Sunday, October 10, 2010

so this is what death feels like!

Usually the Yang (short name for my village) is great - peaceful, calm, serene - an escape from constant harassment from people who dont know you and all the worries associated with larger towns and traveling in this country. the last 2 weeks however, have been... quite an adventure. never have so many things gone wrong in such a short time span. i dont want to rant for an entire entry but since my camera is (still) broken, i can only hope to document my life in a pseudo-interesting and painless light. where to begin:

thursday - the culprit of my subsequent misfortune came in the form of, potentially, a gritty concoction of millet, yogurt, and sand sold at a local street-food stand
friday - problems of my gastrointestinal (GI) tract begin - trying to spare yall details (hah)
saturday - GI problems worsen
sunday - made the horrible (in retrospect, absolutely regretted) mistake of biking back to my village. usually it's a 6 hour bike ride. this time it took 10. many factors contributed to this abysmal biking time: because of my GI problems for the past 2 days, i havent really eaten anything substantial, nor have i been sleeping well. this overall weakened state of my body along with exhaustion, some dehydration, and the heat ended up with me riding into the Yang looking as if i died a couple of times that day. and indeed i probably almost did... i wasnt fully over my GI problems but i decided against common sense and biked anyway. luckily no "accidents" occurred on the bike trip, but i thoroughly destroyed my body
monday - this day was probably rock bottom #1. i have chest pains and back aches from the bad posture my body was in during the horrible bike ride on the previous day. i then discover that there is mold everywhere in my room, covering all my clothes and sheets and bed stuff. the electricity has been out for the last 2 days and since our forage runs on an electric motor (the village didnt think this one through) and there arent any wells, the family was running on dwindling water supplies so couldnt wash anything. then i discover that a few days ago, goats got into my garden and wreaked havoc on all my trees and moringa and crops. some okra, tomatoes, eggplant, and watermelon survived but the entire tree pepiniere as well as moringa bed were destroyed. in addition, there seemed to be an influx of mosquitoes in my village - and 2 of my brothers had malaria
tuesday - body is still recovering from physical stress but i was able to go over to the health post and discuss different prerequisites for my project with my ICP. i intended on visiting all the other health huts in the coming days, as well as acquainting myself with each village's matrone and ASC. supposedly a couple of matrones were coming in on wednesday so i was advised to wait around and meet them tomorrow. electricity, water, and cell phone service still out.
wednesday - the matrones never found a charette to bring themselves into the Yang. i waited around all day for nothing. i decided then to start my visits on my own the following day. electricity, water, and cell phone service still out. my siblings are starting to disappoint me. theyve always been intrigued by my book reading habits and when they found my learning-french books, they were all very excited. so i brought back le petit prince for them to read. my sister read 10 pages, got bored, and put it down. they are not interested in reading. nor movies with any depth or meaning - they just want action sequences where no dialogue is needed. they dont want to learn any card games - the 2 they know is just plenty. they detest my classical music and would rather sit silently all day than listen to it. they are so set in their ways that it leaves me wondering: am i imposing my culture? am i forcing smiles in pictures? where's the cultural exchange and learning? ive accepted theirs but they dont really like mine...
thursday - the sous-prefet is still in dakar so no car is available to me. my counterpart's charette is in the fields. our family has a charette but my brother still has malaria so once again, my life is controlled by transportation. i cannot bike because these villages are only accessible via paths with beach-like sand. electricity came back on for a few hours which allowed us to stock up on water again and i was finally able to do some laundry to wash the mold out of my clothes. i probably will have respiratory problems due to the mold, years from now. on top of it, i've had pretty much only had beans for the last 4 days. it's bread with beans for breakfast, rice with beans and dried fish for lunch, steamed beans with afternoon tea, and then rice with beans and dried fish again for dinner. i am terrified of the harvest season now because of the ridiculous amount of beans we are eating. on the bright side, i attended a football match in the middle of the desert. this was a real lifter in a crappy week. picture little boys running around chasing each other near the field. the older boys who arent playing in the football game are sitting in clicks, fooling around, gossiping. the girls are sitting separately and slightly further away, sometimes carrying or surrounded by younger siblings. they are giggling and gossiping as well, of course. i obviously value comfort a lot so i brought my mat with me and the instant, i put my mat down, it is swarmed with children and their caretakers. wow, i am in rural africa. im fitting in, being accepted, just hanging out with the youths of my village. sometimes, i feel like im in the village too long. when i go to the cities, i find myself staring at other white people. it's just weird seeing white people around. sometimes i forget im not black.
friday - once again i cannot visit any health huts because there is a wedding in my village and i got tricked into going to it. haha, it's not that i wasnt happy going - attending events in the village is an important part of being in with the community - it's just that weddings and baptisms are so... unexciting for me. there's a lot of sitting around, drinking tea, and eating greasy rice - 3 things i dont particularly look forward to doing for an entire day. and i still couldnt do anything for my project. i decided to transplant some eggplant in my garden.
saturday - as luck would have it, there is a baptism that i had to attend in the morning - so another day lost. but it wouldve been lost anyway because i was starting to have GI problems again... oh and the electricity, water, and cell phone service is out, again...
sunday - i did not sleep much saturday night because my GI problems took a turn for the worse and i was having pretty severe abdominal cramping and pain. it got a little better sunday morning but then came back in full force. sunday was probably rock bottom day #2. i decided to call it in and was advised to start some drugs and also took a sample of my stools to bring into dakar for lab results. all of sunday and sunday night was spent pretty much in a fetal position, teeth grinding from the pain, unable to eat and barely being able to take in liquids - even though it was extremely important, my body was unbelievably dehydrated from all the...
monday - i left for dakar. it was not a fun day. traveling when you have GI issues requires a lot of physical and mental restrain. i had to take a couple of imodium's to stop it up a bit. thankfully, i did not have any "accidents". however the ride was somewhat terrible. for some reason, people here dont understand common courtesy when traveling in public transportation. this kid threw up. but instead of throwing up in a bag or out the window, it was right onto the floor of the bus. this has happened numerous times to me already. i think people just dont understand taking care of things, even if it's theirs. and then there were also sheep tied onto the roof. i guess the sheep needed to urinate, so it did. and it came in through the windows as a mist/drip. sheep piss has a pungent smell - i smelled like it for another 24 hours...
tuesday - turned in my results. had soup for the first time in 7 months. the pain has lessened but still... pee-ing from a place where it doesnt normally come out of.
wednesday - the results are in. i have amoebas!

so now i am on amoeba-killing medication which in total is a 13 day process and hopefully in the next couple of days, i will feel better and my body will return to normal, enshallah.

lessoned learned: amoebas, or any GI parasites, are absolutely no fun - so be careful

so maybe the last 2 weeks weren't that bad - they were just disappointing. my body failed me a couple of times, and i feel terribly stalled because i wasnt able to do very much for my project, but i have learned a lot from this experience.
to be able to work and do something well, in this country or i guess anywhere else in life, especially in terms of aid work, i must fit into their schedule. i cant expect them to fit into mine. im sure that in the next year and a half, i will come across plenty of situations where the schedules will not align up and i will feel frustrated, like im completely wasting time, but really im not. the community is accepting me more, feeling more comfortable with my presence, getting used to the idea of a foreigner just hanging around all the time. once i can get the ball rolling, whenever that happens, it'll just continue to roll and things will fall into place. if i fit into their schedule, they'll be more eager and more cooperative.
i can do this.
well... let's get better first, haha.

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