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This is a story of vomit.  Like a regurgitated chicken burger, it had to come up.  In Lima, Peru.  We had come to the end of what was an amazing trek through the Andes.  We saw stones of ages gone, made friends from all over the world and was healed by fresh mountain water.  We ate local, drank local and Did Not Get Sick.

So the chicken burger was a surprise. Last treat, we said. Let’s go Western, we said. In Lima.  Husband, a fan of artery clogging food, guided us toward KFC.  Previous experience living in South East Asia led us to believe KFC was as safe as a Thai family of six on a motorcycle. Mostly safe.  So I ate the burger and it tasted like chicken. Sort of.

It was strange chicken.  Odd chicken.   The kind you’d expect if you were eating in Lima, so I think ‘this is how Lima chicken tastes.’ Kind of like chicken but not. Same same but different.  Maybe too different as I didn’t finish the burger.

2am and the sudden vomiting began.  I’ll spare the details but this chicken burger wanted out of my body any way it could. Who knew food could be so violent?

7am. International flight to Australia with a stop-over in Johannesburg. 29 hours flying and one chicken burger that wanted to take the entire lining of my stomach on a tour of the Malaysian Airways airplane toilet.

I sat in-between husband and an 18-year old South African professional polo player who had knocked mallets with Prince William – more than once. Mummy and Daddy knew people.  I had no idea you could make a living playing polo nor did I understand why anyone would want to. He told me Daddy dealt in rough-cut diamonds. He was young so I forgave him for sounding so bourgeois. He tried to tell me more when the second wave of vomit began.

I turned from polo-boy to husband and promptly vomited into the first plastic bag I could find.  I vomited into the bag over husband’s lap.  There was a bit of spillage.  Husband was surprisingly kind and helped me double bag. Calmly he asked why I vomited on his lap and not my own.  I told him that I was being polite vomiting away from polo-boy.  He was remarkably understanding and it was at that moment, with vomit-tinged hair, I thought this is why I loved him most.

I turned back to polo-boy who had clearly never encountered vomit-on-a-plane and no longer wanted to share white bourgeois South African stories with me.  The smell of vomit wafted in between the three of us.  There was no escape and there was not much to do but ride out the trip.  Polo-boy was too polite to ask to be moved. He got off at Johannesburg and didn’t say goodbye.

I made the trip home and it took two weeks until my stomach returned to normal. I suspected it was salmonella poisoning but if it tastes like chicken, then how are you supposed to know?

© running with the beagle 2010

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