Thursday, June 18, 2009

masalaama and a story from the archives

My, how time passes.

I have no good excuse for neglecting to update my blog sooner, so I will not waste my time trying to make up something witty to make it seem more forgivable.

As it stands today, I have less than 2 weeks left in the Kingdom. My time here has been a completely life-altering experience. I have learned so much about myself, and about what is really important to me, and to how I perceive life in general. I have made some lifelong friendships while here, and I am going to miss all my new friends like crazy when I leave.
I have made it no secret that for me personally, the lifestyle here (e.g. poorly equipped stuffy gym, and hard-to-access alternate athletics) has been the epitome of incompatibility. However, it is through this discovery that I have become starkly aware of how much I was actually taking for granted back home.

I now look upon my life with a new appreciation of the abundance of valuable riches I have…friends and family who love me and whom I adore more and more every day…the right to speak out and a society that listens…freedom to hop on my bike and ride (almost) whenever and (almost) wherever I please…living in one of the most beautiful places in the world and being free to access all its elements at my leisure (and occasionally at my risk…!)…being able to walk to my favorite coffee shop, stand in the same line as the men, then sit on the open patio or stroll along the beach in the early morning sun and tranquility…(see above picture of an early spring morning on Spanish Banks)

Enough of the sappy stuff. I know you are really waiting for is a story, so I will oblige.

This is from a friend of mine, just before she left for Nepal a while back. I will call her Ms. X.

Ms X was putting together a little travel medical kit with all the things she may potentially need while trekking in the mountains – gauze, bandages, antiseptic, safety pins, etc. She also wanted to add a few medications such as some broad-spectrum antibiotics, some Tylenol, ibuprofen, and very importantly, some Immodium (anti-diarrheal). She couldn’t imagine anything worse than being 10 days into the mountains and suddenly struck by a case of thundering Montezuma’s Revenge…

Luckily for her, most medications (with the exception of narcotics…darn) are available over-the-counter in Riyadh. Thus, she cabbed over to the local pharmacy and gave the man behind the counter her list. When he came to the Immodium, he regretfully told her that they were all out. No problem – She took the other meds and asked her driver to take her to another pharmacy. Again, no stock. She was soon uttering alimentary-related swear words pertinent to the nature of her troubles. I should probably mention that this was the day before she was leaving for her trip. By the 5th pharmacy and an increasingly forbidding taxi fare, she reluctantly gave up her search. Deflated, Ms X returned home and resigned herself to the assumption that perhaps Immodium had been added to the long list of FDA carcinogens we were to avoid, and she should thus be thankful she was to have diarrhea instead of cancer.

As she sat on her couch sipping a coffee (and wishing, as she often had in the last year that it was something stronger), she started formulating a plan. An eleventh-hour act of desperation. She quietly put her morals on the shelf and strode over to the hospital’s family medicine clinic with renewed hope.

After an hour spent in the waiting room with a bratty little boy hacking all over her while his mother sat complacently watching, Ms X was called in to the examination room. The doctor sternly peered at her through his Armani glasses –

“What can I do for you today?”

MsX: “Doctor, I have diarrhea”.

MD: “ How long has this been happening for?”

MsX: “ Oh, it started a few days ago. I think maybe I just have a little stomach bug and need something to slow it down a bit…”

MD: “How bad is it? How many times a day?”

MsX: “Oh man, I feel like I have not left the bathroom for 2 days…I can’t even count how many times a day. Everything is just going right through me”.

MD: “Hm, I see. Well, I will write up a prescription for something that will slow it down a bit” (scribbles on his notepad) “ and while that is being prepared by the pharmacy, you can head down to the lab so we can collect a sample”.

MsX: (Oh…..NO!) “Um, actually doctor, I just went before I came, so I don’t think I will be able to provide you with anything right now…”

MD: “Well, with the frequency you have been going, I am sure you won’t have to wait too long before you will have no trouble providing us with one. Besides, according to protocol, this is a required step”. (turns to nurse) “could you please escort her to the lab?”

As the woman bearing a disquieting likeness to nurse Ratchet practically dragged her by her ear down the hallway, Ms X pondered the irony of standing metaphorically knee-deep in the same substance for which she had come to the clinic to “seek help”. Ms X noted the large black hair growing from the angry mole on nurse Ratchet’s chin as a small grey plastic container was shoved into her hand. She assumed the impatient flick of the woman’s wrist was the only invitation she was to receive to take a seat. She sighed with relief as the woman shot her one last imperious glance, then waddled out of room.

Ms X knew she had to act fast as the nurse would soon be back to collect said “sample”. The door at the back of the room stood slightly ajar, and she could see she the cold and menacing white porcelain waiting for her. She subconsciously patted her pocket and felt the reassuring crinkle of the prescription paper. Turning her back to it, she quickly glanced both ways down the empty hallway and stealthily made her way around the corner to the pharmacy. Like a heroin addict waiting in a dark, clammy back alley for delivery of her next fix, Ms X shiftily skulked in the corner of the waiting room. Her senses remained peeled for any sign of the hairy, hulking frame of the nurse who was sure to carry her by her toenails back to the lab, plunk her down on the toilet, and stand watch over her until she got her “sample”. Thankfully, the pharmacy remained deserted, and after being promptly handed her “illicit” Immodium by the sullen pharmacist eyeing her suspiciously through the glass, Ms X made a beeline to the exit and bolted home to safety.

With a flourish, she added the prized Immodium to her medical kit, and sat down to her lunch of whole-wheat toast and kidney bean soup.


It is unclear whether it was karma or luck that Ms X just so happened to need every last one of those Immodium capsules while struck with a volcanic gastric ailment 6 days into the Annapurna Circuit

Masalaama (goodbye)


PS - I am going to try and write one more entry for this blog when I get back to Vancouver. Following that, i will likely start another blog, as I will not longer be "behind the abaya...I will keep everyone posted. xo