So you thought you would be safe? That because you travel regularly abroad, to the field, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you would never get sick again?
Well think again.
Scene: Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, 5-day conference organised by yours truly for some 30 participants. Stress-levels: Over the roof. Picture-perfect accommodation: Clean hotel with swimming pool by the beach, tasteless food (I only said picture-perfect, it only has to look good, not taste good), one fantastic roommate who does not mind that I sleep naked in this heat.
I suddenly wake up, only to realise it is because my stomach does not agree with something. I try a few suggestions to make it happier, and hope to return to sleep. Diligently, I place the cover across my abdomen. Surely keeping it warm will do the trick.
Perhaps if massaged it gently?
Still massaging, still feeling a combination of drowsy and upset. Perhaps now is a good time to warn my manager I will not be able to make our 8am meeting.
Manager warned, stomach still angry. Let’s try the toilet.
I might as well take my phone with me, who knows how long I’ll be.
Nothing. But I did almost fall asleep on the bowl so perhaps I should just try that trick in bed instead.
Oh my GOD when will it stop hurting so I can finally sleep?!
Let’s roll over and see what–
Back on the loo.
Nothing. I feel like death. Perhaps help is a better option at this stage.
Drudgedly, I stand up, shuffle around looking for pieces of clothing to throw on my back, unlock the door to the outside world, and randomly err in the hotel corridor looking for staff.
Well luckily, one of them happened to be standing right in front of my room. Well hello you! Would you, by any chance, know if there is anyone at reception right now? Yes? Wonderful thank you.
That man lied to me. Who lies to sick people? How twisted do you have to be?
Bent over in half, holding my stomach for whatever good it did (none, probably), I make my way back to my corridor, but the man has disappeared.
Ah, that would explain it, it was an hallucination. Of course, I mean, I am clearly dying of some sort of bacteria unknown to man, which causes bloating, cramps, and blocks breathing, why not throw in hallucinations too?
My feet guide me to the balcony unknowingly, it seems my body has taken over all decision-making. I am okay with that, I trust nature to keep me alive. (In the whole nature vs nurture debate, if one thing is certain, it is that I have more survival knowledge and information in my instincts as a mammal than in my brain as an evolved being – or perhaps I am not an evolved being but that is a separate debate). Out on the balcony, I glimpse my friend the liar, lying flat on the floor as if he’d been assaulted. I almost expected a little pool of blood to ooze from his head. Clearly I watch too many crime-based series, or those hallucinations are very powerful. Convinced the man was not real, I decide to poke him. He wakes up and stares at me.
Ah, hello again. Yes, I’d forgotten how uncanny it looks when you sleep on the floor. Well. I’m sick. I need a doctor.
The man stares, and bumbles back “Speak Swahili. No English.”
Oh how convenient. Really? You work in a hotel for international guests!
Well, clearly this man doesn’t speak body language. Now I know, I shall have to learn to say “doctor” in every local language. This is probably quite a good suggestion too.