Saturday, October 11, 2008

I finally got to use my travel insurance

Fate is a funny thing, and more times then not, I find it very hard to understand. I’d like to think of fate as a guide that, when your heart is in tune with your desires, leads the way like a light shining through a wooded path. Last night though, fate was more of a blinder, that guarded my eyes from seeing what lay ahead.

After preparing dinner for my family, and before I had even finished eating what I made, I felt my stomach start to rumble. I leaped up from the table, ran to the bathroom, which lies in the entrance to the apartment, ran back to the kitchen for toilet paper, and finally ended my trek on top of the western toilet with no actual plumbing. I had been feeling a little sick since Tuesday, but this was very unexpected. The meat had tasted a bit off to me, but I assumed it was just the fact I didn’t really enjoy the taste of Moroccan ground beef. The rest of the family seemed quite satisfied with my patented cinnamon laced burgers, but my stomach begged to differ. As I filled up the dump bucked while I washed my hands, my stomach actually felt ok, leading me to believe it was the end of a few days of nausea. But as I walked the few meters from the toilet to my bed, my steps got shaky, my body tensed, and my vision turned blurry. It was only 8:30, but I knew if I had any hope of feeling better tomorrow, I needed to go to sleep at that second. After brushing my teeth, and explaining the situation to my host family, I fell to sleep with little problem.

As if something was trying to tear through my stomach, my body was ripped awake by a gut wrenching pain, localized entirely on the left side of my stomach. My eyes could barely open, and the entire room was dark, but I stood up quickly, found my slippers, and ran to the bathroom. I situated the dump bucket between my legs, and my body atop the toilet. Fatigue was battling along side the foreign intruder in my body, and as I prayed that only one of the two geysers would erupt, my eyes remained heavy, and my head swayed back and forth, as if keeping rhythm with a favorite tune. My prayers were answered though, and as I filled the dump bucket with water, using it for its actual purpose, the pain in my stomache seemed to subside. I remember thinking to myself how that was the worst food poisoning I’ve had yet to date, and if it would have lasted any longer I would definitely need to visit the hospital.

I returned to bed, and tried to lie on my left side, but found a tender spot, and decided I shouldn’t trigger anything. I looked at my watch and saw it was only 12:30, and thought I would still be able to get enough sleep to feel ok tomorrow, and let my head crash into the pillow.

Before I knew what had happend, I found myself writhing in pain, rolling back and fourth on my bed, sighing in agony. The enemy had returned in full force, and this time, it seemed like they were there to stay. I repeated the process to the bathroom, only this time I found that after a half hour, coughing, and still only utilizing the western toilet, the pain in my stomach did not subside. I washed my hands and retuned to my bed, hoping that sleep would come again. I lay my back, then rolled to one side, then finally, like a lost child discovered by his worry stricken mother, I found comfort on my right side, curled in a ball. I found sleep again, but only for a short time, as the process then repeated. This happened four more times through out the night.

I had sent a text somewhere between the hours of 1-4 in the morning, and after the last battle of the epic war, I was awoken by a call from the program’s assistant director, saying the van to Marrakech was still near my house, and it would drop me off at the clinic. This morning our program was supposed to travel to Marrakech for the weekend, but as my body endured the effects of dehydration, and my stomach rumbled like train speeding down the tracks, I decided it was probably a better idea for me to hit the clinic. After dealing with problems of kids forgetting their passports, and seeing if anyone left anything at home, I arrived at my destination, feeling even worse then when I woke up.

The assistant director checked me in, showed me the waiting room, and was off. I was now alone, in a clinic in Agdal, Morocco, barely able to open my eyes, hoping I wouldn’t throw up. I lay across the empty chairs, and covered my eyes from the light. As soon as my head was down, I felt a poke at my arm, and was pulled off my chairs and throw on a queen size bed with white sheets. The doctor spoke to me in a mix of French and English, and before I felt I had said anything, he had an I.V. rolled into the room to fight the dehydration. I was happy to see this, but I was more concerned that I had something worse then food poisoning. I closed my eyes and cringed as the needle broke the skin, plunging into the vein at the peak of my forearm. I tried to explain what my concerns were, but the doctor quieted me, and said “there’s something in there that will make sleep.” This was no joke, and as quickly as I felt the cold sensation run up my arm and circulate through my body, my eye’s where shut, and my worries were transformed into dreams.

