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MY TRAVEL DIARY: shit – that’s culture too

.“when I shit in China, there’s an odour that must be related to what I eat. The rice? Probably, I don’t see what else it could be. I’ve never smelled anything like it. It’s very strong, like sewage in Summer. I guess every nationality has it own distinct stench. And that’s culture too.”

by Guy Delisle, Dec 4th entry – from Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China

“I didn’t know there’s an international standard for how long one can shit!”

by WT, Marrakesh

“ahhh… I ‘gave birth’ – finally!”

by AY, Firenze

“Hiroshima is history!”

by {me}, airborne somewhere above France

… which is as well since France is not a place I particularly tolerate well and would rather imagine that each time I hit the flush button in the airplane, the vacuum sucks whatever there is in the ‘bowl’ into an open outlet that lands on some houses / cars / heads / lawns / birds! now birds would be fun having been victim of bird droppings a number of times now!

and the above?

Gastronomical challenges and the resulting colourful expressions and quotes.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I had looked forward to tajines and couscous for weeks; imagining the soft, tender, succulent meat full of flavour from the olives, caramelized onions, sun-dried limes and spices that would melt in my mouth …

and what I got?

Overpriced pieces of solid fat stuck to bones swimming in yellow-stained oil in an unwashed and recycled shallow earthen plate – the base of a tajine, that is if I am lucky, and not one of the badly chipped-off plate which bring bad luck and bad fortune to the Chinese – if you chose to be superstitious, like I do whenever it suits me!

At 30-40 Dirhams (approx. £3-4), that’s overpriced. Anything is overpriced really, for a fat chunk of fat swimming in more liquid fat.

That aside, every meat, red or white, was gamey. To me at least – and it was reasoned to be that it could be possibly because of my diet that abstains from meat wherever possible.

Having said that, I can attest that the chickens that end up on your dinner plate in Marrakech are free range chickens – hence, qualifies as edible in my books of non-GMO food – but the stench is enough to leave me squirmy.

Generally, eggs gagged me … let alone the ‘power’ chicken meat will have over my trachea and stomach muscles.

So, I was reduced to surviving on lentils that led to the desperate need for laxatives – none of which was available at our lodging and the surrounds. The alternatives being offered by the medicine man was … well, best left untested with a tough choice between the snake skin, some gall bladders, goat’s head, barks and roots of unknown origin and even more peculiar were the brightly coloured “stones”!

pHaque Marrakech 06

pHaque Marrakech 05

Photo © {p}.Haque – A traditional medicine shop owner who was not amused with me poking my nose and camera around his shop in Djemaa el Fna, Marrakech, Morocco – All Rights Reserved

But thankfully for the au naturale solution, that ironically also appears to be the only value for money item sold in the entire Djemaa el Fna: freshly squeezed orange juice at 3 dirham (approx. 30 pence) per glass.

With four to six glasses per day and the consumption of suspicious looking salads, with equally suspicious looking mayonnaise painfully removed with the aid of the butter knives and bits of paper from my travel journal (no paper towels were available), my gastronomical track soon contracted, sending uncontrollable burst of matter out of the colon, emitting (cultural) gasses that I have never smelled before and one that would have killed any wild boars that passes by, which is highly unlikely in Islamic Morocco.

Whilst the objective was somewhat met, an in-between equilibrium would have been desired. But no. This is after all me we are talking about … and thus, the white OR black has to continue to persist even in such circumstances.

Nonetheless, fermentation from the lentils and bread soon got my belly sounding like the stretched calf skin drums they beat on, while twirling a tassel attached to their head caps in unison to the rhythms produced. With that (the bloated tummy! focus people) I resorted to mint tea, a speciality in Morocco, and the very beverage I vowed not to consumed after being ‘robbed’ on my first night and meal at Djemaa al Fnaa – despite having a menu with prices suspended at the food stall, I was charged 10 dirhams (approx. £1) for a petite glass of mint tea, rather than the published 5 dirhams. No explanation was given, other than them insisting its 10 dirhams… and all this during the holy month of Ramadhan during Iftar!

Daylight (and ‘spotlight’ or even ‘bulb’-lit) robbery is a norm it seems, and sadly, the faster you get accustomed to it the better, or you’ll have a miserable time. Worth nothing too that the robbery can take any form and happens almost the moment to step on the soils of Marrakech.

Within 20 minutes of arriving in Marrakech, having cleared customs, immigrations and baggage, we had a spat with the cab drivers who asked for 300 dirhams (approx. £30) for a 6 kilometres, at most, ride from the airport to the city center. When we pointed out that the tariff boards says its 50 dirhams to the city and 70 dirhams to Palmeria, they quickly countered that its 50 dirhams each. Though still steep with the 3 of us at 150 dirhams in total, we thought it was best to just relent to the cab driver who seemed unhappy and hostile with the 50% “discount”.

Settling ourselves into a battered-up and badly rusting metal frame with precariously clinging metal sheets that forms the doors on 4 wheels, we pulled out of the airport roasting ourselves in the heated car that must have been in access of 50 degrees Celsius. WT signalled that he was hot and pointed at the air conditioning unit, which I have to say I was surprise it existed, but his actions were met with spats, snorts and hoots. Personally, I couldn’t make out if we were being cursed or we had entertained the driver in that he had presumed WT was joking.

We never got to find out as soon after the taxi came to an abrupt stop (i.e. in less than 5 minutes of driving at no more 30 km/hr since leaving the airpot) in front of a narrow archway lane with a no entry sign.

Where convenient, the Moroccans could converse in English and we were instructed to disembark and walk the rest of the way. Directions?

“Straight, then turn left. 10 minutes walk.”

Refusing to get off the vehicle, we argued that he was suppose to drop us at the hotel as agreed and that we neither knew the directions nor had a map on us. Calmly, without wasting any breath on us, the driver got out of the car, opened the trunk and flung our luggage in the middle of the road.

“whoa! BASTARD!!! That’s a Country Road duffel”

… thoughts screaming in my mind as I got out of the vehicle as if by reflex, when my bag landed on some unidentified mush of what seems like caked up mud with hay.

After walking in circles for over an hour, snaking through every imaginable alley there is with a 12.8 kg load of luggage on me, under the scorching sun of 49 degrees Celsius, avoiding donkey dung, cat dung, human dung, more dung of unidentified source, mysterious puddles, leftover food, crowds and the slants of sunlight blinding my path and visibility while burning my skin … 4 things comes to mind:

ONE

I shall willfully surrender to any blackmailing, extortion and robbery inflicted to me by these Muslims during Ramadhan

TWO

Laika (the dog sent on a one way trip into orbit, doomed to drift through space) is my sole inspirational hero; relating myself to both a dog and closely to Ingemar in ‘My Life As A Dog’

THREE

f&*% him, his son and his son’s son

(I had not known at that time that is was customary for the Chinese to curse 18 generations, but seriously on hindsight, under the scorching heat and torture I was enduring, it is unlikely I would have gotten the son’s son’s son, son’s son’s son’s son … and so forth right)

FOUR

it ain’t caked up mud and hay … it was donkey SHIT – a cultural related thing that I would have never known…

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

so yeah, indeed SHIT is CULTURAL too

.

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One comment on “MY TRAVEL DIARY: shit – that’s culture too

  1. Pingback: TRAVEL DIARY: I am serious, a city HATES me … | Travel G-spots

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