Normally, my body has no problems with travel. Cram me into the smallest seat, feed me the scariest looking food, blast me with air conditioning, steam me with humidity - I typically take it like a champ. Due to my upbringing near the edge of the universe and multitude of hours spent at the mercy of tedious church sermons, I have a preternatural ability to hibernate with my eyes open. And, for the most part, I have been lucky. My body can generally bounce back.
Unfortunately, I knew my luck had to run out eventually. What I didn’t know was that my luck would run out ALL at ONCE, creating Job-like suffering (see mom, I was paying attention) that has hilariously, lasted nearly my entire trip to Rwanda.
First came the cold. The morning I was to get on two trans-continental flights, I woke with a face full of goo. I loaded up on Dayquil, Nyquil, extra soft travel packages of Kleenexes and steeled myself for the hateful glances. No one likes to sit next to Typhoid Mary on the plane; I knew I wouldn’t be making any friends.
But oh, the pain.
Takeoff wasn’t so bad, as I remembered to take Dayquil. But you tend to forget how many hours have passed, and I failed in my timing of the second set of pills (also – does one take Nyquil as it’s 12am at your starting point, or Dayquil, because it’s 6 am at your landing? You tell me). I gave up around the time I was delirious with pain and opted just to cradle my face in my hands. When we finally landed, the nice Ethiopian guy across the way put his hand on my shoulder and said “Would you like a Dayquil?”
A long hot shower in Amsterdam made me feel human again, as did fishing out the rest of my cold medicine and taking a double dose. I managed to make it to Rwanda without popping an eye.
Three days later, while crouching on the toilet at 4am trying to read an expose of the American Funeral industry (no lie), I would think fondly of that pain. Having emptied my stomach of all its contents, I was at the point where throwing up felt good. At least then I could crawl back to bed and get twenty minutes of sweaty rest before it started all over again. This was not exquisite pain; it was knife-slicing, from my sternum to colon.
I have had food poisoning before, so I knew it was only a matter of time before the worst would pass. So, each time the pain washed over me, I kept calm, counted the seconds and tried to move as little as possible. I made it to 5:00am, and finally fell asleep. I woke up two hours later, knowing I felt better (because hey, at least I rested longer than twenty minutes), but still with intermittent pain. Luckily, it was raining – and Saturday – so I had nothing else to do. The rest of the weekend was dry toast and juice and bad movies, with a healthy dose of antibiotics - which had been waiting at the bottom of my medical kit, blissfully unexpired.
As if that ordeal weren’t enough, I woke up yesterday plagued with bug bites. There’s no bug net to speak of in my hotel room, and I didn’t think much of it, until I realized that due to my earlier illness(es), I had forgone taking any malaria pills (why poke an already upset stomach?). As a result, I may be able to add malaria to my list of ailments. Or bed bugs.
Oh please, don’t let it be bed bugs.
So, right now I sit, covered with cortisone cream and Benadryl, ready to get on a plane for home. I am kind of half expecting another minor calamity; perhaps locusts to fall from the sky, or more realistically – lice from airplane pillows. On the other hand, things come in threes - and I feel like I've met my quota.
Never again will I feel cocky about my ability to go anywhere, eat anything. I get the message, Universe. I am not invincible. As it turns out, I am very, very vincible.