“Monsieur, fini fini, sortir.” What?, I said with my eyes still shut. The charming demeanor promised from my assisstant director seemed not to exist. The nurse repeated what he said, and hustled me out of the room towards the reception. He must have known I was still half asleep, seeing as I was just given a mild sedative, because he made sure I didn’t actually wander past the desk to the automatic doors. The receptionist waved me away immediatly, knowing that I was covered through the travel insurance of the school. I gave a somewhat dirty look to the nurse, and I headed towards the door. Before I even left the parking lot, the receptionist came running out. She spoke quickly in Arabic, and I told her I didn’t understand, and to speak in French. She said D’ccord, and after one other French word, returned to Arabic, then looked at me as if I had just shamed her family when I didn’t understand. She dragged me to the front desk, and continued to speak very loudly in some foreign language, all the while acting as if I had just knocked a stack of papers out of her hands. The other receptionist finally translated to French, and asked if our director was still here. I told her she had left for Marrakech, but I would be able to give her whatever they needed. This didn’t seem to be a sufficient answer, and after a few seconds that felt like hours, they handed me a prescription order in French, then showed me the door. This was the event that catalyzed the rest of the day.

I left annoyed. Upset how I was treated. Upset that I still felt horrible, and didn’t know if I had stomach worms. Upset because I was in Agdal, and if I would have come with out anything like I was told, I would have had no way of paying for the cab ride home. Upset.

I decided I would walk for a bit to make the cab fair cheaper, as well as find a huh-noot (corner store) to get water and see if I could keep down food. When I found one, I bought a big bottle of water, as well as a bounty, and was told it cost 12 dirhams. I was surprised that this store I was foreign to gave me the local price for imported candy, but this made me happy. I gave the man a twenty, only to find that I received a little over half the change he owed me. I looked at him, made a gesture as if waiting for the rest, only to be gestured by the man to leave the store. The fatigue from the sedative had taken my ability to speak French away, so I left, a little more upset, but realizing life could be much worse.

I found a cab outside the huh-noot, but I should have known from the start he was going to be trouble. Before asking me where I was going, he asked if I was seul (alone) and I said yes. He then asked where to, and I told him the medina, at the bab nearest to the ocean. He said this was fine, and I jumped in the car, and saw him turn on the counter. This was a good sign, but it was quickly over-shadowed when he pulled off the road to pick up another passenger. I know this is normal for taxi drivers, and I normally don’t have a problem with it, but the new passenger was going to a different place in the medina, out of the way, and if the driver took her to her destination, he would have to go a very round about way to get me to my destination. I watched the counter roll in synch with the wheels of the cab, and soon after dropping of the other passenger, our vessel slow at the mouth of traffic jam. The taxi driver honked his horn wildly, and made jokes about the traffic. We traversed the jam, and pulled to the opposite side of the medina from where I live, and the driver said this was fine. He then charged me the full price of the meter, and smiled and said thank you in Arabic as I waited for my change, which never came. I walked through the brown stone gates furious, still feeling fatigued and food poisoned, trudging towards my house.

