Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Being Sick Here, There, Anywhere = LAME.

I'm sick. And so is my pup (Bernard, aka the Nard Dog). So it is a double whammy. We are both not feeling well and not moving around very much and generally being miserable together. It is nice that he is not judging me for laying around all day and I am not judging him for puking all over the carpet and pooping in my shoe [seriously... HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?!].

I haven't been sick in quite awhile, but it reminds me of what a miserable sick person I used to be. When I was in college and got sick I would just be THE worst person to be around. Being sick just made me sooooooo sad and feel lonely cuz my mom wasn't there to tell me what exactly how to take care of myself and etc. It sucked! and it probably didn't help that I was particularly pathetic. Being despondent is generally not the best way to get better- a lesson I definitely needed to learn during my study abroad experiences in The Gambia.

The first semester that I was in The Gambia, we lived in a very healthy house. Nobody was ever sick. And nobody got bitten by mosquitoes either- except me of course :) But eventually, it was I who broke the pattern of health a few months in when my throat started really hurting. One of the first things I did was- ignore it. I didn't want to go to the doctor. I had stuff to do! I was living a very full life with a internship and a full course load and new Gambian friends and good times to be had! No time for despondence! Also, I didn't even KNOW where the doctor was... or how to get there! Or what it might cost me!

Eventually my best Peace Corps friend Dan (a Health volunteer) came to town and I had him feel my throat because there was swelling, and he said"You probably have an infection. Maybe strep throat." Boo. This definitely sounded like I needed some medical attention. All of the Gambians that worked for my school and were there to take care of us eventually pushed me in that direction- and eventually our house manager Mohammad took me (and I dragged Mike along) to a local health clinic that had a good reputation with our study abroad program. It didn't take long for the doctor to diagnose me with tonsillitis! I was prescribed penicillin and the doctor said that he would give me a shot of penicillin to get my recovery started.

While me and Mike sat in the waiting room-the doctor prepared the shot, and the power went out. Power outages are extremely common in The Gambia, so it wasn't so startling. I just assumed for whatever reason I made in my brain that this meant I wouldn't get my shot and I would have to come back. Instead, candles were lit and the doctor called me [and I dragged Mike!] back to the patient room to get my shot. So there I am, in one of the tiniest countries on the coast of West Africa, getting a shot in my bum by candlelight [with Mike holding my hand and cracking up at the same time]. There are just some things in life you can't imagine yourself experiencing until they happen. And that was surely one of those experiences. Mike told the story over and over again to all of our friends explaining how romantic the whole scene was with the candles and the shot in my bum. In retrospect- it is a pretty hilarious notion to think about, but what I remember was how surprisingly bad that shot hurt and the soreness lasted. Um, oww!! Way to go Gambia!! But I wasn't gonna let my sore butt ruin my fun, and I got back to my full Gambian lifestyle as soon as possible.

On my second trip to The Gambia I decided as soon as we touched ground that I was going to do my very best to take care of myself and never get sick. And exactly one week later I had tonsillitis. Awesome. Luckily this time it wasn't so bad that I needed a shot in the bum- and I had a good enough attitude not let it put a damper on the beginning of my trip. Hey, sickness happens. It's just a matter of dealing with it!

For my family members or friends that don't know very much about Peace Corps, me being sick while I am abroad is not something to worry about. Safety and health is a priority that Peace Corps has for their volunteers, and I have seen it firsthand! While in The Gambia the first time my friend Dan needed more medical attention than The Gambia could offer and he was sent to Dakar (the capital of Senegal) to get the attention he needed. I heard from Mike a few weeks ago and he was sent into South Africa (from Lesotho) for needed medical attention as well. With an organization as strong as the Peace Corps behind me, I am not afraid about getting sick abroad- and I hope you guys can get some comfort from that as well.

I actually was able to visit the Peace Corps nurse of The Gambia during my second visit. Our language teacher, Awa Job, was also a language teacher for the Peace Corps, and she took us to see the Nurse when we first arrived to get a briefing on sicknesses we should be worried about and how to take care of ourselves. Later in the semester I was getting a rash- which I was pretty sure was due to the heat (which was a little strange because I didn't recall getting it the first time) but it was pretty uncomfortable. I asked Awa what she thought and she said she would take me to the nurse. Awa took me to the PC nurse and it was confirmed that I had a pretty good heat rash- which Awa told the nurse was probably because I walked everywhere when I should be paying to take a taxi (its true- I was incredibly cheap the second time around in The Gambia) and I was advised to wear baby powder under my clothes and eventually I felt better.

So, while being sick is incredibly lame- no matter where you are, it's all about perspective. When I felt lonely and sick during college, I probably wasn't really considering how bad it could have been- I mean, I always got better, I would always eventually see my mom again to make me feel better, etc. I was being a baby. And now, even though I am truly loathing feeling how I'm feeling, I know I'll probably be better in a few days (and hopefully pup will be too!). And should I get sick while I'm abroad (which is bound to happen, but wouldn't it be way cool if it never did??), and I'm feeling lonely because my family is even further, I will surely find comfort in the healthcare possibilities Peace Corps will have in place in my host country to take care of me, and I will take care of myself too! I'm not worried, and I hope you aren't either.

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