TRAVEL

Learn How To Translate ‘Diarrhea’ Before You Leave the Country

Or suffer serious consequences

Michelle Teheux
Minds Without Borders
4 min readJun 12, 2024

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Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Walter Rhein has written a thoughtful story, How Learning a Foreign Language Has Benefits You’ve Never Considered, about how learning Spanish made all the difference when he had a kidney stone in Peru.

That is not what this story is about.

I will instead focus on the inherent toilet humor involved in wandering a foreign pharmacy and desperately trying to find a remedy for diarrhea when you don’t speak the language.

My story takes place in Buenos Aires years ago — before WiFi was much of a thing and when my phone was pretty useless in a foreign country. Google Translate would have been nice to have. But all I had to rely on was my two years of high school Spanish. I could barely spit out more than “Mas cerveza, por favor.”

But I figured it couldn’t be that hard. The product packaging would offer a lot of clues and Spanish and English have a lot of similarities. I’d be able to pick out enough keywords to figure it out.

My biggest fear was that I’d misinterpret the packaging and inadvertently choose a treatment for constipation instead of diarrhea.

Crap, crap, crap!

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Michelle Teheux
Minds Without Borders

Lover of literature. Former newspaper editor. Fascinated by everything. Contact: michelleteheux@gmail.com. To buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/michelleteheux