Far from the madding crowds is what I was hoping for when I went to Tunisia, of all places, fool that I was...
It apparently is one of the most popular destinations among French cheap holiday-makers. I would have guessed Morocco.
Anyway. The crowd was so alarmingly large in that shed of an airport that is Terminal 3 at CDG that we queued for about an hour before check-in. That's a long time to queue.
A 10:15, the plane hadn't left the ground, when take-off was meant to happen at 9:25. But then, at that early hour, boarding had not even started. Hell, check-in wasn't even finished.
Then they said the flight to Monastir would take 2 hrs, instead of the promised 1.30.
I was beginning to sense a pattern. Did that mean that the bus drive I had guesstimated at 4 hours would last for 6? Did that mean that the hotel would be a rotten-wood shack out in the middle of nowhere? Did that mean that the pool would turn out to be a pond and the sea, well... a bigger pond?
Would the girl sitting next to me finally switch off her mp3 player during take-off and prevent us from plunging to our deaths before finding out?
Quite a few questions whirled through my head, none of which seemed to bother the in-flight personnel, bless their work-unconscious little hearts. Oh, yeah, because we nearly died. Of fright. They switched off the lights at some point. Of the plane. All the lights. Switched off. Well, folks, I love planes, I love airports, I'm difficult to scare, even when it's rough. I might get sick, but scared uh-uh, no siree. Except those two seconds. That they switched the lights off. In the plane. All the lights. That was scary.
Fast-forward to Saturday. Remember that my back got badly sunburnt - and in fact my ear did get sunburnt too. That's a first.
So I wake up on Saturday with a deaf ear. Spend the whole day trying to do something about it, to no avail. Realise that I'm taking a plane on Sunday and might either suffer a brain leak from the pressure or kill someone if what is blocking my ear suddenly escapes it due to the pressure. Pressure is indeed a tricky thing to master, and I'm only just starting.
So we call a doctor. Truth be told, I was a little apprehensive of a ruptured eardrum in the plane. So I thought I'd be a sissy and have a doctor come. Oh yeah, because there is no actual first-aid station at the club. To warrant attention, you have to hurt yourself. I suspect there should be profusion of blood for them to take you seriously.
But still, they call the doctor, who says he'll be here in 20-30 minutes. Forgot to say "an hour and". Finally arrives, checks my ear, pronounces an ear infection, gives me a prescription for an injection and antibiotics so I can take the plane the next day and tells me I'll be fine in the morning*.
So off we go into Hammamet for the Pharmacie de nuit, where I can take my drugs and get my injection, among lots of Tunisians and tourists who have come to get their (daily) dose of Biafine. We take a taxi into town. Now, for those of you who have never been, driving is a very personal experience in Tunisia. The line in the middle of the road is a concept on which cars try to be balanced, as opposed to an actual partition between two directions. Fun. Although to be honest, if I'm not driving, I'm kind of oblivious do dangers and threats. So when the taxi suddenly swerved to avoid being hit by another taxi who was dangerously close to us in a curve, I hardly batted an eyelid. Not so my friend and the driver. Said driver goes into a frenzy of phone calls, in which I understand the make of the car and the fact that he was with tourists (not because I'm really gifted with languages, but because they're the same words), and when he drops us at the Pharmacie, he asks us if he can wait for us so he can go lodge a complaint at the police and we can testify. And he looks at us with that amazing look that all guys seem to have there, and he says how important it would be and what a good thing we would be doing. And we just give in.
So I go have my cheek punctured, pick up my drugs, among an actual crowd of people, at 9:00ish p.m. on a Saturday (I thought they were all there for methadone**). And hop back in the cab, off we go rolling into the sunshine to the police station. He parks in front of it, gets out, we wait in the car, he comes back five minutes later, smiling, it's done, we drive away.
*It's three days later and I'm still not better.
** By the way, some of you are here because of this page http://www.aspma.com/term/methadone-withdrawal-symptoms.html. Care to explain?