Our boss told us that we shouldn't eat any soup or beans at the rest areas on our bus trip. He said they might have been sitting out for too long. Better to be safe when you're traveling.
Too bad I had soup for lunch.
My stomach was feeling a little off an hour before we got to the bus station. These symptoms continued once we got there and were waiting for the bus. I took an Imodium since it was the only thing I had for stomach sickness.
Then, Jena and I began our fifteen-hour red-eye bus ride from Kayseri to Izmir. Less than a half-hour in, I knew I was in trouble.
Initially, I thought that the bus with its air conditioning would be a cure. I thought I would be able to sleep through whatever curious chemistry was going on in my body. When we boarded the bus, it was hot, however. How hot? For better or for worse there was a digital display at the front of the bus that alternated between the time of day and the temperature. Thirty degrees Celsius (eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit). While that might not sound striking, mix that temperature with a crowded bus and somewhat cramped seats. Mix that temperature with cigarette smoke and exhaust wafting into the bus from the bus terminal. Once we began to move, it took at least a half-hour to cool to the mid to low twenties.
As for my stomach, when the nausea got worse than I had imagined it would I created a short mantra about how I could be strong and about how this would pass. I repeated it over and over, holding onto to the words like they were a railing on the deck of a listing ship. Meanwhile, I thought of another conversation Jena and I had with our boss earlier in the day.
"So how often do the busses make stops?" Jena said.
Our boss said, "Sometimes they might go for four hours without a break. Maybe longer if it's a long trip."
When we stopped after two hours, I took it as an act of God. I ran to the bathroom, which I had to pay for. I'm not against paying for the restroom, but it did halt me for a moment as I got change for a large bill. In the bathroom, I ducked into the first stall, and by another stroke of luck it was a regular flush toilet as opposed to the squat toilets which are very common here in Turkey.
I threw up a lot. It was miserable, and I felt like I was drowning. I wouldn't have been surprised if one of my vital organs had come up through my mouth. Afterward, I had the shakes and a floating feeling. My throat burned from the passing bile.
I stopped at a shop in the rest area to buy something with electrolytes. Unfortunately, Gatorade doesn't seem to have a very prominent presence over here, so I settled for some nectarine juice. The guy who sold it to me was friendly, asking in Turkish where I was from. I stared at him. He began listing nationalities in Turkish. I heard something that sounded like English, so I nodded. He said he liked one of the soccer teams there. I tried my best to smile.
Jena asked me if I needed to stop here for the night. Feeling better, albeit slightly, I said no. I think the prospect of going through the arduous task of using our limited Turkish to find a hotel and to re-book a ticket to Izmir for the next day seemed insurmountable to me.
Back on the bus, I quickly went back to the somewhat calming words of my mantra. Three hours or so passed, although I can't really be sure, given my delirium. When we got off at the next stop, I again fished out my one Lira for the bathroom, although before I went in, I realized I had left my backpack with my wallet and my passport on the bus. I returned for it at the exact moment that the bus attendant was attempting to fish my partially drunk can of nectarine juice from the pocket in front of my seat. I watched as the juice spilled onto my backpack. At the restroom, then, I again found a regular toilet, and this time all that came up was the water and juice I had drunk since the last stop. I honestly think there must be few unsatisfying feelings that compare with fruitless heaving.
The ride continued as we had somewhere around eight hours to go. My body, especially my chest, felt as if it had been shot repeatedly with rubber bullets. I need to stretch and sprawl to deal with the cramping; yet, I was confined to a bus seat which did not allow for such a thing. Jena was a saint, allowing me to rest my head on her lap, shoulder, and back whenever needed.
At the next stop, my stomach was stable, which made me feel better. Here, a young Turkish gentleman approached Jena and me, telling us that he spoke English and that if we needed anything we could ask him. At the following stop, Jena talked to him while I tried to sleep on our two seats on the bus. This guy is a student at the university where Jena and I will be working. He knew some of the teachers who we had met in the previous two days. He told Jena that when we arrived in Izmir he could show us how to get downtown on a free bus.
When morning arrived, I finally felt well enough to chat with this new acquaintance. Jena and I met a Turkish soldier who knew English and offered any assistance to us that we needed as well. After such a tumultuous night, I felt immensely grateful for the hospitality of the Turkish people.
As our bus ride slowly ended, leaving us with incredibly sore muscles, I thought of my age. I'm twenty-nine now, and for the past year I have been preparing for my transition into my thirties. Following the depths of my sickness on the bus, I told myself that I'm getting too old for this. Too old for telling myself that I'm strong enough to take on a fifteen hour bus ride while battling food poisoning. There's no need to be so stubborn in the future. When Jena asked if we should stop for the night after the first bought of sickness, it would have been prudent of me to say yes.
We arrived in our apartment in Izmir where we'll be staying for the next month at about ten o'clock in the morning. Jena and I quickly got into bed and slept until about five in the evening. We ventured out to the grocery store a couple hours ago, and we're now back in bed, trying as hard as we can to fend off the lingering fevers of the food sickness. Jena has it now, too. I intend to take care of her as well as she took care of me.