The Constant Fear of Shitting Yourself

Caitlin Clark, BA African Language and Culture


I’ve had my first experience of the Kenyan health system thanks to a handy bacterial infection which I picked up from some sort of contaminated food. It started pretty much about an hour after we ate in our usual trustworthy restaurant while we were sat in an international students meeting. The meeting was very formal; tables laid out at the front of a long room laid up with bottles of water and clean glasses. Apparently this was a big deal, I even heard whispers the vice chancellor of the university would be there. The problem was, all I could think about was this grumbling in the pit of my stomach, making horrible gurgling sounds and genuinely putting me at risk of shitting all over the comfy chair I was sitting on.

The meeting was important apparently, the vice was there with all of her bitches and she talked a lot about money; how much she’d spent, how much she’d saved, and how much she would spend in the future. She chatted to us for a while about these things, and allowed her deputies to briefly introduce themselves, and then encouraged us as students to form groups of countries and ask questions or voice concerns we may have. I was sweating profusely by this point, becoming fidgety and hoping nobody could see the damp patches forming on my back and under my arms. I looked across to Katya, and she too was feeling rough, and soon ran out to spew in one of the fancy Directorate building toilets.

Three hours later, (almost) everyone had asked (almost) all the questions they wanted to, and we were free to go. Thank god for that. Everyone must’ve been getting sick of me fidgeting around all over the place: I was even starting to annoy myself to be honest. We ran out of the clammy room, past all of the Nigerian boys who were heckling us from across the corridor, out into the safety of the open air where I could spew up without the risk of striking anyone in the back of the head. The day wore on and I just kept feeling worse: like that feeling you get before you get a ready bad case of the flu, with the added bonus that I might soil myself.

The next day I felt horrendous and couldn’t even muster up the strength to go to class, so we decided enough was enough – let’s go to the health clinic on campus. We orientated ourselves around all the buildings (which look exactly the same) and finally found the health clinic, or to be more accurate, heard the health clinic. As we got nearer we could hear clearer frustrated, but still incredibly rhythmic, shouts and chants in Swahili, which turned out to be coming from the doctors. They were on strike. Of course.

Panicking about the imminent danger that my bow els might spontaneously combust and the growing feeling of faintness, we called Allan, who is in charge of looking after the international students. He organised for a car to pick me up to take me to the hospital so I could get checked out. The car journey was stomach-churning, as I expected, because the woman driving apparently thought she was in an ambulance that could drive at 80mph and jump out in front of on-coming traffic without any consequences. We arrived at TRM and headed up to the hospital. The experience was pretty quick and painless really; I waited, they took my blood pressure and weight, a blood sample, then about 40 minutes later I got the results. I picked up some bacterial infection from some food, and that was it, a 5 day dose of antibiotics and I’ll be fine.

After this fiasco, we had a pretty quiet rest of the week, relaxing and recuperating and generally just trying to get on with our lives without any more mayhem or upsets. But in typical year abroad fashion, as soon as I started to feel better, Hann woke up with another bad case of food poisoning which left her indisposed for most of the day. I swear down if you calculate her average chuns per day, it’d be around 1 and a half (we’ve been here for about 25 days or so I think).

She was better in no time though, and the rest of the week trundled on as usual. The stares and the gossiping is still ever present, but I think we’re becoming a bit more accustomed to it now. I spend a lot of time with Moses though, walking around campus and stuff, so he’s having to get used to it too, which is difficult for him because he’s used to just blending into his surroundings. The matatu drivers and money collectors are still wankers; ripping us off whenever they can. Not getting change is the real issue, so we’ve learnt to always carry coins with us, because fuck me, you do not want to get stuck with a stubborn money collector when you’ve only got a 500 shilling note.

So yeah, life is all right you know. We’re pushing on.

Post Author: SOAS Spirit

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