Ethiopian stomach flu

Trip Start Dec 01, 2011
Trip End Jan 20, 2013

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Sunday, November 25, 2012

We arrived after another full day of traveling to Bahir Dar. We actually couldn't stand the hassle of taking a bus and waking up 5 AM, going to the station and waiting for a bus to fill up before leaving and then changing 3 times before hitting Bahir Dar, so we flew to Gondar and took a bus from there to Bahir Dar.  On the way to the hotel, we saw two completely naked people walking down the street and the people here were not fazed by it.  It may be quite normal here.  There were also quite a few people randomly pissing.  I can sometimes see when you are in nature or at a bus stop and you piss into the bushes, but going on a sidewalk is a bit much.  Bahir Dar is another typical Ethiopian city that has several people interrupting you trying to sell you stuff or ask for money.  It is quite annoying when I’m having a conversation with Claire and people come up to ask for money or in the case of Bahir Dar, they try to sell us trips to the lake.  We would tell them we already have a tour booked, but they would try to sell us another tour and say it is a good price.  We got our tour for roughly $6 booked at our hotel and they really couldn’t understand why we didn’t want another one.  For the past week, we have been in mostly a Christian area of Ethiopia, but we are finally get back back towards the Islamic part of Ethiopia, but I don’t feel so out of place of in danger here. 

I have started up a trend in these poorer countries of finding the best restaurant in town and it is usually away from the crowds and has pretty good food.  I started this in India years ago when I couldn’t handle the street food, people or toilets, so I found a five star restaurant paid literally $5 instead of $1 and every other day, I’d get to use a proper toilet rather than a hole in the ground.  In the last city, we got to eat at a very trustable restaurant owned by a Scottish lady and it had a great view.  We could trust a person who was Scottish over anyone else in this country and she cooked both local and Scottish food.  It was great.  Bahir Dar is famous for a lake that feeds into the Nile River.  It’s the biggest lake in Ethiopia and the only attraction here.  Our hotel was pretty budget and not so nice, but a good location with crappy internet, but internet is hard to come by here.  We are both getting sick of these and need to get to a beach ASAP.  The dinner menu here was not so impressive, so we walked to the best restaurant in town.  I was completely starving from the 8 hour journey of no food and got a starter of minestrone soup with bread, got some French fries and what seemed like a never ending bowl of spicy rice with vegetables and beef.  I thought the food was great.  It was quite literally two days worth of food.  Claire had a tuna sandwich and we had 4 beers and the total price of this was roughly $10 or 7 UK pounds.   The restaurant was on the lake and it was night time.  It does probably have the best view of Lake Tana in the city and even though it’s a dirty lake, it was quite nice other than a few mosquitoes that wanted to join in with us.

About 330 AM, I woke up and wasn’t sure if Claire woke me up or I woke up naturally, but Claire was a bit sick.  She had been in and out of the toilet for hours before this and she was having some pain.  She asked me to rub her stomach for a bit.  I have rubbed her cramps out in the past and usually takes 5-10 minutes.  After 5-10 minutes, they got worse, I kept rubbing even thought my fingers were getting sore.  Ever since I stapled my thumb in April, it has been hard for me to rub without getting sore.  I was pretty tired and figured I’d be asleep, but her pains got hard for me to handle watching and Claire is about the toughest girl I’ve ever met.  I had to get up, get my clothes on and see if reception was open.  I went outside and was approached by a man who I believe was a security guard.  I think he thought I was trying to break into something.  I told him what was going on and he barely understood, but he went to a shack on the side of the property and woke up an employee, who I asked for a sprite from and he opened up the bar inside and I got something similar to a sprite, a tonic water and an orange soda to see if any could calm her stomach.  She had a few sips of some of them.  The pain got worse and she was cringing all the time.  She was literally curled up in a ball because of the pain.  At about 5:00, I went and asked for the nearest hospital.  She is stubborn and may never have gone on her own, but for some reason she gave in.  We took a local rickshaw and were charged 100 Ethiopian Birr to get there, when later were told to pay 3 Birr, so because of being white, we paid over 20 times the normal amount.  This is one of the reasons why we rarely used this form of transport while we were here.  The

