Funny but Freaky.
About 11 years ago I had a bowel cancer problem and ended up with a colostomy bag.
And I want to tell you a funny story that happened to me when I went back to teaching in a Vietnamese primary school.
A Big Stomach.
It all started with me being “blocked-up”. I couldn’t pass anything in the “nether regions”. And I just thought, “ah well, living in Vietnam I am accustomed to this happening”. But after 5 days I started getting a bit worried. Day 7 and my stomach had swelled up like a balloon. It was rock hard and no amount of water or laxatives would get things moving.
My wife eventually got me to go to hospital and after an x-ray or several the doctors told me I had cancer of the bowel. They also told me they needed to operate immediately. To say I was “freaked out” is to put it mildly. The same day they operated on me and after a 12-hour operation I woke up. More stories about this part later, and yes we get to the truly disgusting and funny parts soon.
Back to Teaching English.
After 2 to 3 months off recovering the wallet told me I had to get back to work. All good except I had a colostomy bag that I had to carry around for another month while my “insides” were recovering.
At this stage I was working in a primary school teaching English to kids from 6 to 12 years of age in Ho Chi Minh City. Young kids and a teacher with a colostomy bag, no problems right? It was an accident waiting to happen and it ended in a veritable “shite storm”.
Same Same, but Different.
I had been back teaching and things had been going well. Just another day teaching truly great kids. I had no mishaps and I always had a spare set of clothes “just in case”. And little did I know it, but on this day I was definitely going to need them (and then some).
All the teachers knew I was wearing a colostomy bag and so did the children. An announcement at one assembly by the Principal saying “Mr Stephen had a “Tui Colostomy” and please do not bump into him or hug him. This announcement was made at the start of my return to work and “today” as I found out, it would be forgotten.
My morning classes of the day had gone well and it was a beautiful hot day. It ended up being lucky that it was a hot day as I was going to need that fast drying time. I was walking down the outside balcony on the way to the staff room for a coffee.
No Coffee Today.
There would be no coffee that morning for me. I was walking and talking with my T.A. (teachers assistant) when a young student of about 6 years old rushed up to me and gave me big hug. Vietnamese kids are really nice and this was a good student from one of my classes. However, you can imagine a 6-year-old kid and a colostomy bag come in around the same height and I knew the “proverbial” was about to hit the fan.
I looked down and was surprised that everything looked ok. I should have known better. One whiff and I knew we had a leak, the ship was going down. I excused myself to the TA and grabbed my bag and took off to the nearest bathroom. Luckily for me, these toilets had a shower, I didn’t know it yet, but I was going to need them.
A Veritable Shite Storm.
I got to the bathroom intact and started to strip down. By the time I got into the cubicle, I knew it was going to be bad because the smell had ramped up to level 9. I got to the bag and as soon as I touched it the bloody thing exploded. You might think these things can’t explode, and I never thought before then they could either. But I was dealing with a shite bomb and when I say it exploded, it went everywhere.
The bag had been full and when it went “off” it hit the roof, covered the walls, and splashed all over the floor. It could not have been worse. Luckily there was no one else in the toilets. Or if there were they must have quickly left because of the stench. It was like “Dantes inferno”, fecal matter was dripping from the ceiling and the walls looked like they had been smeared with old rotten cabbage and I can’t even describe the floor.
Thank god my spare clothes were in a plastic bag.
It Could Only Get Worse.
I very quickly grabbed my stuff and moved into the shower and washed me, my bag, and my first outfit. I also always carried spare colostomy bags, tape, etc, and for everything squared away. Twenty minutes and I started feeling I had pulled it off and could flee the scene of the crime unscathed and uncaught.
In hindsight, I should have just stuffed everything into my bag and run. However, I thought I would drape my clothes in the sun for 10 minutes and partially dry them off. Bad move.
The Cleaning Lady
I knew I had made a mistake as soon as I saw the cleaning lady head into the toilets. It was impossible to clean my cubicle and it was still in the same state as when I left it when the cleaning lady headed in. OMG.
She had seen me draping my clothes on the balcony and you didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what had happened. I had never seen a Vietnamese person turn white before today. She came out after about 3 seconds and just looked at me, shook her head and fled. I believe she never came back and I guess she had some burning questions that would never be answered. Or at least not by me as I fled the scene of the crime too and luckily had finished teaching for the day.
Life as Usual
I did go back to the school the next day and nothing was ever said to me about it. It is times like this you have to admire the politeness of the Vietnamese people. But I did get the odd funny look and none of the Vietnamese teachers sat next to me for a couple of weeks. Just in case I guess.
When you come to Vietnam to work you will acquire your own “funny” life stories, however, I truly hope this never happens to you.
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