Last weekend, some family members and I swapped our various tales of gastro-intestinal nightmares while traveling . . . at a wedding. Over dinner.
Hey, the invitation said SEMI-formal. If it was formal-formal we would have polished our monocles and discussed Wittgenstein and the bridge column, but we aren’t invited to events like that.
Anyway, it turns out that we all had some pretty good (and gross) stories, and because I can’t think of anything useful to write about at the moment, I thought I’d share mine.
John and I did a trip to the Middle East in 2007, visiting Egypt, Jordan, and Israel and this was the first time I was traveling someplace that came with a CDC warning. They recommended that pre-travel I get various vaccines, and to avoid tap water, ice cubes, etc. While that didn’t bother me, being a green traveler it did make me slightly cautious and a little worried about getting sick. To begin with, I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. In fact I’m pretty sure that at this very moment I have a brain tumor and perhaps even, my latest favorite, cervical cancer. So the idea of coming down with a case of, oh, HEPATITIS in EGYPT sends my mind absolutely reeling. No, really. Even now just thinking about it makes me short of breath. Also, and far more importantly, I’m a cheap-ass and this trip was expensive. It would be an enormous waste of money to be holed up in some crappy Sheraton for days when I paid thousands of dollars to see some thousands-of-years-old-built-by-aliens crap . . . I mean treasures.
But no matter, right? After all, we were staying in western style hotels, how bad could it be? No tap water, no ice cubes, careful about produce, wash my hands, I can handle that, I do that anyway. Everything started out fine. On our first night in Cairo we had a lovely meal overlooking the Nile, I had a glass of wine, everything was going great, and I couldn’t wait to get moving throughout the rest of Egypt. The next day as we were walking through the famous Khan el-Khalili souk I petulantly told the CDC to go fuck themselves as I ate a chickpea straight from the what I’m sure was the horrifically filthy hand of an Egyptian con artist (no, really, he was a con artist, but that’s another story for another time). And I was fine. I felt like Anthony Bourdain – no reservations, biyatch! Pass me another chickpea!
Um, just kidding. Hello, the guy was a con artist. He TOLD me to eat that chickpea, and I was a slutty western woman who causes earthquakes in post-9/11 Islamic country. I didn’t want to upset him.
Despite the auspicious pea, I continued to be cautious about water, brushing my teeth with the bottled stuff, keeping my lips tightly sealed while in the shower (which is a task in ENORMOUS will-power for those of us who feel compelled to sing Part of Your World with each shampooing, let me tell you), and even going so far as to WIPING MY LIPS OFF as I dried off. If you’ve seen the Sex and the City movie scene where Charlotte suffers the same compulsive neurosis, then you can imagine how hysterically I laughed. This was me, right down to the facial tics.
And like Charlotte (and as in life), I did fail at my quest to keep my mouth shut. I, too, swallowed the evil un-American water and freaked out just a tad. Despite all of this I was fine, healthy, in total vacation and tourist mode.
But then it happened.
I don’t know what it was, what did it, but it happened. I got sick. And you know, we should probably add an extra “t” to that “but” because yup . . . butt happened. Butt happened like you would not believe. And I was on a boat. T-Pain did NOT include that in his song and dear god, a boat is the last place you want to be when your intestines revolt. Oh, and speaking of places you DON’T want to be when your intestines revolt? Anywhere within a ten mile radius of your boyfriend, the person you are attempting to fool into believing you are sexy and attractive. But guess what, lucky me, I WAS IN A 6×6 FOOT CABIN WITH THIS PERSON.
Honestly, you guys wonder why we’re not married? THIS IS THE REASON. He is still considered to be under post-traumatic stress.
I didn’t want to miss out on seeing the sights, so despite all sense, I ventured out with our group. At one point I started feeling really weak, so I broke away from the tour and sat down somewhere, and that’s really when and where I threw up: right there in a four thousand year old temple, a UNESCO world heritage site, a place of worship and extreme importance to ancient Egyptians and the world and I barfed on it. Screw you, Osiris.
So usually when you think “food poisoning” you think of a 24-hour bug type thing, right. I was hoping I’d flush this thing out of every possible hole in my body and just be done with it and get back to my normal self.
I was so horribly wrong. I got sick on about day four of the trip and didn’t recover until about TEN DAYS LATER in Tel Aviv.
Now, I think that according to most medical practitioners, when you have diarrhea (yeah, I said it) for TEN DAYS you are technically supposed to die. But I didn’t JUST have diarrhea for TEN DAYS. I had diarrhea in a foreign country where toilet paper can be a rarity (oh, don’t even get me started on what I went through in one fateful restroom in Jordan), with my boyfriend in extremely close quarters, in brain-boiling heat, having to pass on delicious Middle Eastern food for bananas and toast, as hypochondriac, FOR TEN DAYS, you are officially more badass than Chuck Norris. Kiki > Chuck. Obviously.
Ok, well, “badass” perhaps was the wrong choice of word.
Honestly, it was really awful and I thought I was going to die, but somehow I managed to press through, not really missing out on any of the trip. The adrenaline of seeing all of these amazing things and being in this incredible place somehow kept me going.
At the end of the trip when we made our way to Jerusalem, I was saved by a nice Jewish doctor. Promised land, indeed. Have you ever had to answer the question “so the diarrhea, is it explosive?” in front of you boyfriend? No? Well I have, and he is still with me. Write a song about THAT, Taylor Swift.
I’m not a religious person, but you can’t be in Jerusalem and not feel that it is a very special, very spiritual place. It’s the birthplace of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism; home of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa, the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall.
Most importantly, it’s the home of the Dan Panorama hotel where, for future reference, you can get Cipro from their in-house doctor.