A Western Woman’s Suffering in Cambodia

During my travels in Southeast Asia last year, I regularly updated Facebook friends on my whereabouts. Here is one of my travel reports.

Dear friends. Last time we spoke, I was lying in Siem Reap with a fever. The end of that story is that I reached the official deadline for a doctor’s visit, four days of fever without a known cause, and decided to get it checked. Before going to the hospital, I made sure to google my symptoms and get confirmed what I already suspected; that I was most likely going to die. I’m not sure whether it was because I had spent the last few days in NO cambodia intext1physical discomfort and social isolation, or if I’m simply sobbing of nature, but it took very little to trigger a full emotional blowout at this point, something the lady in the shop on the corner was the first to experience.

I went there to pick up my laundry, which was a few minutes late. While I was sitting there and thinking about the details of my soon-to-come death, tears started running down my face. When the lady saw this, she assured me that “No worry! Is clean”! The second person to meet cry-baby Petrine was the small-talk-happy receptionist at my hostel. As I went through the lobby, he asked me where I was going, as he always did, and I responded by breaking out in tears and crying “I’m going to the hospital”! If I hadn’t yet managed to fully convince myself I was about to die, at least I managed to convince the receptionist. He hurried me into the nearest vehicle and rushed me off to the hospital.

When I got there, the doctors injected fever-reducing drugs into my veins and did blood samples, which made me think “OMG, I’m super sick! Thank God I went to the hospital”. When they 30 minutes later came back with the results, that I most likely didn’t have anything serious, “medication” in the form of pain killers and vitamin c, and a 439-dollar check, my mindset changed to “wow, this was unnecessary”. I was almost a tad disappointed I didn’t have dengue fever. For one thing, this story would have been a lot more awesome: “Young heroine battled bravely against a severe tropical disease, all alone in NO cambodia intext2Cambodia”, rather than “Neurotic woman had a little fever, made a lot of drama, cried her way to the hospital, turned out not to be anything serious”. Secondly, a round of dengue fever (a sickness whose final stage is a vomit cavalcade) could have done wonders to my figure. 

On the contrary, the doctor told me to eat and drink as much as I could (an advice I had been following for more than two months) and stay in bed until my temperature reached normal levels.  When I got back to the hostel, I could barely look at the receptionist. The next few days I spent sobbing my eyes out in self-pity, watching American high-school movies, and skyping with my family, making sure they felt just as sorry for me as I did. After four days, when I was finally getting better, I got on the bus to Phnom Penh. There I learned about the Khmer Rouge regime and the killing fields, which kind of put my week of “misery” into perspective.  Pain is relative.


You might also like: