Saturday, July 15, 2006

Malaria Pills....Not all they're cracked up to be.

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.

Well.
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."
Aichatou enters.
"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?"
"Mmmhmm."
"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!

Love
Amanda

8 comments:

Miss Christine said...

I read the Poisonwood Bible at the beginning of summer. Truly an amazing book, although I'm not sure you'll want to be reading it while you are, in fact, in Africa. So many things go wrong.

But anyway, good luck with the bugs. I would probably die. Also, it's not just nausea that anti-malarials will give you... my Peace Corps GSI from U of M says that a bunch of his friends who keep going to Africa like start going crazy and act all loopy... so at least be glad you won't be there for that long!

Amanda said...

Chris--
I know all about that. I'm on a different pill, that is not supposed to give hallucinations, however, I have had way more vivid dreams since I've been on it.
Anti-malarials also have the pleasant affect of causing liver damage long-term. Woohoo!!

Amanda said...

Chris--
I know all about that. I'm on a different pill, that is not supposed to give hallucinations, however, I have had way more vivid dreams since I've been on it.
Anti-malarials also have the pleasant affect of causing liver damage long-term. Woohoo!!

Jeff Munroe said...

Amanda -- what is an NGO? Obviously a relief agency but I'm not hip with that TLA (three letter acronym). I am sure Aichatou is confident you have enough anti-malarial drug in you to withstand a bite even while you aren't taking it. We are seeing God work in wonderful ways here. Another head leader said to me the other day, "A lot of kids come here angry, but I've never seen one leave angry." That's true. When you get home I will have to tell you about Mercedes and Zach.
Your mom and I are proud of you.
Love,
Dad

ashleyfo said...

Amandita,
I commented on your last entry with photos and didn't say much but now I will say more. I received your letter today! I was very excited, first of all to hear from you and second of all to hear that you may want to be a teacher! I also of course welcomed the comment about how well you can get along without words. Did Amanda really say that? :) Its a very intruiguing comment. Receiving your letter also reminded me that i have been neglecting your blog and so I had to come catch up on a few entries. I was glad to see that you finally had some time to enter your philosophical/cultural/religious etc, etc, commentary about your experience. I've been waiting for that (patiently though, as I have kept travel journals and know that there is barely time to write without missing something else to write about). I'm glad to see that you are both teaching, learning, enjoying and making friends in Niger. And also---what? watching a sport besides basketball and baseball? now you are truly worldly :)
So lets see an update from home. The new neighbor is still entertaining. She finally mowed her lawn today (in a sundress and with mirror in her pocket that she checked repeatedly, according to Nico....) Honestly, who needs TV?
I've been steadily working at the law firm, helping people in my own way, I suppose, while killing a lot of trees, electricity and thank goodness saving up some money that will save me even more later when i have to pay that much less interest on the college loans I'm piling up (I'm beginning to think I really should have gone to Community college for a few years). I've done some volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, which I've enjoyed quite a bit.
I recently received news that I will be having my wisdom teeth removed in 2 weeks. I'm very, very excited...
Besides all of that I've been trying to enjoy my time in Grand Rapids with my family, Dan and Sarah (those are about the only people I really see....though yes Laura we do need to get together). I got to go sailing with Sarah, Dan and Mr. And Mrs. Hartley on lake Michigan/White lake yesterday and got a sunburn you would be proud of. I must say I really like Michigan and Grand Rapids much more than I ever dreamed I would when I was little. Though I still hope to travel quite a bit in the future (and reading your blog and letter respark my interest), I've found that home is a great place to be and that like you've discovered in Niger that people are what really matter and make a lasting impression in life. Growing up is quite crazy. So there's my comment (ahem letter) for you. Hello from the fam and the oversize cats and Woodward. We are anxiously awaiting the return of the Monroe clan. Keep having a fantastic time in Niger. Peace and love,
Ashley
P.S. If I send you something now will it still get to you before you leave? my email is aefotieo@umich.edu if you could drop me a note letting me know. :)

Miss Christine said...

Lol... hopefully, Ashley, it will get to her... because just today I dropped her something in the mail, too. ;) (Amanda, take note! Look for it!)

Joel Anderle said...

Hello Amanda,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus!
Greetings from Boston. I've been catching up on your reading-- thank you for all you've shared! Your blog has been a great source of thought for me. My children have loved your stories of animals and the photos blow their minds.
Blessings as you wrestle with drug side-effects. Just to add to your aggravation, consider that drug companies control congress and public policy and have oppressed Africa for decades.
Blessings, too, as you wrestle with some huge, and important, questions of faith, identity, and responsibility. This is faith.
I'd love to get a text message from Niger. I have a t-mobile account. 978-335-7193. How amazing, technology.
Christ's Peace, Joel

Anonymous said...

DEAR AMANDA,

WE HAVE ENJOYED READING YOUR LETTERS AND HOPE YOU HAVE BEEN GETTING OURS - WE ARE NOT COMPUTER LITERATE. I ASKED CHUCK'S DAUGHTER, WHO HAS TAKEN MANY CLASSES, ABOUT BLOGS TO SEE IF WE WERE DOING IT RIGHT. AHE SAID SHE'S NEVER HAD ANY EXPERIENCE WITH BLOGS - SAME FOR RACHEL, SO WE DON'T KNOW IF ANY OF THEM REACHED YOU. BUT NOW READING YOU WILL BE HOME IN A FEW WEEKS I'LL TRY THIS ONE TIME MORE AND DEE IF IT REACHES YOU.
YOU ARE NOT ONLY THE ONLY EXPERIENCING HEAT. WE ARE SWELTERING HERE - WITH 100% TEMPERATURES (GLOBAL WARMING HAS HIT US AND IT WON'T GO AWAY. WE USUALLY HAVE HIGH HEAT IN AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER AND EVEN INTO OCTOBER, SO WE WONDER WHAT THE NEXT FEW MONTHS WILL BRING. WE EACH HAVE AN ELECTRIC FAN AND SO FAR WE STILL HAVE ELECTRICITY. PTL SO WE ARE MAKING DO, BUT IT'S CUT SHORT OUR FAVORITE ACTIVITY - BUNNY WALKS (WE HAD BEEN GETTING UP TO 120 ON A HALF HOUR WALK.
I THINK I'M SUPPOSE TO END THIS NOW SO WILL SAY GOOD BY FOR NOW. PRAYERS FOR YOUR SAFE RETURN. OUR LOVE, GRANDMA CAROL AND GRANDPA CHUCK