It’s a thing, guys. I mean, really. What, you mean you knew that already?
Well, so did I. In theory. (I’m beginning to find that this is a common theme in my life; you can know something is true without believing it at all, after all.) That didn’t stop me from coming down with the Guatemalan version of “Montezuma’s Revenge”– something like four or five times now in ten weeks. Three of those times rank among the worst I’ve felt in my life, right up there with the swine flu and when I got my wisdom teeth removed.
Fellow volunteers and I have spent a fair amount of time discussing this– how cautious are you supposed to be? (This might remind you of another entry of mine.) Do I avoid all but the nicest, most gringo-friendly restaurants, brush my teeth with purified water, drop my vegetables in bleach? Or do I figure that que será, será, and eat tacos off the street everyday washed down with a glass of water from the tap?
Probably somewhere in the middle… just where depends on how lucky you think you are and how strong you know your stomach is. The first part of that really is important — whether or not you get sick is in large part based on luck! I’ve known two people to eat the same thing all day and one of them ended up stuck in bed all weekend while the other was perfectly fine. You can eat street food and be fine. You can have ice cubes in your drink and be fine. But you might not be fine all the time, and how risky you want to be is entirely up to you.
And sometimes neither of those things matter; eating at surely secure restaurants and buying lots of imported food doesn’t work out for a girl on a budget like this one. I can buy mango off the street for 50 cents and a large besito, bread with ham and cheese on the inside, from the bakery down the street for less than a dollar. Who’s going to turn down that kind of a deal? I can even recall buying said mango once and saying to a friend who was standing next to me, “This is going to make me sick later; I can feel it.” (I ate it anyway.)
I’ve learned my lesson, though. Really. Despite the fact that I was raised on a suck-it-up-without-taking-medicine philosophy, I now know the truth: next time I go to a developing country, I’m definitely taking some Pepto Bismol with me. Just in case.