The trouble with eating out for every meal of the day is that when the stomach pains hit, you’re really not quite sure what caused it this time.
When I arrived in China two months ago, I foolishly believed my stomach lining was made of iron. Not a lot makes me sick, and in America I’m really only sick twice a year–then I crossed the ocean, and had the worst fever of my life in Tibet. That should have been a tip-off, you know, that my body wasn’t as strong as I thought it was. Truly, I knew that my body was about to encounter a whole new world of bacteria. Distantly. At the back of mind, maybe.
So, I ate whatever (even expired ice cream bars), and was like, ‘Whatever.’ (Don’t give me that look, Judgey McJudgerson; the black currant ice cream bars here are life-changing). As my fellow group mates fell to their beds, gripping their stomachs, I charged onwards, kabob skewer dangling from my lips like the over-sized toothpick it was. I felt invincible, or at the very least, careless. I avoided drinking tap water outright, but that was about it.
A few weeks ago, the pain hit.
The frustrating thing about it was that the pain came and went, and in the lulls I felt healthy. A false sense of bravado, or security, or whatever. But I was in denial for so long (“It’s probably just indigestion, right?”) that it took me over a week to make it over to Global Doctors, a nearby clinic in which most of the staff spoke English. I went with two other group mates, who both sounded like they were doing their best to hack up a lung. An ear infection, bronchitis, blocked sinuses, a cold, and a stomach bug. I had the latter, according to the doctor. He peered into my ear canals, poked around my abdomen (during which I absolutely did not giggle), and pressed a stethoscope against my skin to listen to the in-out of my breath.
No, he said, when I had asked him if he thought my pains were caused by the water from the dispenser in my room. It’s rare for that to happen, especially if the water came in a sealed container. I told him I was glad, because I had already shelled out 150 yuan for ten containers of water, and I didn’t think the guy had a return policy.
Probably something you ate, he said, tapping his pen against his chin. Any ideas?
None, I replied.
Well, he said. You probably will never know.
Thanks, I said. 910 yuan for peace of mind, 12 Ciprofloxacin Hydrochloride tablets, and no actual answer.
There’s a moral to this story, somewhere. It’s not ‘Don’t eat expired ice cream bars,’ because I only ate that my first week in China, and I’m well over my second month mark. I swear. It’s probably something like ‘Be thankful for Western toilets’ or even ‘Maybe you shouldn’t eat in hole-in-the-walls ensconced in dark, dirty alleys’–actually, no. Some of the best food I’ve ever had have come out of the sketchiest places.
I guess all I have to say is that it’s worth it. So pencil out some time in your day for Bathroom Time and the time directly after for rolling around on your bed and groaning, but never stop eating. Do be careful, because that shit ain’t fun. But yeah–eat with very little regret. There’s…very little you can do about it, anyways.
On that happy note…
P.S. I refrained from speaking specifically about my bowel movements, because while I like to keep things real that’s definitely too real. So. You’re welcome.