Monday, March 23, 2009

How's the Malaria?

It's a wonderfully cool (relatively) day here in Yei- rained most of yesterday, and the remaining clouds have blocked out most of the heat, making it surprisingly pleasant. I even wore my long-sleeved Peace Corps Chad shirt most of the day, the first time that's happened since I arrived.

I've been fighting a cold since Friday, which feels like a huge injustice in a place where it's so. damn. hot. (except for today) I understand that it has very little to do with the weather, but it still feels frustrating. It's like something has turned down the volume in my head by about 30 percent on everything, although it's still way too easy to hear the roosters, who begin their roosterly duty at what can't be any later than four in the morning. Whatever, I'll live.

I'm having breakfast this morning, which feels like an extra-special treat now that we have both peanut butter and honey in the pantry, and in walks Joy, our head cook/housekeeper.

"How is your malaria?" she asks.

I pause for a second, setting the spoon down I've been using to drizzle the honey onto the bread.


"You don't have malaria?" She asks, looking a bit confused.

"No, just a cold... But I'm feeling much better now," I respond.

"That's good," she says. "Thank you."

I go back to my roll, and smile a bit to myself. I remember this in Chad, how almost everyone in Gounou-Gaya assumed that whenever someone got sick, it had to, had to, be malaria. There simply wasn't any other disease. Perhaps a broken arm, but that was about the extent of it. Seems as though this is the case here in Sudan too.

It makes sense, I guess. In a place like this, where health education certainly wasn't a priority through almost 25 years of war, it's not a surprise that people's knowledge is limited. And it's true that malaria usually manifests itself as something like a bad cold, at least for most people here: chills, headaches, fatigue, etc.

Most of the people here who survive childhood (and there are plenty who don't) have been exposed to malaria multiple times, and while they certainly haven't developed an immunity, they tend to build up enough of a resistance that it's manageable. A day or two in bed, and they're back on their feet. Not so with me though- coming from North America, if I get it (haven't yet, knock on wood), it'll be bad, and make a cold seem like nothing. I continue to take anti-malarials every morning though, so hopefully things will continue to go well on that front.

On a totally different, but also slightly disturbing note, I'm at the office this morning and hear a sudden, deep rumble. Although it's cloudy, this definitely isn't thunder.

"Did you hear that?" I ask my supervisor.

"Yeah. Sounded like a land-mine," he says, casually. "It was probably a cow."

Holy crap. A land mine? In spite of myself, and feeling bad for doing it, I can't help but smile when I think of an exploding cow. I know how bad that sounds, sorry.

Again, another one of these things that sounds crazy, until you think about the context. The north/south civil war only ended in 2005, and there are still mines all over the place. Nobody seems to know exactly where they are, and there are plenty of no-go zones. As our security manual says:

Stay on the paths.

Anti-tank. There are always anti-personnel mines around an anti-tank mine.

Red-painted sticks or signs: Danger.
White-painted sticks or signs: The area has been cleared.

Other indicators in unmarked areas:
Dead animals.
Uncultivated ground in cultivated areas.
Deserted building in populated areas.
Area marked locally, with piles of rocks, crossed sticks, rocks across a path, empty mine
packaging, injured people.

Marking is the exception, not the rule. In Sudan, there are no maps of where mines were planted. "

Wow. Definitely not in Kansas any more. Unless it's post-apocalyptic Kansas. Several NGOs work around Yei, trying to get rid of the mines, but it's definitely an imperfect science. Given this, I understand why we're encouraged to stay on the paths at all times.

Ah Sudan... the happiest place on Earth.


1 comment:

  1. So what do they give you? For my job I either get the daily pink pills that make you nauseous, or the weekly white pills that give you really trippy dreams.