On my second day of work I started to feel not so great in the intestinal region. Mr. YemenEm told me that there is no one who arrives to Yemen who isn’t struck with at least a wee bout of “Saleh’s Revenge,” named for the former president of Yemen. (Funny how when you get diarrhea in the U.S., you’re not like “Man, I have a serious case of Obama’s Curse).
I left work and generally started to feel crappier (pun intended) as the evening progressed and by nighttime I was a sweaty ball of sick in bed moaning for a cold, wet washcloth for my burning forehead and running to the bathroom every 20 minutes where all sorts of fluids were coming out of both ends with competing persistence. Mr. YemenEm responded by tossing a wet bath towel in the direction of my face. Man needs to work on his nursing skills.
As my fever rose, I commented that, shoot, I hadn’t even turned in my life insurance forms to HR yet, so if I died in this creepy ass hotel in the poorest country in the Middle East, Mr.YemenEm would have little to remember me by except for some fun times. Oh and my ghost, which would surely join all the others in this hotel and haunt him for the rest of his time here and then follow him to his future posts because damned if I’m going to let some mortal have all the fun in New York and Madrid without me. He assured me that I probably wouldn’t die, but still I pictured medics rushing into the room and loading me in an ambulance (but in my fevered state, it was a field ambulance circa WWI, the kind that is really more of a wheelbarrow and can only offer you medicines like tincture of aluminum and smelling salts). The thought of riding in the back of a ambulance down the unordered and bumpy roads here sent me running to the bathroom again. And again, and again.
By morning, the very worst of it had passed and I had further contributed to Yemen’s impending water crisis by flushing the toilet several hundred times. The fever broke and I was merely left with a stomach that sounded (and felt) like a packed Olympic stadium during one of the good sports (like swimming or synchronized water ballet, not a lame one like skeet shooting).
I missed two days of work. An email went out informing staff that a handful of employees were stricken with a norovirus. At one point my boss called me. I’m not proud to admit this, but I was on the toilet for part of that call. I felt I had other choice.
On the bright side, Mr.YemenEm and I had both gained a few pounds of wedding weight and while he’s still working his coupla el-bees off with disgustingly hard Crossfit workouts, I dropped a few around the middle without working out at all. So joke’s on him. Sucker.
On a serious note, really one of the worst parts of being that sick was that it wasn’t so good for my morale. For the several hours I was awake over those two dark and smelly days, there were moments when I was like “Really? I’m being ripped apart from the inside by a Yemeni virus, I have exactly one person who cares about me here, I can’t stream Masterpiece Classics on Netflix, and I don’t even have a huge bowl of spicy noodle soup from DC Noodles to look forward to when this is all over?! WTF?!” I felt foolish for thinking that my general sense of optimism and adventure would hold up in a place as bleak as this.
But by the time I felt like myself again, I was delighted to discover that all that negativity left my body along with Saleh’s Revenge, and I am actually excited to be here! This place is fascinating! My job is pretty interesting! I’m growing as a person and expanding my worldview and seeing things most people don’t get a chance to see! The food’s not that bad! Oh wait, but where is the cheese? Please, some subtle gouda, some zesty sharp cheddar, a sassy blue? No? Well, fuck, life maybe isn’t worth living. No, it is! It really is!
And of course, I get to finally be with my darling Mr.YemenEm, who has learned from this experience that a balled up damp towel does not a cold compress make.
Yours in health,