A few years ago, I had to take 10 students to Nicaragua for a program my institution has there. It was a complicated trip for many reasons, one of those experiences where you appreciate the good things that happen way after the fact but at the same time it was so stressful that I still refuse to do it again. One of the reasons why I had a hard time was that I was supposed to replace the director of the program when I arrived, but she decided to extend her stay 3 more weeks. She wouldn't let me do much. As a result, I spent much of the time feeling useless, homesick and angry for having been dragged there. To make matters worse, this was going on right in the aftermath of the financial debacle, so the rumors that circulated as to what the administration would do to cope with it were upsetting. And I wasn't even there to find out what was a rumor and what was really being considered, and I was wasting time in a place where nobody seemed to have any use for me.
Though I wouldn't go as far as to say my attitude changed 180 degrees, there was an episode that certainly cheered me up for the future. One of the students was diabetic and used an insulin pump. It got stolen. In order to get another one from her insurance back in the US, she needed to file a police report. I went with her. We waited for almost 3 hours in the police station in Managua until an officer finally came to get her statement (I translated most of it). When he finished typing it, the officer print a copy and told me: "I'll be right back. I need to stamp this copy with the official police seal". He came back 5 minutes later and said to me, almost blushing: "I'm so sorry, Ma'am, but you'll have to come back tomorrow after 7 am to get the copy. There is only one seal in the station, and Sargent X took it with him when he went to investigate a homicide in Matagalpa (a city near Managua). I don't know when he'll be back, so you'll have to come back tomorrow. I will have it ready then." We were leaving for a 2 day trip at 8 am the following day, so that meant waking up really early. The student was horrified and wanted to complain about the delay, bureaucracy, and lack of efficiency. I, on the other hand, had a smile in my face and was almost laughing. The student asked me why was I so cheerful in front of such an annoying situation. I looked at her and said: "Because it's the first time that I feel like I'm at home. But you wouldn't understand. This is better than any Latin American crime novel I've read". I don't think she ever understood, but I had no problem waking up the following morning. I never found out if they catch whoever committed the homicide in Matagalpa, though.