I lie in my hostel bunk, surrounded by butterflies. Lovely things, with bright-colored plumage, skimming through the air and landing on top of their impossibly large and complex backpacks, strung with hiking boots, towels, beach mats. Their limbs are long, well-shaped, tanned. They speak together of their adventures, and make plans for the day. I listen wordlessly from behind the tent I have constructed from a sarong. My muscles ache from dehydration. My mouth is dry. I pick at the edge of the sarong, and I know I am a different species here.

I still don’t know what I have. Something gastrointestinal — bacterial, viral, hopefully not something worse. I went to the pharmacist two days ago, and she gave me charcoal pills. They may have helped, but they didn’t seem to help much. Perhaps I didn’t take enough, or I took too many. I couldn’t read the instructions, so I erred on the conservative side.

I’ve tried eating yogurt with live probiotics, but I accidentally bought the kind with added fiber, designed to make you regular, if the drawing on the side is any indication. I looked for sports drinks, but there weren’t any, or at least there weren’t any that were obvious. Apparently sweet fruit juice is not a good idea. I haven’t yet resorted to making my own rehydration salts, although I keep thinking about them, and about how easy it is: water, sugar, salt, and yet diarrhea is still one of the leading causes of death in African children.

When I have gotten everything out of my system, I feel good enough to walk to the 7-Eleven. I find Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, coconut water and mineral water. I eat the corn flakes slowly and gulp the coconut water. Nature’s rehydration salts: you can survive on coconuts. I wish for some chamomile tea with lemon, and some salted, weak bone broth, and many things I have no access to here.

On the fifth day, I feel better. I’m hungry for a meal, so I find a restaurant with a plaque on the wall claiming it serves “clean food,” which is by no means a requirement here if my necessity-fueled investigation into the back corners of cheap restaurants is any indication. The silverware comes wrapped in a protective coating, which seems like a good sign since the table is sticky and humid. I order bottled water, which I drink straight from the bottle, and noodle soup with chicken. I eat the whole giant bowl of it, nearly moaning in pleasure. Nothing ill befalls me, so I try a leg of chicken from a street vendor next. I watch him grill it, which takes awhile, but it satisfies me that it’s done properly, and then he wraps it in a banana leaf and I can consume it without having to worry about the sanitation of any silverware.

It’s so good that I never want to stop eating it.

2 thoughts on “Sickness

  1. I think the worst is getting sick and yet, in your mind, still wanting to try all the good food. It’s just no fun. Glad that you’re past it!

  2. Getting sick when travelling is no fun…hope you are better. For me, I don’t really like to take charcoal pills so what I do instead is have tea with no milk no sugar. It usually helps so it’s my go to remedy for such instances. 🙂

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