Someone once told me that Peace Corps volunteers who serve in Africa are often known as the “snobs” of the Peace Corps world. Someone who served in Romania might recount what it was like to have the flu during service, but heaven forbid if this person tells this story in front of RPCV-African country because surely they will then hear, “Yeah, that reminds me of when I got MALARIA…” Commence eye-rolling, please. But it’s kind of true. Currently there is a Cholera epidemic in Cameroon, and there have recently been cases here in the West Region. Wednesday night I woke up with projectile vomiting and…well…other things as well…that lasted well into Thursday night. I thought for sure, “Yep, it’s the Cholera. I’ve got the Cholera. Please don’t let me die.” But it wasn’t. I went to the hospital for some tests just in case, but nope must have been a virus. You know the kind of sickness that comes around about once a year that you normally think nothing of…. No, here in tropical Africa, everything is Cholera; everything is Typhoid; everything is Malaria.
But sometimes it is those things. Several of my friends have had malaria (even the ones who take their prophylaxis religiously). Often, if you are taking your prophylaxis you will find that while painful, and all around sucky, you will survive especially if you get to the med center and commence treatment in a timely manner. Other things, not necessarily as dangerous, but still quite unique to my situation are: chiggars (nasty insect which burrows into your skin, often feet, and then lays an egg sack and continues to swell 90% of her original size. This sucker itches. She doesn’t suck the blood. Oh no. She releases a toxin that basically dissolves your skin which she then eats up. You must cut open and squeeze her and all her millions of babies out. I have had 3.) Mango flies (These babies like to lay their eggs in your wet clothes hanging outside. You then take your dry clothes and put them on. Several days later you notice a worm wriggling around just under your skin. You then faint. Only way to avoid these is to let your clothes dry for 4 days without touching them, or iron.) Intestinal worms. (Yeah we all know these, and yep I had them. Best to regularly de-worm yourself as often as you do the family pet.) Driver ants. (Horrible beasts! These wandering nomads will eat anything in their way, including elephants. They burrow into your skin and eat you inside out. I have had numerous attacks of my house which I won by constantly having a bottle of Raid near by. One encounter happened at night at my friend Julie’s house. I went out to use her latrine and noticed a few ants. A few minutes later while chatting in her kitchen, my right leg suddenly felt on fire. My pants flew off as I ran around the house shaking and smacking my leg. She was amused.)
So there ya have it. Some scary little buggars which will keep you up at night ;). But all in all, it’s really not that bad in real life as it reads in print. After all, just 12 hours ago I thought I had Cholera. I just got back from a jog, and feel fantastic. Let’s be vigilant, not dramatic. 😀