The time I traveled and saw nothing

Many years ago, I traveled to an unnamed African country for work. After scheduled meetings I was to have a weekend off at the location. I had excitedly researched all the sights beforehand thinking I would have plenty of time to explore. However, my plans were cut short.

When leaving Nairobi the signs that things would go wrong were there. I left my iPad in the security check and didn’t even notice! Thankfully airport personnel was alert and found me to return the gadget (which was the bees knees at the time). I was bewildered to have forgotten it as I was quite well traveled and didn’t think I’d make such a rookie mistake.

The night before I had a work meeting in Nairobi at a Chinese restaurant. My companion was into seafood so we had shrimps and the works. Mistake! I have warm memories of our dinner conversations but what happened afterwards isn’t something I remember fondly.

Touching down in the unnamed African country, my first surprise was the airport. It was tiny and you had to climb over the one conveyer belt to get your luggage as it was out of order (that day or forever, I do not know). My contact was there to greet me and whisk me off to her house for tea.

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In the evening my contact had invited me to a lovely family dinner with wine and BBQ, so we went to the grocery store (where shortages were a plenty) and bought some tomatoes from a lady selling them by the road for the evening meal. Then, it was time to take a rest at my choice of accommodation. I loved the feel of the lodge and even more so when I saw the beautiful pool (I’m a sucker for swimming and pools).

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I rested a bit, freshened up and arranged a driver to take me to see the sights on the weekend. Leaving for dinner, I felt a bit off but thought nothing of it. Dinner was spectacular and I enjoyed hearing about life in the country from my contact and her family. Suddenly, at the end of the dinner, I started feeling nauseous. For some unknown reason, I felt that it would rude to say anything. Mistake! My contact noticed that I looked worse for wear and suggested her husband take me back to the lodge. I visited the ladies room before leaving and spontaneously vomited the lovely dinner (talking about rude)!!! I fought the nausea, not saying anything (oh why???) and gladly accepted the ride back to the lodge. Once there, I rushed to my room and threw up in abandon all through the night.

The next morning, I felt extremely weak but didn’t want to cancel any meetings as I would most likely never again have the chance to meet the people involved. I was sure I could act enthusiastic and perform as expected. My first meeting went ok. I managed some discussion despite my ashen complexion and the cold sweat pouring down my back. Before my next meeting I took a quick nap at the lodge to gain strength.

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My second meeting was far off from a success. My contact was supposed to pick me up an hour of going in but I was out in 15 minutes. To my horror, as I talked to the administrative official, I felt a panic attack on its’ way. The room started closing in and the nausea building up to the point that I had to flee. The official looked on in bafflement as I closed the meeting and rushed out. In retrospect, the outcome would’ve been the same had I been in for 5 or 90 minutes, so no harm done there. My contact was hugely surprised when I called her to let her know I was ready to be picked up. Even at this point I didn’t tell her what was going on (crazy!!).

I got back to the lodge to rest. In the evening I still pretended to be fine and took part in the lodge’s communal dinner. I ate soup and bread as that was all I could manage. I was frantically thinking of when it would be polite to leave as in addition to the nausea, I did not feel up to the task of listening to Americans drone on about US politics all evening. I was so relieved once I got back to my room. As I was probably suffering a high fever at this point, I just fell on my bed and slept. Mistake!

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In the morning I woke up feeling funny. Looking into the mirror, I saw a swollen chin and ears. Yes, you read right. A swollen chin AND ears. How ears can swell I have no idea. At this point I was starting to panic as I still felt nauseous, had a headache, high fever, terrible diarrhoea (sorry, too much info for sure!!) and now my chin and ears were red and swollen! OMG. I then realized my mistake. In the evening, being in my delirious state, I had forgotten to lower the mosquito net!!!

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I was now in the position that I couldn’t conceal my sickness from anyone any longer. I called my contact and let the lady of the lodge know my need for a doctor – you should’ve seen her face when she saw me, it was not pretty. I had to cancel a work meeting (not to mention my weekend of sightseeing) as I was painfully aware that going out looking like an ogre was not in the cards.

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The country’s Dutch doctor was summoned. He was baffled at my symptoms and prescribed a malaria test. As you can guess, the test was negative, so there was something more sinister going on. He went on to say that I had a skin infection. Hmmm… My guess is that some kind of bug noticed my missing mosquito net and bit into my skin giving me an allergic reaction. To this day I wonder why the good doctor didn’t think of this. In the end I was given a cocktail of antibiotics which didn’t do my stomach any favours!

I slept two days and nights (this time taking care to lower the mosquito net), only to wake to hear the Americans go on and on about their politics again (I was screaming in my head for them to stop their intolerable talk).

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On the Sunday, I felt well enough to proceed for my flight to South Africa. I had friends waiting for me there, so I knew I’d be in good hands if my health plummeted again and felt relieved to be leaving. Apparently the fuel shortage in the country prevented my contact from taking me to the airport. Or perhaps the truth was that she was just bored of my sickly self and found my ways of hiding being ill highly disturbing. A taxi drove me to the doc’s house for a last check-up and off I went. Once again the conveyer belt was out of order. In my weak state, I managed to carry my suitcase behind the scenes to the airplane and get on.

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Now reading this post and the title you could say I lied. I did see something. But for sure it was not what I expected. I didn’t even get to swim in the gorgeous pool. All I have to remind me of the trip are photos of the lodge and the knowledge that it is pure madness to try to conceal being sick (whatever made me do it, I do not know)!

