After looking at my new apartment and getting a feel for where I would be living for the next couple months, I felt ready to make the move to St. Etienne. A secretary at the school I’m working at told me that she was renting a room in her apartment which was really close to the school. Since transportation is expensive and most of the university students had already taken the furnished apartments in the center of town, I decided living with the secretary would be a good idea. Dimitri and I went to look at the apartment last Saturday and meet the family I’ll be living with. After we had some coffee and chatted about rent, living arrangements ect, Dimitri and I wandered off to find something to eat.
We ate at a restaurant in town where we both got Kebab, which is an amazing Turkish Sandwich that is extremely popular in France. I had eaten Kebab dozens of times in Roanne and thought nothing of trying out this fattening but wonderful guilty pleasure in my new city. However I made one decision which completely altered everything. I got mayo on my sandwich. I thought nothing was wrong with this until about three or four hours later when we were walking around the city and suddenly discovered that I was not feeling that well….
Come Sunday morning I was extremely sick. So sick that we found an urgent care Doctor in Roanne so we could figure out what was wrong. He told me it was most likely stomach flu and gave me some pain meds. I headed back to Dimitri’s dad’s apartment to sleep and ended up canceling my classes the next day. I spent the next couple of days sleeping, writhing in pain and running to the bathroom. My stomach felt like it was exploding every time I ate and the pain would last for hours. After a couple of days of barely eating and sleeping, I started thinking this wasn’t just a simple stomach flu. I got up Wednesday morning to say goodbye to Dimitri before he went to work and fainted while talking to him. He had to slap me to wake me up again. We then decided to find a new Dr. The good thing about French Doctors is that some of them will come to the house, which this one did. He ordered tests and said I might have salmonella poisoning. I had to wait two days for my test results since Nov 11 was a work Holiday and everything was closed. Results showed I definitely was sick (duh) and the Doctor gave me medication for infectious colitis. In other words, I ate something with bacteria in it and they wreaked havoc in my stomach and intestines for a week. Everyone agrees that it was the Mayo.
I have never been so sick and so scared in my entire life. Even when I was little, the stomach flu seemed to pass in 24 hours, but this was horrible. I lost 10 pounds in one week. Lord knows I want to lose weight while I’m here, but this was not the way I would have chose.
Thankfully, I’ve been recovering well. The medicine seemed to work and after four days of eating nothing but rice, pasta, apple sauce and toast I can FINALLY eat real food. I can’t even begin to explain how much I savored my first real meal. I never thought I would be so excited to eat an egg and vegetables, but I swear it was amazing. Dimitri’s sisters even made a cake today to celebrate the end of my illness. Chocolate cakes definitely wins over rice!
Although I would rather swim in a bath tub full of eels then go through this again, I am very grateful that this happened to me this year and not last year. Dimitri’s family was exceptionally kind to me and did everything they could to take care of me and make me better again. They called doctors for me, drove me to get my lab work done, and went to the supermarket to get special food for me to eat. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I had gotten sick when I was living with the assistants.
I love the food in France, but still I think that there are some rules that should be followed when eating while traveling:
1.) If you really want to know the best and worst places in town ask a local. I told my students where I ate and they told me that it was not a good place to eat. Locals always know best.
2.) Check out the place when you walk in the door. Does it look clean? Check out what the other people are eating and see if it looks like something you would want to eat.
3.) Always bring antibacterial just in case there is no soap in the bathroom. I happen to be an antibacterial addict and always have some with me.
3.) DO NOT GET MAYO ON YOUR KEBAB! Everyone I talked to told me this. Lesson well learned…