Three months in Asia and it’s about time I give a shout out to a very important someone…
To My Constitution: You Rock!
She (yep, My Constitution is female) handled long plane flights, Bengali food, Khmer cuisine, and Chinese spice without even the slightest “irregularity.”
Let’s hope this post isn’t premature. I still have a 14-hour plane flight tomorrow and I ate shrimp tonight.
Below the cut I’ve posted a column I wrote about when she wasn’t so regular.
The Big D
Hovering over stained porcelain, you watch your life-force pass into foreign plumbing. You wish for a quick painless death to end the suffering, and a cup of your mother’s homemade chicken noodle soup to wet your quivering lips, but neither comes. Thoughts of your own porcelain throne, as well as a few good sheets of 2-ply toilet paper, drift just beyond hope in the realm of the divine.
You’re sick and alone in a foreign land.
Belgrade, Serbia — The capital city hasn’t seen such an onslaught of blasts from an American since the bombing campaign in 2000, which ended the war in Kosovo. I am pale and shaking on the streets of Belgrade, calculating my chances of making it on time to the nearest restroom. The odds are against me, but luckily I have in my company a Canadian who speaks French and English and a Serbian who speaks French and, of course, Serbian.
Canadian (stumbling with translation, voice filled with urgency): “Toilet…uhhh….Toillettes?”
Serbian (nearing panic): “Toilettes?? ooh…ooh… Toaleti!!! ”
This takes but a few tortuous seconds before I am whisked away into the back corner of a nearby convenient store, which is soon evacuated. Mothers grab their crying children, an elderly man drops from a heart attack, and passers-by duck around corners and dive over cars.
Unable to find a room for the night in which I could suffer in solitude, the Serbian girl reluctantly leads us back to the place she shares with her boyfriend. He is less than thrilled to hear of the predicament, but kindly offers up his own bed for me to sleep in. I deny the offer and insist on the floor. Besides, it is much closer to the toilet, or at least what is left of the toilet.
The bowl is missing part of its base and I have to distribute my weight just right to keep it from toppling.
“You must eat. We cook you food.”
“No, thank you. I am very tired. I go to sleep now. I’ll be better in the morning.”
I lay motionless on the cramped kitchen floor as the couple whips up a home cooked meal. The smell turns my stomach and I pull my sleeping bag over my head.
A jab in the shoulder, “You…wake-up. You must eat!”
“No, thank you.”
“You very stupid not wanting to eat.”
I am very tired, only able to carry out the most basic of communication functions: please, thank you, and flipping the bird. It takes great restraint to keep from doing the latter.
The next day the boyfriend is growing more ill-tempered, the girl psychotic, and my Canadian translator fed-up. This bug in my gut is a plague on us all. I throw back two Immodium AD’s, the pharmacological equivalent of a cork in the rear, and head out of the city on the next bus.
A third to a half of all travelers traveling for two weeks or more will have stomach trouble at some point. No matter how closely you follow the old adage, “If you can cook it, boil it, or peel it, you can eat it…otherwise forget it,” there is a good chance that you still could have problems. Diarrhea can be brought on by a change in climate, food, and water.
With any stomach problem the main danger is dehydration. Inflow should equal outflow. Otherwise, you could have yourself a serious problem. Always carry several tablets of rehydration salts that can be picked up at your local drugstore. They can be added to a bottle of water in order to replace lost minerals and salts. If after 48 hours you are still wearing down a path between your bed and the can, seek medical attention.
Drugs like Immodium AD® provide temporary relief, but they are not a cure. Let your body try to flush out whatever is bothering you. Only start popping pills if you aren’t going to be near any toilets for a while or you are trying to avoid causing an international incident.
Always carry a roll of your favorite TP in a Ziploc bag. In some nations TP is rarely used. Why waste paper when you have a perfectly useless left hand just hanging there at your side? In other nations TP is harvested from the scraps at the sand paper factory after they were discarded for being too rough.
You may never grow sick of travel, but it is likely that you will become sick while traveling. I know what you’re thinking, “This is the kind of thing that could never happen to me.” As the individual that has a serious claim to the Guinness record of “Most Movements in a Day,” I am here to tell you…