Food Poisoning in India: Painful Resolutions in Goa
I exit the bathroom and proceed to the window of the train. My stomach has been feeling funny since I slept for thirty hours straight after New Years in Goa. I’m not sure if it was food poisoning, contaminated water, or pure exhaustion that made me nauseous, rolling around in the bed of my Couch Surfer host. Many cold medicines, sleeping pills, and painkillers later, I’m finally, back on my feet. Although I missed the girls’ night out in Mumbai, I’m ready to return to work, refreshed.
While I expected that our winter break from teaching would be relaxing and stress-free, India had its own plans for me. Trapped between angry women on the overcrowded ladies compartment train, blocking advances from inappropriate, vacationing Indian men, far from the socio-cultural restraints of home (think, the modest, but still shocking Indian counterpart of America’s Cancun), and experiencing “Delhi Belly” for the first, painful time (twice!), there was no escaping reality. At the same time, I was on pins and needles more often than not, waiting to hear news about my grandma who was in the hospital. No, vacation wasn’t the escape I expected and at times, I wanted to collapse on my bed, wrap myself in my sleeping bag, and disappear.
However, I kept walking, making my way through the station, pushing my worries aside, trying to figure out if the train was late or if we had missed it, where our hostel was, where my passport was, bargaining for cheaper food, and avoiding the stares of vacationing men who were even more interested in a white girl wearing a shalwar kamiz than the foreigners in bathing suits. So much for trying to fit in.
Now vacation is over and I’m on the train ride back to Chittagong, a Bangladeshi passenger standing beside me. We both look out the window and watch the villages go by. He has a far away look in his eyes. I do not know him, but I have a strange feeling that in our own languages, we are both repeating the same words: “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”
Outside of the air-conditioned train, the sun is warm with an electric current. I feel the anxiety rise in my stomach for just a moment before it recedes. My gut reaction is to ignore it, but for the first time in a long while, I accept it. I take a deep breath. That’s better. I allow myself to follow my train of thought and this fear returns three more times. Proudly, I am able to breathe my way through it.
Living in Bangladesh has been difficult. As a person (and particularly as a traveler), I’ve realized that I will learn the most when facing the more painful situations. Change is inevitable, but how I react to it is what colors my experiences. In the past, I’ve done everything possible to avoid pain. However, I’ve learned that if you never allow yourself to hurt, you stop growing.
With the close of 2010 and our crazy New Years Eve in Goa, India (thank goodness for that vacation-teachers and students alike, needed it!), my New Year’s Resolution is simple: to face the truth AND to be positive. I do not want to travel just to learn, and see, and understand. Instead, I want to live, struggle, and love. In the beginning of my time in Bangladesh, I thought that my former goals required strength. Now, I know that my new ones require much more. I may not be well-rested from vacation, but I am certainly up for the challenges ahead.