Thursday, April 29, 2010

Olfactory memory

So I was back in Kasr alAini med school for some business; I was walking down the sidewalk by the anatomy 'mashraha' --the morgue-- when I was suddenly hit with the unbearable stench of badly-ventilated, partially decomposed, formalin-soaked bodies.

But instead of eliciting a powerful gag reflex, which it most rightfully should, the smell just transported me years back : to my first day of medical school.

I could, literally, feel 18 again! The black pants I was wearing that first day, the mauve taupe silk blouse I wore--and of course had to throw out because of the stench that wouldn't get out-- flashed back in my memory, uncalled and uninvited but most certainly welcomed.

The excitement and the rush of being a doctor, with my brand-new white coat dangling on my arm, was so refreshing. The premise that I might change the world, or at least the medical practice in Egypt, and the dreams that I will be saving lives each and every step of the way all came back to me.
What was strange is the happiness and sheer bliss that I felt. I was not disillusioned. I was not sad that none of that had happened. It was as if I was transported back in time, to that moment, and I was that hopeful, idealistic girl again. It was magical!

Before, I had never been a firm believer that olfactory memories can be so vivid, but let me tell you this belief is long gone...
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