The Poetic Diabetic: Costa Rica 10/13/21

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Author: Oliver Shane

Well, everyone, welcome back to my blog, long time no see! But hey, now that I’m back in Florida from my summer Spanish immersion trip to Costa Rica, I have plenty to write about when it comes to traveling abroad with diabetes. So, if the title didn’t make it abundantly obvious, that’s the topic of this blog!

TSA Check-in

The Transportation Safety Administration (not to be confused with any other safety administration), as most of you know, has those machines that use X-rays to check if someone has any metal on them. As I’m sure many of you who use the Dexcom sensors know, the sensors don’t exactly function when exposed to X-ray radiation, quite the opposite in fact.

Since the TSA doesn’t exactly allow people to walk right past security just because they have diabetes, I had to get a physical pat down! Oh, what joy! (Imagine those prior words with the highest value of passive-aggressive sarcasm possible).

All jokes aside, I had to get a physical pat down. I also furthermore learned that day that you cannot request a physical pat down without a pre-approved doctor’s note. So as a word of advice to all of you diabetic folks who plan on traveling abroad, make sure to ask your doctor for a medical note abstaining you from the process of X-ray screening.

After a mostly uneventful trip through security, I finally made it into the actual airport! For the most part, the flight itself was pretty boring. Because it was so short, I didn’t have to worry too much about mealtimes and whatnot. But I did try to eat some pretzels on the plane! As a quick word of warning, giving yourself insulin on a plane is like trying to give yourself insulin on a bus ride, more specifically a bus ride up Mount Everest.

Speaking of insulin, I had to pack a lunch box filled with ice-cooled insulin in my stowaway bag. It’s important to remember to pre-freeze ice packs the day before unless you want spoiled insulin. Other than that, there wasn’t much of note on my plane ride to Costa Rica.


Sadly, the words “nothing of note” didn’t describe my experience traveling from my flight to my tour bus. First off, I had the pleasure of learning that Dexcom did not function properly when I landed due to some legal restrictions. Thus, during customs, I started a flurry of panicked conversations with my mother, stepmother, endocrinologist, and more to try and get my CGM up and running again.

First, I had to set up a VPN set to America. I asked my uncle to loan me his NordVPN account, only to find that the Dexcom servers track you based on your GPS. Want to know what iPhone doesn’t let you spoof on the spot, your GPS. So unfortunately, I had to resort to buying a Samsung phone. I ended up having to drag the camp counselor to a duty-free tech store so I could buy an S10. Once I got the phone, I downloaded the Dexcom APK and a GPS spoofer. Finally, I got my Dexcom set up, at three in the morning local time, which was five in the morning Florida time.

If that’s not a recipe for exhaustion, I’m throwing my cookbook in the Costa Rican campfire.

I ended up sleeping pretty well after that whole ordeal. Sadly, that would be one of the only nights I would get any decent sleep. For pure laziness and a lack of care, I’d often go high for extended periods of time. It didn’t help that most people’s snack of choice was Mexican cane Fanta, which had something like a billion carbs a bottle. Still, that’s mostly a result of my own irresponsibility and isn’t nearly as interesting as the incident at the beach.

The Beach (Plus a rant on a tour group’s handling of diabetes)

So, this is something I’ve been needing to take to paper for a while, and something that still upsets me, even two months after it happened (Yes, it took almost two months to write this article! Don’t judge my productivity!). But to really complain about the whole stupidity of the situation, I need to go back a few days.

So, three days before the incident at the beach, the tour group took a ferry to a remote island in the middle of nowhere off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. On the ferry, my Android ended up getting water damaged, and decided it didn’t want to charge itself anymore. Though oddly enough, I was still able to charge it with a wire – however, it took a measly fourteen hours to get a full charge. To make matters worse, I wouldn’t be able to charge it overnight, as all the plugs were solar-powered.

So, the counselors decided that they’d keep me at the hotel the entire day, where I could read my levels while keeping my phone plugged into the painfully slow wall charger. This led to a mind-numbingly boring two days, where I had no activities to do, no kids to talk to, and no phone to entertain myself with. Eventually, I decided to go against the counselor’s wishes, and use my cell phone to call Samsung customer service. Within five minutes on the phone, I already found a solution to my issue. All I had to do was move the charger around in the charger port. Out of pure madness and a bit of luck, this somehow worked.


So rather than being praised for taking an initiative, and a successful one nonetheless, I got reprimanded by the counselors for not doing what they said. Oh, and just a reminder, that whole story was just the setup for the real situation that happened at camp. But as this article once more nears 1k words, I’m going to have to cut this article off on a cliffhanger. I’m sorry people, I’m sorry. Please put your pitchforks down.

I sure do hope that I eventually get the chance to finish these multipart articles, so I can one day give a satisfactory ending to one of these articles, but that’s for another day. Till then, I’ll see you around! Oliver signing out!