Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things I Should Not Have Eaten in Thailand

Friday was to be a night in. A home cooked meal (I've been craving Nicoise Salad), a bottle of wine, a little cuddling on the couch while watching Mad Men on DVD. Except, of course, we don't own a kitchen, or a couch, or a DVD player, really awful wine costs $10/glass and the last olive I saw was decorating a salad in LAX (and it was the awful canned variety that are better suited for finger puppets then snacks). I suppose we were, after 13 days on the road, feeling just the smallest amount of travelers fatigue and needed a break from menus and polite conversation and wearing pants while at the dinner table. So we'd planned to pick up food from a couple of street vendors and play cards on the deck of our little bungalow in Koh Tao.

First stop was the really cheap fruit shake stand where for less than $2 we ordered a large mango shake and a large banana shake. And, while waiting for them to be blended, I picked up an unknown fruit from the vendor next door. It was the size and color of an apricot but more tapered on the ends, like a gigantic eyeball. The fruit salesman insisted that this was a mangosteen but mangosteens are purple and round and the size of apples (there are "lemon mangosteens" but my googling has confirmed that these are bright yellow and bumpy all over). The fruit had a slightly tough edible rind and fibrous pulp and a seed in the middle the size of large blackberry. It tasted a bit like a mango crossed with a peach. It was ok, but not particularly memorable, I give it a 6. I never did figure out the name of the fruit but I'm almost positive it was not called The Berry of Doom or Beelzebub's Nipple, which is odd as either of those would have been perfect.

After picking up our shakes we wondered around looking for someone to sell us a bowl of noodle soup but we were out of luck and by the time we realized it we were back in front of our hotel where a guy named Bimbo fries up hamburgers on a griddle attached to the side of his scooter. We ordered one hamburger with chili, one chicken burger with chili and a cob of grilled sweet corn from the cart next door.

It was while waiting for my burger to cook that I thought, "hmm, it feels like I have something caught in the back of my throat." I clicked my tongue and wiggled my jaw and swallowed hard trying to dislodge what felt like a bit of lettuce sticking to my windpipe. Then I noticed that I had a bump on the top of my mouth sitting inside of the left-side pocket formed by my soft pallet. It was at this point that I remembered my allergy.

I have had issues with some fruits and nuts since early high school. Melons and pecans and occasionally a peach or berry will leave my mouth and throat itchy. The reaction to melons is bad enough that I avoid eating them because I always feel like my throat is swelling -- I'm fairly certain it isn't (I've never really had trouble breathing) but it seems smart to steer clear anyway. Which is too bad because I like melon, especially watermelon, especially at summer BBQs cut into fat wedges or here in Thailand blended into icy pink shakes. But as far as allergies go I know I'm getting off easy and can hardly justify complaining about something that is avoidable and won't actually kill me.

I stopped drinking my shake. The burgers were just getting a final coat of chili paste and suddenly I felt something stuck in my left eye. Or maybe not something stuck in it... I couldn't quite put a finger on the feeling, my eye just felt weird.

We got our hamburgers and headed home where I announced to Geoff, "I think there's something wrong with my eye." One look at him and I knew I was more fucked up than I'd thought. And the mirror was not kind. The top of my left cheek and the bridge of my nose had filled up with fluid to the point of squeezing the corner of my eye into the tiniest top of an ocular figure eight. And the right side was quickly catching up. Begin trying not to freak out now.

The good news was that I could still see and nothing hurt or itched, I just looked like someone in the middle of turning into a vampire on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or like the kid from Mask.


Things to do while not freaking out about your facial swelling

  • Try to make scary deamon faces and capture the look on film. Fail.
  • Stare in the mirror and contemplate whether or not you look like a recent botox recipient.
  • Wonder if lack of success with the deamon face was due to an inability to show emotion on your botox-like visage
  • Make jokes about how maybe if this look is permanent you can get some plumb acting jobs portraying seriously mentally challenged individuals since you'd look like someone with such a condition but have the superior mental skills of yourself.
  • Use the sympathy card to get boyfriend to go buy you a Magnum ice cream bar.

I also took a Zyrtec allergy pill and lied on the bed with a cold wash cloth on my face listening to the Savage Love Podcast and willing the swelling to go down. And when it didn't, I went to bed. The next morning I woke up at 6:30 am partially because I couldn't wait to see if over night my entire head had turned into a pumpkin and partially because we were scheduled to go scuba diving at 7. Good timing, right?

My face was still Stay Puff Marshmallows from the tip of my nose to the fore of my head but was, perhaps, slightly less freakish than it had been the night before. And still no pain or itching so.... well, why not go scuba diving? Even though Geoff claimed that a stranger wouldn't know that anything was wrong with my face (besides being born ugly!) I decided to consult with our dive instructor anyway just in case there was a secret diving rule called "if your face is swelled up it will for sure explode when under 18 meters of water." But, unsurprisingly, he was non-pulsed -- it's like the entire dive industry is constantly too stoned to be bothered by anything. It's exactly like that.

On the boat ride out to Chumpon Pinnacle I wondered if maybe the pressure of the dive would force my swelling down. Nope.

But things were noticeably better by the time we went to lunch. I was still swollen but more in a bee stung way than a punched in the face by a longshoreman way. By dinner time things were almost back to normal and 20 year old German girls had ceased sneaking glances at me from across the restaurant. With no more staring in the mirror contemplating what kind of ugly I'd morphed into this hour I only had contemplating the source of this allergic reaction to keep me busy. Mystery fruit is the obvious culprit but one should not discount the mangoes. After all, these were weird yellow Thai mangoes and I had experienced some very minor and easily ignorable throat itching during previous encounters with the fruit.

It's sad that fruit would turn on me this way because sampling exotic berries, citrus and drupes has been on my must do list for South East Asian experiences and now I view fruit stands with just a little more caution.


Dean Winter said...

My wife says this is called มะปราง (english ma bpraang) which is a "marian plum"

Her dictionary elaborates "a vascular angiosperm in the sumac family, Anacardiaceae, Bouea burmanica"

Sorry to hear it didn't agree with you!

Brianna said...

Thanks Dean! That is for sure the culprit!