what's a little bacteria when you've got an army of caregivers?

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Africa » Ethiopia » Oromia Region » Jimma
June 20th 2012
Published: July 6th 2012
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As predicted, I picked up a little intestinal bacteria. Every time I was served food on a dish that was not completely dried, or had water from the shower splash in my mouth, or watched the kitchen staff prepare my food when I know toilet paper is hard to come by, I was wondering if this would be the incident to do me in.

The stomach cramps were pretty bad, and of course there was diarrhea and complete loss of appetite. I laid in bed for the afternoon on Monday, and that evening one of my students came over to take care of me once he heard that I was down and out. Totally unnecessary, but incredibly sweet. He fed me chicken soup and plain spaghetti and made oral rehydration solution.

While he did that, Tesfaye (the head server/security guy at the hotel) anxiously awaited the American doctors to return from dinner, hurrying one of them to my room to help me. Again, totally unnecessary, and she was in a little bit of a panic when she arrived, thinking she was going to have to perform CPR or something. She told me to just take my Cipro supply, if I wanted, and to go to the hospital if it didn’t clear up in 3 days. My student and one of the Tanzanians wanted to take me to the hospital right away and were irritated that I didn’t want to, but I insisted that I just needed to rest and be near a toilet. They were all very concerned; my phone kept ringing as word started to spread to the other students. And every time someone came to my room to check on me, a couple of other heads would peek in with concerned looks. In Amharic they told me that they wish they could take the sickness from me so that they could suffer instead. They are such sweet people!

The next day I canceled our morning class and managed to get over there in the afternoon thanks to the power of just 2 doses of Cipro, but only a small number of students showed up. They wouldn’t even let me stand in front of the class but preferred to do everything for me. I’ve learned that Ethiopians, being a communal culture, like to take care of each other. I suppose it’s a good sign that so many of them were concerned and wanted to take care of me like I am one of their own. So I just let them, and it felt nice to be so carefully cared for.

So now I am back to my old self, eating again and figuring that the remaining doses of Cipro will kill anything else that wants to mess with me. It’s been a while since I’ve been ill when traveling. But now that I’m in remission, it’s not devastating when it happens (whew!). And with so many people wanting to care for me, I was able to make a quick recovery.


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