Though it might seem clichéd to commence this email with a comical
description of a gastrointestinal maladie a la mexicana, my Mexican
sejour unfortunately started on this note. Don’t worry, the email expands to other topics besides my temporary illness.
A tequila for the señorita? No, my gringo stomach prefers Pepto Bismol
Two and a half days into my one month work related stay in Mexico and I
fall prey to Montezuma’s revenge. Oh yes. One would think that a seasoned traveler like me who balked at other gringos´ precautions about not eating food sold on the street would not get sick. My stomach has processed food from all over, but it’s still a stomach used to first world cleanliness.
Jalisco, the state of Mexico that I am in, is well known for it’s
tequila. A typical drink visitors try is tequila. But not this señorita, oh
no, a shot or couple shots of that great pink thick elixir that tastes like
toothpaste is what I want. The nectar of the sick. Pepto Bismol.
I woke up that Friday morning feeling weak and tired. I could tell that
I needed more than just a jolt of java to revive myself. I was supposed
to meet a sociologist at the University of Guadalajara. I called him 20
minutes before our meeting time and told him I was too sick to make it to the
university. The professor came to meet me at my hotel. In the middle of our
talk, I had to excuse myself and go to the bathroom. He was very nice about the
whole thing and called his friend who is a doctor to see if he could
take care of me. He drove me to the American hospital and left me there
to wait for his friend, he had to go to another appointment. I sat in the
hallway with my head almost to my knees, I was so fatigued I could
barely stand up straight or walk to the cafe to get some hot tea. I felt
really sick, with a headache and strong fatigue.
The doctor was really cheerful and after doing his evaluation, he told me
that I had a fever of 38 degrees Celsius and my blood pressure was VERY low,
70-40, I am usually about 90/60. A nurse injected an antibiotic in the part of
the body where usually only babies get injections. I was taking Tylenol for
the fever, Pepto Bismol for the indigestion and oral antibiotics for three
After looking at my abdomen, he told me that I probably had an
infection of some sort, which explained the gas. No more raw vegetables, no more fruit drinks that may have ice. I was on the boring diet of boiled
potatoes and veggies. Instead of going to one of those food stands
I really like and get some authentic Mexican food and juice, I was stuck
with my overpriced gringo restaurant at the hotel. The gringo stomach needed
bland gringo food.
The only fruits I could eat were apples, bananas and lemons. The fruits
I wanted to eat, the tropical ones and the fun ones, were out of bounds.
Apples were forbidden to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Almost everything
but apples were out of my gastrointestinal league. I walked past the juice
shops in lust for the succulent mangos, pineapples, kiwis, papayas and guavas
that yelled at me ¨¡Oiga guera! Comenos.¨ (Hey whitie. Eat us.) My eyes were
overjoyed at the sight of the dynamic colors of the sweet untouchable
fruit, while my mind replayed my doctor’s orders: No raw fruit or vegetables.
As I was trying to convince myself that my pink beverage called Pepto
was not all that bad, I noticed that the little cup that comes with the
bottle of Pepto Bismol looks like a shot glass. So, I played a mental game
with myself and pretended that my toothpaste tasting medicine was actually a
shot of the local liquor of choice. Well, I am not a little kid and of
course realized that Pepto ain’t Tequila, but it was a funny discovery about
the shot cup. You remember when you were a little kid and your parents
tried to force feed you some disgusting liquid medicine and they put it in a
spoon and pretended like it was an airplane about to land in your mouth, well
I was trying to put myself in that frame of mind.
I guess that stomachs made in Russia are just not adept at processing
bacteria from certain parts of the world. In Brazil, I got so excited
about drinking all of these exotic tropical juices that I tried different
kinds in one day and got sick. Caju or Caja plus mango juice don´t make for good
company in my stomach.