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Have you ever tried to pretend you were in good health when you obviously weren’t? Have you had a trip gone wrong? Do tell!

xx

 


24 thoughts on “The time I traveled and saw nothing

  1. Ah, what a nightmare!!! 😱 The pampered comfory traveler in me is going noooooo…!! 🥵 I’m such a coward that I never eat anything risky, meaning that I mostly eat junk, when I travel to places I don’t yet know well. I’ve only vomied once on a trip (in Thailand, after drinking tea which was normally on my no-no list, but my purser recommended it so I made an exception… mistake!) But when I was working as cabin crew, I continuously felt slight nausea. Never vomited but all the time felt a bit off. That’s one reason why I stopped, it was too stressful, though also amazing and fun. One colleague got a worm in Cape Verde and was unable to get rid of it again – yikes…

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    1. Haha it really was a nightmare! I wonder if the nausea you felt (when working as cabin crew) was related to lack of sleep? I often feel off if my sleep patterns have been disturbed. Your poor colleague with the worm, I really feel for her (or him). Just the thought of it makes me feel faint!

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      1. Yeah I never could go swimming in the hotel pool at Cape Verde after that- apparently, that’s where she got the worm! My nausea was most certainly from a lack of sleep and a generally hectic lifestyle, flying from continent and time zone to another. Maybe I would’ve gotten used to it if I’d stuck to it longer. I’m glad you were now able to turn that nightmare of yours into an entertaining story! 😊

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  2. Oh my… what a trip!!!
    I’ve been very fortunate during all my travels and never encountered such a bad experience.
    During my 5-month trip in India years ago, I got sick only once – which I concider like a very good score!

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    1. Woooow you have been lucky! I hope it continues too 🙏 Years later I had a trip to Tanzania and even though I didn’t get really sick on the actual trip, I had stomach problems for months after I got home. It put me off travel for some time! Not keen to experience that again.

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  3. This sounds like a trip from hell. And it was a work related trip! Worse I think because you’d want to conduct business & not take time off.
    I’ve been fortunate to not get sick while travelling. Hubby though, was once so sick, he didn’t think he’d make it back home. Even so, given all the questionable street food he was willing to try, it’s remarkable that he’s only been that sick once 🙂

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    1. Haha yes how true, it truly was a trip from hell!!! And because I was in the country for just a few days there was no way of making up the sick days. I never did go back 😅 I am quite vary of street food bc I am so scared of this happening again. Although I don’t think that will save me as we know from this story 😂

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  4. A similar thing happened to me soon after arriving in Norway and after eating prawns aka shrimp. I struggled at.not letting my host know how I was feeling but it was obvious to her as she wrote about it on her blog!! I had to run up the stairs during our dinner and throw up several times. Missed out on a beautiful buffet meal at a Swedish coastal restaurant too.
    What an awful experience you had. And in a country that doesn’t have good medical backup. Did it take you long to recover?

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    1. Omg that’s just awful, sounds a lot like my dinner nightmare! It took me ages to recover, probably over 6 months! The swelling thankfully was gone by the time I got to Johannesburg but I struggled with stomach problems and pain for months on end. I went to all kinds of doctors (even an ob-gyn bc I was getting desperate) but none of them found what the cause was which meant all I had to do was wait it out. I think the antibiotics messed my stomach up even more. When going back from Jo’burg to Helsinki I was in the middle of two strangers and had to keep doing breathing exercises to fight the nausea. 😱😱

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      1. This reminds me of a colleague of mine. His wife got similarly sick on a trip to Mexico. A stomach bug which wrecked havoc with her digestive system. So much so that even after she recovered, she had permanent food allergies. Stuff that she used to eat before like wheat, she couldn’t again. I think that’s a pretty rare case. I’m glad you weren’t permanently affected.

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        1. My goodness that really sounds severe! Next time I’m served shrimp in a dubious setting I will be sure to say I’m allergic and can’t eat it, better to be safe than sorry. Although you can never know what causes it in the end, it’s just something you need to be prepared for mentally when traveling….

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          1. It’s good to be prepared but at the same time, not let it totally inhibit you from trying new food. Tasting local cuisine is part of the joy of traveling 🙂 On the flip side … I’ve heard & experienced more Good stories about eating abroad than Bad ones!

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      2. I can imagine the issues with sitting on a plane feeling like that, Suvi. I wonder what it was that befell you, and keep you sick for those months? That sounds like a rare bacterial type of thing? I have heard of travellers coming back with bugs in their liver from India or Nepalese treks or amoebic dysentery from Mexico. The areas where food is not prepared hygienically is where the greatest risk for developing these kind of rare illnesses lies, I think.

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            1. Covid has put me off traveling!!! I did go to Tallinn but noticed it was too soon as I felt so nervous about everything that it wasn’t really enjoyable.

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            2. I agree. Depending on where you go, if you are on edge all the time it won’t be that enjoyable and w could save our dollars for future times when a holiday atmosphere is more relaxing.

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  5. Oh when your body and stomach betray you! I’ve been sick on a few international trips (I really think the flying or plane food gets me). My latest was in Mexico the day after I arrived. Luckily I had planned a free day so spent most of that time in the hotel. The next day however, I still wasn’t well but needed to get to the Frida Kahlo Museum which we had booked tickets for about a month in advance! I had to stop a few times walking there thinking that I was about to vomit. Luckily I didn’t but couldn’t wait to go back to bed. Frida was worth it though!

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    1. Omg I can just imagine you making your way to the museum, what a nightmare!! That’s the problem with prebought tickets isn’t it, you are kind of bind to them. Thanks for reading and sharing 😀

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