Thursday, August 23, 2012

Manners, A Peace Offering, and Montezuma's Revenge (Plus a Home Remedy for Intestinal Issues)

The sun is bright the shadows are deep[Day230]* by Chapendra

It's only a matter of time in an Ex-Pat conversation for the subject to surface. There is no shame. It is just a fact of life for Ex-Pats, as common as, well, the common cold.

In The New York Times' best seller, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Miss Manners advises, one is not to say one has diarrhea unless one is speaking to one's doctor (can you not just hear Emma Thompson's voice here?).

Oops. Well, at least we don't say the word directly. We have our code words. For example, we say, "I'm not feeling well," and "I have to stay close to a bathroom." Then there's a groan and a knowing and sympathetic nod from the listener. We know what THAT means.

We all have our horror stories, our badges of courage, of survival, of unintentional weight loss. So, here I go. Shame aside. One of my horror stories from the foreigners' front lines:

                                                                                817Sanliurfa-Mevlid-i Halil Camii-Abrahams Geburtsort8, a photo by olaf.kellerhoff on Flickr.
817Sanliurfa-Mevlid-i Halil Camii-Abrahams Geburtsort8 by olaf.kellerhoffBack in 1995, before a Aegean Coast sailboat cruise, I was first traveling through South East Turkey, visiting the famous Nemrut Dag and the not so famous towns of Diyarbakir, locally-known as the "Paris of the East," Harran with its beehive houses, and Urfa, the birthplace of Abraham.  

It was in Urfa that my true initiation to a traveler's life began. According to local legend, Abraham defied King Nimrod by not believing he was God. King Nimrod bound him to stakes and catapulted him to a bonfire. God then changed the fire to water and the stakes to carp. These days, one can visit the Urfa mosque complex which includes a pond of sacred carp and two caves (separated by gender) with springs of the holy water known for its miracles.

On that fateful day in Urfa, I wrapped my scarf around my head and headed towards the door to the women's cave alone. I had no idea what to expect. From what I remember, I entered a cramped dimly lit room filled with whispering women. There was a basin at one end with water trickling into it from a small pipe. A pregnant woman lay supine in front of the basin. As I entered the room, the whispering stopped. Was it my ankles? Probably. Every other inch of my body was covered except for my face and the bottom of my abnormally long legs. Somehow everyone knew I was not from there.  All eyes were on me. I'm not kidding. It was one of the most bizarre moments of my life.  

I looked around, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do when a small girl soundlessly approached me carrying a dented metal ladle full of water. Her small hand was cupped underneath it to catch any water that might drip. She lifted the ladle up towards my mouth indicating with a slight nod that I should drink, a peace offering.  


Traveler's Rule #1:  One does not drink the water in Turkey.  

Did I mention everyone was staring at me and the room was silent?

I did what anyone would have done.  I took the ladle and . . . pretended to drink the water. I then smiled, nodded my head vigorously up and down, and tried to return the still relatively full ladle back to the girl. She shook her head and did a drinking motion with her hands pantomiming that I was to finish it. I looked around. The women were patiently waiting to see what I would do.  

I drank the water.

The women sighed and nodded. Several hands gently rubbed my back. The whispering began again while the girl led me around the wet pregnant woman to the spring. She showed me how to dip my fingertips in and touch my face. When I left, she hugged me. 

Blinking in the harsh desert light, I returned to my group and related the story. Their lips formed a grim line. I was destined for the bathroom, unless the spring really did perform miracles.

It did not.
At least, not for me.

For the first three days of our cruise, I ate only rice and toast while everyone ruefully shook their heads at me while devouring their freshly caught fish and octopus and cucumber salad. For three days, everyone politely pretended not to hear what was happening in the bathroom of one of the five closet-sized rooms in the sailboat. Miss Manners would have been proud.

Ah, the things we do for peace.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Well, maybe not a heartbeat, but I'd do it.

The Tried and True Way to Tackle the Trots
or a Home Remedy to Treat Diarrhea:

The B.R.A.T. Diet

T=Toast (plain, not untoasted, not with butter, jam, magarine, PLAIN)

Eat ONLY the food in the BRAT Diet and drink ONLY water until you are "normal" again.  It usually works like a charm in 2-3 days, but only if you don't cheat.

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