The hospital they took us to was a government funded hospital.  When we arrived, they had to wake up a nurse and by this time, Claire was in a ridiculous amount of pain.  We didn’t know what it was.  Thought it could have possibly been appendicitis.  They rubbed her stomach a bit and asked about pain.  The pain was everywhere and they asked the usual questions of when did it start and is this menstrual cramps?  While she was in all this pain, I had to walk across the complex and wake up a lady again that would register her.  She was not too happy about this.  I had to pay roughly .25 for a card with her name on it before they could treat her for anything.  When I got back to Claire again, they gave me another piece of paper and told me to go to the pharmacy and again, went across the complex.  There were no signs leading to the pharmacy and every window was too dirty to even see the signs that say what the windows are.  The outside of the pharmacy was filled with empty boxes of past prescriptions.  Again, I had to wake someone up.  He redirected me to the window to pay for the prescription, which was cheap and I also had to wake up that lady before she opened up her window, then went back to the pharmacist and got a packaged needle with a liquid prescription inside the glass.  Finally upon returning to Claire and her pain, I gave the packaged needle and prescription to the nurse.  She took the vile and slammed it in the door to break the glass and I was kind of like WTF?  The glass could have went straight into the liquid morphine that was injected into her leg.  From here, they did a urine test and also wanted a stool sample.  After having diarrhea for hours now,  she didn’t have much left in her.  We went to a bathroom in the hospital that may have made the India bathrooms look nice.  No toilet seat.  Definitely not sanitary.  Bugs everywhere.  Hadn’t been cleaned in ages.  Shit on walls.  I didn’t even see running water to wash the poop down the toilets and there were no stalls.  It was more of an open area with holes in the floor.  The smell was just horrendous.  It was looking like she would have a higher chance of catching something at this hospital than them curing her.  She finally got a urine sample and came out with her trouser rolled up to her knees and said she was too old for this.  It was kind of funny that when I met her, she told me about doing this in India with her rucksack on her back and somehow hovered above this hole, but things are a bit different now.  We are both sick of this traveling now.  They woke up the lady who was doing the analysis on the urine and she gave us the results and off we were again to our first nurse.  She was long asleep by this time and we woke her up again.  She said there were signs of crystal in the urine and she may have kidney stones and we needs an ultrasound.  She sent us off to another part of the compound and again we had to wake someone else up sleeping there and they said the ultrasound person would not be here for another 3 hours, so by this time, we had enough.  The pain was not so bad because of her injection.  They wanted to admit her into the hospital for nearly $30 to wait for 8 AM, then we would go to a private hospital, come back and they would analyze the results.  We went to look at the hospital room where she would be held and the look of the hallway was enough to say no way.  There was broken glass around the main entrance and a sign that said "good luck" and next to it a paper sign that said surgical unit.  Upon looking down the hallway, it seemed that this was where people would go to die rather than to get saved.  The people looked like walking zombies and were practically foaming out of the mouth.  We had enough and were not going to pay for this, so we returned to the hotel and figured we would talk to the owner.

Despite the hotel not being so nice, the owner and his friend were very nice.  The friend lived in London before so he could relate to Claire and the owner was quite proud of Bill Gates, who owns Microsoft and his 600 room mansion is in Medina nearly one hour from my house in USA.  Bill Gates was here last month for the funeral of a former president and has donated nearly a billion dollars to AIDS research in Ethiopia.  In the past, I have worked for Microsoft to move nearly 20,000 cubicles from one city to another and my closest friend put the beams up in his 600 room mansion, so our short conversation was good on the way to hospital.  They took us to the private hospital for free in their private hotel vehicle.  They dropped us off and talked to the doctors and told them the problem, left their phone numbers behind for the doctors in case something bad happened and told them to hurry up.  

This new hospital was in a bit better condition, but still far from USA or UK standards.  It was much smaller and instead of 200 rooms, it only had 20.  We explained the situation.  They started out by doing a blood test.  This was actually a fast test.  They wanted a stool sample, but she was unable to provide that sample.  The blood test showed she may have a mild case of typhus.  Typhus can be caused by lice and fleas, dirty conditions and we figured it may have been from the bus trips over the last week.  We actually saw some lice in the hair of people’s on the buses and some people came onto buses with these rugs wrapped around them and they smelled horrible, so they could have been infected.  The hospital said this was not for sure and if she did have it, it was a mild case and not full blown typhus.  By this time, it was roughly 8 AM, we had a tour of the lake booked where they take us to monasteries and we get to see Hippos.  Claire urged me to go and leave her behind.  She has been on her own for years now and can definitely handle herself.  She did not need me here, but I gave her my word ages ago that I would put her first.  I have now traveled to some 1270 cities, 77 countries and all six continents.  I have not seen Hippos and I wanted to, but I’m sure I will get to again someday and think I have seen enough in my days of travel to say I am happy and don’t need to see much more.  For some reason Claire has attracted ass hole men that were never there for her and she has learned how to survive on her own, but I guess I decided that it is time to possibly change this and stick around skipping whatever else I had planned for the day.  I’m sure had I decided to go on the lake cruise, Claire would have said oh well, he is another guy and not been too upset, but I think that was the point… I didn’t want to be another guy to her and when factoring in my options, I could have proven to someone that I am true to my word and I’d stick by her through thick and thin or seen a hippo, keeping my word meant more than seeing the hippos and if something would have happened to her while I was gone, I would have to live with it for a long long time and didn't want that.  The pain started to return to her and this time the injection came in her ass.  The pain was so bad this time that she said if having kids was this painful, she was not going to do it because this was worse than any sickness she had ever had.  We were an hour away from the ultrasound person returning so that we would find out of there really was kidney stones.  This doctor seemed to have his head and ass wired together correctly and she said the pain of kidney stones would usually come from your back rather than your stomach.  During this time, she finally got a stool sample and said she had a bacterial infection that was considered to be food poisoning.  They added up when she became sick and it seemed to be food poisoning.  I think it was the tuna sandwich she had, but for some reason I did not get sick.  From here, we just had to go to the pharmacy.  They gave her a drug for the possible typhus and another for the food poisoning and prescribed a third one for pain, but she declined that one.  Finally, we got the ultrasound, but she didn’t have enough liquids to read it correctly, so she had to rehydrate and go in 45 minutes later.  By this time we had been up nearly 8 hours in grungy, dirty hospitals.  The ultrasound showed no signs of kidney stones.  They sent us home and this hospital was actually quite good to us.  I would say they did the best they could with their knowledge.  I can’t imagine the education is great here, but she survived this whole ordeal. 

Believe it or not, I did go back to the same place we ate at last night for dinner and survived.  This time Claire didn't eat anything.  I had the same thing as the night before without the soup and she ddin't eat. There was a wedding going on at this restaurant on the lake and it was quite an interesting wedding. They played music and the whole group of people involved in the wedding kind of rocked out to the music while escorting them down the aisle. It was sa bit different
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