Every single time we go on a trip, my dad starts sending warnings of what we should avoid, oh, about 4 months before we go. It's sweet and endearing, and I like it, because it's really nice to know that someone looks out for me that way. His advice is usually pretty spot-on, because he reads about a million health newsletters a day, and because he's generally knowledgable about global politics and war-torn nations. I don't always take the advice, but I always listen to it, and when we're on that trip, I can hear his voice in the back of my mind, warning me against being too friendly, too optimistic, too American, too vulnerable.
By way of example, when Matt and I went on the cruise to Cancun, it wasn't long after the September 11th attacks, and my dad became solidly convinced that our ship, OUR SHIP!, was the very next target of terrorism. He managed to convince me too, albeit briefly, and for a few days I contemplated asking Matt if we could change our plans. We didn't change our plans, and we got engaged on that boat, and we came back in one piece, sans food poisoning to boot.
When Julie and I went to Ireland, even though we had no plans of going to Northern Ireland, my dad spent a good 30 minutes on the phone with me, explaining the long-standing conflict between Ireland and the UK, warning me that "Lizzi, this is serious. Do NOT go there. Promise me." I promised, and we didn't even go much farther North than Dublin (mainly because we didn't have enough time) and we came back in one piece. Also? We ate no beef while we were there, just in case.
This trip is different. It's bigger. There are a bunch of countries to worry about. There are millions of people, literally the world-over, who could harm me, according to my dad. I don't know why he lets himself worry so much, but I think it's something that he can't turn off, now that he's been a parent for over 35 years. Today I got the first official "Don't Drink the Water" memo. There've been other, verbal warnings, along the lines of "be careful in India because you don't want to offend people." Or, "maybe you shouldn't let people know that you're Jewish." Or even, "please don't eat chicken in southeast asia. Only vegetables. COOKED vegetables because you're going to get sick from the water. Oh honey, don't drink the water."
Today's warning was an actual article. The first of many, I'm sure. It was about a really disgusting-sounding parasite in Thailand. The parasite, fluke, works its way into freshwater fish, which are then ingested by humans, who get the parasite and find themselves at an increased risk of developing liver cancer. LIVER CANCER! He didn't have to tell me twice that "it's serious stuff." I got that from the Liver Cancer part of the article. You only get the parasite if you eat the fish raw, and there's a special dish in Northern Thailand that we should avoid. So basically, in Southeast Asia, we are being warned to eat only vegetables. COOKED vegetables. And fish that comes from the ocean that's also completely COOKED and not even a little bit raw. Got it. Cooked vegetables. Really cooked fish. No water. No chicken.
Should be a good time!