In Canada, “digestive issues” are the impolite topic that people only allude to or better yet sweep under the rug. You cringe to tell your employer that you have to go home because of a “stomach ache” or “tummy troubles” and when in doubt we blame it on “something we ate.”
In comparison, I talk about poop all. the. time. The reality is that in a country that is massively lacking in proper sanitation (read: open sewer systems, open deification in rural zones, lack of hand washing knowledge/habit, and an extreme amount of flies that carry germs), poop happens. A lot.
In one week, I was told by one of my nearest and dearest friends at home that they were smiling through their digestive issues one day at work, because of a line up of interviews. In the same week my own employee came to me to explain the details of her poop tales to me with not a blink of an eye. The story went something like this:
“Krystal I am sorry that I keep leaving my task.”
“That’s o -” gets cut off
“I have diarrhea and so I need to keep going to the bathroom.”
“oh. Ok.” Tries to keep face in dead pan neutral, instead of turning up nose or exposing my natural reaction of disgust at this topic. “Would you like to go home?”
“No. I am fine to finish the day”
“Ok, well maybe you can implicate our co-worker to help you with this task, but please don’t hesitate to tell me if you would like to go home.”
“Ok. Thank you”
The reality here in Mali is that people fall sick, all the time in fact. There are viruses, bacteria, insects, parasites, germs – you name it, we got it. But what is fascinating, is the normalization of topics like this that my Canadian reserved background stops me from accepting. Because as the children’s book says “everybody poops,” so really why does it need to be a big deal? Isn’t it better that we are honest with one another about our given capacities in a day. If you are sick, you should say it. If you need accommodations, we should allow it. Because at the end of the day it’s not what we got done but how are people grew through the work at hand.