I walked in the doors to a concerned family, and this brought some joy back into my life. My host parents asked me how I was doing, then my brother walked me up the street to the pharmacy to get my prescription filled. There were five things on the list, and as the pharmacist grabbed them, he drew tally marks on the boxes to indicate how many times I should take them during the day. While he totaled the bill, I looked at boxes written in Arabic. I was questioning what these boxes were filled with, and why I would need five different medications if the doctor just thought I had dihrea. The back of the boxes had French writing, and I found out that one of the boxes was oral re-hydration salt, one was an anti-acid, and one had something written that led me to believe it was a pain-killer. I finally had enough, and by this point, my ability to verbally communicate came back. The pharmacist wanted 170 dirhams for everything, which is a little over 20 bucks, and I refused. I said I didn’t need an anti-acid or painkillers, and that I had just been attached to an I.V., so I didn’t the salts, and all I needed was medicine for dihrea. My host brother looked shocked, because before recently, we hadn’t spoken much more than Bonjour and Ca va, and he definitely had never seen me raise my voice (which really wasn’t raised, I think he was just surprised I could speak like that). The clerk shot me a shit-eating grin and said some things I didn’t understand, and then said that since the pharmacist wrote on the boxes, I had to pay for them all. My brother, who’s about 6 foot 5 and easily above 250 pounds, gave me a look of fear, and told me just to pay. I did as he said, upset, but still calm, grabbed the bag, and left. We walked back to the house, and he told me that his femme in Belgium had this same thing happen when she visited, and all these things helped her. I wasn’t mad at him, and I had no need to be pissed off at something that had passed, so I thanked him, and began a new conversation about this wife.

I went directly back to bed when we returned, and as I curled in my ball, various members of my family came in asking me if I wanted to eat. I told them I felt horrible, and that if I tried to eat anything, I would just end up back in the bathroom. I had forgotten it was Friday, and my host Mom came in to try and bribe me with cous-cous, my favorite Moroccan meal served exclusively on Friday’s. I declined, and this time with a little more force, because the frustration I thought had subsided began to fuel up again. At that point, tired, cranky, sick, and not wanting to snap at anyone, I decided I would rather be sick on the train, and spend the night in Marrakech, then have to wake up the next day and loose most of it in transit. This would become a much bigger task then I had originally planned.

I didn’t know what time the next train left, but my parents said they would drop me off at the station. This was appreciated, and I thanked them a little extra just incase I had offended them when I refused food. We got about 100 m from the train station, only to be blocked by a mass gathering, which are very common on Mohammed V Street. I told them the current location was fine, and hopped out. The reason why there are so many mass gatherings here is because, right next to the train station is the Moroccan Parliament building. Groups commonly gather here to protest one law or another, so its very rare cars actually get to drive on that end of the street un-harassed. The group was extra-large today, so I stopped to ask someone what the deal was. Apparently this day held a parliament session, and the king was in the building. People were waiting outside for hours to see him, but no one knew what time the session would end. I continued to walk, and saw that the barricades stopped at the end of the parliament building, but didn’t block out the train station entrance.

The next train to Marrakech was set for about 45 minutes later, which was a little bit before four, so I bought my ticket, and decided to go to a bank, then sit and see if I would get lucky enough to see the king. Everything was basically closed around the parliament, but as I peered through the window of the barred western union, my eyes nearly teared up, as the glistened with the red light of the exchange rate board. Today, in the midsts of all hell breaking loose in the American stock market (and probably the result of the UK’s bailout push Wednesday or Thursday) the rate had jumped from yesterday’s 7.09 to 8.0 dirhams per dollar. My cash had been running a little low, and with a trip to Marrakech on my plate, it seemed like the clouds were starting to clear for me. I withdrew money, and then waited in the middle of the crowed, with thirty minutes remaining till my train came.

Twenty minutes passed, and I saw no king, so I decided to walk back to the station to get a good seat. The crowed looked as if it had doubled, but as I got closer to the station, I saw the actual cause. Within the thirty minutes I had left the station, the police and king’s security had completely blocked off all of the Mohammed V street. Though the streets where empty, I stood on the opposite side of the security gates from the station, with time dwindling before my train’s departure. I asked the guard what I was supposed to do, and he smiled, and said wait. I told him I had about five minutes before the train left, and he just laughed a blissful laugh, as if the day was glorious, and walked away. At this point my temper was flaring, and I jogged up the street to see if there was a barrier break anywhere.

No. Not one. I had two minutes till the train left.

