I’ve never been germaphobe, nor have I ever understood germaphobes. But having been sick with stomach upsets here in Jakarta for the last 10 months, I feel a fear developing…
Luckily, I’m not alone in talking about how germs affect my bodily functions: The same goes for my expat friends living here. Phrases like “got the trots” no longer make me shudder and letting one go is almost customary at the expat-in-Indonesia dinner table.
Most expats that come here have at least one bout of bowel bursts or blockage. I, on the other hand, have pretty much been, lets say, irregular the whole time I’ve been here. I have no idea where or why I get sick — or where I picked up my nasty helicobacter pylori bacterial infection, which cost me $100 in pills to get rid of.
But since my bacterial infection, I now find myself staring at salads I’m served in restaurants, trying to zoom in on every minutia of that piece of lettuce to see if a slug has left any of its remains anywhere.
I ask for drinks with no ice and I’m paranoid that soups made with tap water are going to get into my system and form a new colon colony. I stare at waiters and try to ascertain whether they’d be hand washers or not. I pretend I can’t find the bathrooms in restaurants just to try and get a peek into the kitchen to see if I can find evidence of rats or roaches.
This new germaphobic me thinks back to my pre-Indonesia days and how I never gave sympathy to those close to me who understood germ power. So, my friends, here are your long-awaited apologies:
To Anna: I’m sorry I never took scraping the white bits between the shower tiles seriously. Thank you for pointing out that they would turn black and that those germs could possibly kill me.
To Bret: I now understand why you didn’t want to hang out with me when I had a cold, despite the fact that we had only been dating for a month and you showed me no sympathy.
To Mum: I’m sorry about all the crumbs and cups of tea in my room that in time grew their own colourful crowns of mould and attracted ants.
To Pat: I’m sorry for getting angry at you at year 10 camp for using all our toilet paper to line the edges of the hole we’d dug to do our business in.
So on the first-ever Global Hand Washing Day, let us all — clean and dirty, sick and healthy, rich and poor — join clean hands in the fight against germs.