I’m sick. First off, it’s not COVID-19. I’m still in bed, but I did manage to keep down canned peaches (for lunch) and ramen noodles (for dinner). I am freezing. My back hurts. And, I didn’t sleep at all, last night. I could not get comfortable, via stomach, back, left side, or right side. It all hurt. Around 5:30 am, I tossed my cookies (Linda Blair fashion) and was finally able to sleep. It could have been food poisoning. Yesterday, to celebrate the end of my 14 day self quarantine, we went to Starbucks and then ordered a takeout pizza.
After spending three months, in Honolulu, walking to the beach everyday (after my initial Peace Corps Ethiopia self quarantine), eating lots of salad, rice and Spam, I’ve relocated to Utah. My friends here eat red meat. I’ve had hamburgers, hotdogs, grilled steaks, taco salad, meat lovers pizza, etc, all in just 14 days. It would have taken me half of my Peace Corps service, in Armenia, to eat as much red meat. Last night, my stomach went on strike.
After three years of eating in the homes of others, my gut is confused. My Pre Service Training (PST) host mom, in Armenia, was a wonderful cook. She may have made one thing that I didn’t like, over the entire 12 weeks that I lived with her. When my host dad and brother left to work in Russia, we had Khorovats, Armenian BBQ. I loved stuffing pieces of roasted meat into lavash. Lavash is a traditional Armenian bread that’s been baked in a tandoor oven. My host mom would spray the crunchy fresh bread to make it soft for our meals.
The Armenian term “jan” can be translated into “beloved” one. You hear it everywhere, in the country. It’s one of the things that I miss. In Ethiopia, the people in my village would greet each other with a slight bow. I loved doing it, placing my hand over my heart and lowering my head. I also always covered my hair. In doing so, I didn’t much care what the men thought. I did it, out of respect for the females, in my community.
I was really looking forward to cooking for myself, in Ethiopia. I lived with a family, at my permanent site, in Armenia, for the full two years and I always ate with them. Of course, arriving in Ethiopia meant another 12 weeks of living with a host family. During PST, I was sick the entire time. Put it this way, I dropped as much weight, during that short homestay, as I did the entire time that I served in Armenia. The anti malaria pills made me sick. I couldn’t keep anything down. Then, added to that, the family’s 13 year old daughter cooked all my meals. It was a “health” accident waiting to happen.
I guess I should have known I would become ill, at some point, after the Peace Corps evacuation. I was away for 36 months, 27 in Armenia and nine in Ethiopia, prior to the COVID-19 worldwide evacuation of Peace Corps. Who am I kidding? It’s going to take a minute to get used to American food and American super sizing. I did most of my own cooking in Hawaii and now that my self quarantine is over, I might need to do the same, in Utah. Still, when you haven’t had a grilled burger or steak, in three years, it’s hard to turn it down. After last night, I will learn to make better choices. Pizza takeaway, no way!!!
By this time, next week, I should hear back from Peace Corps Response. I’ve applied for an eight month librarian position, in Jamaica. If selected, I’m scheduled to leave next March. With the COVID-19 numbers increasing, here in the USA, that date could be pushed back, until later in 2021.
For now, I need to stay as healthy as I can. Here’s to a better tomorrow and taking life one day at a time. —GGT