I’m being asked quite often about stomach issues in all the weird countries around the world. Maybe the fact that I am vegetarian saves me from constant diarrhoea, and I can’t tell you a story of how I ‘ate some elephant testicles and then couldn’t stand up for 5 days’, but let me tell you of two occasions when I got terribly sick – they always were accompanied by some of the most amazing events of the trip – I find this coincidence a bit disturbing.
Anyways, I also think it is a bit hard to write a blog entry about vomiting and score some decent audience, so this entry is not about vomit, it is about stories that happened before and afterwards.
I remember that time I got really sick in Pakistan. I have several suspects who might be to blame for that unlucky experience, but my bet is either on the over-cheesed pizza from the only pizza joint in Rawalpindi, or on the strange gooey drink full of slimy round things that Atif made me drink that evening.
I met Atif, Ahmed and Mikey at the CS meeting that I organised myself in a local shisha place in Islamabad.
The next day Atif took me around Rawalpindi, his home town, to see some amazing mosques, feel the craziness of the traffic and do some shopping at the market. By shopping I mean, of course, buying an AK-47. I am Russian, after all. I finally got my AK-47 for about $1, it could shoot water and probably even vodka if I could only find some.
After the pizzas and gooey drinks Atif decided that we gotta jump on his motorbike, pay a visit to his family and then ride northwards until it gets cold, because the heat of Rawalpindi that day was insufferable.
So we did, indeed, ride about 50km towards Murree, and only near the hills the air finally became fresher – also probably because it was already night time. We stopped at the local roadside teahouse – with almost nothing around for kilometres – to get some tea and head back. We probably looked quite weird: appeared from out of nowhere in the middle of the night highway, with a plastic AK-47 and crazy eyes.
The last adventure happened when Atif was dropping me off in Islamabad after the ride. We found ourselves in a very posh neighbourhood, completely lost and confused, riding on a sidewalk, and the police just had to stop us. Luckily, my passport was with me. Unluckily, so was the plastic water-shooting AK-47.
The thing is, the next morning I woke up with the worst sickness I’ve ever felt. Even worse, that very morning I was supposed to move to another couchsurfing place: to stay with Mikey and his housemates. I barely made it to their apartment. There was a vodka bottle on the table and a goldfish inside.
I was amused by the fact that the goldfish spent all its life from early childhood (when it was small enough to slide down into the bottle) in the vodka bottle. There was also a carton box with two squeaking puppies inside, and Mikey, Fahad, Fazal and Ali lovingly called them ‘piss monsters’. I wanted to laugh but you are not supposed to laugh when you’re about to throw up.
‘We’re even sparing you the bed, Anna-Banana!’ exclaimed Mikey like a real gentleman. I nodded, collapsed on the bed and passed out for the rest of the day and night. I had several wake-ups during the time of being unconscious, and every time Mikey would approach me with a new treatment: “We got you a new pair of sunglasses!”, “We got you some juice and mangoes!”, “This is our national medicine, look: it makes bubbles in your stomach and your sickness goes away!”
Those guys were the sweetest hosts I ever had, although they spent days after days hibernating under the aircon and only went out after sunset to hunt down some food.
Well, the thing is, in a day or two the sickness finally buggered off and here back came Atif with his motorbike, and the next day we drove off to Murree, the hilly green land where all city folks from Islamabad go on posh holidays. There were waterfalls, fireflies and lots of storytelling.
Next time I got sick was, again, quite inconvenient.
The town Ranong in Thailand, let’s be honest, doesn’t offer much – except for being a jump-off point for Ko Phayam island. There was one great thing, however – my CS host Camille (who, by the way, runs a dive shop The Smiling Seahorse with live aboard diving trips to Burma!)
I was going to leave for Ko Phayam to meet Mi, another amazing CSer from Sichuan.
Some restaurant food from the night before must have been to blame – but starting from early afternoon my face was greenish in colour, I was throwing up on an hourly basis and life was pretty bad. Camille made for dinner something amazing which I couldn’t look at without feeling sick. Ko Phayam had to be delayed until further notice, as I was rolling from one side to another on my couch and dreaming psychedelic dreams about slimy aliens.
To cut the vomiting story short, I made it put alive and soon took that damned ferry to Ko Phayam, where Mi and I stayed in a rastafarian resort and walked half of the circumference of the island all the way to what was probably the coolest bar I’ve seen: the building is made entirely out of timber from a shipwreck. Yarrrr!
Later that evening, at the rastafarian resort, we met a weird Mexican character who’s been travelling around the world for about 20 years, earning money by playing music and selling handicrafts. He even managed to teach me some tricks on ukulele.
Finally, when the night fell down, we went for a swim of a lifetime. If you watched ‘The life of Pi’ or ‘Kon-tiki’, you know about the glowing plankton. Well, in real life this stuff is even more magical than on the screen. Imagine yourself in the warm sea soup full of sparkling blue glowing particles that follow every move of your hand, enveloping you in fairy dust.
I felt like a goddamn fairy queen and the vomiting was no more.