Sick in Siem Reap

The only positive thing about having the flu in Cambodia is that there’s noodle soup everywhere. This is the second time I’ve caught a nasty one in Southeast Asia. It causes me to linger in my bunk bed with 15 other people moving beds away from me as I whimper in the night.

Now that I’ve once again caught a flu, I can’t help but be bothered by the cause. Why, again, must I feel this way?! There are too many possibilities to pinpoint one, but if I consider the living conditions in this tropical and poverty-stricken region of the world t guesses would be:

1. The lack of soap – anywhere. You use the toilet then rinse your hands off in the sink and call it good.

2. The “bum gun”, as travelers call it. It’s a hose you aim upwards and spray yourself off after using the toilet. Sometimes you accidentally touch your own bum before dropping it onto the wet floor for the next person to use.

3. The dragonfruit or apple that I purchased at the fly-swarmed market. The markets where freshly killed meat lays on wooden tables, dripping blood down to the floor. Where fish rest on mats directly on the ground. No, I didn’t wash my fruit with the “not safe to drink” tap water.

4. There is no hot water in Cambodia, and the soap available here doesn’t have antibacterial properties. How clean really are those dishes and silverware we’re eating off?

5. The unfiltered smog of motorbikes and tuk-tuks as they buzz around the streets, inches away from pedestrians. There’s a serious lack of sidewalks and those that exist are inhabited by food carts.

6. Mosquitos – my most sure guess. Now that the weather is warming up, there are more and more every day. They commit crimes like Dengue and Malaria. The alternative? scorch your skin with poisonous Deet-filled repellent. Hm…

7. The bedbugs that attack during the night, or the rat that my roommate heard scurrying around yesterday.

8. The culture of sharing one drinking glass for a large group of people – I suppose this is to save dishing water. Or they don’t own enough glasses.

Health standards do not exist in these countries. And for whatever reason, I’m sick, again. The pharmacy, however, is too efficient. Anyone can walk up and request any drug they want. I have every symptom in the world, I would tell the somewhat English-speaking clerk. Headache, fever, body aches, chills, diarrhea, nose congestion….

As I worry that it could be Typhoid Flu, the Cambodian waitress at my favorite noodle shop explained it might just be the changing of weather. I’m going to go with that, for now, and head back to my third day of sleep.

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