Out of Africa

If my ancestors came out of Africa, could they be escaping from the extreme hot temperature of summer? If they did, it would be completely understandable.

There I was, in the desert, and couldn’t force myself to eat anything. I was feeling unwell, obviously due to the excessive heat. When Agnes stopped car to inquire about the way forward, the car’s temperature display showed 45 degrees C. That was about 113 degrees F.

For dinner, we had turkey kebabs delivered to our air-conditioned room. Still, I was not able to eat anything. My head was in pain. As I lay about on the bed, I wondered why I chose to come to west Sahara in the middle of August, and with my family; and how we could most expeditiously get out of there. I didn’t know what to do. We had another 5 days time scheduled in Morocco, and the next destinations we planned to go to, Fes and Meknes, were almost as hot. Worse yet, I didn’t know what would become of me in the next few days. I had not been eating for two meals, and drinking water seemed to make my state of being worse.

I gave myself a mental diagnosis—this I had to do, as we were on the edge of Sahara Desert: not only doctors that could speak English had to be hard to find, but also I didn’t want to delay my family’s escape from the devastating heat by looking for one.

I generally did not consider myself weak. Within the family, I thought I was in the best physical shape (not that they would all agree with that). How could it be that the three of them seemed to be taking the heat on just fine, while I was stricken so severely?

While lying in bed, with the AC running non-stop, I noticed that my palms and bottoms of my feet were sweating profusely. This was strange, as I thought previously that sweating is a mechanism to lower body temperature. But at that moment, I’d had a nice swim, and I’d been in an air-conditioned car or room for more than 12 hours, and yet I was still sweating. I didn’t remember this bodily reaction to heat when I was living in Arizona, for my graduate studies.

Then it hit me. All the sweating must be taking away a lot of salt from my body, and yet Moroccan food (at least the Berber-style food we were chiefly eating for the several days previous) is notably bland. I had to be suffering from salt deficit!

Most of the dinner for the family was left untouched on a table in the hotel room (Hotel Yasmina in the desert—I’ll get back to it in another entry). I got up, and scanned over the leftover food. I picked up a couple of olives. These must do, I told myself. I never liked olives before, because they are usually pickled with a heavy dose of salt. So at this moment, I decided that they had to be part of my cure. I ate several of them, and drank some water.

At the earliest time possible, we asked the hotel proprietor whether they happen to have Gatorade. He eventually understood what we asked for, but he didn’t have it. I took some salty crackers with water for breakfast, and we decided that from this day on I’d try to put salt in my water when we eat, until I overcome the problem.

By and by I recovered. But it took a couple of days.

To avoid any possible repeat, we tried to revise our schedule such that we would only travel or tour for half a day per day, taking a siesta when the locals do, and stay in the air-conditioned car or hotel room as much as possible.

A couple of days later, we happened upon an especially photogenic roadside lake, with hundreds of large white birds hanging around. I stopped the car by the roadside so that Agnes could take better pictures; and she found the outside temperature particularly agreeable. Thus we all came out of the car, and one thing after another, this led to our three day stay in Ifrane.

Ifrane is famously know as the little Switzerland in Morocco, with beautiful environment, temperate weather, European-styled buildings, wide streets, a short driving distance from the Imperial cities of Fes and Meknes, and a selection of well-to-do Moroccans visiting either for the day or for an extended vacation. It was in Ifrane that I recovered my energy, and the family recuperated from the toils of the previous days. With Ifrane as our base, Africa did not seem so forbidding any more. With our need of getting out of Africa as soon as possible abated, we largely kept our original schedule, and are to cross the Gibraltar Strait tomorrow (August 17).

(This entry was written yesterday, but we didn’t have Internet connection then. Right now we are in La Linea de la Concepcion, within walking distance to the rocks of Gibraltar, under British rule.)

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