friend of Sara’s, Gabi, who is from Washington but her family is Puerto Rican. She just moved to a beautiful house her dad owns in Rincon, and overlooks the whole stretch of ocean.

We went snorkeling on Steps Beach – which inspired the beautiful pictures seen above of the very friendly (and photogenic) juvenile Hawksbill Sea Turtle. The Elkhorn Coral was HUGE and teaming with life around it. A definite “must-see” when in Rincon. We were eager to go Scuba Diving, but after calling 7 different shops, no one could get us on their trip the next morning. Bummer :/ But, that just means we have something to look forward to next time.

We went back to Gabi’s house to freshen up. The rain had started to pour down outside – but that didn’t damper the fun evening we had ahead of us. We drove to Hotel Villa Cofresi, which is a little waterfront hotel. It’s famous for their outside bar which serves a delicious drink filled with multiple rums, coconut water, and served in a giant coconut. We sat on the patio right next to the ocean front, where we saw a huge bait-ball of sardines jumping and moving across the water’s surface.

After that yummy beverage, it was time for dinner. One of my favorite restaurants in Rincon is Ode to the Elephants. I had met the owner, Clay, last time we were surfing in Rincon a couple of months ago. If you like awesome Thai food, this is the place to go. Not to mention Clay is an expert bartender – he makes THE BEST martinis you’ll ever sip. I swear. The restaurant is nestled on top of a hill that overlooks the whole coastline (gorgeous!). As we were sitting at the bar, the black night sky lit up every couple of minutes to remind us of the fury in the clouds above. Thunderstorms were moving across the ocean in front of us, it it just felt like a perfect evening. After dinner, we headed for a night cap at the new Rincon Beer Company.

There, we played Cards Against Humanity (most hilarious card game ever), and drank some of the local brews. It was a great nightcap to an adventurous day.

The next day we headed to town to find some coffee and a bite to eat. We wandered into an environmentally conscious silk screening house and retail store called, The Uncharted Studio. It reminded me a lot of a little surf shop I’d see somewhere in California. They awesome printed shirts, hand bags, hats, and various art pieces from local artists. I ended up buying a shirt and some postcards, but I know every time I go to Rincón I’ll have to buy something new from them 🙂 Plus, I love supporting local companies.

Then, we went to a little secluded beach spot to meet Clay and his friends from around town. We went SUPing, snorkeling, and relaxed in the sunshine. We made lots of new friends who work at the various bars and restaurants in Rincón – one of which has supposedly an amazing brunch where Sara and I HAVE TO TRY when we go back.

That’s all for now – until our next big adventure…

 

Photo & Video Update

WAHOO! I’ve finally had time edit some video footage and photos from the last couple of months. I have to say, I absolutely love my GoPro Hero3 – it’s been attached to my hand both above water and underneath it. I really love creating little video summaries of the adventures I have here in Puerto Rico.

The video below is a promotional video I made for our Underwater Photography activity at work:

And here are some various underwater photos I’ve taken with my GoPro Hero3 🙂

Here are some photos from my trip to Belize in May:

If It Hurts, It’s Probably Worth It

Chanel Rainforest

 

So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never overstay your welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.

— Alex Garland

It seems the older I get, the more heart-to-heart posts seem to emerge. As many of you know, I packed up my life in 2 weeks and sold most of my life to move to Puerto Rico for what I thought was my ‘dream job’ in February. I’ve had 3 very tough months here. I’ve had to move 3 times already – dealing with crazy landlords and unfair predicaments. But, the plus side is that we ended up finding a fantastic beach front home that is walking distance to work. There were a whole other multitude of issues I’ve encountered thus far, but I am trying very hard to focus on the positive aspects instead of the negative.

I’m not going to lie, I have come to many bumps in the road here where I was one click away from booking my plane ticket home. After I decided to pursue going back to school to get my teaching credential about a month ago, that’s all I can focus on. I felt like there is nothing keeping me here any longer, so why stay? All my friends, family, continuous fun concerts/events/activities, boyfriend (see below), and future were in California. Why am I still here?

Well, I am no longer in a relationship. Throughout my life, I’ve become accustomed in a sense to long distance relationships. No, it’s not easy or my favorite thing to do, but if both parties want to make it work, they will do whatever it takes to do so. At this point in time, Adam and I decided it would be best to just be friends. I’ve come to understand that it was the best decision for us both considering all the factors. Life is too short. My heart is very full of love and gives unconditionally – it deserves the same.

The quote at the beginning of the post resonates with all my experiences here in Puerto Rico thus far. I am keeping my mind open and sucking in every adventure-filled moment. Of course not every moment has been a good one, but it was worth it because I learned something about myself.

