a French first

on a boat.jpg

Back from Benin! Four days of my week there – Tuesday through Friday – were spent on a boat, during which time I experienced no sea-sickness… until I was on solid land. Just a few minutes after I stepped into my hotel room on Thursday evening, I started feeling the odd sensation that I was still out on the water. My head was swimming back and forth and I couldn’t get my balance. I’d be fine one minute, and gripped by wooziness the next. I figured it was dehydration, so I drank a lot of water, went to bed, and felt fine the next day.

But then last night, after the longest day on the boat yet, the swaying got worse. I almost fell over in the shower. My head started lolling back and forth of its own accord. I met a French friend of a friend for dinner and when I told him how weird I felt he nodded knowingly and pronounced, “Ah, oui, mal de terre.” Apparently, mal de terre is the flip-side of mal de mer, but with the same general sense of malaise. It happens after you spend a lot of time at sea and then return to earth. I guess my brain is confused about whether it is still out there on the waves or not. More than 24 hours after I got off the boat for the last time, and all the way back in Dakar, I am still swaying from side to side and feeling not exactly nauseous, but nevertheless pretty icky.

Anyway, the silver lining here is that I do not know any actual English word or phrase for “land-sickness,” so mal de terre is the very first French that I have ever learned before its English equivalent. I find great pleasure in that, despite the condition itself being not at all pleasurable. (I also enjoy the fact that mal de mer and mal de terre are so personifiable – I’m imagining them as Oompa Loompa-like twins whose rhyming names make them seem charming but who are actually malicious little imps.)

More once my head stops spinning…