Travel Diary: shit – that’s culture too {quote-unquote} Guy Delisle


“when I shit in China, there’s an odour that must be related to what I eat. The rice? Probably, I don’t see what else it could be. I’ve never smelled anything like it. It’s very strong, like sewage in Summer. I guess every nationality has it own distinct stench. And that’s culture too.”
.by Guy Delisle, Dec 4th entry – from Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China
“I didn’t know there’s an international standard for how long one can shit!”
by WT, Marrakesh
“ahhh… I ‘gave birth’ – finally!”
.by AY, Firenze


.“Hiroshima is history!”
by Penelope
airborne somewhere above France, which is as well since it’s not a place I particularly tolerate well and would rather imagine that each time I hit the flush button the vacuum sucks whatever is in there into an open outlet that lands on some houses / cars / heads / lawns … et cetera, just like trains in India where the waste ends up on the tracks!

Gastronomical challenges
Who knew it could result in such colourful expressions and quotes?

I had looked forward to tajines and couscous for weeks, imagining the soft, tender, succulent meat full of flavour from the olives, caramelized onions, sun-dried limes and spices that would melt in my mouth …
Photo © Penelope Haque – Lamb Tajine – All Rights Reserved
and what I got?
Overpriced pieces of solid fat stuck to bones swimming in yellow-stained oil in an unwashed and recycled shallow earthen plate – the base of a tajine, that is if I am lucky, and not one of the badly chipped-off plate which bring bad luck and bad fortune to the Chinese – if you chose to be superstitious, like I do whenever it suits me!

At 30-40 Dirhams (approx. £3-4), that’s overpriced.
Anything is overpriced really, for a fat chunk of fat swimming in more liquid fat.

That aside, every meat, red or white, was gamey. To me at least and it was reasoned to be that it could be possibly because of my diet that abstains from meat.

Having said that, I can attest that the chickens that end up on your dinner plate there are free range chickens – hence, qualifies as edible in my books of non-GMO food – but the stench is enough to leave me squirmy. Eggs gagged me … let alone the ‘power’ chicken meat will have over my trachea and stomach muscles.

So, surviving on lentils led to the desperate need for laxatives – none of which was available. Deciding to go au naturale, I opted for what appears to be the only value for money item sold in the entire Marrakesh: freshly squeezed orange juice at 3 dirham (approx. 30 pence) per glass.

Photo © Penelope Haque – One of the many fresh orange juice carts in the Medinah – All Rights Reserved


With four to six glasses per day and the consumption of suspicious looking salads, with equally suspicious looking mayonnaise painfully removed with the aid of the butter knives and paper (no paper towels were available), my gastronomical track soon contracted, sending uncontrollable burst of matter out of the Colon, emitting gasses (cultural gasses if I may add) that I have never smelled before and one that would have killed any wild boars that passes by, which is highly unlikely in Islamic Morocco.

Whilst the objective was some what met, an in-between equilibrium would have been desired. But no. This is after all Penelope we are talking about … and thus, the white OR black has to continue to persist even in such circumstances.

Nonetheless, fermentation from the lentils and bread soon got my belly sounding like the stretched calf skin drums they beat on, while twirling a tassel attached to their head caps in unison to the rhythms produced. With that (the bloated tummy! focus people) I resorted to mint tea, a speciality in Morocco, and the very beverage I vowed not to consumed after being ‘robbed’ in Jemaa al Fnaa. Despite having a menu suspended at the store with the prices on it, I was charged 10 dirhams (approx. £1) for a glass of mint tea, rather than the 5 dirhams. No explanation was given, other than them insisting its 10 dirhams… and all this during the holy month of Ramadhan during Iftar!
Photo © Penelope Haque – The Perpetrators!!! ‘The’ as says on the board is 5 Dirhams – All Rights Reserved
Daylight (and ‘spotlight’ or even ‘bulb’-lit) robbery is a norm it seems.
Within 20 minutes of arriving in Marrakech, we had a spat with the cabs who asked for 300 dirhams (approx. £30) for a 6 kilometres, at most, ride from the airport to the city center. When I pointed out that the tariff boards says its 50 dirhams to the city and 70 dirhams to Palmeria, they quickly countered that its 50 dirhams each, and hence with the 3 of us, it should be 150 dirhams.

ahhh… so automatically (my foot!) we are given a 50% discount! splendid – not
Photo © Penelope Haque – Marrakech Airport Exterior – All Rights Reserved
Determined to pay only the pre-set amount we had in mind – i.e. 100 dirhams – we finally came to an agreement, a hostile one to say the least. Settling ourselves into a battered-up and badly rusting metal frame with precariously clinging metal sheets that forms the doors on 4 wheels, we pulled out of the airport roasting ourselves in the heated car that must have been in access of 50 degrees Celsius. WT signalled that he was hot and pointed at the air conditioning unit, which I have to say I was surprise it existed, but his actions were met with spats, snorts and hoots. Personally, I couldn’t make out if we were being cursed or we had entertained the driver in that he had presumed WT was joking.

We never got to find out as soon after, that is in less than 5 minutes of driving since leaving the airport, the taxi came to an abrupt stop in front of a narrow archway lane with a no entry sign. Where convenient, the Moroccans could converse in English and we were instructed to disembark and walk the rest of the way. Directions? “Straight, then turn left. 10 minutes walk.”
Refusing to get off the vehicle, we argued that he was suppose to drop us at the hotel and that we neither knew the directions nor had a map on us.
Calmly the driver got out of the car, opened the trunk and flung our luggage in the middle of the road.
“whoa! BASTARD!!! That’s a Country Road duffel”
… thoughts screaming in my mind as I got out of the vehicle as if by reflex, when my bag landed on some unidentified mush of what seems like caked up mud with hay.
After walking in circles for over an hour, snaking through every imaginable alley there is with a 12.8 kg load of luggage, under the scorching sun of 49 degrees Celsius, avoiding donkey dung, cat dung, human dung, more dung of unidentified source, mysterious puddles, leftover food, crowds and the slants of sunlight blinding my path and visibility while burning my skin … 4 things comes to mind:

I shall willfully surrender to any blackmailing, extortion and robbery inflicted to me by these Muslims during Ramadhan

Laika (the dog sent on a one way trip into orbit, doomed to drift through space) is my sole inspirational hero; relating myself to both a dog and closely to Ingemar in ‘My Life As A Dog’

f&*% him, his son and his son’s son
(I had not known at that time that is was customary for the Chinese to curse 18 generations, but seriously on hindsight, under the scorching heat and torture I was enduring, it is unlikely I would have gotten the son’s son’s son, son’s son’s son’s son … and so forth right)

it ain’t caked up mud and hay … it was donkey SHIT – a cultural related thing that I would have never known…
Photo © Penelope Haque – Donkeys, a major mode of transportation – All Rights Reserved
so yeah, indeed SHIT is CULTURAL too

9 thoughts on “Travel Diary: shit – that’s culture too {quote-unquote} Guy Delisle

  1. Why so few photos? You don't upload on flickr any more? I don't want to have a social network account lah. Also yes, so I've heard, Facebook steal your photo rights, discolour and over saturates your photos … blah3. Be careful. Though you don't cari makan that way, you should not be giving unscrupulous people your photos oso lah.

  2. wow, immediately, all those good impressions i had on this country….are now tainted..hehe. i still think u should opt for public transport aka bus. and do what most 'chinese' do…insist on d pricing before eating….lol. now u r ahead of me…..morrocco and sikkim/darjeeling and italy….i benci u. (since when we hv this competition among ourselves?? lol lol)

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