Being sick is usually always better at home where you are comfortable and haven’t invested any vacation money or effort to be where you will be sleeping between trips to the bathroom. I felt it coming on Thursday night, and realized Friday might be a washout. I had plans for this Friday. They involved going diving Friday morning, and to the Arizona Resort Score Bar for the Jolly Joker Jackpot drawing on Friday night. The Jolly Joker is a weekly Friday night raffle and social/drinking event where every drink you buy come with a ticket. At the height of the evening, numbers are drawn, and if your ticket is selected, you have a chance to pick the joker from a pack of overturned playing cards pinned to a cork board. If you select the Joker, you win the cash jackpot. For each week the Joker stays hidden, the prize increases. Jackpots have grown to over 150,000 peso. Great fun, but potentially tough on the liver, if you are really want to win. If your the generous type that likes to buy a round or two, you could increase your tickets and your odds that way. If you don’t want to risk organ damage, or at least incredibly sloppy drunkenness, you can enlist the aid of one of the Score bar girls to drink with you, at “Lady Drink” prices, meaning her drink cost three times as much as yours. Myself and Irene have traveled by trike from the apartment in Olongapo to Barrio Barretto to check into both diving and a room at the Arizona Friday night. My plan is to stop at the Arizona resort, check in with the dive shop, inquire about room availability, and finish off with a drink and some video of sunset from the floating bar. I am now feeling increasingly in the grip of something unpleasant. I am also dealing with a stiff back from an awkward sleeping position. My minds eye is not painting a pretty picture of myself as we move through traffic then pass by the Arizona and continous on down the street. I look at Irene who has decided drinks first at the T-Rose bar. She is not a fan of the floating bar, and my plans fro sunset video are slipping away. I have become more concerned with how well I am not feeling, and decide on a head on assault to combat the oncoming ailment, as well as the stiff back. We disembark the trike outside T-Rose and walk past a tall ladyboy sitting at the entrance and into the interior darkness of the bar illuminated by orange rope lighting. A gaglge of 5 or 6 bar girls are shuffling in a circle on a small round stage, singing along to the music video on the big screen TV. The hostess and Irene walk us toward a booth, and I imediatly divert us to seats at the end of the small bar, which are less cozy, and more functional. I order my first attempt at self medication, a San Migueal Light, and my almost 6 month pregnant girlfriend orders mango juice (more on the math there later). As we begin to sip our drinks the ladyboy from the door walks in with a disheveled looking charechtor who, judging by the reaction of the staff, is an old friend or somewhat regular. The bar owner (assuming here) shakes his hand and welcomes hime back, and the girls stop their shuffling and come over to great him. “Remember what you promised last time” one girl reminds him, “threesome!”. I’ve never been too carried away with being over-dressed or over-primped, but this dude looks like he just washed ashore after surviving some sort of maritime disaster. Oh well. Judging by the warmth of the greeting, he must be a pretty good guy, or at least a big spender, barnacles aside. I get through two bottles of San mig light, and glance at the clock. Still early enough to catch the dive shop, so we pay up and head out. By the time we leave the Arizona, I am feeling it worse, and although I have a slim hope for the next day diving, my realistic expectation for tomorrow is bed rest. I make it into the door at the apartment and onto the small love seat / sala set on the first floor. I watch TV as Irene moves to the kitchen to eat. I have no interest in food. I am feeling a growing lethergy and discomfort in my belly. Irene checks my forhead, and a couple other spots for good measure, and tells me I have fever. I doze off on the couch and awake to my daughter dabbing a cool alcohol and water soaked cloth across my forhead and neck. She proceeds to wash my arms, hands, neck, face, and forhead again to cool the warm skin. I am a very lucky guy. Irene is already getting a shopping list together, gatoraid, BiFlu, Imodium. The neat thing here in the Philippines is that you can buy one, two, three, six, however many pills you want or need with getting the whole package. My mother never threw anything away, and her medicine cabinet was an amazing collection of remidies, many of which had long passed there sell by date. When myself and my brother cleaned out some of the cabinets at her house after she passed, it was amazing to find 1990 era medications, or older. Some I swear I remember from childhood, and more than a couple no longer made. Ergophene ointment, a drwawing