The Best Way to Learn a New Culture: Get Sick in Another Country
Since 4/19, I’ve been deathly ill. Here in Borneo, some people (like my boyfriend who just wrote me to come home and quit this nonsense) assume that this means I should stop traveling. Hardly.
A flu bug is just that, and I’ve had far worse. I’ve been down for days, unable to eat or drink, and sleeping in a small hotel in Palangkaraya. I couldn’t ask for better care from the hotel owners or the doctor here in town who twice lent me his phone call my credit card company (Barclaycard, which for some insane reason put a hold on my card despite being informed of where I would be). People go out of their way to help soothe, buy you food and drinks and offer up every kind of assistance.
My BF, who has never done a trip like this, is understandably concerned. However I could get the flu at home. I broke my back in Kazakhstan last year and could just as easily have done that riding horses in America. I do epic shit. It’s who I am. I’m going to go out and live. What I’ve learned about getting sick overseas is a hundred hundred lessons about the kindness and concern of those who don’t speak your language, who only want the best for you, and are supremely happy when you get well.
It’s Not Just Your Tourist Money
Cynics might argue that there is a strong motivation to take care of tourists so that they come back. I disagree. People have offered kindness without expecting pay of any kind. They are simply kind. This lesson alone is one of the great gems of international travel. I’ve rarely done an adventure trip that didn’t involve a twisted ankle, a bum knee, even extreme injuries. Or the classic two-step that is at times the inevitable price I pay to try eating a maggot or two or four, chomp a deep fried cricket, or try something that looked good but my guts virulently disagreed. People in all parts of the world have learned how to eat what’s available. While fish eyes and brains may not be palatable to you, in some places that’s all people have. Try being a nomadic people in the Outback and learn to eat like Aboriginal native. “Tucker” is a whole different ball game in the Red Center. You make do. I’m willing to give it a shot as long as no chilis are involved.
There is a fundamental need to be needed that we all share as humans. When someone visits our house or our…