In the last couple of months when friends and colleagues found out I was heeded to Peru, many of them strongly recommended that I try the ceviche while there adding that it’s one of the best things on a Peruvian menu. Some of you already know where this one is headed, and I’ll just go ahead and say, “You’re welcome,” ahead of time. Those who come here for the fart jokes, have I got a present for you.
For those of you who don’t come here for that, here’s a pretty picture:
Haven’t ever tried ceviche? It’s a little bit like fresh salsa, but the main ingredient is raw fish or shrimp. My father has now stopped reading this post because he saw the words RAW FISH and is mad that I have just reminded him that humans consume such horrifying things. And now I’m realizing, WELL DUH. If I’d just called my website RAW FISH in the first place he wouldn’t have ever read a word.
From now on all posts involving sex, salacious illegal activity and affordable healthcare will be titled “Sushi.”
I first tried ceviche and loved it while on a trip to Mexico in 2011. TANGENT: this is one of the reasons why I could never live in London or New York or any other place where Mexican food is seen as some sort of exotic, alien creation and resembles nothing that you would get off of a truck in Ensenada. If I had to eat one type of food for the rest of my life it would be Mexican, and I don’t ever want to use a linen napkin when I’m dipping chips into salsa or biting off half of a taco filled with carnitas. I’d much prefer to be standing next to that taco truck wiping the sauce from my face with my fingers onto a receipt I found at the bottom of my purse, probably a receipt from 2012 when I bought a bottle of water at the airport and the reason it’s still in my purse is because I keep meticulous records.
On a Monday night that we were in Peru I finally got my chance to try out Peruvian ceviche, and holy fucking shit (my dad isn’t read this, remember?), it was nigh unto indescribable. So good, so bursting with flavor and aroma and punch that I actually got to the bottom of the dish and then poured the juice of the whole thing into a goddamn glass and drank it. Everyone sat and stared at me with incredulity, like is this really happening? And I was like, dude. Kristen. You are from FLORIDA. Kissimmee to be exact. I AM SPEAKING YOUR LANGUAGE.
Wow, it was good. I mean, damn. Wish I was your lover. I’d rock you til the daylight comes, make sure you were smiling and warm.
Everyone else played it safe with cooked chicken and beef which is pretty much standard traveling procedures when visiting a developing country. You’re not supposed to eat uncooked meat (see: RAW FISH) or vegetables and fruit that do not require peeling. I am very well versed in these practices, except… I had ceviche in Mexico in 2011 for six straight days! No problems there! That must mean that my stomach can handle ceviche anywhere in the world! These are the totally addled thoughts of a privileged white woman who isn’t forced by birthright to weigh her every fucking decision in life.
Because within twelve hours I was… not okay. Hm, let’s rephrase that, shall we? My condition was grisly. What I thought was an upset stomach very quickly turned into what I thought was a small case of diarrhea. That very rapidly turned into every single liquid in my body trying to exit like a firehose out of my butt.
Dad, when you call mom to ask her about this post and she tells you that you do not want to know, BELIEVE HER.
I started with a Pepto-Bismal and advanced like a scholar to Imodium. We had a couple of hours that last afternoon in Peru to visit some ancient Incan ruins at Pachacamac, and halfway down a path to see a carved-out temple I realized I wasn’t getting any better and did not want to deface that kind of national landmark. So I very discreetly turned right back around, performed advanced calculus in my head to distract my body from this biological urge and then promptly chewed off four of my fingers.
That’s when I took my first Cipro, the first of what would be a full prescription. Somehow I managed to keep my shit together (DID I REALLY JUST TYPE THAT) until we got back to KK Peru headquarters where I crawled inside a bathroom, put my arm into my mouth and bit down to muffle the sound of my pain.
If you’re visiting a country where you’re required to get vaccinations, a travel clinic will talk to you about traveller’s diarrhea and ask you if you know the difference between it and the normal kind. I am somewhat book smart about this kind, I understand it intellectually and have shrugged it off as being not much worse than what you might normally experience. BUT I AM HERE TO ADMONISH YOU TO BELIEVE THE TRAVEL CLINIC. Pay attention: It is so much worse. Phenomenally worse. This one goes to 11.
Normal diarrhea is a field of flowers. Traveller’s diarrhea is a forest fire where instead of hosing things down with water they are spraying the landscape with oxygen.
My flight back to the states left at 4 AM the following morning, so I had to leave the hotel at 1 AM in order to make the drive and get through all the security measures. This means that I did not sleep that night and left for the airport in a state of total panic. The Cipro had not yet slowed things down, and I was trying to map out in my brain how I was going to get through the next 18 hours of travel. Three different airplanes. Two layovers. Minimal access to a toilet. I had no idea that educating myself, preparing for and actually enduring a drug-free childbirth would come in so handy. Except, at the end of this ordeal they would not be handing me a very cute and dimpled baby. They’d be handing me two hours of uninterrupted time with a goddamn commode.
I tried to appear as inconspicuous as I possibly could, as inconspicuous as one can be when the urge to purge the entirety of my body out of my butt far outweighed my body’s physical capacity to keep it all in. And that’s where the preparation for childbirth came in: it was all mental. My brain had to override my corporeal being at a molecular level. If I had to compare what that mental strain felt like I’d say that I was somehow focusing so hard that I could have conducted mitosis through concentration alone. I was multiplying cells with my mind. I could have granted you three wishes, and yes, you’d have gotten your fucking pony.
The pain came in waves every five minutes, and I’d close my eyes, rock ever-so-slightly back and forth and let the sweat pool in the hair hanging around my face. On both the flight from Lima to El Salvador and the flight from El Salvador to LA, my access to the bathroom was limited for hours at a time. There was only one bathroom at the back of the plane that was blocked the entire time the staff served drinks and snacks. And when it did open up, a line of 20 people would form. So I’d stand in that line and divide a cell in half into two daughter cells, each with the same kind of chromosomes as the parent nucleus, over and over again. I managed to generate two extra kidneys while flying over Ecuador.
On the layover in El Ealvador I had to go through a security line where a woman in uniform thoroughly patted down my body, very slowly, and you guys, I kinda think I understand what a drug mule must feel like at the airport. Except, of course, I was smuggling poo.
Sweat was dripping from every part of my body due to the physical and mental strain, and I was afraid that if I made eye contact with anyone that I’d lose my concentration. So I was looking everywhere, anywhere, eyes darting around like a lunatic, and when she’d ask me questions I’d whip my head around as if startled. What? Huh? Me? Did you ask me if I have poop I am hiding from you YES THE ANSWER IS YES.
Any outside stimulus meant that I had to think about something other than not pooping my pants. The last part of that sentence sounds like it was written by a five-year-old, oh my god. You guys, I spent over a day of my life concentrating my mind specifically on not pooping my pants. That one thought alone. That was it. And thanks to the Cipro kicking in at about 17 hours into my travel time, I can say that the concentration worked. 17 hours? That long? Guess what the most common side effect of Cipro is? Go on. Yep. That’s right: DIARRHEA.
And then this… the photo the machine took of me at Global Entry when I reached customs in LA looks like a still image from some spy thriller:
That chick is SO not amused.
I look like a weary fugitive on the run. With the runs.