Here at LAMB – where I work in Bangladesh – we have something of an informal joke amongst the non-nationals like me. We get sent out here by our various agencies to work for a number of years – two or three normally – before taking some time back in our home countries to rest and also raise funds to support the charity work we do here. For this reason, my family and I just spent six months back in the UK. The joke is that we have to be careful what we eat in those ‘dirty foreign countries’ we go back to because we invariably fall ill with food poisoning or even catch something normally associated with countries like Bangladesh – as my wife did in Whitehaven when she caught dysentry.
Of course, the truth is that all countries, including ones with excellent health services, are ‘dirty’ really in the sense that they all have their own breed of bugs that the locals get used to but visitors don’t. A connection with my ‘War of the Worlds’ reviews last year, perhaps, that if aliens really did try to conquer us, H G Wells probably got it right that it would be our bugs that would get them back.
I’m ruminating on such a thought is because I have just failed to start my first day back at school teaching – because I’ve picked up a bug!
It wasn’t unexpected. Anyone coming to Bangladesh from abroad will get a touch of the ‘Delhi belly’ somewhere along the way and within days or weeks the toilet will be your best friend. But it passes and eventually you pick up resistances to most of the nasties going around. This one has been a little different to usual though. My wife was laid up as soon as we arrived at LAMB – and has barely been seen by anyone outside the family for three days. Last night, it became my turn. I awoke to find myself feeling I had been punched in the stomach, sweating with a fever that came and went and a terrible urge to vomit. It is noon as I write this and I have just staggered out of bed and still have something of the same feelings though thankfully, after painkillers, considerably lessened.
It would be easy to be terribly depressed about all of this: Just arrived back after 11 hours travelling in the car (not a good journey) and we all get ill. Why did we come back?
I’m not sure what the answer is other than to misuse a Bangla proverb – Rokter tan ache – feeling the pull of blood. I don’t have real blood relations here but yet I feel that same pull, that sense of ‘if I’m going to be ill anywhere, this is where I should be’. Here is where my family is and despite a pull back to family in the UK, this is where I should be. I will appreciate it more though, when I’m not ill…