Thursday, September 03, 2009


I recently traveled to Tunisia with FB and two other biologists. I like traveling with the scientists through the Sahara desert. They always know where on the GPS we are, they have maps taped to the inside of the car and they can calculate exactly how much gas will be needed and how much air conditioning we can use between any given points. They know what to do in case of a snake bite or heatstroke and they have seemingly thought out every possible scenario and have an action plan attached to each.

What they DON'T do, however, is tell you when you look like a freak religious missionary sent to recolonize North Africa.

Yes. I apparently traveled through Tunisia dressed as a pale, tightwad Quaker. Given it's a Muslim country where I hardly saw any women out on the streets, I was trying to NOT call attention to myself. Good job. Only thing missing is a giant sign around my neck that says I AM WHITE. REALLY. REALLY. WHITE.

As usual, I was nervous when I bought my ticket....hmmmm....the Sahara desert in the summer? 118 degrees in the shade? Uh.....ok. Following three hyper boys around? Uh....ok.

Hilights of the trip include almost dying twice while 4 x 4ing through the dunes of the Sahara desert. Dude, I thought the desert was flat. Yeah, well, it's not. There are these big things you see called DUNES that if I had spent more than a millisecond reading up on it or even just thinking about it, I would have KNOWN that. I also thought I could just kind of figure out how to drive a 4 x 4 with no instruction. Well, I can't. As the two guides and three scientists sped off across the dunes, I was left in the dust (literally). Here's a tip: You have to ACCELERATE up a sand dune or the 4 x 4 will stop moving and tilt back on you and you will fall off and then you will cry and then you will have a panic attack and then the guides will come back to get you and will laugh at you as you wipe sand and tears off your face while telling them what a beautiful country they have.

Just a tip.

I fared only slightly better with the camel, which I gripped with terror as though hanging from a cliff. FB rode behind me and kept calling out "um, are you sure you are on top of the camel?"
"YES!! I am FINE, OK???? My GOD!!! Just....just.....DON'T FRICKIN' TALK TO ME! I am CONCENTRATING!!!!"

Then there was the sun. The hot, burning, torturous sun. I admit, I was a fanatic with the sunscreen and went through 4 bottles of 70+. The scientists got pretty tired of my crazed Quaker mother reminders "You need more sunscreen. Here. Put this on. No...put MORE on. PUT IT ON! Seriously. I am SERIOUS. YOU COULD FUCKING DIE HERE, OK? From the sun. You could DIE."

But this is finally what did me in.....

The oasis. You magical deadly mirage of intestinal destruction. There were fig trees, palm trees, peach trees and lots and lots of waaaaaater. The scientists ate one piece of fruit from the trees. I got biblical and ate 5. Because I'm American and more is always better. I stood under the waterfalls and then gorged myself in the swimming hole. For one brief second, a distant thought passed through the back depths of my mind about maybe having heard somewhere that maybe the water or fruit might possibly have something like, organisms or like, foreign something.....or bacterias or...I don't know. Whatever. I'm thirsty and this fruit tastes AAAAAAAWESOME.

24 hours later I'm in a near coma in a bed somewhere with my guts spilling out and a 102 fever. FB asks if I want to go to a hospital.
"HERE????IN TUNISIA???? ARE YOU INSANE??!!!! I AM GETTING ON THAT FLIGHT BACK TO FRANCE TOMORROW IF IT KILLS ME." And kill me it nearly did. I had to pull out every ninja bone in my body to get back to France without losing it. For eight hours I chanted one sentence in my head over and over "You are Bruce Lee. You are ninja. You are Bruce"

One week later and 14 pounds lighter, I finally pulled myself off the bathroom floor.

Back in Paris, the French doctor I saw in the tropical disease clinic said it best when he saw me...."I thought Americans were smarter about these things than you were."

Uh....yeah. Guess not.


Gina said...

Oh KFD, you never disappoint. This story made me laugh so hard...and yes, you did resemble a rather committed, rather white Quaker. Regretably, this is just the kind of unfortunate outfit I'd pull together for a trip to the desert. Sorry about the accidental colon cleanse, but glad your ninja skills saw you through. Thanks again for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Let me be the first to congatulate you:

Jessie's thoughts: said...


You are so brave, and so very, very foolish. Good job with the sunscreen though. And the big hat. And hanging onto that friggin' camel.

You are so fun to read.

TJM said...