On Friday afternoon, I had to take a student to the hospital in the closest town, Nsawam. While waiting on a bench in the hospital, I looked around to see some sort of dried bodily fluids on the floor next to me, dirt and dust being strewn around by taxis that actually drove inside the pavilion-style front lobby, and ailing patients attached to IV stands on dilapidated stretchers all throughout the crowded hallways. I silently thanked my body for so-far remaining in good health, in hopes of never having to be a patient there myself.... I should have knocked on wood.
Following my hospital excursion with the student, I departed for Accra to spend a fun-filled weekend with friends Brianna and Hridi. Upon arriving in the city, Brianna and I discussed some plans for the weekend as we waited for Hridi's bus to arrive from Kumasi. We would go to the market Saturday morning, and out to watch the big Ghana vs. U.S. football match in the evening. Sunday we would go to the beach. It sounded like a good plan.
However, on the way to pick-up Hridi, things took a turn for the worst. My stomach began to cause A LOT of trouble, and as we waited at a gas station for Hridi's bus to arrive, I proceeded to vomit in the parking lot. Hridi arrived shortly afterwards and I warned her not to hug me. I was feeling worse than ever and I suggested Eric (our wonderful Ghanaian tour guide) should drive as quickly as possible back to the hotel.
On the way back, the road seemed rougher and traffic far slower than ever I had known before. We seemed to encounter police barriers every 500 metres. My stomach was about to give out again, and I requested (demanded) for Eric to pull over. We entered another gas station parking lot, and Eric quickly asked where the washroom was. It was not quick enough however and once again I puked in the parking lot. An attendant directed me inside and Hridi and Eric pushed me forward. Not only was vomiting an issue, but I now also had what the Ghanians call “running stomach” (ie: diarrhea). At first glance, I was relieved to see that the washroom seemed fairly functional – a flushing toilet and a sink. However, upon closer inspection, the flushing toilet did not actually flush and was already filled with someone else's running stomach remnants. In addition, the tap did not work and there was no toilet paper in sight. At this point however, there was no other option. I called out to Hridi to search for something to take the place of toilet paper. There were a couple moments of silence as I heard Hridi scurrying around the empty store and then:
Hridi: “Umm... Becky, I found a football poster. Will that work?”
Becky: “I guess it will have to...”
Hridi: “Well at least you can wipe your butt with attractive men!”
At this point I was fairly humiliated, and, exiting the gas station, I apologized to everyone waiting for me in the car. I pleaded for Eric to hurry, who, I realize now, probably did not need any encouragement to get me out of his car as quickly as possible. Nonetheless, five minutes later, I needed to stop again. So, once more, Eric pulled into a gas station and asked for the washroom. We were directed nonchalantly to a dark ally behind the store. Running, we tried various doors, but could not find anything resembling a toilet. Finally, we encountered a small, wooden, outdoor cubicle inside of which lay a bucket ONCE AGAIN filled with someone else's running stomach residues which had, in addition, spilled out all over the floor. At that point however, I took no notice of these things. The bucket, in fact, looked quite inviting at this moment of urgency.
While squatting in the disgusting cubicle, in the deserted ally in complete darkness, I once again called out pitifully for Hridi to find me something resembling toilet paper. Luckily, she was able to purchase some from inside of the gas station. As she came back, I started wailing aloud that I had no dignity and that I hated this country and other ramblings which are a blur to me now. Finally, exiting the tiny chamber of filth, I began to apologize profusely to Hridi as she calmly poured bottled water over my feet to get rid of all of the unmentionable things I had just stepped in. I then kindly proceeded to puke all over her leg.
Somehow, exhausted, weak and soaked with cold sweat, I managed to make it back to the car and we were once again headed back to the hotel. Of course, we were stopped by another police brigade and since we had 4 in the back seat, he shouted at us “OVERLOAD OVERLOAD” and we had to pull-over. I even pleaded in my weakest, sickest voice “please sir, I am very ill – we are just trying to get home” but he paid no heed. Fortunately, Eric had encountered the situation many times before, tipped the policeman 5 Cedis, and we were on our way. After what seemed like hours, we finally made it back to the hotel.
Don't fear friends and family, I am pretty much myself again, after a few days of illness. I just wanted to say thank you SO much to Hridi and Brianna and Eric for looking after me all weekend – I am seriously surprised that you guys are still my friends (especially Hridi).
On a much happier and lighter note, we were able to go to the beach on Sunday (with a little help from my friend, Imodium) and Ghana won their match against the U.S. Which was AMAZING. So I am very thankful for these things!