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Tuesday, 01 January 2013

A Battle Within: Traveling Oman with Hypoglycemia - Page 5

Written by Ken Ward
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      A deep rumble shook me to the core. Not a good sign in the Middle East. The smell of exhaust clung to migrant sand particles as the high sun filtered through dust clouds to the ground. Heat wrapped itself around me. My head spun, and the rumble shook me again. My arch-nemesis had stalked me all the way here: hypoglycemia.  

      My condition, which I was diagnosed with my first year of college, still puzzled me. My case of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, attacked me all day, every day, making me feel shaky, dizzy, and lightheaded. The only way to tame the beast was to feed it.

      I stood at the entrance of the Mutrah Souk (also known as Muttrah Souq), a marketplace in Muscat, Oman with my dad, his second wife, and our driver. The venue, which had been at the same site for hundreds of years, overlooked the Mutrah Corniche, the largest natural harbor in the world. Omanis—the men dressed in long, often white gowns and flat, circular hats, and the women in long headdresses over loose-fitting pants—milled among foreigners in and out of the market. 

      Feeling my blood sugar plummeting, I stumbled to the nearest food vendor. At the food stand, a sweaty, middle-aged man with a big knife stood next to a big hunk of hanging lamb. At that point, the man looked better than a supermodel to me. “I want that,” I said as I pointed to the big pile of meat. “Yes, of course,” he said as he began shaving the meat to create one of the most wonderful things on earth: a shawarma. This particular sandwich was crafted from shaved lamb meat, tomato, cucumber, and a yogurt sauce wrapped in a pita. The salty, earthy meat complemented the tartness of the yogurt.



      “You have to go fast and keep momentum up,” the man said, repeating Naseeb’s warnings. “Don’t slow down for any reason. We will take you halfway there. It’s mostly straight, but there’s a part where you will sidewind up a hill. That’s where we will get off. Don’t stop when we do. Just keep going straight for about 10 km after that and you will run into the camp.” 

      Jawas clutched the wheel with both hands. A devilish grin crept onto his face; he looked like a NASCAR driver. 

      “Ok, Jawas. Are you ready?” my dad asked.

      “Yes,” he said.

      “How about you, Usha?”

      “I don’t know, Tony. Maybe we should go back,” she said with a nervous laugh.

      “Ok, Jawas. Let’s go back home,” my dad joked.

      Jawas held his gaze steady on the horizon.

      “We go,” he said. Everyone laughed, cutting the tension. This was it. Once we hit the sand, there would be no turning back. No stops until the camp. No roadside restaurants to soothe my pain. The German man climbed back into his SUV and we followed in ours, doing exactly what he said. At any hint where Jawas slowed down, we all yelled at him to keep up the speed. 

      “Jawas! Don’t stop!” we all screamed. Then he would gun the car, sometimes so fast that I would hit my head on the top of the car when we bounced over bumps. He giggled every time he got to go fast. My stomach jumped into my throat and back down. Sometimes I thought the car would flip over; my dad, Usha, and I all clutched the “Oh, shit!” handles as the car rocked back and forth. After about half an hour of tense sand driving, we reached the section that forced us to weave up the hill. One car was stuck near the base. The bottom half of the wheels bled into the sand. A white man and an Asian woman, both drenched in sweat, pushed the car from behind. 

      “Should we stop?” I asked my dad.

      “I don’t know. I don’t know,” my dad said.

      Usha touched my dad’s shoulder. “Maybe we should stop.”

      Jawas looked back at my dad for an answer.

      “Keep going!” my dad shouted. “If we get stuck, we can’t help either. We’ll tell someone once we get to camp. Jawas did, and we curled up the hill, sometimes almost tipping over from the sharp turns. I looked back and the poor people were kept pushing their car in vain.

      The Germans pulled off on a side trail and we waved as we passed them. Now we were without our safety net. Please don’t let us end up like those other people, I thought.  , A plateful of sand would be my dinner if we beached ourselves.

      We bounced up and down the road, and my dad and I continued to urge Jawas to keep up the speed. We followed the path, which sometimes split into two. Jawas looked to my dad for answers. “Which way, boss?” 

      My dad didn’t know the answer. “Uh, left!” Jawas didn’t get the message in time. He swerved right. “No, left, Jawas!”

      “Sorry, boss,” Jawas said with a chuckle. This happened a few times: sometimes he followed my dad’s directions, sometimes not. The road always ended up merging back to one. “This is crazy,” Usha said, shaking her head. “This is crazy.” I was slumped down in my chair, but throughout the ride, Usha kept perfect posture.


(Page 5 of 7)
Last modified on Wednesday, 23 January 2013
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