It wasn't my politics, which veer to the left of the Green party. No, it was my poop.
On our last night in Lima, Peru, I consumed the sprig of cilantro decorating my tamale. Also the ice cubes in my drink. The very next day I woke with fever, chills, and Atahualpa's revenge, and got through our plane ride with coke, Ibuprofen and Imodium. The fever dropped the day after we got home, but I still felt incredibly weak, and thought I should go to the doctor. My husband thought I should stay in bed--I should have trusted him: he grew up in the shadow of German bureaucracy--but I staggered off to the doctor, where I was handed a plastic container and asked to deposit a sample of a substance that I found all too easy to produce.
Now, that sprig of cilantro is the cause of all our history . . . . the next thing I knew, I woke up fine the morning after the stool test to the tune of an anxious phone call from the doctor. I had a communicable disease, you see, and there was so much campylobacteria in my sample that they had to tell the ministry of health, which now wants another stool sample. . . and another . . . . one doesn't get the all clear until one has produced two containers of samples that test negative. And no, you can't just bring in two containers produced fresh that day. You have to wait a whole week before bringing in the next one. During which time you are on the no-fly list. Hope I'm not invited to any weddings or funerals next week.
So they just cleared my first negative sample, "but theoretically, something could happen, and didn't I want a written excuse to get out of work?" Most folks jump at the chance, and it seems to have occasioned suspicion that I did not.
Now, government health agencies make it their business to assume that someone like me--with an entirely run-of-the-mill case of traveler's diarrhea, now completely cured, thank God--is not a person of normal habits who bathes and washes her hands before cooking and after using the facilities but rather a lunatic who enjoys sharing her bodily substances with any available surface or person. But folks, I am not Patient Zero and this is not Contagion.
So I am rather perturbed by the very formal letter from the local Gesundheitsamt entitled Meldung von Krankeitserregern und übertragbaren Krankeiten gemäß Infektionsschutz, which asks reassurance that I have not infected anyone and wants to know where I got this illness.
I just got home on the tram from picking up my kid at school (yes, little old quarantined me) and there on the tram platform screens news flashes informed the public of a case of Ebola virus in Hamburg. Wouldn't the local health ministry's resources be put to better use taking care of that rather than insisting on yet another stool sample from a healthy, conscientiously clean, hand-washing lady who consumes garlic and ginger and fresh vegetables with gusto?