I think it is time to make the world of aware of Amanda's Law of (un)Averages: Be there a medicine she is to take, the side-effects will affect her.
Yes, dear friends, not only am I allergic to Penicillin, Amoxicillin, and Sulfa drugs, not only do I break out in oddly-shaped red dots when I take tetracycline, not only do I get drowsy when taking decongestants, but I now have the pleasure of becoming nauseos when taking anti-malarials.
This past week, yours truly has had some lovely stomach problems, consistent nausea, fatigue, and headache, all to prevent fever, fatigue, headache, and nausea which may result in coma and/or death (read: malaria). It took us a few days to figure out, but, praise God, I live with a woman who is studying for her final exam in medicine and can figure out what is wrong with people. So. I am off my malaria medication until the end of the week to flush it out of my system, in hopes that when I re-start, it won't build up bad enough to make me feel nauseous before I head home. I can be very thankful that this happened at the beginning of the rainy season rather than the middle when there are many many more bugs.
Nevertheless, allow me to relate this charming story to you:
Yesterday, we headed out for the night to visit Aichaotou's aunt who recently returned from the States (loaded with suitcases of sale items from JCPenny for resale here) and a nice dinner of brochettes (shish-kabobs.) We took the girls with us and left Ramatou at home.
Upon entering the gate, I noticed that there was only one light on in the whole house. It happend to be coming from my room. As I stepped out of the car I gasped in horror. I could see from fifty feet away the army of bugs attacking my windows.
We went inside and I tip-toed into my room, wary that I might at any moment me attacked by the deadly tse-tse fly my dad used to tell us about when I was little. (I had no idea that these actually existed, and was terrified by the fact that anything that small could actually kill a person.) With James Bond-like stealthiness I entered my room to discover not an just an army but an entire legion of insects armed and already attacking my bedroom and bathroom. "Where," the speculative reader might ask, "is the sole light in your bedroom located, Amanda?" I'll tell you, my dear reader: Directly above my bed. My little cot and mattress. My safe-haven.
I was filled with emotion. First of all, I had a bit of the creepy-crawlies. Secondly, I was astonished and a little angered at Ramatou's forgetfulness. As I have told you before, I do not like the idea of creepy things crawling up me and biting me in my sleep. Most especially when I am not taking malaria medication. I like them even less when I can actually see them crawling and/or strolling, rolling, and flying on, in, and around my sheet.
"Kai!" I said in disbelief. (This has the equivalent sense of "jeez!" "MAN!") I moved to the kitchen to find my new best friend: The insecticide. I mentioned to Aichatou out of the corner of my mouth that sometimes, I think my dear roommate is really not very intelligent. "And," I added in exasperation, "She uses up the soap so fast!"
So. I sprayed enough insectiside to kill two legions of bugs, plus Goliath, took my book, and retired to the living room, at which point Ramatou entered the house.
"Ramatou," I said. I tried, gently, "You didn't turn off the light. You left the light on in our bathroom." She shook her head. She must not have understood me. I turned to Fati, the guardian's daughter who has a better command of French. Fati said it again in Zarma.
"No," Fati says, "she says she didn't do that."
"I locked the door when we left the house."
"You-you locked the door?" Myself, not sure who to place the anger at now-"You've been outside the whole time, Ramatou?"
"So it was me? I thought you were the bathroom! I thought you were in the bathroom when we left" -Me, indignant and exasperated...when I realized..Aichatou did lock the door. From the outside. No one could have been in the house. Hmm. It was I, I who left my light on, like a lighthouse, the sole refuge to every insect and its cousin in Niamey and the surrounding area, a beacon of welcoming kindness in the dark night.
"Well," I said, "It was me. I've killed myself."
I re-entered my room, having left enough time for the bugs to all die. I had to use a broom and dustpan to pick up the dead bugs in my bathroom alone. I shook my sheet out into the trash, too.
After putting on LONG pajama pants and spraying myself with copious amounts of bug spray, I attempted to fall asleep.
I woke up alive this morning.
