Diarrhea & Disappointment


I got really sick in Islamabad. Like, really sick. Beyond your usual “travel bugs”. I’ve run screaming “hamaam” (bathroom in Arabic) through the courtyard of the US embassy in Cairo with machine-gun armed guards chasing after me during a particularly bad bout of stomach illness in Egypt. I am no stranger to travel stomach bugs, it just comes as part of the travel package: Plane tickets. New sites to see. Diarrhea. It’s a well established pattern.

The morning we were supposed to leave to drive up to Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir, I was on day 7 of my body not keeping anything in for more than 15 minutes. I mean anything. It was bad. I was also semi delirious and Jen and Lena, being the wise people they are, insisted that I go to a hospital.

The doctors ruled out typhoid (yay the oral vaccine worked woohoo) and a bunch of other issues, put me on an IV drip of saline (for hydration) and rocephin (to attack the gnarly bacterial assault occurring in my gut). I slept and floated in and out of consciousness, vaguely noting that the nurses (who were intravenous PROS let me tell you) were wearing old-timey blue and white nurses uniforms with skirts and cute hats. It was very Call the Midwife and made me happy as I let a bag of fluid aided by gravity perk me up again.

Being sick is never fun, and being sick while traveling is even less fun. The biggest bummer of this whole thing for me is that of all the places we were planning on traveling to, Muzaffarabad was the only place I was specifically looking forward to seeing. I was looking forward to seeing the mountains climbing high and mighty, the western extension of the Himalayas. The rivers, the greenery. I was excited for the potential Oregon-ness of it all. Plus, Azad Kashmir is disputed territory, part of the ongoing crankiness between India and Pakistan. An independently administered state north of Pakistan, Azad Kashmir is dramatic, green, and beautiful, and we needed special permits to be able to travel into this restricted territory.

All of the hype around even being allowed to go into Azad Kashmir made me even more excited to be able to go to this special, and rarely visited, area. This made being sick even more of a bummer. For all three days we spent in Muzaffarabad, I spent my time laying in bed, binge watching Game of Thrones, eating plain rice (with a little butter and salt) and looking out the window at the valley and river running through the town. The view was magnificent, and I’m sad that I wasn’t able to travel through the area with Jen and Lena, visiting schools on top of mountains, girls’ science colleges, and so many other hidden treasures in the mountains.

The view of the Muzaffarabad valley from our hotel window (basically all I saw of Muzaffarabad).

The view of the Muzaffarabad valley from our hotel window (basically all I saw of Muzaffarabad).

I know I'll make it back some day, and I'll get to see those mountain top schools and the girls’ science college. Until then, I'll remember the view from my window and know that there are amazing girls doing their best to learn in a less than optimal situation.

*Special thanks to Lena and Jen for insisting on taking me to the hospital and generally taking care of me. I can be kind of a stubborn patient.