And so the world turns. I woke up feeling fine this morning, a little queazy but nothing unusual for travel and the crazy food. Then it hit. Like a wave I was getting chills, red face, and lost yesterday’s dinner which I think was the culprit. Everything was cooked, but who knows what it even was; could have been more elephant dung and spiders for all I know (protein! I was told). Still, I persevered thinking I could out-think this and stay in motion.
I was late by 30 minutes coming down for my driver, but I still thought I could make it through the day. I had a day of temples and floating markets planned and nothing would stop me. I started with the “Lady Temple,” a Hindu temple, the best one yet with regard to condition. Halfway through, the sun was just too much. I felt wobbly and thought I’d faint. I told the guide that I needed to go back, I wasn’t feeling well and he said ok. Even then, I kept snapping the camera just not ready to throw in the towel. Unfortunately the hike back was longer than I could take and sometimes the body just gives out.
I diverted to a ravine just behind a tree and bent over to lose whatever remained in my stomach. The guide came over and pounded my back while I vomited mostly water. (excuse the detail). The point being that I’m down to nothing in my stomach. I’m not sure what pounding my back did but I was just glad he was there. Who knows how long my dead body would be there otherwise.
When we finally made it back to the street, I walked up to a merchant and purchased Khmer clothing and scarf that I will never wear again and changed into it in a rest room, cleaning up the best I could. What I most wanted was the plastic bag that it came in because I knew I wouldn’t make the drive back.
And I was right.
The hour and a half drive was spent with me laying down in the back seat only to pop up every 10 minutes and attempt to throw up nothing. Painful. I remember looking out the window once only to see an open wooden cart, pulled by a horse. The cart was chalk-full of raw chickens that had been de-feathered and were bouncing along in the blazing sun. I heaved into my bag trying not to make a sound so the driver wouldn’t get grossed out. It didn’t work. He glanced back and started driving even faster down the pot-holed, dirt road.
Throughout the trip I became fascinated with holes. Don’t ask me why and keep your thoughts clean. At one point, some Japanese tourists were laughing at me taking pictures of the holes in the stones. Many of the holes were made over a thousand years ago and used to hold wooden spikes, hoisted by ropes and pulleys to get the stone to the top of the structure. I was fascinated by the math and engineering involved in such an endeavor all those years ago.
Some holes were made by invading armies and religions destroying temple images, only to be replaced with those of a different religion. Still others were the result of bullets and munitions, or even decade after decade of water. Every hole had a story.
My mind wandered as I imaged the potholes as remnants of war.
I tried desperately to get my head into a positive space because otherwise I felt really horrible. I said an Our Father and asked God not to take me on communist ground; please Lord, let me just get to a Capitalist country to breath my last.
What was it that made its way into my stomach and had begun waging war on my little capitalist organs? Would the communists bacteria prevail? Hell no. I took a deep breath and thought about Poi Pot. I think I was hallucinating because I imagined my leading an army to battle the Poi Pot bacteria that would eventually make its way to my brain because as a terribly poor student, “Cambodia’s Hitler” killed the intellectuals first. I knew his plot and that he wasn’t a bright man… just another narcissistic murdered set to gain revenge for the self-perceived ills bestowed upon him.
In my dream, Ronald Reagan was in the distance. I hobbled toward him the best I could, doubled over and limping from a bad ankle.
“Gipper, Gipper, is that you?”
“Aw Lindy, there you go again… stand up straight girl, you’re American. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Trust but verify and tear down this wall. We may have blinked on Vietnam, but they still tore the stinking wall down. Remember, you have a piece of that wall inside the glass table in your living room. Sometimes the horizon is a little further than we think, but we eventually get there.”
I smiled, even giggled. I think the driver thought I was seeing heaven. I was.
“So what have you gotten yourself into this time, Lindy?” Gip asked.
“You know Gip, that’s what my dear grandmother used to always say to me, may she rest in peace,” I whispered.
He nodded looking at the ground, as if in remembrance.
“I think I ate a communist, President Reagan, sir. It hurts rather badly. I think he’s shooting up my intestines, making holes. Do you think I’ll make it, sir?” I responded weakly.
“Now Lindy you know that answer to that. Of course you’ll make it, by the grace of God,” he said with that adorable little Reagan grin while he nodded his head side to side.
I winced with pain, then caught myself.
“You can’t save the world, Lindy. But you can save a small part,” he added.
“Hey, that’s what the nuns used to tell me,” I replied.
“I know,” he said.
Suddenly I was caught with a gust of hot air across my face as the car door swung open and an army of Khmer stood before me in full regalia. I squinted as I glanced over at them and sat up, bag at the ready. I dry heaved into the bag, tears running down my red face and looked over at them again. By now I looked like death warmed over. I reached for my phone and made the only call I’ve made while abroad to the first number that I recognized.
“Hi mom. Where are you? he replied hesitantly.
“I’m sick, Sammy. I need you to get with your brother and call my doctor,” I said in a raspy, pathetic voice.
“OK, but I’m going to put you on the phone with Jessica while I do that, OK?”
“No – I can’t. Just tell him I can’t keep anything down including the meds he gave me in case something like this happened,” I said quickly.
“OK mom. I’m on it. I love you mom,” he said.
“I love you Sammy,” I said before hanging up.
I looked out the door at the growing number of Khmer in full traditional garb and said, “I just called my son. He’ll take care of things.”
They just stared at me and smiled. I made my way slowly from the car. They placed my arms one over each of their gold paisley shoulders and carried me to my room. The pain was dreadful.
In route to the room, they kept asking if I wanted to see a doctor and I kept declining. There really are no doctors here, and the ones here are known to do more damage than good; kinda the opposite of the Hippocratic oath.
I took a shower, washed out my clothes and settled into bed to answer a barrage of text messages from my kids who offered everything from calling the embassy to summoning a Seal Team for an extraction. My doc advised me to go to the hospital, but I’m resisting because I don’t trust it and I don’t want to be stuck with a needle in Cambodia. Just saying.
OK – That’s today’s story and I’m tired. Nap time for now and more later, God willing.