Do you have gastroenteritis?

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 11. Travails, Prague by Maria Alejandra1 Comment

I am really fortunate to say that I have had few travails, if any at all this semester abroad. Perhaps the only travail I experienced, and it was not so much a travail as just a horrible discomfort, happened to me within the first week of my being in Prague. During the fourth day of orientation, I met up with my new friend group (who is still my friend group here, yay!) at a Mexican restaurant right next to the NYU campus. I ordered a burrito al pastor. I am by no means a Mexican culinary expert but I distinctly remember my burrito not tasting al pastor. My aunt lives in Mexico, where I have visited her a few times. Although I have not visited her in a while, I think I could safely say I remembered what al pastor was supposed to taste like. And my burrito did not taste al pastor. Of course, I did not expect a Mexican restaurant in the Czech Republic to taste as authentically as a Mexican restaurant in Mexico City, but I was not going to be cynical either. I expected it to be at least remotely edible. Nope. In the end, I decided that my server had simply messed up my order. I had ordered the Spanish version of the dish with a proper accent and perhaps she had misunderstood me.

After lunch, my friends and I had to sit in a two-hour “wellness orientation.” Oh, the irony. An hour in, my stomach was playing games with me. I could not sit still, my hands were sweaty and I felt chills. After the orientation, I had to take care of some business in the restroom, and then I met up with my father who had dropped me off in Prague. It was his last day but by the time I reached his hotel room, I could not detach myself from the bed. I felt too ill. I felt so bad because my father had to go get dinner on his own!

The next day, I expected to wake up feeling better. This was not the case. I had zero appetite which is a true indication that I am not well because I love me some food! I decided not to eat anything because I did not want to be sick again on the orientation cruise and not have anywhere to relieve myself besides the Vltava River. I ate a little of the food on the cruise because I knew I needed to put some nutrients in my system. The food did not bother me so I figured, at last, I have recovered! So much so that I decided to go out that night to celebrate my feeling better and the start of a new, amazing semester. On the dance floor, I began to feel the pain again. I felt bloated, like there was a rock in my abdomen. I tried to ignore it by dancing as hard as possible, which is not a problem for my Colombian hips.

The next day, I resolved to not eat anything again. I wanted to avoid pain at all costs, and I knew that food equaled pain (an equation I never dreamt of formulating!). That night, NYU sponsored a trip to an acrobatic/ human circus show, and I was really looking forward to going. I decided to eat a slice of bread beforehand. However, halfway through the door, I felt the need to throw up. I did a quick 360 and ran to my bathroom. I could not throw up but I definitely made a lot of…well, gagging sounds. My friend who planned on going to the event with me told me she had to crunch on her crackers extra loud to muffle out the sound. Quite embarrassing, let me tell you.

The show mesmerized me! The way in which those six Canadian individuals could twist their bodies while flipping through the air was simply incredible. But as I kept thinking about how amazed I was, I also started to feel something move in the back of my throat. Before I could fully react to the unbelievable signs, I had to run out of the tent, tripping over assorted Czech and tourist feet. I covered my mouth and found the nearest tree that I hoped was out of the way of passersby, and relieved myself. A paramedic noticed and approached me, offering me medicine and a little barf bag (which I actually still have!) to take with me once I felt well enough to go back inside.

When I arrived home that night I had to vomit again! I could not keep ignoring my body. Something was definitely off. I decided I needed to go to a doctor. Of course, this being Prague, I had to wait until Monday morning to make the call, and endure a food-less Sunday, only to have an appointment secured until Tuesday. I could not sleep those nights because I could not find a position in which my stomach did not feel like it would explode, and I kept waking up to use the bathroom.

The doctor was uh, rather extensive…in her examination. I had to stick a cotton swab in my butt and she stuck her finger up my butt, too! Go to the Canadian Medical Care Center in Prague if you want quality, thorough care. Anyway, the doctor diagnosed me with gastroenteritis.  According to the doctor, I should have gone earlier but my pride stopped me from doing so. I had four medications prescribed to me but I recovered about a week later. Once I informed my friends about my gastroenteritis diagnosis, they could not help but laugh. Frankly, neither could I. It’s a funny word and a funny-sounding illness. That has now become our inside joke. We warn people not to go to that Mexican restaurant lest they want to catch gastroenteritis! Whenever someone is slightly sick in our group, we immediately ask if they have gastroenteritis. We have become gastroenteritis diagnosers. So if you’re reading this and your stomach is feeling a little unwell, it pains me to tell you, but you probably have gastroenteritis. 


  1. Maria,

    Wow! As someone who A. constantly has stomach problems and B. hates to throw up, I feel for you. It is the absolute worst when food equates to sickness. Once when I was in China I got sick and the only thing I had for an entire day was a small bowl of rice and a bottle of Sprite for empty calories. Especially when you’re in a new place, feeling physically sick can often cause me to feel homesick as well, but props to you for continuing to move on and live your Prague life! Your story had me covering my mouth as well as chuckling a little bit. Watch out for those burritos!

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