Turista

It’s common for visitors to Mexico to get sick from any number of things: bad water, contaminated food, high altitude, or whatever. In fact, it’s so common that the condition is simply known as turista, which, duh, translates to tourist.

I must have dodged a few bullets during my first week here because last night I ate at a stand I’d previously patronized. Dude who runs it is super nice and even slows down his Spanish for me to make sure I get all the selling points about what’s cooking that night. His cart is set in this fantastic little park just two blocks from my flat, where every night there’s live music and dancing, families hanging with their kids and sweatered-dogs. There’s an open air used book market, and guys of all ages running nonstop full court pickup. To me there’s not much more comforting than the sound of a dribbling basketball and the squeak of sneakers. I typically get my food, then park my butt on a bench where I can absorb all that’s happening around me while enjoying my evening meal.

The difference this time was that this meal woke me up at around 1:30am and sent me straight to hell. I’ve been in this hell before, a couple of times even: complete bodily discomfort, fever and chills, sweats, mental confusion, sometimes hallucinations, and everything possible happening in the bathroom (if you are lucky to have one, that is) while your body tries to purge the bacterial invader. This happened once while I was traveling in Myanmar. My journal entry from that night is like a last will and testament. Seriously, I would have welcomed death, and last night was no different.

My guidebook says that turista’s primary source of infection is through the ingestion of fecally contaminated food or water. Which implies my dinner had some poop in it. My ten year old niece and her fourteen year old brother will get a kick out of this.

Tourista leaves as quickly as it arrives, thank God. It’s now mid afternoon and I think I am on the mend. Maybe 60%. Odds are I will stay in my cave and chalk up today as a down day, a movie day or something. Probably just stick with bananas and oatmeal, bottled water and instant Nescafé. No harm in that. Just doing my best hereafter to keep e. coli out of my diet. You know, just being a regular ol’ tourist.

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