The brochures at the travel clinic are clear. Don't eat raw vegetables. Don't drink the tap water. Don't go out without your sunscreen and bug lotion. Don't go out at night. Don't go to nightclubs. Don't rely on ATM machines: there is only one and it doesn't work.
The truth? I did avoid the tap water. I did wear my sunscreen and bug spray.
But I also went to nightclubs and danced until 4am and took cabs home through deserted parts of the city. I ate salads made with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes and carrots, doused in the best tasting dressing I have ever had.
I followed the ATM machines around the city, laughing every time we found a new one. Evidently the warnings were outdated.
I walked along the street and was greeted by every person I passed. Good morning. How are you? I am fine, and you? All smiles.
Fresh fruit. Melons and bananas and avocados. Bread bought from a guy at the nearby gas station. Baguette folded neatly in half and placed in a dusty black plastic bag. It was the breakfast of champions, with a big mug of coffee.
Mosquito netting, tucked carefully around the edges of the mattress. And retucked. And tucked in yet again as I got up in the night to pee.
The sorry little gecko, found dead under my suitcase. A casualty of the high powered insect spray that Sidy bombed my room with at night.
No one warned me, though, about the broken heart. The sadness I would feel when I left. The sense of loss as I got on the plane home. And the crushing grief when one of my friends died, unexpectedly, a couple months after I got back to the states. No one warned me that I would never be the same again.