February 3, 2010

Wishing for a return ticket

Today I envy those who will be escaping Phnom Penh in the next two weeks. My body has finally rebelled against the food, heat, and exertion of Cambodian life. I've been sick (diarrhea, dizzy, feverish) but somewhat functioning since Sunday, and today, mid-Khmer lesson, I nearly fainted. Last night, I thought I was going to sweat myself to death—my breath was dragon-hot, my skin clammy—I had disturbing images of myself going to a Khmer hospital...that made things worse.

I made it to the school on time this morning, sat down for the majority of my teaching, and fought through 30 minutes of Khmer lesson before I gave in. I had no desire to pass out at the school because I outweigh all the students by 30 kilos. Who could carry me?

Srey Leak, my teacher, helped me get downstairs to Pheap's office. I immediately burst into tears in front of the CWF staff, told Pheep I needed the doctor, and in five minutes I was slumped onto Pheap's moto.

Dizzy as I was, the clinic made it so much worse as the American doctor told me at least three horror stories about Cambodian medicine. Some guy had dysentery but the doctors didn't diagnose it, some lady died after a bad transfusion, and something else about dehydration. I had tears again. The seal has been broken. I have cried in Cambodia! The doctor checked my temperature, blood pressure, all the usual suspects. Mostly normal, but the length of time I had been suffering was worrisome, so he prescribed a bag full of antibiotics and rehydration power, and he even gave me a stool kit, in case I don't feel better soon. Pheap helped me with the $40 bill (I never carry more than $25 around here) and took me home.

The miserable feeling in my body was evident on my face as I walked in. Several volunteers came over and rubbed my shaking, sweating body and offered advice of what to do next. Drink a green coconut, lie down, eat some rice. I drank some rehydration fluid and struggled with the antibiotics as Fiona comforted me. I was crying again, but because everyone was being so nice. I was a little embarrassed, but everyone in the house had been exactly where I was: stuck on the toilet, sweating, panicky, homesick, and wondering why I chose to put myself here.

Four months left. How do people do this? How will I do this?