Poop in a Cup, Get to know your boss

Last Wednesday I got home from school thinking that Colombia really agrees with me. I’d been here just about a month and I had yet to get any kind of stomach sickness. Patting myself on the back, I chalked it up to my seasoned traveler’s stomach, hardened by lengthy battles with Montezuma in the depths of Mexico. And then, the very next day, as if somebody was trying to put my healthy ego in its place, the stomach problems of a gringo south of the border began.

Stomach aches and being in a new country tend to go hand in hand. Not feeling overly horrible during the next several days (other then the need to run to the bathroom every time food or beverage entered my body), I decided to wait it out a few days, to see if things naturally cleared themselves up. But several days later, a little fatigued, and down to my last few squares of secret stash backpack toilet paper, I decided it was finally time to seek some help. But first I tried to fit in a morning of school. However, immediately after arriving to school my boss/school’s English director, said, “NO, you’re not doing anything. You’re going to the doctor, and I’m going to take you there.”

So off to the doctor we went. Now, my boss is a nice lady and we get along, but the reality is that we’ve only known each other for 2 weeks. So as she’s sitting next to me during my doctor consultation (the whole medical privacy thing is a bit more lax here) and the doctor is asking me how many times I go to the bathroom in a day, and if I could please (in the best spanish I could muster), describe the consistency of my “business,” I felt myself get a little red in the face. The embarrassment subsided, and after a few more questions and a little prodding with the stethoscope, the good doctor, seeming sufficed, told us to go to laboratory up the street to take a test, come back with the results, and in the meantime go to the pharmacy and pick up some Suero juice for rehydration.

As we left the clinic and headed for the laboratory I asked my director what kind of test it was exactly that I was going to take. (During the doctor consultation, some big Spanish words were used that went way over my head). My director explained it to me, but she must have been speaking in Colombian euphemisms because I did NOT understand. Then she asked me if I had to go to the bathroom. My immediate response was “no, not really, “ thinking, “what does that have to do with anything?” And then, as my boss was trying to communicate the task ahead of me with a series of hilarious hand gestures and spanglish, I finally got it. Ooooh, I have to give a stool sample at the lab so that they can test it. Then my director told me, “well…kind of.”

She then explained, “here in Colombia we actually bring the sample to the lab….so, we have a new homework assignment….lets go find a bathroom.” I’ve never had to submit a poop sample in my life, but I always imagined that such things were done in sterile hospital environments with the proper facilities, rubber gloves, lots of toilet paper, etc. Suddenly I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk half embarrassed, half amused, and I exclaimed, “OH my god…you’re kidding me!” I couldn’t believe it. My new boss of 2 weeks was taking me to go poop. And then we had to walk across town with said poop, so that it could be handed over to the proper authorities and analyzed. Starting to regret my decision to ever seek medical attention, we pressed on.

But first we had to purchase the proper poop storage/transportation apparatus at the local pharmacy. Let me just say, that when I think of the words stool sample container (which I often do on cold rainy nights….), I imagine some kind of decent sized tupperware like container, where you can just position it in roughly the right spot, aim, fire, seal it up, and call it a day. But no…..

What was available at the local pharmacy was more like a very small plastic cup. Not even a cup, more like the tiny silver thimble you use as a token in the game of Monopoly. Staring at this tiny storage device, and thinking about the rather…. “volatile” nature of my stomach contents, I let out an, “Ohhhh lord,” as I envisioned the…physical mechanics of what was about to go down.

Ironically, thinking about all this, I really had no urge to go to the bathroom. But one bathroom somewhere in Zipa, and 5–10 minutes later, the deed was somehow done. Unsure of where to put my new specimen sample while we walked to the laboratory (putting it in my backpack just seemed like a bad idea, but putting it in my pocket didn’t quite feel right either…), I opted to carry the container in my hand, “just in case.”

Finally we arrived at the lab. Happy that I could finally hand off this embarrassing part of my day to someone with a pair of gloves, I let out a sigh of relief. But I couldn’t quite wash my hands (literally) of the stool sample just yet. The secretary handed me a pen and informed me that I needed to write my name on my little plastic container. Cursing, as I stared at the tiniest label on planet earth, I managed to scribble down my first name. I turned to my boss and we both had a good laugh when I jokingly said, “there’s no way my apellido (last name) is fitting on here.” And then it was done! Stool samples were analyzed, results were given, prescriptions written, and doctors paid.

Walking away from the doctors office I turned to my boss and said, “listen I’m really really sorry you had to come with me. All that was really quite embarrassing, but I appreciate you helping me through my first trip to the doctor in Colombia.” And she told me, “don’t worry, today I think about you like you were my son.” And with that we strolled off into the sunset of Carrera 4 laughing about all the embarrassing parts of the day, knowing that from this day on, we would be a just a little bit closer.

Until next time,