The G-I Tract

January 19th, 2008

Note: This entry is about the Gastro-Intestinal Tract. As my climbing friends know, I’m often quite open about this topic but if you’re of more refined sensibilities you may prefer to skip this entry.

For those with greater culinary experience, this may not be a big deal, but for me it was one of those “don’t look, just eat” moments. Or, maybe, one of those “it’s better to come when it’s dark and you’re starving.”

They had styled me out before, here at the happening neighborhood corner restaurant, with a noodle soup, vegetables, and beef. They probably styled me out even more this time, with copious quantities of mystery fat, what I think was tongue, and what definitely was stomach or intestine. mmm….Not my first time trying to eat intestine but at least this time I didn’t see it cleaned in an Ecuadorian stream and the soup didn’t smell like sewage.

Since I ordered it, they eat it, I figured it must be good food. And I didn’t want to lose face.

One of the young girls here, the one who speaks the most English, recognized me when I came in. That look of recognition can be nice, like I’m not just that ‘western’ guy. “Susadai” I said in greeting and attempted to ask for the dish I’d had before, the one for which they’d helped me learn the Khmer.

And so I sat at my four-top: most of the soup gone, an increasing number of patrons, my own ice-boy (they put ice in the beer here, to keep it cool, of course), a made-up woman in a push-up bra and tank top pouring my beer, all while studying my new Khmer phrase book and digesting another animal’s stomach.

Dried sweat stains marked my t-shirt, my forearms stuck to the paper I wrote upon, and I recalled some stats I heard earlier from an NGO worker. I can’t attribute or fact check right now so take this as unverified: a USAID report found a lot of the particulate matter in the Phnom Penh air is fecal dust. Another report on aid workers around the world found that one year in Cambodia takes seven years off your life.

I guess you could stay at home and be safe. Or come here and cough shit out of your lungs. Literally. And to think, I bought an $18 moto helmet today because I thought that was the greatest risk.

I’d love to run this research by my public health friends.


Cambodian food: one, Tim’s stomach: zero.

I think it was food poisoning. I’m not sure from what, but that soup is high on my list of candidates. As usual, it started with nausea and a bloated, gaseous feeling as my intestines realized what was going on. Then, from midnight to four in the morning I periodically visited the toilet with progressively looser stool until it was purely water. I nearly did the ‘ol one-two but managed to avoid vomiting. I hate that part. And then it stopped.

With a two hour reprieve, I slept, but again woke early (I’ve been up at or before sunrise every day) to a low-grade fever and no appetite. I was working all day with AFESIP, looking at a long drive out into the countryside to photograph one of their centers. I grabbed my kit, some extra water to combat my dehydration, popped some ibuprofen for the fever and headed out.

It is now nearly 48 hours later and I’m fever-less, I’ve kept my work schedule, but still haven’t eaten much. I’m wondering if this is more than food poisoning, and bought some Cipro to kill everything in my gut (except worms, of which there are no sign), but I am going to give this another 12 hours to solidify and become less…well…urgent in nature. Otherwise, out of respect for the antibiotics, I won’t be drinking for the next 7 days. Bummer.

Well, as a friend of mine currently in Ecuador said recently, “Any ‘solid’ day in a developing country is a good day.”

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Posted in travel Comments Off on The G-I Tract

No Responses to “The G-I Tract”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like my husband’s experience in Mexico. Hope you feel better soon.

    Take care,

  2. Mallow says:

    The nurse in me loved this post…
    – Shannon F.


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