Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fear and Loathing in Swaziland

"It's a freaking reptile zoo in here, and they are giving them alcohol!"

(Based on true events of getting Typhoid fever at training and also the works of Hunter S. Thompson)

We were somewhere on the edge of Lubombo when the stomach acid began to take hold. It was pretty obvious that Take-Away was not as pure as we were told. You never know what is in your Take-Away these days. I reached into my med-kit and pulled out a few tabs of pepto-bismol for me and my attorney. It was a sticky, summer day on a khumbi, a bright red one with the name "Red Shark" scrawled across the side. Too conspicuous, I thought, should have taken something else. A lady in a hat and coat reached across me and shut my window. "Am I losing it? It feels like its 1000 degrees in here. How is she wearing a coat?" Sweat poured down my face as the khumbi took off down the MR-3, going way too fast, not that the speedometer appeared to be working, and packed to the gills.

We had two bags of mealie-meal, twenty bags from Spar, five jugs of high-powered battery acid (aka city jive), a box half full of chicks, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored mangos, peaches, bananas, cassavas….and also a quart of grape fanta, a quart of emahewu, a case of Tab, a pint of raw emasi and two handi-gas tanks. Not that we needed all that for the trip to town, but once you get locked into a khumbi, the tendency is to push the capacity as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me were the handi-gas tanks. There is nothing in the world more irresponsible and depraved than a speeding khumbi driver in the depths of a mad dash to town.

The music was so loud I could barely hear the lyrics. Is that Brewer and Shipley, "One Toke over the Line, Sweet Jesus"? No, they said 'Jesu'. This isn't right, not a time for gospel. I put my iPod on shuffle and Bob Dylan comes on, hoping to get my mind off the demon driver. He was barreling downhill at full speed, passing another vehicle, when a bus came out over the horizon, headed straight for us. In our lane. "I know I can't escape" Bob sang. This is it. I gulped hard. "Aw Mama, can this really be the end? To be stuck inside of Mobile…" And gosh darn Bob Dylan is prophecizing the whole thing! How long will we maintain? I closed my eyes and we were back on the left side, alive. Just then, the khumbi suddenly veered off the road and we came to a sliding halt, I hurled against the cargo in front of me, a handi-gas tank, lovely. It was a police checkpoint. I slid my aviators on. "Sympathy for the Devil" plays. No there will be no sympathy for the Red Shark today, we have broken just about every traffic law there was to break. The driver fumbles with some papers and rolls down the window. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of the officer, his skin is translucent green. A giant gecko? Good God, everyone in here is a lizard! It's a freaking reptile zoo in here!

With a start, I jolt up in my bed. Under my mosquito net. Am I melting? Is this real life or…yep, this is real, just ungodly hot at 8 am. My geckos are back to their normal size and frequency on the perimeters of the room. "Must have been the Mephaquin". I saunter into the other room to make some breakfast. I sit down and scan the Swazi Times, put on the BBC. "Thanks for joining us, today on Strand, American folk singer Bob Dylan joins us to perform, "Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again". NOOO!

Awake. Again. Clock says 5:00 PM. My speakers are on. I must have dreamed the Dylan song into it. I try to get up. Pain, all over. My sunglasses are on, shielding me from the single light bulb and the intense pain its causing my eyes and seemingly entire body. The room was 6 inches deep with clothes, towels, various types of fruit, an untouched variety pack of cheese, and evidence of the excessive consumption of every type of chocolate known to man since 1544 AD. I slowly lift my head and see my reflection, eyes feverish and crazy. My 300-pound Samoan attorney is coming to. Her face reflected the struggle that I knew she was having in her brain, bad waves of painful intensity, followed by total confusion. "Did we fall asleep? Why is it so hot?" I stumble to the shower thinking the cold water would cool me off. Unfortunately all my clothes were on. I get back to the room, a dripping mess, and someone takes my temperature. 105. "We'd better call the doctor". A vehicle I referred to as the White Whale picks us up to take us to the hospital. I stagger in, thankful this mess of dreams and fever-induced hallucinations is over. "Sawubona bosisi" I peer into the rearview mirror to greet the driver, "Babe Nor- NOOOOO!"

Random fact of the week: I started writing this as a joke a while ago, and while I was editing it one weekend at a training, my roommate and I got Typhoid fever and sustained crazy high temperatures. Besides for the temperatures we also attract bizarre situations. "When the going get's tough, the tough turn pro."


  1. what drugs are you consuming? ha ha

  2. My malaria prophylaxis dreams are a lot stranger usually than this haha But watch the movie! It's very funny and this may make more sense...