Monday, April 10, 2006

On Illness

When you live in India, illness is a fact of life. The water can make you sick. The food can make you sick. Your roommates can make you sick. If you can think of it, it can probably upset your stomach. The prevalence of all this illness has brought with it a certain degree of comfort in discussing discomforts that I had not experienced in the US and which, to be perfectly honest, I’d rather not experience here. My friends and co-workers aren’t at all hesitant to talk about intestinal parasites and stool samples over lunch. The latest symptoms and diagnoses are the subject of much tea-time talk and a few weeks ago, when I confessed to not feeling entirely well to a high school girl I barely know, she casually asked—without the slightest hint of embarrassment—“diarrhea?” I can barely bring myself to type that word, much less utter it aloud to a virtual stranger! I was mortified.

Luckily, even though we get sick regularly, most everything is curable today. We take antibiotics for the bacteria, “flagelle” for the amoebas, bed rest for typhoid, lactobacil (the “good” bacteria) for pretty much everything, and hope to hell we're not doing permanent damage to our systems with all the drugs we're ingesting. The younger crowd tends to get sick more than the seasoned veterans. I think this is due in large part to the fact that we can’t bring ourselves to swear off of “Bazaar food” as many old-timers have long ago. The rational part of our brains realizes that the restaurants in the Bazaar are dirty, gross and would make a US hygiene inspector go into cardiac arrest. But it’s yummy food and so when the school cafeteria deals us a particularly unkind blow, we find ourselves chowing down on questionable food off dirty plates and imagining we can already feel our insides roiling. Pass the salt and hand me the antibiotics.


At 12:31 PM, Blogger Rhonda said...

Do they still use those little clay pots for stool samples? :) What fun! Maybe they don't anymore, but if you know what I'm talking about, if you can actually give a sample in one of those things, I think you automatically know that something is wrong with your body. I guess they still have to determine which bacteria is causing the problem. Yikes. (Yes, definitely experienced in conversations about bodily functions that should not normally be discussed.)

I feel so special to be acknowleged in one of your posts! :) I have no idea how preya found your site and I sort of accidentaly found hers and then yours as a result. But I really enjoy hearing all about life at Woodstock these days. Some things have changed and some things always stay the same. My dad also went to school there and we both had some similar experiences 30 years apart. A very amazing place with many memories. I'm glad you don't mind us 'listening in' on your adventure.


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