• American Abroad

    The trouble with traveling is that wherever I go, I take my gut along with me. In 2001, I decided to go to on a two-week tour of Egypt with a group from the church I was attending at that time. Now I had been to Egypt before; I used to work for a software company that was based out of Mohandessin, an industrial area outside of Cairo. At one point in my illustrious service, my employer decided on the fly that I had to go to Egypt immediately to work directly with the developers and so I spent a few weeks there in 1994. I did not have a chance to deal with dysentery on that trip because I did not have a chance to eat — remind me sometime to share with you the joys of working as a documentation specialist in a software company, okay? This office actually had a manservant who would pick me up at the hotel (where I was forced to surrender my passport because I was an American woman traveling alone), drive me to and from work, and somewhere around midday, he would bring me food: canned tuna and bottled water. I think I saw a glimpse of the pyramids as I was being driven back to the airport on my way home. So…the joys of business travel for grunt workers.

    Anyway, I wanted to experience more of Egypt than merely the inside of a hotel room, so off I went to Egypt again.  Long story short: I ended up being sick as a dog for the majority of the trip and once again seeing primarily hotel room interiors. First, I caught the flu from the woman sitting next to me for eighteen hours on the flight over to Cairo. That turned into bronchitis. Then, I decided to explore the wonders of dysentery. By the time I finally had a chance to leave my room and eat (thereby contaminating my Crohn’s gut with a form of the Shigella bacterium) most of the other people on the trip who were going to get the sh^ts already had had it. There was no Flagyl to be found. So once again, I ended up staying in my hotel room, sh^tting my guts out between bouts of vomiting while the other members of the tour explored the wonders of the Great Pyramid.

    After almost 24 hours of pooping and puking, I figured I needed to get something — anything — to help me through this bout. Everybody else on the tour was, as I mentioned, climbing into the bowels of the Great Pyramid while I was emptying mine in my hotel room bathroom. So I decided that the only place I could get help was to find a concierge of some kind in the lobby.

    Did I mention that this particular part of the trip was the highlight? We were staying in a truly swanky place in Giza within site of the Great Pyramid. And after 24 hours of double-ended expulsion, I was not looking my best. Still, I decided that my best chance of survival was to go to the lobby and find help.

    There was a wedding party in the lobby. The bride and groom were at the top of this enormous marble staircase in the lobby having their pictures taken while throngs of people dressed in tuxedos and evening gowns surrounded them. In my baggy stained sweats, I was somewhat underdressed for the occasion. I still figured that I could somehow secretly circle the perimeter of the party. That  was my first strategic error. There was no way to circle around this event — it was enormous. My second error was believing that I had time before the next bout to actually get around all of these people. Yup! Wrong there, too.

    Do you know how far projectile vomit can reach? I do.

    Do you know how fast people can jump when in the path of projectile vomiting? Yes, I know that one as well.

    Have you ever had smelly uncontrollable diarrhea in the middle of a lobby filled with well-dressed people who really thought that after spending thousands of dollars on a very expensive wedding they would be safe from American tourists with dysentery? Oh yes, I know that one, too.

    Eventually, the hotel manager and several of his bellboys surrounded me like wolves on a hunt and herded me out of the lobby and away from the wedding. They kept me circled, shielding me from the other guests, until they could get me back on the elevator that would take me to my room. At some point, somebody shoved a bottle of Pepto Bismal in my hand. Of course, their containment was too late. I had left my mark on that wedding.

    Just doing my bit for world peace and mutual understanding, one poop/puke at a time.



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