I was at a party recently--the type I've only just started to be invited to--filled with long-term Cambodia expats. There are a few touchstones for expats, topics that we can discuss with each other that people in the real world would shudder at. Tropical diseases are one such topic, bowel movements, another.
So at this party when a friend of mine launched into a detailed conversation about her gastrointestinal complaints and self-diagnosis of dysentery, I only half-listened. Until she started talking about deworming tablets.
My ears perked up, deworming, you say? What for?
Her immediate response was, "You mean you haven't taken them before?"
Her: "Oh man, you're supposed to take them every six months..."
Everyone listening agreed that having been in Cambodia for a year and a half, plus backpacking for a year before that eating street food all over Asia and South America, meant that I most definitely had worms and that they were probably huge by now.
My first order of business was to check in with my other expat friends around Asia. As it turns out, they've all had worms. Really big ones, sometimes.
Unhappily, I set off for the drugstore the next day and picked up a box of deworming pills--festooned with photos of all of the worm types it would kill on the outside--which I left on my desk as a reminder of what was probably infesting my gut. I got an extra box as a Secret Santa gift for a guy I had only met once, figuring that he probably needed them as badly as I did.
For some reason, though, I didn't want to take the pills. Did I really need to kill these worms that weren't bothering me? What if they helped with weight loss? What if they were the closest I'd ever get to a real, long-term relationship?
It was that final thought and my unending fear of commitment that eventually convinced me to take the pills and kill the worms, to much fanfare. It required me not to drink for 24 hours, which I spent soberly ruminating about the state of my intestines.
Once one takes the pills, the worms die and evacuate. So I peered into the toilet, hoping to catch a glimpse of these foreign invaders--my punishment for a carefree life and street food gluttony.
And you know what? No worms.
Despite my gutter-eating ways, the eight bouts of food poisoning I've had in the last two years due to eating rancid food and the fact that I only wash my hands about once a week, the worms found me inhospitable. And I'm sort of proud of that.