salve for splinters, I think dated from back in the 70’s. In some cases I could remember the situation or illness from a point in my life when medicine was used. Here in PI, no need for a big medicine cabinet, or even dosage instructions. Just by as you need. Being sick is no fun, but I have a limited budget for the 30 plus days I am here, and some down time at the apartment was part of the plan. I also have a secret weapon, thanks to a great travel doctor. On my first trip to the Philippines I went to Sandwich Urgent Care to get some of the reccomended vaccinations for travel to PI (FYI: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list ). The doctor who did my jabs also had some experience traveling, and offered to write me a perscription for Ciprotech anti-biotic. “Keep them in your bag”, he advised, “No need suffering long term from food poisoning on vacation”. He went on to say they usually had a longer shelf life than advertised, and related a story about using a bottle that was a year out of date to knock down an intestinal issue from food he ate while traveling with a medical outreach program. The pills in question had now been in my bag since November 2013, happily unneeded. I doubled up the first dose the next morning, something I think I remembered was right, either from my travel doc, or maybe Mom’s cancer treatment regimine. Either way, I went all in, reasoning if the pills had weakened, it would help, and if they hadn’t, I’d start things off with a bang. During the day I rested and scrolled though some Google searches regarding the shelf life of Cipro, and the potential hazards of expired antibiotics. It turns out that the military had done some testing, and pills, especilly tablet form similar to mine, have a substantially longer shelf life than advertised. The good news is these are likely 100% or close to it. Next I search for my symptoms, just to be safe, and all signs point to an intestinal infection. I am in the master bedroom at the apartment, complete with private bathroom, which sounds ideal for this situation. If you ever spent a lot of time working as an interstate long haul driver, or perhaps using construction site porta-potties, the bathroom here would barely faze you at all. Conversly, If you are someone who is acustomed to some form of cleanliness /sanitation, and have grown used to toilets that have seats and flush, the bathroom here might be cause for concern. The room is long and narrow with high ceilings and black and brown tile that reminds me of the service station rest rooms my parents hated to have us use when we traveled as kids. The grout is dirty with no recognizable attempts to make it otherwise. The walls are topped by a cracked, water stained ceiling and a single bare lightbulb. Spider webs hang along the edges, complete with a slender, non-threatening looking spider I saw while shaving one day and have never been absolutely certain since would not drop down at an unexpected moment. There is a curtainless shower area at the far end of the room with a strip or plasticcord tied between two rusty fasteners where a curtain should hang. Two pairs of panties are hung for there for drying instead. On the wall behind the shower is a window completly covered by a yellow, once white, bedsheet with blue flowers, cut and folded for its new purpose. The toilet, like the other two in the apartment, has no seat, and the flush mechinism has long ago fallen apart and sits broken in the empty flush tank. Flushing is done by bucket, filled from the shower area, and any non-liquid contribution to the bowl requires some extra help with the plunger, and usually a second bucket of water.
I begin my day taking my second dose of Cipro around 6 AM. I feel weak, and my belly is not happy. I guess I have a fever, but i’m not sure, but the discomfort bellow my belly button is real, and I spend my moring sleeping, visiting the bathroom, plunging, and sleeping. Irene feeds me gatoraid and tries to get me to eat a variety of foods which I refuse. I settle for bananas, her mothers reccomendation, and google some natural treatments for intestinal infections between naps.
I add ginger and yogurt to the next shopping list, as well as mint tea. Ivy Joy comes home from school for lunch and informs her Grandmother she will stay home from aternoon classes to help her dad. The day grinds on, sleep, bathroom, plunge, sleep. I have deep sleeps and fitful vivid dreams. Things could be worse. Sitting on the toilet here is a tremendously preferred choice to placing my face anywhere close to it. Saturday comes, more sleep, less trips to the restroom, and eventually I am feeling improvement. Ice cream eventually gets me out of bed Saturday. We need to go order it for Ivy Joy’s class Christmas party, so I answer the call, somewhat groggy, and make the trip on foot a few blocks to fix the order for the coming Tuesday, then back home for a bit more sleep. I’m feeling better, thanks to Cipro and solid advice that didn’t expire.