I definitely consider myself lucky to have been able to pack up in 2 weeks and move to an island in the Caribbean. I don’t take this opportunity for granted. I am in love with the fact that I wake up every morning and see the ocean outside my bedroom window. My job can be mentally and physically exhausting at times, but when it’s rewarding, all I can do is smile from ear to ear. Each time that I snorkel and see an octopus (favorite creature!!) – I keep reminding myself that I am getting paid to do this – and yeah, things COULD be worse 😛

I jumped into this life change without a safety rope. I moved to a country where I didn’t know a soul – I don’t speak the native language – I can’t eat 95% of what is on the menu at most places – I don’t have a car – and I took half a paycheck cut to be here. But, HERE I AM. I’m healthy – I am getting to a happier place each and every day – and I’m starting to sink into the reality that I am on a beautiful island that has so much to offer if I just keep an open mind. No doubt it took awhile to reach this point, but there’s no reason in being negative when life is meant to be lived to the fullest.

I am expecting multiple friends and family to visit before I move back to California in January. It will make me so happy to share my experiences with people I love and who know, respect, and understand my passions in life 🙂 If you are keen to take a quick vacation to a tropical island – let me know!

 

Battle Royale: Shark VS Moray Eel

I can always be certain that the underwater world will always astound, amaze, mystify and sometimes downright scare me haha.

For example, the video below is a battle between a giant moral eel & a juvenile white tip reef shark. DO NOT MISS THE ENDING OF THE VIDEO!

I have never seen a moral eel this big in my life…it’s massive! The only moral eels I’ve seen so far in Puerto Rico have been very small in comparison. I did some research on moral eels after watching this video, and decided to share some of the fun facts I discovered:


Fun Facts about Moral Eels:

 

– Morays can cause ciguatera food poisoning if eaten by humans. The symptoms include serious gastrointestinal and neurological conditions.

– Moray eels are one of the few species of fish that can swim backwards.

– Morays have the ability to tie their bodies into knots in order to gain leverage when tearing up their food.

– Unlike other eels, moral eels have 2 sets of sharp teeth. The first set is located in the jaw, and the other in the throat. Teeth located in the throat are used for breaking up the food and for facilitated digestion.

 

Photography: Kite Boarding

I had the pleasure to host a professional wakeboarder the other week by the name of Moti Levi. He is 25 years old from Israel, and one of the sweetest most genuine people I’ve ever met. Moti has a twin brother who is also a professional wakeboarder, and they both have been hard of hearing since they were young. But, that doesn’t stop them from doing what they love in the water!

Here’s an awesome little video that he recently published:

 

In my photography career, I’ve never really ventured too much into the ‘action/sport photography’ world. So, when the opportunity presented itself to photograph Moti’s amazing skills while kite boarding here in Puerto Rico, I jumped on it! Here are the results – let me know what you think:

Moti2 Moti1 Moti3 Moti4 Moti5
Moti9 Moti8 Moti7 Moti18 Moti17 Moti16 Moti15 Moti14 Moti13 Moti12
Moti10 Moti19 Moti20 Moti24 Moti22

Revelation

Sunset Kayak

I moved to Puerto Rico about a month and a half ago for what I thought was my ‘Dream Job.’ As time passes, I am realizing that this isn’t my ‘Dream Job,’ but instead an eye-opening revelation about what I really want to accomplish in life. I work with 80% kids as my job as a Naturalist. They are definitely a handful and exhausting to keep them entertained for increments of 3 hours at a time back to back everyday. But to be honest, it is so thrilling and rewarding to see how excited they get when we take them to the tide-pools, snorkeling on a coral reef, or even explore a sub-tropical rainforest. Most of these children live in the city (NY), where they don’t get to experience ‘nature’ as often. We even have parents who join in our activities who have never been immersed in a forest, and we have the pleasure to show them a whole new world for the first time.

So, I’ve decided that after my year here, I want to move back to California and get my TEACHING CREDENTIAL! I’ve said it many times before that what I am meant to do on this planet is to educate as many minds as possible about our natural environment and ways to protect it for future generations. My current job has solidified what I want to do in the future – teach kids about natural world and pass onto them all the lessons I’ve learned through my life experiences.

With so many friends who are teachers, I am lucky to have a large community of people willing to answers all the questions that will soon arise once I start this process. It’s actually pretty ironic that I am deciding to become a teacher… in 12th grade at our Senior Breakfast at South Pasadena High School, we voted for people in all sorts of “Best/Most Likely” categories. I won Most Spirited, which is a title I’ve held strong since Elementary School basically. And then out of the BLUE, my class voted me “Most likely to become a teacher at South Pasadena High School.” It looks like my classmates were predicting a future for me even before I knew it!!

I also recently just moved to a different house with a new roommate. It is closer to the beach (literally right across the street), and it’s closer to work. The house is a bit of a fixer-upper, but I think it will be a fun project to take on. My roomie is a cool guy from Washington, who actually works right next door to me at the water sports facility for the Dorado Beach Club. We have a 3rd bedroom open for grabs, which will hopefully be filled by the new Naturalist we are hiring ASAP. We shall see! Things are looking up 🙂