06 October 2008

Don't Eat Raw Fruit or Vegebles In Korea. Ever.

I woke up Sunday morning in Gyeongju feeling bad. Really bad. I got out of bed and immediately threw up the entire contents of my stomach. And then some. At first I cursed the soju which I had drank the night before but it soon became apparent that this was not alcohol poisoning. I had only drank maybe five beers and a couple of sojus the previous evening and that would not ever make me throw up. This was something worse. Far worse.

I had read in the Lonely Planet and on the CDC website the warnings about eating raw fruits and vegetables in Korea and I had scoffed. This was a horrible mistake. The night before we had visited a bar and as part of the "service" one is always provided they gave us some cucumbers and grapes. I had eaten of the poisoned fruit.

The immediate problem, aside from my impending death, was that we had tickets for the train that morning. I was so sick I could barely walk. I begged Yujin to go without me, to leave me to die. She refused and packed everything and dressed me and helped me out to the curb. We flagged a taxi and I limped from the cab stand to the platform and got a can and a half of Pocari Sweat down me. I threw this up soon after the train left and spent most of the next hour and a half in the tiny train toilet alternately standing up and sitting down and sometimes both. I was really hurting bad: horrible abdominal cramping, dripping with sweat, aching all over, green. And the train stopped like ten times and I wasn't sure where we were so every time it slowed down for a station I got myself together a bit and went to wake up Yujin (gods bless her) and ask her if we were there yet.

We weren't. The air conditioner in our car was broken so the conductor kept fiddling with the electric console (right outside of the bathroom is why I know) and he finally rigged up the fans or something but we were the first car behind the engine and the fans sucked in the diesel fumes. This really helped. As did the fifty screaming children on their way to the beach. By the time we got there the car was empty but for a few seats, including the one behind me, and I will tell you how sick I was: this Person had a bag of chips or something and the sound of the bag crinkling was sending waves of nausea through me. I muttered curses about it and I think Yujin must have said something to him because the sound stopped but I am not sure because the sickness had gotten worse and worse and I was delirious.

We then faced the walk to the terminal (the car closest the the engine of course being the furthest from the 150 steps up to the station. There was a down escalator.) We got a cab and I somehow made it home before I threw up again outside my apartment in front of three of my neighbors and the Chinese delivery guy. Yujin had seen enough by this point and shooed me up to my apartment and went to get the "medicine" I had to this point been refusing. She came back from the pharmacy with two pills, a small brown bottle, and a tiny brown vial with a rubber cork in it. She told me to drink half of the brown bottle with the pills and then she uncorked the vial and poured that in the bottle and shook it up and I drank that. It tasted like the distilled contents of a compost heap. I felt better immediately.

I asked her about it later. She said she described my symptomology to the "pharmacist" (these pharmacies don't sell prescription medicine) and he went back behind the counter and started mixing. There has been previous mention in this blog of secret serums (see the sea-sickness episode) and I am now a believer.

I spent the next twenty-four hours in bed. I am a complete baby when I am sick, but Yujin seemed to think this was heaven: her very own patient! After the nausea and diarrhea went away I developed a pretty high fever. She put cold rags on my head and put another one in a Ziplock in the freezer and put that one under my neck and made me soup and made me eat a little of it. She stayed Sunday night instead of going back to Daegu and I woke up periodically to the feel of her little hand on my forehead. She is an angel. I don't know what would have happened if I had not had her here. I think I really could have died. I drank almost four liters of water last night and today and I still feel dehydrated.

This was the end of a wonderful weekend at Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla kingdom, a dynasty that ruled the peninsula for a thousand years. I have many wonderful pictures and stories to relate and they will be coming forthwith. Peace.