Sunday, April 10, 2011

The kindness of strangers

     Getting sick suddenly makes traveling seem like a stupid idea. Why ever go five miles from home? Oh, right, I don’t have a home. And come to think of it, I’ve been sick at home too, when I had one. I ate something, swallowed water in the shower or put my shoe in my mouth while I was sleeping. Who knows? I woke up sick a few days ago and couldn’t keep anything in. Luckily I am in a hotel and not on the boat where the marina toilets are a long, long way away. I would have been sprinting or hiding in the hedges since we don’t use the boat head in the marina. But as it happened I’m in this wacky hotel where the owner fortunately happens to be a doctor, he told me not to eat. When this happened in American Samoa from eating at McDonald’s, I was also told by the local doctor not to eat anything. Starve the bugs and they leave your system faster. I did that. I lay in bed all day hungry and wrote countless emails. Raul, the manager went to the store and came back with an electrolyte drink for invalids. Julio, the maintenance guy gave me a bottle of pills, which turned out are for ulcers so I didn’t take them, but his concern was touching. I must have looked ghastly wobbling into the courtyard to sit in the sun, before I had to dash back. Being sick is lonely, lying in bed feeling sorry for myself and all. I missed my art classes, a gallery opening and a few meals, but it didn’t really matter. Instead I was shown genuine concern from strangers, which is so very heartwarming and actually a very good reason to travel. We all get sick, as it turns out this is the best place it could have happened. I almost wept when I was handed a bowl of soup for breakfast this morning in the staff kitchen. It was kind of them to talk me into joining them. It tasted so good, there is nothing like deprivation to heighten the senses. I sat in the kitchen slowly sipping spicy red broth with lime next to a tiny boy, dressed like Spiderman who was being hand fed. The staff chatted and laughed with each other, which is universal, it doesn’t really matter what is said. I could have cared less if they were laughing at me, but I doubt they were.
     A few hours later I ventured out to the sidewalk, still not willing to go much further. The doctor and Raul asked how I was feeling.  In rapid Spanish they covered a lot of ground that I couldn’t keep up with. I caught the word dog a few times though. Raul explained that the doctor doesn’t like the place Julio went for the soup because he thinks they use dog meat. Had I been given the option I might have declined breakfast out of ingrained American sensibilities, but honestly, it was still the best soup I ever had.
     There’s a giant spider living in the bathroom. I’m careful when I turn the light on not to scare it. It sits in the same place without moving for so long that at first I thought it was dead. I can’t bring myself to kill it and so far it hasn’t seemed bothered to share the room with me. One day I may find out it is deadly poisonous with no antidote, but like dog soup, lack of knowledge is everything.  

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