Saturday, June 23, 2007

Being sick in Morocco

Being sick in Morocco is not the funnest thing in the world. I suppose, however, that it is a character-building experience.

OK, so since before the Sahara trip I've been having ... digestive problems. It's embarassing and it's gotten progressively worse. Tuesday morning I became convinced, really convinced, that I was dying. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and spent the next 3 hours pretty much in the bathroom, convinced that I was dying and bleeding internally or something (pretty overdramatic, I know, but I was in that much abdominal pain). I've sure now that it was the leben (that horrible horrible weird milk jello). But anyhoo, since then I've been feeling crap most of the time. I finally went to a Moroccan doctor yesterday. I had to have my Ustav (professor) ome with me, since of course I don't speak a word of French. So, embarassingly enough, my professor had to explain to this Moroccan doctor that I had, "painful diarrhea". Not something I actually wanted my Arabic professor to know, but...whatever.

The visit was extremely brief. After my professor quickly explain my problem, the doctor (or tabeeb, bil-Arabiyya) told me to get on the table. He quickly stuck his hand up my shirt, patted around, then down my skirt and felt around there. It was a little disconcerting. He took my blood pressure, told me to turn on my side and couch, then wrote me a prescription for 2 anti-diarrheal medications. He also gave me instructions on not to eat things like milk, meat, orange juice, and a few others and to stick to a chiefly high-fiber diet. Yogurt, bread, water, bananas, and apples, mainly. Dandy enough. The whole affair lasted less than 5 minutes and cost me about $150 dirham, including meds (less than $20 American doctors). I'm a little bit geeked out about the whole thing, but the doctor was recommended to me by Si Baghdadi, who runs ALIF, and its the one that he sends all the sick students to, so I assume its legit. However, it makes me kind of yearn for American medicine in a big way (especially since my guide book tells me that Morocco is not a country in which you want to fall seriously ill).

The next hassle comes with my host family. I told them I was sick and my stomach hurt (I don't know if it'd be appropriate to mention that I have horrible diarrhea, plus I can't say that in Arabic). I don't want to eat anything that'll make me sicker. I don't think my body can handle my being sicker for much longer, really. However, my host family still keeps trying to make me eat. And looking very hurt/offended when I still proclaim illness. It's really vexing. I thought the doctor's note would give me a little bit more sway (actually proving that I am, in fact, sick, rather than not liking their cooking). But they still kept trying to make me eat chicken! I told them (in Arabic), "No, the doctor said that I can't eat meat" and the mother replied, "It's not meat! It's chicken!" Which is actually kind of funny, now that you think about it. The daughter, Siham, told me in English that the family doesn't eat meat because, "It's so harmful and unhealthy, but we eat a lot of chicken". I quizzed some of the Moroccans who work at ALIF if people here just don't consider chicken to be meat. Like how some people don't consider fish or seafood/shellfish to be meat. Yusuf, who runs the computer lab at the school and is everyone's go-to guy (he's really awesome) said that, "Yea, chicken is meat" but went on to say that people make a distinction between red meat and white meat. I don't know. Still confused. Siham is usually on my side when it comes to food things, but even she was like, "A little chicken won't hurt you". So I guess I'll just resign myself to being sick in Morocco, because people won't let me not eat.

Most of the kids from Mary Wash that are studying here went to Spain for the weeked, since this is our first (and only) free weekend. I had not the funds to go to Spain, so I'm still stuck in Fes. However, today I went shopping with a bunch of friend and my ustav in the old medina, which was a lot of fun. I had four cups of tea before breakfast, it was crazy. I still can't get over the old medina. It's larger than you can fathom, and going through it is like going through a maze. Only a maze with donkeys carrying huge loads of Coca Cola and stalls trying to sell you every conceivable item and then inviting you in for tea in order to get you to buy something (which explains the amount of tea I had this morning). It's insanely hot out today though. It's starting to feel a lot like Virgina in summer, only not as humid.

Last night, after going out for dinner with some friends, I had a taxi take me to Tariq Sefrou (which is the road I live off of). It was slightly after 9 at this point, which is a little late for a woman in Fes to be around walking by herself. As I was standing attempting to cross the street by myself, I had a man slow down and stop his car where I was standing and roll down his window to give me a lecherous look. I'm pretty sure he thought I was a prostitute, so I was pretty traumatized. I ran across the street as fast as I could and once I got to my neighborhood made a few frantic phone calls to calm myself down.

Tomorrow, a bunch of us are going hiking and monkey-watching in the mountains and woods near the really pretty towns of Ifrane and Sefrou.


Debbie said...

I hope you are felling better and I'm glad you went to see the doctor.

Have a good weekend.


Linnea said...

I'm glad you were able to see a doctor, and I hope that you will be feeling better soon! While I was in England, I got the Shingles, which as you can imagine was a barrel of laughs. Your sickness kind of reminded me of that.

My mum said you called today!! Sorry I missed you, I was out working hard to sell overpriced tickets to unsuspecting customers. You could send me your number and I could try to call you back, if you would like.

Sounds like you are learning! Miss you!

Jennifer Sandberg said...

Gees, Lindsey, this being sick is a real bummer! Some people in the US think that chicken isn't meat either. I hope you get better soon so that you can start enjoying yourself. This is a REAL learning experience. But we still love you. Linnea's Mom

Corianne said...

Hey babe,

You are much braver than I am...I'd be freaking out so much and demanding to be airlifted home to my parents.

We're learning about diarrhea in microbiology--some microbes that cause it mess up your ion gradient between your blood stream/small intestine, pulling the salts into the stomach. This draws the water out of your system, causing diarrhea and, as a result, dehydration. Fascinating, huh? The key is to just keep drinking water until it passes through.

I hope that didn't make you feel worse.

Miss you, kiss kiss.

Joe said...

I can feel your pain. I spent most of my trip in Morocco worrying about which bite of food or drink of juice would leave me in the bathroom for hours. Luckily I made it through without getting sick but about 25 out of 38 people on our trip were struck with bad digestive problems.
Once you get over the fear of food you have to admit that Morocco is an amazing country!