Tuesday, September 17, 2013

way more complicated than it needed to be

I was diagnosed with asthma back in February.  I blame Morocco's constant dust storms and the heat, but I blame most things on the heat.  I caught the plague while on vacation (I was in Florence, there was no chance I was calling it anything else), was horribly sick for two weeks and then never quite bounced back and never stopped coughing.  After five months (and friends threatening to call the doctors for me), I finally called the doctors, got to spend a few days in the capital and an inhaler, which cleared up the cough in a matter of days, and that was that.  I used the inhaler every day for a couple of months, but after a while, I started forgetting and when the cough didn’t reappear, I put the inhaler away and hoped that I was better, at least until the next time I got the death plague.

This summer, however, the dust storms were terrible, and between the lack of humidity (hovering around 15%) and the temperature (hovering around the high 130s/high 50s), the air was just painful to breath, and when I started coughing again, I wasn't surprised.   I unearthed the inhaler, but instead of clearing up, the cough kept getting worse.  It was just a dry, shallow little cough, nothing painful or distracting, but it felt like there was something in my lungs and it wouldn’t go away and I had been firmly instructed to call the damn doctor if I coughed for more than two weeks.  Finally, I was trying to sing to the kids at the orphanage and realized I was too out of breath to get through a verse.  That’s when I called the PCMOs (Peace Corps doctors, because it's not the federal government if we're not constantly using acronyms).  

The PCMOs upped the dosage of my inhaler, prescribed a steroid and told me to call them in the morning.  I ventured out to the pharmacy, but the one down the street from my house was closed, as was the one further down the street.  I ended up walking clear across town (and it’s not a small town), past eight pharmacies, but every one was closed and each one had an identical piece of paper taped to the doors. It was written in Fusha and I only speak Darija (the Moroccan dialect of Arabic), so I have no idea what it said, but I assume it was Fuck You, Sick People.

Fun story, the only other time I've been sick enough to need to go to the pharmacy, they were also all closed.

I called PCMOs back with the news and we discussed me making a trip to Marrakesh (the nearest town) for the medicine, but Kesh is an hour and a half away and it was too late in the day for me to make the round trip, plus due a screw up at the bank, I don’t have a working bank card and was going to be hard pressed to buy the medicine and make it to Rabat for training next week without throwing in a round trip to Marrakesh.  They decided to give it a day for the cough to improve with the inhaler, and when that didn’t work, told me to head for Rabat early.

My site to Rabat is a fairly easy trip (grand taxi to the next town over and from there a train straight to the capital) and it’s a trip I’ve made often, since Peace Corps is based there.  I’ve down it countless times without a problem, but this time, not so much.

I left my house around 8:00, walked to the taxi stand and caught a taxi to Ben Guerir. The woman sitting next to me said she was going to Casablanca, I said I was going to Rabat, we talked about the weather (hot) and when we got to Ben Gurrir about 20 minutes before the train left, which was not quite enough time to walk to the train station, she suggested we share a taxi. Instead of hailing one of the small taxis, though, she tried to get a grand taxi.  Grand taxi’s have set routes, usually only travel between towns and also, don’t leave until all six spots are full, so I double-checked with the taxi driver to make sure we were going to the train station.  The taxi finally filled up six minutes before the train was suppose to leave, but trains are usually late here, so I was hopeful.  We sped down the road towards the train station, and then we sped right on past the train station and out of town.

"Wait," I said. "That's the train station. I need to go there."

The driver kept on driving and said they were going somewhere else, somewhere I'd never heard of.

"But I need to catch a train," I protested.

He kept driving and I told him to stop and let me out.  There was no hope of catching my original train, but we were only ten minutes outside of town by car and I could walk back to town and catch the next train. The taxi driver kept driving and the other passengers assure me that once we reach our destination, I could catch another taxi to take me to the next train station.  I pouted for a little bit (I mean, I was essentially forcibly taken to an unknown place against my will and also, probably going to miss my doctor's appointment, I think being a little out of shape is allowed) (I should preface this by saying at no point did I feel unsafe; the taxi was full of sweet old ladies who were patting my leg and calling me a poor thing, and I truly think this was do to a misunderstand, although I'm not sure how, because I know I can say “take me to the train station” correctly).

We got to our destination thirty minutes later; a tiny town that was more of an intersection than an actual town. My fellow passengers offer to get me a taxi, but since I wasn't sure I would be able to catch up to the train, I opted for a bus.  They led me to the appropriate patch of dirt by a dude selling grapes to wait for the bus. Eventually a bus to Casablanca passed through, and I decided that I would rather deal with the Casablanca bus station than standing in the sun on the side of a road, being stared at.  (I'm 100% positive I'm the first foreigner to ever show up there and all the attention was a bit uncomfortable.)  I took the bus to Casablanca, transferred to a bus to Rabat and made it with just enough time to still see the doctor.  They gave me the appropriate medicine and my cough cleared up almost immediately.

This was way more complicated that it needed to be.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two Years

September 2011 YD Staj
PC Morocco, September 2011 Staj @ COS Conference
Peace Corps Morocco, September ‘11 YD Staj PST (October, 2011) → COS Conference (September, 2013)
Two years in country today. We made it.