I asked another security gaurd what I was supposed to do, and he said he didn’t know. A man standing at the guardrail told me to get a petit taxi around the outside of the Medina, to the other side of the station. This would take at least five to ten minutes, and I didn’t have that time. I began to argue, but my vocabulary limited me. He asked if I spoke English, and I let loose. I told him that I didn’t have time to do all that, and that the guard should just walk me across. I had no intentions of anything but getting to my train, and the king was still in the parliament building. He replied by saying that the only solution was to do what he said. I told him there wasn’t time, and he repeated what he said and told me to stop wasting time. I took a deep breath, furious, ready to lash back, but stopped. I had nothing to gain. The last minute before the train’s departure passed, and I began my livid walk down Mohammed V out of the medina.

I walked at a quick pace, with thoughts racing through my head. My stomach still rumbled, but now, it didn’t only rumble of pain, it was also empty, wanting nourishment. The day was wearing down on me, and I just thought of how upset I was. I focused on how much I disliked Morocco, and how I wish I was back home with my family, enjoying the Colorado fall. In my current state, although I do miss life back home, I know I don’t dislike Morocco, and besides this horrible serious of events, I’ve had a great time here, but this was not easy to convince a de-hydrated, fatigued, and troubled mind. My heart was heavy, reinforced by stone, and unwilling to soften. At least I thought. Before I even made it half way down the street, I stopped. I saw a man, hobbling on crutches, with only one leg. Next to him was a boy strewn out on the street on a blanket, physically disabled. To my left was a women being arrested, and seeing what I had seen all day, I assumed for an unjust reason. I hate using examples of other people, because it is blatantly belittling their lives, but as I walked so angry and furious, I couldn’t help but have a change of pace. I have both legs, and I’m not disabled. Though today was a horrible day, and I really saw the ugliness of strangers instead of the kindness I’m used, life could be worse. It was a hard concept to grasp, even having it shoved in my face, but I focused on these last sights, trying hard to forget the indecencies of earlier.

I got to the station to find a train left at 5:45. This would still put me into Marrakech around 10 or so. My expired ticket still worked for the next train, and now I had a chance to maybe see the king. Just like that, it seemed like life had turned around for me. I walked back into the medina, bought a small pastry, ate, without throwing up, and waited for the king. My hope was that I would see the king soon enough so that the crowds would disperse and I wouldn’t have to walk to the back of the station again. I guess my positive thinking catalyzed this, and with half an hour still remaining before my train departed, the king triumphantly walked from the parliament building, through his extended family all dressed in white, to the sounds of local drums mixed with his royal horn section.

I got to the train station with time to spare, and asked someone where the bus to Marrakech was leaving from. The pointed me to the track, and as the train came, told me this was the right one. I found a spot next to the window, said hello to my neighbors, and began watched a bootleg version of Indian Jones. The day seemed to make since again…or so I thought.

About 45 minutes into the ride, it seemed like everyone had cleared off the train but me. I now had my own section, and put my feet up on the chairs across from mine. I watched my movie until a couple came and sat across from me. For some reason, I decided I should make sure this was the right train, even though the man at the station promised it was. Once again, I had been turned around. Apparently, this was the train that went to the Casa airport. The reason it had cleared out was due to the fact I was at the last stop, and the new people were heading to where I had just come from. I felt very stupid for listening to the person at the train station, but I was so relieved that I had acted on my guts and spoken up when my heart said to. The man told me I just needed to ride the train back one stop, and from there I could catch the right train to Marrakech. I thanked him, and hopped of the train to find I only had another hour and half until the next train. I thought to myself how it could have been worse, I could have missed the last train, and spent the night in some foreign city. But luckily this wasn’t the case.

It’s amazing how immensely 24 hours can actually change a perspective. Its now almost midnight, and I’m still on the train to Marrakech, with the only perception of arrival time based on strangers in my compartment. Though I hope they are correct, I find it hard to trust this random gesture. I’m not angry with Morocco though, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I now have the perspective of those travelers who only see the ugly side of the country. Those who have been hustled constantly, or led astray, or who can’t speak a language that is understood. I understand why so many westerns I’ve met have had such a negative outlook on Morocco, and I just hope that this lack indecency of strangers ceases to continue. I’ve had a great time in Morocco, and fortunately I’m blessed with the ability to adapt well, but today was a day that gives testament to the impact 24 hours can have.
Post a Comment