I had my first hint that The Gambia might not be the Heart of Darkness type experience I had anticipated when I explained to a former researcher from the centre that I was allergic to beer and asked what I could drink instead. I was expecting an explanation of how to use water purification tablets, but was instead told that the nearby American Peace Corps training camp held cocktail nights every Friday. Beverages, intoxicating or otherwise, may be a little harder to come by however when I head into the villages to collect samples, so I’m embarking on quite the most painful and unpleasant preparations I could make for this trip. I’m trying to make myself like Coke.
I feel much the same way about Coke as I do about pesto (and my observations on that unholy substance are a matter of public record), that some sort of invasion of the body snatchers has taken place causing the rest of the world to behave in strange and inexplicable ways whilst I remain the only sane person still able to tell that this stuff they’re drinking is foul. I mean how has something that’s mostly sugar, caffeine and phosphoric acid with a few industrial byproducts thrown in become the most widely consumed beverage in the world, and the only safe substance I can be sure of getting in a tiny Gambian village?
Although it’s rather hard to get my head around the idea that I’m trying to like something that’ll rot my teeth and is made by a company indulging in some extremely dodgy practices, I’m trying to drink it as much as I can to get used to it as drinking it in The Gambia does beat the alternative. And frankly that’s about the best I can say for Coke; drinking it is fractionally less unpleasant than having dysentery.