Warning: this is not graphic, but still potentially gross
While it’s generally better to never have to go to a Moroccan hospital, ever, the idea is that if you have to go, try to only go once.
Let me start at the beginning. On Wednesday, we were supposed to eat lunch at a really good restaurant that is worth the 15-minute wait because it is apparently famous. I guess fame isn’t that important to us though because we ended up being seated right away, leading me to believe we were in a secret side room until hours later when I was informed we had actually eaten at a completely different restaurant. If only we’d stuck to the original plan. If only.
Anyway, most of us ordered the same foods, either paninis or chawarmas, which is essentially a grilled chicken wrap, Moroccan-style. I like to think of myself as a well-traveled person, and I know that I’ve eaten potentially contaminated things that my mom would typically frown upon. However, little things like the occasional tomato on a sandwich or mango from the fruit stand on the side of the road have never bothered me before. Again, if only this were the case again.
A few hours later as we were on our way from Rabat to a town about 90 minutes away, where we were staying the night before our flight the next day, two of us, myself included, started to not feel well. By the time we got to the hotel, my friend was almost completely incapacitated. For whatever reason I decided to go with the rest of the group to dinner. Bad idea. Try sitting in a seafood restaurant surrounded by the smells of fish and smoke (because it is legal to smoke in restaurants here) with an upset stomach. That’s possibly the worst combination possible. Besides the fact that I hate fish, I wouldn’t have been able to eat it anyway, so I stuck with a chunk of bread.
Upon getting back to the hotel, I just wanted to lay down. I thought if I just stayed really still, I’d be ok. Again, not the case. To say the least, I quickly joined the vomit club. After about two hours, it was decided that my friend and I did not have normal traveler’s sickness symptoms and would soon be severely dehydrated if no medical attention was sought.
Our program leader, Lotfi Lamrani, who essentially runs Morocco and may or may not be the leader of the Moroccan Mafia, went to the hospital to grab a doctor and bring him back to the hotel. Turns out even the Moroccan Mafia leader cannot simply pull a doctor from the ER to make house calls for random students.
This is where it gets really dramatic. It was decided that an ambulance was needed. My friend would ride in it while I followed in Lotfi’s car. I hear a knock on my door and Lotfi and two of his mafia workers (they’re not really in the mafia but it’s a nice joke we have going on) appear to take me downstairs. Looking back now it seems like I was moving normally while everything else was in slow-mo around me. I just kind of floated down the halls to the elevator while they escorted me to the lobby.
If you don’t already know who Lotfi is, it is very difficult to describe him to you. He knows everyone in Morocco, always has a guy for everything, is the sweetest man alive, quite possibly the most powerful, and he always dresses in suits. One thing you should picture during this fiasco is Lotfi walking down the hallways, his vest blowing in the wind, as explosions go off behind him, on his way to transport us to the hospital. Everything that may happen in a Die Hard movie happened this night.
The worst possible thing happened as soon as I got to the lobby and saw all my friends with looks of horror and fear. I vomited right there in the lobby and it was like a scene from a movie- lights flashing and sirens blaring, people running around and shouting, more people grabbing me and moving towards the door- all of course without sound and in slow motion to me because I’m in a daze. It was the most dramatic exit possible and also quite possibly the most embarrassing thing to ever happen.
I get in Lotfi’s car and we speed off behind the ambulance. The actual visit to the hospital was fairly uneventful. There was a lot of upset stomach sickness, four Moroccan doctors all running around yelling in Arabic to Lotfi, and general discomfort. Of course this all took place in a dimly lit basement room in a hospital that had quite a few bugs floating around.
After MUCH discussion and back-and-forth between me and Lotfi, Lofti and the doctors, the doctors and Lotfi, Lotfi and his minions, etc. my friend and I were each given a shot that was supposed to make us stop vomiting (which let me tell you, it didn’t) and prescribed four different medicines, all with instructions written out in Arabic.
My friend left the hospital and I never saw him again (until the next morning, it’s more dramatic this way). I was then placed back in the car and watched as one of my bodyguards ran off into the night to pick up my prescriptions. Lotfi drove me back to hotel. Unfortunately Lotfi is not actually the perfect human being that we all thought he was because he got lost. Twice. He went down a dead end, ran over a couple rather large rocks, causing for a very unpleasant bumpy ride. We turned around and low and behold he went down another dead end.
Finally we got going in the right direction and were headed towards the hotel. Lotfi then told me a very long, equally dramatic story as my own about a time when he got sick coming to the US. I assume this was an effort to try and make me not feel as bad, but it didn’t really work at the moment.
The rest of the story is not very exciting and simply involves the ineffectiveness of the medicine and a very long and unpleasant night for many people. The worst part about the entire thing is that we had a flight to Turkey the very next day, which is another story on it’s own.
The good news is that the worst of it is over. Looking on the bright side, a lot of bonding occurred in those dark, dark hours- it’s amazing how close you become with people when they see the absolute worst side of you. I definitely made a dramatic exit to an amazing and wonderful week in Morocco, and I’m very happy to say that this downfall did not mar my overall experience and thoughts of my time spent there.
Unfortunately, we never did find out what was wrong with us, as we speak neither French nor Arabic, and Lotfi tends to be a “warm-and-fuzzy” translator, not always giving us specific details. For now, we are assuming the culprit to be food poisoning. Why only the two of us got it and no one else, the world may never know.
Fortunately for me, I have some wonderful friends who were looking out for me and were seriously concerned about our health. Just as fortunate is the fact that I had some wonderful Moroccan bodyguards to save the day.