January 3, 2014

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There are certain characteristics a person may possess that make traveling a much more pleasant experience. Flexibility and resourcefulness come to mind, along with good timing and sheer luck. I possess two out of these four, but my trump card is something else entirely.

My stomach had to have been genetically engineered. With the culinary curiosity of a goat, the capacity of a cow, and the digestive powers of a shark, my stomach might as well be made of iron. Most PCVs go through an adjustment period upon arriving in country and get terribly sick for at least a couple of days during their first few weeks. Not I. I have guzzled food of questionable cleanliness, downed glasses of buttermilk, and allowed myself to be force-fed unlawful amounts of undercooked meat — all amid protests from my tastebuds but not my intestines. By all rights, I should probably have had the stomach flu hundreds of times over by now, along with a handful of cases of E coli and a smattering of Mad Cow Disease, but I’ve escaped unscathed.

Obviously, not having to worry about getting explosively sick comes in handy for a traveler, but there are cultural benefits as well. A shining example of this presented itself in the middle of the Tichka, a windy mountain pass between Marrakech and Ouarzazate. I wandered too close to a soup stand, thinking the mysterious black pots might contain snails, and was immediately swarmed by Moroccan men who thrust a bowl of lukewarm “Berber soup” into my hands and sat me down to chat. Despite my protests, one of the men sloshed a liberal amount of olive oil into my soup bowl — so liberal, in fact, that no amount of stirring could mix it into the concoction, and my bowl remained a model of a bay after an oil spill.

Still, as a good Peace Corps Volunteer, I smiled and ate my soup (which tasted like pure olive oil) while answering questions about what I do in Morocco. Since refusing food here is extremely difficult and often offensive, I have become practiced in the art of eating food I don’t want, but I admit, I was concerned that this would be the night my stomach finally decided to rebel. Fortunately for me, the olive oil soup sloshed safely around my stomach for the next seven hours — although other people on the bus with the innards of mere mortals were not as fortunate.

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