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Arba Minch: Self inflicted sickness, stupid, stupid, stupid.

I arrived in Arba Minch feeling pretty good, and looking forward to getting better. I felt good enough to check out about five different hotels, talk to three different shops about changing dollars (bastards were offering 7B to $1US when in Addis Ababa the rate is 9B to $1US), and then talking one of the hotel managers into letting me stay based on the fact that I could not pay at that moment but the following day I would change money and then be able to pay. The lady was nice enough to allow me to stay without even taking the $50US bill that I offered as a deposit. Since it was Sunday, the banks were closed but I figured that if I went to the main part of town there might be a Foreign Exchange or possibly some black market guys. I took a mini-bus for the 5km ride and paid $1.25B each way. Now, that was a big portion of my money as I arrived in Arba Minch with only $18B.

In town, I found out where the bank was and then ran into a couple of touts who knew of a couple of places where I could change some dollars. Well, I got the same offers as the other crooks. I would go in, the tout would tell the guy something, he would look up and see me, give me a look from my feet to my head, and then his eyes would go blank as he slowly calculated in his dim wit mind how stupid I was and how bad he could rip me off. I must look like an idiot as they were offering two points less than the going rate. The general rule is ten percent off on the street, freaking piece of crap bastards. I told them all to go to hell and left. I ran into a couple of guys carrying backpacks so I asked them if they wanted to change a few dollars. They were French and Dutch and were actually on their way down through South Omo and on their way to Kenya via Lake Turkana. They had reduced their funds to the bare minimum as they would not be able to change out any left over Birr once they crossed the border, so they couldn’t help. We ended up hanging out together a while as I gave them the run down on South Omo and the best routes to take as well as the fabulous Farenji pricing that is so helpful for independent travelers. I told them my story of getting sick and then slowly making my way to Arba only to land here with no money and not willing to get ripped off to get some. They were pretty glad to have my help, and one of the guys felt kind of sorry for me so he offered to buy me lunch. He had run into a place earlier and I was feeling okay so I went along. The restaurant was a quaint little place in a guy’s back yard. It was a vegetarian place as the Dutch guy was vegetarian, good luck in South Omo. He ordered three Beeayonets which are Injeera with about a dozen different vegetarian stews. I was feeling good enough to not start gagging plus it wasn’t meat so I figured what the hell. I was able to eat most of the different stews except for the really spicy ones and half the injeera. After eating I was still feeling okay, so I thought I was recovered for sure. After eating they explained how they still had a few hours to wait as they were told there was a truck leaving in the afternoon. I asked if they had actually talked to the driver and they had not. I told them the procedure for getting ripped off so we went down to where the trucks were. We found two other trucks that were leaving right then. One of the trucks offered a huge price and then just left so not much to do about that one. The other one was only going half way, but at least that would get them going. The driver at first offered a huge price, of course with the touts relaying the info. I told the guys to offer them their price. They all laughed and said no way. I found out where the trucks gassed up before they left so we went to just hang out there. We found a spot where they could definitely see us and we waited. Sure enough, as they were filling up, one of the touts came to us and said the driver would reduce his price by half. It was still way too high so they said no. It was working just as planned. Just as they were leaving a guy came by and offered an even lower price. I told them that with the two of them paying a fair price, the driver would not leave that much money just standing by the side of the road. The truck took off and all the touts were telling us how stupid we were as now there were no trucks and we would have to stay another night. Just before the truck went out of sight from us, it pulled over and the drivers helper came running back saying they would take the money as offered. We laughed at the touts and they got on the truck. They were extremely thankful, but I warned them that it gets a lot harder the deeper they went, and they had a long way to go.

After spending another $1.25B to go back up the hill, I stopped by a little fruit stall and picked up some bananas, some tomatoes, a small head of cabbage, and two apples. That ran 6B. By the hotel was a little cafe that had juice so I spent another $3B for a juice. Hell, all I needed was bus fare down to the bank the next day and I would be rolling in cash, so there was no reason to be stingy. So, I ended up going back to the hotel with 6B.

That night, stomach problems hit in a big way. I had eaten the tomatoes, most all of the edible parts of the cabbage, the bananas, and most of the apples as they were really sour. All that roughage mixed with the Beeayonet from earlier and I was planted over the squat toilet making my own vegetable stew. This went on all night until there was nothing left and I was pooping spit. That wasn’t good as my sleep went right back to hell again. I even started to get the chills and fevers again, a lot more violently than before. Still, I made it through the night and was up as soon as the sun popped up.

I laid around until 9am as I didn’t want to get their first thing in the morning and deal with the first onslaught at opening. I grabbed a bus and headed to the bank. Things looked okay as there were a couple of armed guards at the gate. One of them popped up as I rounded the corner and told me the bank was closed. “Okay, when does it open.” “Tomorrow.” Okay, he doesn’t understand what I am saying. I ask again, “what time will the bank be opening today.” “Closed. Holiday.” Fuck. I knew it. I had thought it the day before. How funny was it going to be when the bank was closed on Monday. I quickly put it out of my mind, but I had thought it. I was screwed. I felt sick. I did a quick walk around to see if there were any other banks but they were closed as well. I asked a couple of places about changing but they are all pricks. I found out where the clinic was but since I had no money, there was no use. I took a bus back up the hill. I had $3B left. I hated everybody. Everybody was against me. I didn’t care. Everybody could go to hell. I would not get ripped off even if it killed me. I went back to the hotel and went to bed.

