Saturday, May 18, 2013

A "Chier" Situation

Yesterday I arrived at work as I have every other day for the past few months: greeting people as I walk down the corridor towards the front door of the embassy; telling the gardener I like her hat; getting trapped between the front doors of the embassy by the guards playing pranks; asking about everyone's weekend while simultaneously shooting the guards a menacing look that implores them to stop prank-locking me out, but while wearing a slight smile because it is kind of funny; stopping by the kitchen to grab a cup of tea and ask what's for lunch (and more importantly: is it vegetarian?); turning the corner into my cozy, cave-like area, finding my lovely co-workers sitting at their desks, surrounded by goodies shipped in from all over the world (well, mostly from Amazon) and plopping down at my mess-covered desk with my broken chair and post-it covered computer monitor.

Except yesterday was slightly different. I still asked about my favorite guard's family, complemented the gardener's chosen hat of the day (a white beach hat with big red flowers) and managed to convince the cook to make me some veggie pasta. But yesterday, when I walked into the mail room cave, only one of my co-workers was at his desk.

"Kossi, where is Fofo?" I asked, immediately hoping out loud that he wasn't sick-- for reasons both unselfish and, admittedly, selfish. I had a record to keep. People who arrived the same time as us had been sick multiple times, and even Mr. Kate had been on the receiving end of a brief E. coli infection. But not me. I didn't want the flu. I wasn't gonna get sick until it was something good-- Giardia, Amoebas, Ebola. Something worth being sick with and being able to brag about! I have epidemiologists to impress!

I heard the doorknob turn behind me "Madame, I am here!" Fofo sang as he walked through the door.

In the beginning I pleaded with my co-workers for weeks to just call me Kate, but then realized it was a losing battle. "Kate" in French with a Togolese accent is apparently very hard to spit out. So, Madame, I am destined to be-- although now I feel like my angry high school French teacher who threatened to run over her students with her station wagon if they misbehaved...

I digress.

Fofo went to his desk, and I to mine. As our computers warmed up and our inboxes started to chime, I noticed Fofo and Kossi intensely discussing something in Ewe, the local language. After a few minutes I realized that, while debating, they were passing a small packet back and forth between themselves and getting more and more heated.

My inner drama queen was getting agitated. If there was something entertaining happening, I certainly wanted in on it. It was very rude of them to exclude me from what was possibly the only exciting thing to happen in the mail room all week. I wished I was either 4 years old or drunk-- the only appropriate times to stand up, climb on the table and scream "Hey! I don't know what you're talking about! Pay attention to me!"

I decided to go for it anyways, "Guys, why are you arguing?!"

"Madame! Fofo is trying to give me woman tea!" Kossi exclaimed, while Fofo stood defiantly beside him, waiting to explain himself. "My wife says it's just normal tea-- I ran out of Lipton so I had some last night! It is fine!"

"Why do you think it's woman tea?" I asked, with a smile, as I had just reaffirmed that butting in to other peoples conversations is ALWAYS the right choice.

"There is a picture of a woman on the wrapper!" Kossi pointed out, exasperated. "I can't drink that!"

"I'm pretty sure that they put a picture of a pretty woman there so men will buy it-- and besides there's no such thing as woman tea!" I confidently explained to Kossi. Who would make woman tea?

Moments later, as Fofo was in the middle of his "I told you so speech," he quickly excused himself and left Kossi, tea bag in hand, to process this wealth of tea-bag interpretation information.

Kossi looked at me. He looked at the bag. He grabbed his mug and lifted it in the air to signal to me he was going to get some hot water. He had made his decision.

When Fofo returned, he apologized for his quick departure. His stomach was upset, and he wasn't sure why... he hadn't done anything out of the ordinary the day before.

Suddenly, clarity. The light bulb went off above my head. I struck gold. Eureka, and all that. "Fofo, can I see that tea bag again?" I asked, since Kossi had left it on the table.

Like a prettier, more awesome, 21st century, slightly-older-but-who-is-really-counting-because-lifespans-sucked-back-then-anyways, Nancy Drew, I solved the mystery. The tea was made of Senna root. After my wonderful encounters with Africa and its many illnesses and parasites the first time, I quickly came to rely on the presence of Senna root tea, or as Mr. Kate likes to call it "Poop tea." Or as I like to call it, Oh-my-god-I'm-going-to-feel-so-much-better-tomorrow-morning.

"Fofo, your wife thinks you're fat," I informed him. "This tea, um, makes all of your food.... exit." Is there a diplomatic way to tell someone that his wife has intentionally given him diarrhea? "Also, I'm really sorry I bring in cookies for us to eat everyday."

He looked my way, with his face full of confusion and panic. Then, slowly, his face broke into a smile. "Is this why I have been "chier" all morning?", he laughed. "I thought there was something wrong! My wife is very tricky!!" He applauded her hilarity. "I had no idea!"

As we sat laughing, Kossi walked in. He had been privy to the fact that Fofo's stomach had been upset all morning. "Why are you laughing?" he asked. "Do you need to stop and run to the bathroom again?" Kossi erupted in satisfied laughter, glad he had finally been able to work in a jab towards his friend's extreme gastric misfortune. "Or did you finally chier your pants???"

"No, not yet," Fofo responded with a smile, while unwrapping and handing him the tea bag. "But don't worry about me! Enjoy your tea!"

Several hours later the sweet taste (yet not-so-sweet smell) of revenge was Fofo's. I spent my afternoon watching a carousel of my colleagues entering and exiting the room without warning, leaving me healthy and alone at my desk.

*chier- it means what you think it means.

No comments:

Post a Comment