Sunday, March 01, 2009

Feasting on American blood

Upon the eve of my two month stay in Africa, the mosquitoes, spiders and whathaveyou feasted on me. I woke up in the morning with bites and rash on my shoulders, top shoulder area under the back of my neck, arms and some on my feet. Some of them itched like a son of the bitch. Unfortunately the more I scratched, it spread. It’s not too bad during the day but at night – I’d be awake for an hour in the middle of night, furiously scratching my elbow, knee, ankle or right hand until it burned lulling me back to sleep. Yesterday, I took the sheets, pillow case, and blankets off and deposited them in the laundry room. I lay the foam mattress upright on the wall, sprayed it and the pillow with bug spray, and the bed net as well. They were left like that for the majority of the day. Before going to bed, I made sure the ends of the bed net were tucked in securely under the mattress. But the opening remains a problem since the mosquito can crawl around the net until it finds the opening. The first month l lived here in Kabula they weren’t really a problem and I would let the bed net hang loosely around the bed. But no more.

With the increasing summer rains, the mosquitoes are plentiful. They also frequent the showers and bathroom that doesn’t have outside vent. If I’m lucky I’m able to shoo them out the door before doing my business. In the showers, they’re a menace. There are half dozen squashed mosquito carcasses on the bathroom wall from me and others. Some are bloodied. Nice. When I slapped one against the wall it burst into blood (hopefully mine) and I quickly washed my hand and splashed some water on the wall.

Since there is no malaria in the US, I have no immune system against malaria like the local Africans do. I remember the doctor’s lecture during SLI training week, talking about malaria – he swept his hand towards me and two Scots saying that if we didn’t take anti-malaria meds we can die or suffer from cerebral malaria after returning home. I can tell some locals have recurring bouts of malaria – the way they bend down with their head on their arm or lap waiting for it to pass. I take Doxy, an antibiotic each day and if I’m not careful with what I eat and how much I eat prior to taking it, the nausea from the med can really, really make you feel sick and want to keel over. Consuming dairy less than two hours before and after can cancel out the effectiveness for Doxy to work. For me it usually lasts half an hour or so and if I’m at home I can sleep it off. But if I’m around town all I can do is to find a place to sit, drink soda and wait for it to pass. As of few weeks ago, I began to master in making breakfast that doesn’t require dairy. Oatmeal without using milk and butter, a piece of bread with peanut butter, tea with sugar or honey, fruit and vegetables if I have any left in the morning, and orange juice. Yesterday I had an engagement in the morning and I didn’t eat early enough for it to pass, so on my way into town I bought a block of bread from a vendor. Last week I made the mistake eating a meat pie so I could take the med while about town. I got a mild food poisoning from the meat pie AND nausea as a side effect from Doxy. It was awful. Meat pie is a gamble in Malawi – one can be good while the other will make you sick. As someone I know put it as “a recipe for disaster!” Before the two hours expired I filled myself up with bread and took the Doxy. No nausea came. The label says to either consume a full glass of water or eat snacks with Doxy, it does not work for me. I need to have a full breakfast before taking it. Like my program adviser, Dr Wilson says, better to be alive!

Who knows – I hope the mosquito that passes my blood to a local person, perhaps my Obama fervor will make a difference for them to vote peacefully and inspiring for May 19 presidential and parliamentary elections. My jadedness seems to be replaced by corniness since I began living here. Vey’s mir!

Update: I've been reminded that the rash and itching may be a result of bugs laying eggs in my clothes while they hang to dry. Evidently one is supposed to iron clothes after drying. Ack. Now I appreciate the drying machine back home!

4 Comments:

Blogger MCC Brazil! said...

Kate,
I didn't even think to tell you to iron your clothes. Sorry about that, I should have. Especially get the elastic - that's a place mites can live and then you get a band around your waist. It would be worth spending an afternoon siting out in the sunshine to sew any holes you find in your net. Too, some lotions repell bugs - put some on before you sleep. Ask the locals what they rub on their sin before they sleep. Baby wipes sometimes work (Skin So Soft) Unfortunatley mosquitos seem to know jsut where to find the sweet foreigner. Maybe in the morning just eat bread, take your Doxy, and then eat something more nutritious later?

3/02/2009 6:37 PM  
Blogger Kate O. Breen said...

no i was aware about it, but really didn't think too much about it. i hate ironing but will have to suck it in :).

i'll check out the lotions that repels.

3/03/2009 3:07 AM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

I took doxy too when I traveled in Thailand. I took it at night though just before I went to sleep, so I had no side effects and no bites (although during the day and more so at evening when they are most active, they tried to feast on me but having the local mosquito spray or lotion really works wonder. anything from the states is crap)

plus, no sensitivity to the sun. So maybe try taking the meds at night and see if it helps? another thing you could try is a mosquito coil near the bed. seems to work.

the opening is the hardest part - what i did was wrap it around several times so if a bug tried to crawl around, it'd end up getting snagged...

showers and bathrooms - pick the ones with the least amount of water and you'll find less mosquitoes. one time I made the mistake of stepping into a shower near a river and having puddles of water everywhere... never again! I barely escaped! Ha.

To help you feel better, I have dozens of ant bites on my legs and feet. :-D

3/03/2009 4:41 AM  
Blogger JR said...

I don't think it has anything to do with being American - you're just tasty!

Here's wishing you a bug-free bottom...

3/07/2009 5:10 AM  

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