I took a late nap and woke up in the afternoon. I was still feeling sick and still had the runs. I hadn’t eaten anything, but I had no appetite. I stayed in bed. It started to get dark and I thought about getting up and getting some bread or bananas with my last free Birr, but I was despondent and stayed in bed. Oh what a mistake. Around 11pm I started getting cramps. My stomach was just churning from having nothing to eat. I started coughing which caused me to puke. All I had was a little bit of bottled water left. Once that was gone I had to switch to tap water. I needed something in my stomach to try and settle the acids. I made it until 2am just lying curled up in bed groaning with cramps. I was still having to go to the bathroom but all I could manage was small squirts of slime. It was horrible and it burned. Then I remembered the Orange Marmalade. I had nothing to eat it with, but I figured it would be something and it was pretty much all sugar so it would digest easily. I managed three big spoonfuls before I could not take any more. That is about the nastiest thing I had eaten since Injeera. That helped for about fifteen minutes, at least psychologically. The stomach groaning didn’t go away however. Because of the Marmalade after taste, I brushed my teeth. You know what, that Colgate minty toothpaste isn’t too bad. That’s right I swallowed and I would do it again. You don’t quite know how shitty I felt. That still didn’t do it. I rolled around in bed for while before I remembered. In the trash there was the cabbage core, parts of the apples, and the banana peels. Yea, I ate it. I ate it all. Well, only a couple of the banana peels as they are not sweet but kind of bitter and tough. I ate out of the trash. I ate out of the TRASH.

I was up with the sun and stood outside in the cold air just breathing. I had survived the night and I was going to the bank and they were going to give me money open or not. At 9am on the dot I was at the bank and standing in line for the Foreign Exchange. There were about six people in front of me doing paperwork. I caught the attention of the guy working the counter and held up a $100US bill in one hand and my passport in the other. He waved me over, filled out a form, gave it to another guy who handed me $995.55B and my passport. I had money and I was out of there. I stopped at a little cafe and ate a chocolate donut and an avocado shake. Next it was to the clinic.

At the clinic I created a bit of a commotion until they got one of the technicians to come out who spoke English. I told him that I needed some testing done to find out why I was sick. He took me straight away to the main doctor who took my blood pressure, started a chart with all my info and symptoms and then ordered blood tests. The blood test results took a half an hour and it returned with a negative for Malaria. I knew it. All those freaking pills for nothing. They could have killed me. Then the lab tech came out and said I tested positive for Dengue. I knew it. The other doctor had talked about back pains but he didn’t follow up with it because he was a lazy bastard and didn’t give a crap about a Farenji. Hell, he never even took my blood pressure or temperature. 36 pills for no reason. Beautiful. The doctor also came up with something that was genius. Sure, I would be sick because of the Dengue, but that wouldn’t stop me from having food poisoning as well. The lights and bells started ringing. That had to be it. He prescribed some anti-biotic, oral-rehydration packs, and more Paracetamol for the fever. I left feeling better because I now had answers. Oh yea, I tested negative for Cholera and Typhoid.

I went straight to the pharmacy and got all my weapons. The rehydration packs kicked in as I got cravings for the salty taste. I spent the rest of the day drinking the solution and eating bananas.

That evening I was already feeling better and was actually hungry. There had to be something to eat in that town besides Injeera. I stopped by one of the fancier restaurants and asked the waiter if they offered any non-Ethiopian food. He said they had good fish, so I ordered the fish cutlets. They were excellent. Pounded fish fillets fried, with an excellent salad, and banana chips. It also came with Injeera and wat, but that was slid to the other side of the table first thing. I ate all the salad and most of the fish. I decided it was best if I got back to the hotel in case my stomach exploded, but nothing happened. My stomach stopped grumbling and my ass re-puckered itself. I was cured. The fevers still hit, but in general I was feeling better.

The next day I started working on my escape plan. One of the guys I had befriended took me down to the bus station to check on buses to Awasa, a town half way to Addis. Addis was still 12 hours away, and I didn’t want to risk a long bus trip so Awasa at half way was the perfect solution. On the mini-bus ride down I saw Juan walking back up the other way. I didn’t make up my mind soon enough to stop and go look for him so when we went back up the hill, he was gone. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking for him, but no luck. We went back to the bus station and got the info I needed. In exchange for helping me out I offered to take the kid out for dinner. He took me to a place that had the best fish in town. I ordered the fried fish and when I got it I was stunned. It was a whole Perch about 16″ long and fat as a pig. It was so meaty that it had bite size chunks right off the fillet. I ate the whole thing. It was the best fish I had since Key West and the Black Grouper. Again, no stomach problems. Things were looking good. The next morning at 6am I was on the bus to Awasa.

As I look back now, I got violently sick because yea, some would say I was stupid and hard headed because I just did not change the money even at a bad rate. Some may say I got sick because I was being cheap. Me, I will fight to my sick bed any and all rat bastards who try and screw me over. So, I made myself sick, but I didn’t let those thieves get the best of me. I am sure they are having sleepless nights and possibly are sick over the fact that they did not scam me, that in itself is good enough for me, to know that what I did was right.

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One response to “Arba Minch: Self inflicted sickness, stupid, stupid, stupid.”

  1. Will says:

    My hat’s off to you. You’re one tough dude.

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