Saturday, November 10, 2001

Karlovy Vary; Fun with Food Poisoning

This past week has been quite a week. We started with our trip to Karlovy Vary, and then everyone who went on that trip (except Marsha) came down with food poisoning when we returned to Prague. That was as fun as a barrel of monkeys.

Anyway, I'll share a little about Karlovy Vary now. As I've mentioned, it's a spa town, which means it has hot springs. It's situated in a valley between some hills near the border with Germany. When we arrived there, it was after dark, raining, and we had no idea how to get to the pension we were staying at. We had an Eastern European guidebook with a crude map which had a dot on it where the pension was supposed to be. Unfortunately, this dot was about a 20-minute walk from where the pension's actual location was. We spent about an hour wandering around before Marsha took the initiative and asked an English speaker where this place was. When we finally arrived there, we spent some time talking and goofing off, and went to bed around midnight, which is a luxury we've been unable to afford very often. Back home in the states my schedule allowed me to stay up that late on a regular basis, but here our schedules are not so forgiving. If you stay up past 10:00 and have to get up at 6:00 the next morning then you die the next day. This is because our schedules don't allow us any time to sit down and rest from the moment we leave the hotel in the morning to the moment we return to the hotel late in the evening.

But enough about that. The sun came out the next day in Karlovy Vary and it was incredibly nice. We got to walk around the town and enjoy the sites for a couple of hours, then we hiked to the top of one of the hills overlooking the town and ate a picnic lunch. The view was very European, and music from a brass ensemble wafted up from the valley below, which added a lot to the atmosphere. That night we ate at a horrible vegetarian restaurant and we all had relatively inexpensive but relatively disgusting food. All, that is, except Marsha (the only non-vegetarian among us), who had a whole trout plopped on a plate looking up at us, which, in my eyes, doesn't even qualify for the adverb of relatively. I won't go into the oddity of having a so-called vegetarian restaurant where they serve up a trout staring back at you from the plate. Anyway, that was it for that day, and the next day we ate lunch at a disgusting Thai restuarant, which was actually a Chinese restaurant masquerading as a Thai restaurant. I believe this restaurant was the source of our later gastrointestinal troubles.

I think there was Staphylococcus pyogenes (or maybe Staph aureus?)toxin on the garnish on everyone's plates, though I'm no doctor and am in no position to accurately diagnose what type of food poisoning we had. I also may not correctly remember the strain of cocci that causes the type of food poisoning that I think we had. We returned to Prague after our "Thai" meal, and on Monday morning Tanya and I couldn't look at food without a severe desire to vomit. Sissel said that she had felt like vomiting the night before. I didn't eat anything at all on Monday, and was lucky to be able to keep down the two glasses of orange juice that I drank. In spite of our illnesses, Tanya and I managed to get through our classes on Monday. On Tuesday, Jerry also came down with our same symptoms, and, while I was able to eat without nausea, I still had a fever. That night the fever broke, and the next day I was back to normal. I learned that it's probably wise to refrain from eating the garnishes you get in a "Thai" restaurant in a spa town in the Czech Republic.

Illnesses aside, things have been basically normal here. We did find out that the US would like to broadcast into Afghanistan from Radio Free Europe here in Prague, which we hope doesn't happen because it's already a terrorist target, and doesn't need to have extra attention brought to it, especially since a bomb blast big enough to blow it up would also break the windows out in our building which is only one and a half blocks away. As exciting as that sounds, I'd prefer to invest my epinephrine in other pursuits.

That's all the time I have for now. I hope everyone has a great week and stays out of trouble.


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