Menacing stomach bug almost ruined my big day
Saturday morning, I am at an upmarket address in Riverside, Nairobi, hosting my first in-person event as an author and expert on money.
I have been invited to speak at numerous events like this before but this is the first event where I’m not a guest but the host — I’ve invited other Kenyans into my space, I have asked them to grant me the privilege of their attention and of their Saturday morning. (At a small fee, of course.)
What I want to tell my guests this morning is how to assign personal meaning to their money: to the work they do to make this money, and how to budget, save and invest it.
I know it sounds very boring when you read it on paper but in person, I add a lot of life of colour and music to it, even some levity. Plus, because I’m almost 40, I throw in a lot of stories about the experience of becoming.
My guests are a clutch of urban women in their 20s and 30s, young and hungry women who are here to make something better of themselves. Men rarely attend these in-person events, not because they aren’t hungry for self-betterment but because they seek it from alternative avenues.
The event ends at around 1 pm but we all hang around until late in the afternoon. Just women being women, intoxicating each other — we all chat and make friends, we have our pictures taken, they buy my books and I autograph them, and we laugh a little too loudly at jokes that are a little too unfunny.
The soundtrack of our afternoon is Nigerian music spitting from the overhead speakers. The milieu has the vibe of an all-girls chama meeting. It’s nice.
On all my accounts, the event is a roaring success. Everyone walks out the door a better person than they were when they walked in earlier this morning. In fact, one of my guests later sends me a WhatsApp saying, “My heart is overflowing! There is no greater way I could have spent my Saturday. Feel appreciated for today’s invaluable lessons.”
Here’s what almost no one knows: I am sick in my stomach – I am suffering a terrible case of food poisoning that has come with a throbbing headache, dehydration and truckloads of lethargy.
I got poisoned the Thursday night before the event. GB and I had gone to watch a movie at the cinema and before we checked in, we grabbed something to eat. We had one of those sandwiches at a fast food deli where you select what you want then they fix it for you while you watch: bread, meat, uncooked vegetables and sauces.
I chose the chicken teriyaki sandwich, GB chose the turkey. I wanted mine with baby spinach, he wanted his with extra cheese. I wanted a lot of sweet ketchup, GB wanted hot chilli. We’ve eaten these sandwiches countless times before but neither of us has ever caught a stomach bug. They’re delicious and filling, and we both polish them off our trays.
Friday morning, I wake up to a growling angry stomach. I ignore it. I have my regular breakfast – a plate of leftovers from last night’s dinner and a cup of tea – then head off to work. I have a lot on my desk to get through anyway, including running through my material for my event.
At around noon, the dam walls start crumbling down. First intense sharp pains slice my stomach. Then my bowels go loose. Let me tell you, dear reader, there is nothing ladylike about a running stomach, all decorum is utterly lost when your bowels are loose.
The pain and the loose bowels don’t let up. It’s a disaster. In the evening, I nip into the hospital for some medication but still, I don’t sleep at night – more pains, more loose bowels, more cursing that damn teriyaki sandwich.
I wake up Saturday morning weak and poorly rested. Sweet heavens. I look in the mirror and tell myself, ‘You are a strong woman, Bett. You have to power through the day. Give your guests the best of you. You will fall sick after the event, OK? Mind over matter.’
I am somehow able to hold it together until I get back home late in the afternoon when I pick the sickness up where I left off. Actually, if you see the pictures and videos from the event, you can’t even tell I’m battling a menacing stomach bug.
There are many life lessons from this episode. The most important one is to listen to your African parents whenever they hiss at you, ‘We’re not wasting money here, there’s food to eat at home.’
[email protected]; @_craftit