8th November, 2002 // Tanzania
Week 6 - the drama
I used to take it for granted that, on most given days, no one I knew was in the hospital. I don’t anymore. I could trace every stain on the seats of the waiting room at the AAR. Not anything too serious, mind you, it’s just your routine parasites, pneumonia, and pregnancy that have been the uninvited visitors of co-workers and friends. So many interns have already had malaria that I am convinced that it is contagious. I can’t understand otherwise how it has caught like wildfire as it has through the corridors of the AICC.
But, that is the case. Floppy-haired Luca came back from the AICC hospital today announcing in broken English with his native Italian cadence and sweeping hand motions that he had “Bieeeeeg Malaria.” He has not only 1 but 2 parasites. His ‘mama’ Jessica (Canadian intern) also has a case of malaria, which somehow outlived the nearly fatal amount of Larium that she consumed the week prior to kill it off while almost killing her. I saw her; she had a wild look in her eye. She laughed incredulously, “And I went through hell and back to just have to do it again?!?” I asked her about her Larium experience. She said she thought she went crazy, and she’s not sure that she has yet come back. From the look in her eye and her vague wandering smirk as well as increasingly impulsive anxious behavior, I wasn’t sure either. And, having experienced Larium dreams—worse and more twisted than any horror movie I have seen—I only can guess as to what type of trauma must be exacted upon a person after 72 hours of Larium-induced hallucinations, complete with nausea and intense vertigo. Not pretty, not pretty a’tall. And, Jessica and Luca are not alone; Mikela, Myjiam, Michelle, and Josh have already had a bout with it as well. Most recently, dark-haired Luca (another Italian intern) came into the office this evening confessing that he too had caught a case of malaria. I just try to stay away, but the mosquitoes keep chasing me around the place.
Then, my supervisor came down with pneumonia two days ago. She sounded like she was about to cough out her lungs. And, what was the instruction by her boss? Go to the coast. For those of us who were born and bred at sea level, including myself from Tampa Bay, Florida, USA, and my supervisor, Auckland, New Zealand, it’s a big transition to get used to in Arusha. From 0 seal level to nearly 4,000 feet, one must strive hard not to slip into lethargy and listlessness. I am finally snapping out of it, but it has taken nearly 6 weeks to do so (although others would argue it’s the Larium not the altitude that’s affecting me this way).
The life is becoming more normalized, but it’s normalized level of activity is stressful. No wonder so little seems to get done here and on such a slow pace! Between sickness, instability, drama, weather, little or poorly maintained technological equipment, and dilapidated infrastructure, inefficient and struggling economy, and general noise, it is miraculous that one can live a normal life here at all. Of course, you are used to it because you don’t know differently, or you get used to it because you’d be driven crazy otherwise!
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