Sunday, 12 June 2011

Two Bad Nuts

Have you ever gotten food stuck in your throat?

You are not choking.  You can still breathe.  But you have food lodged in your throat and it won't go down despite repeated swallowing?

This happened to me on the way from Madrid to Marrakech.  I consumed a butt load of Lindt chocolate squares (some with nuts) on the flight from Madrid to Casablanca, and a few minutes later on the train from Casablanca to Marrakech, I felt something in my throat.

For some reason, I convinced myself over the next 20 minutes that I was having an allergic reaction to the nuts, that my throat was closing up, and that I was going to die.

I'm not sure why I came to such a dramatic conclusion.  Maybe it was the solo female travel naysayers getting to me.  I am 28 and I eat a TON.  And despite extensive eating, I have never had an allergic anything.

But yet, I convinced myself that I was dying, that I was going to die on the train from Marrakesh to Casablanca.

What made it worse was that I was dehydrated and crammed into a train cabin with seven adults.  Not only did I convince myself that my throat was closing up due to a nut allergy, but I also convinced myself that I was going to pass out from heat and dehydration.

I closed my eyes, leaned my head against the wall of the rocking train, and started meditating.  It was the only thing I could think of to do.  After 20 minutes I realized that the "swelling" in my throat had not gotten any worse.  It had not gotten any better, either, but I've heard that food allergies can kill a person in a matter of minutes.  If I was still alive after 20 minutes, I must be in the clear.

Upon arrival in Marrakesh, I went looking for my hostel.  The piece of nut was still wedged in my throat and I had a dehydration-induced headache.  But I no longer cared.  I'd made it one hour across the Atlantic Ocean by plane, braved customs in Casablanca, and survived a four-hour train ride across the north African desert (despite a supposed nut allergy) and I was OK.  I wanted to shed my dusty clothes and perform a naked jig in the crowded streets of downtown Marrekech.

As per the directions on hostelworld, I found Jemaa El-Fna Square and headed down a side street to the left of Cafe Angora.  I navigated a maze of winding streets.  After several minutes, I came to an opening where the road split in several directions, and per the instructions I was not sure which direction to take (though I knew that I was no more than 200 meters from my destination).

At that moment, Dumbass materialized.  He asked me where I was headed and I told him Equity Point.  He motioned for me to follow him down one of the streets and I did, even though I've traveled enough of the world to know that Dumbass was going to demand money from me at the hostel.  Some 200 meters later, we arrived at Equity Point.

As expected, Dumbass then besieged me for a tip, and I pulled out 15 dirham, the equivalent to two dollars (or roughly the cost of 1-2 cans of Coke).  I rang the buzzer of my hostel, and the staff showed me inside.

Dumbass walked in behind me, and stood at the door of the hostel demanding more loot.

Are you kidding me?  If I was back in America, 1-2 cans of Coke would be more than sufficient payment for escorting someone 200 meters.  I could feel the dehydration-induced headache returning, and I WAS IN NO MOOD TO FUCK AROUND!

I turned to face Dumbass.  He was a weasly-looking fellow that could not have weighed more than a buck twenty.  I could feel my fists clenching and I had to restrain myself from charging Dumbass and wrapping my hands around his willowy throat.

"Thank you for the favor," I said, icily.

Dumbass was in a tizzy.  "But, but, but, but this is nothinggg," he moaned.

"Thank you for the favor," I repeated.

"No, no, no, no, no take your moneyyy," said Dumbass, in a little bitch voice.

It took every ounce of energy I had not to resort to violence.  I looked at Dumbass and said in a firm, voice, "Go buy yourself a Coke."  

Then I turned back to the desk staff, and handed him my passport and money.

Dumbass tried one final tactic.  "But I do not understand English," he cried (in perfect English).  I ignored him and continued checking in.  Finally he understood that I really was in no mood to fuck around and he slithered out the door.

The desk staff looked apologetic.  "I'm sorry," he stammered.  "This happens all the time."

Hassling is commonplace in many parts of the world.  If someone gives you directions (or performs any "favor"), they want money.  If someone walks into a photo you are taking, they want money.  If someone sells you a souvenir they want a price that is five to ten times higher than they would demand if that person was a local.

The consolation is that things are inexpensive in these parts of the world and you can barter.  I will publish an extensive list in the next few days with all the tips I've learned to avoid hassling.

In the meantime, I am just happy that June 10th, 2011 is over.

P.S.  Twenty-four hours after I consumed the Lindt chocolate squares, I finally managed to swallow the nut.

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