The rest of the week was kind of a blur, as I finished souvenir shopping and fantasized about returning home early. James had bought tickets to come visit me in Odessa starting on December 1st so I was reluctant to consider leaving early, that and it would be expensive for me to change my flight. No matter what I did, my food allergy persisted, and the only thing I could think of to make it better would be to go home and seek real medical attention. Just when I felt the most hopeless, everything was thrown upside-down.
There was a very interesting young Dutch guy who had just checked into our hostel a night ago who I started to talk to. He had written a book filled with photos he had taken from all the European nations. The book included quotes, and pictures of locals who he interviewed. For my last 20 Euro bill I still had from California, I bought his book and had him sign it. My favorite part of hostel life is hearing everyone else’s stories. I am always curious about what kind of interesting work people are doing in the countries that they visit.
We were chatting when I noticed his arm. Right away, I felt a flood of hope and excitement, because I finally, after one month, found someone else who was suffering from my supposed “food allergy.” “Impossible that this random European guy contracted the very same food allergy that I did in only 2 days,” I thought to myself. I asked him about it, and he said that he is pretty sure they are bed bugs, as he has seen them before. “No big deal,” he assured me as he scratched at his neck, arms and legs. We talked to the hostel owners, one of which just brushed off my concerns and told me that I had already been diagnosed with a food allergy. It was a depressing case of denial on their part, because as they put it themselves, “Bed bugs are the death card of a hostel.” I called Nat about it and told him the new revelation I had regarding my health situation and he adamantly urged me to figure it out. I had one week left in the county, and if I had bugs, I needed to figure it out before I tracked them back to my home in Austin.
That’s when the search expedition began. I started with my flash light purchased by my dad in China. I went through the corners of the bed, the bed frame, and the wall next to my bed. At first, I did not see anything, but I felt like I was searching for lost treasure – I was determined to reverse the doctor’s diagnosis and regain my normal diet. Then, I saw it – a very small bug running on the floor. I jumped and reached down to squish it and there I saw the clear red-orange streak I was looking for: blood. I now had my own proof; after all, how many bugs without wings live indoors feeding on humans? After showing the evidence to the hostel owners, they went through the room to look themselves. Five minutes later, a bigger one crawled out my mattress causing me to scream. Then it hit me, I had been getting eaten alive for one month….what a disturbing discovery.
To make a very long story short, I felt it in my health’s best nature to relocate. You know you have a problem when you are afraid of giving street kids a communicable disease or parasite. Lucky enough for me, I had made some amazing friends over Thanksgiving dinner who out of the kindness of their hearts put risk to their own home aside, and allowed Dash and me to move into their place. I boiled clothes for an entire day, dry cleaned the only jackets I owned, and threw away all of my shoes. The rest of my souvenirs took permanent residence on the balcony where if the USA banned chemical DDT spraying did not kill the potential eggs and bugs that were living in my belongings, the below freezing temperature would. I picked James up from the train station wearing a male friend’s shirt, PJs, jacket and oversized shoes.
|Our new outfits|
|Ready to brave the cold wearing Nik's clothes|
I realize that I look ridiculous and this horrendously disgusting tale sounds unbearable, but it was all worth it in the end because it enabled me to move in with my new family. This past week was by far the most enjoyable week in Odessa I have had so far; I have my best friends James, Dasha, Leonardo and Nik to thank.