On another note, it usually takes me a looong time to fall asleep here. It might be the anti-malaria medication, it might be the heat, I'm not sure. What I do know is that it gives me a lot of time to think about what I am going to write on my blog. Recently I've been thinking about this:
Niger is the world's poorest country. But things don't actually cost that much less. In fact, cereal and ice cream cost considerably more. People just make less. They live without the things - some may call it junk-we in the west consider necessary. There are no dishwashers. No laundry machines. No dryers. Of course, dryers would be impractical. It's hot here. Things dry quickly outside. It's just a different form of life. More simple. Leisure time is spent just sitting around. Sometimes you talk to neighbors. Sometimes you go for a walk, or listen to radio. Mostly you just sit. I wonder to myself if one way of life is better than the other. I have this past year been struggling with my identity as an American. It took an amazing Intercultural Communication course with Dr. Mary Trujillo before I was able to be okay with being American, and being white--even to be proud of that heritage. Nevertheless, I think I came here with either the expectation that Nigeriens would live in a remarkably complex society that Americans could no doubt learn efficiency and simplicity from, or that they would be desitute, and need as much help as possible. Neither of those is the case. Work is work is work, wherever you go. Washing clothes by hand is still hard. Africans haven't mastered a special way of doing it that is inherently better than any white person's. In respect to being destitute: there are NGO's everywhere in Niamey. Really, everywhere. World Vision, Unicef, Save the Children, then also Government Organziatons- The UN, Peace Corps, etc.
The biggest detriment to life here seems to be insufficient medical care. And perhaps education. People aren't really unhappy that they don't have washing machines, as far as I can tell. What is so bad about living a grass hut? If you're used to bugs, they don't "bug" you like thy might bug a small American girl.
I'm starting to wonder if what my friends here need isn't in the hands of NGO's who have been here for years. Is it in the hands of God? Is what they really need Jesus? This is throwing my social justice-oriented mentality for a loop. And if Christ is the new primary goal, whose hands is it in? I should think neighbors, native people; not westerners who bear many resemblances to colonizers, and come bearing impractical gifts here- what good can a CD do where there are no CD players?
I owe much of this thought to a book called Revolution in World Missions, by K.P. Yohannan; a book I did not like reading because of the writing style and the perspective, more than for what it was about. If you've read this book, (or if you just have something to say) please share your thoughts with me. ( By the way, I am now reading Miracles by C.S. Lewis, and The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, two authors whose writing I admire greatly. )
More than anything, Africa has impressed on my mind something I learn and re-learn every time I enter a new culture: Communication between cultures is key. It spreads amnesty and creates alliances instead of enemies. It promotes understanding and heals prejudices. It teaches. I am learning a lot about simplicity and community from my African surroundings, while my friends here are (I hope) gaining a non-television view of America, and perhaps an appreciation for literacy and education as well. I've learned that this type of work-building friendships, more than building schools or hospitals, is the kind of work the Peace Corps does so well. Though they participate in projects, relationships seem to me more lasting and impactful.
That was a lot of writing for today.
I have some prayer requests I would appreciate you thinking about:
- I've started a "school" on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings with Zeinabou, Haoua, Ramatou, Fati, and possibly Faycal. I am now a French instructor. I really enjoy it. Pray that it continues to go well, I continue to have ideas, and God shows me if this is something he envisions me doing moer seriously
-I have a new friend, who is named Ramatou (not my roommate). She is 19 and lives two doors down in a grass hut. She a has a very beautiful 7 month old baby. Ramatou speaks French (one of the few people in the neighborhood who do fluently), and takes walks with Marie and me often in the evenings. It is a true blessing to have a friend like her here. Pray thanksgiving for this friendship, and also that I may reflect Christ to her.
-Aichatou's final exam has been moved back to the 28th of July. Pray that it won't be moved back any further so that we will still have the chance to go to Zinder and visit her family and also that she will study and preform well!
-Please pray that my body holds up. I don't think I was created for all this medication and climate and bugs combined! Pray that no little infected mosquitos find their way to me, and that my medication doesn't mess with my stomach again.
-Pray thanksgiving for the health and growth of my (well, not my, technically) two girls Marie and Laurey. They are lots of work and lots of fun every day!
I miss you all loads, and can't wait to hear how YOU are doing.
God is truly BIG!