Warning: Today’s might be kind of gross. You have been warned.
One of the odd things about Washington, D.C. is that everyone walks as if they have some place important to be.
I learned this thanks to a medical evacuation.
When I was in the Peace Corps, one of the things you could count on was that you’d be sick, really sick, at least once with something people usually don’t like to talk about. You could count on the fact that the unnamed condition would be a major topic of conversation among the expats, as there wasn’t that much to do in Albania.
You could also count on the fact that the unnamed condition would be given a name. In our case we called it the “shpejts” (shpayts) which means “quickly” in Albanian. (For the record, I take credit for that name.) A day without the shpejts was a good day indeed.
I managed to avoid the worst of it until near the end of my tour when, all of a sudden, the water people in Tirana decided to swap the water and sewer lines for a day and even Albanians were getting sick.
I personally ended up with two different kinds of shpejts, the contagious bacterial kind and the amoebic kind. I lost enough weight that if I’d stood behind a barbed wire fence I could have been mistaken for a refugee and caused a NATO invasion. (I weighed around 152 pounds/69 kilograms.) Eventually I was medically evacuated to Washington, D.C. They sent me that far so they could out-process me easier if I wasn’t medically cleared again.
I ended up staying at the Virginian Suites Hotel right beside Arlington National Cemetery. I had easy access to the Capitol and even managed to have dinner with a relative. My mother and grandmother came to D.C. for a couple days to check on me/persuade me not to go back.
Unfortunately, about the time I met the doctor, I was put on drugs and told I couldn’t drink.This meant I had to experience Washington D.C. sober, which not even many of our politicians have done.
I toured all the usual places Capitol, Air and Space Museum, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial Etc. I also tried to find the place Ronald Reagan bought Crack back in the ’80s.
While I was there I could see how everyone walked quickly with a “get out of my way, I’ve got important meetings to attend” stance and speed. I found myself imitating them as I moved around the Mall between the various Smithsonian museums.
In the end, I was in D.C. three weeks. One week for check ups; one week to wait for the doctor to finish vacation; and a week to get medical clearance and return to Albania.
It wasn’t long after I got back that I realized I probably should have listened to my mother and grandmother.