I’m going to get to the bottom line real fast here. On Saturday this past weekend I got Malaria… and you’re fired. Oops, that was the Larium at the end there. Yes, I’m doing well and I am now fully recovered. Malaria is actually much more common than you’d think. Thanks to the aid from other countries, it’s probably easier and cheaper to treat Malaria here, than in most other places. It also helps that I live with the town doctor and one of his nurses. Her motherly instincts are so good I can’t even fake it when I am not enjoying a meal. She would have no problem sniffing out anything out about my health. Honestly though, Malaria is really no different than the flu… For at least the first few weeks. Then, it becomes very serious if it isn’t treated.
Now that I have that out of the way, I want to talk about my experience spending my first weekend in Antoa. Don’t worry I’ll come back to the Malaria as I experience it through out the weekend.
Last night was actually quite loud, as you would expect any other place on a Friday night. I could hear people yelling and having a good time in the street. After living with 6 people in a party house my fourth year of college, I was quite used to falling asleep to this kind of noise. Before I go to sleep, I notice that my throat is a bit soar. We had a spicy meal, so I’m sure it’s just some left over agitation. I get up around 05:00 and get ready for a productive day. I start by doing my wash around 06:00, before the sun gets too hot. Oh, wash means laundry in Ghana. I make sure to start with the essentials, my collared shirts and my boxers. I have much more to do, but I want to make sure I start with the most important things in case I get to tired to finish everything. I use the same scrubbing techniques as last time, but this time I think I am scrubbing on the seams of the shirt because my fingers are wearing out much faster. I didn’t understand what Amber was saying last time about forming callouses, but this time I have a much clearer picture. I finished the first load and my fingers were kind of poofy. That’s probably not a good sign. I stopped there and rinsed the clothes in the separate bucket of water and rung them out to hang dry in the open area of the compound. They already have a lot of laundry clips here, so I’m set. I get everything hung up and poor out the water. Distracted by my now bleeding fingers I poor out the water and the soap with it. I really like the smell of that soap too. I definitely had a bad technique this time because the part between the first and second knuckle on my hands look like they just got stitched. I should probably ask for another lesson the next time around. Especially when I wash my bed sheets. Amber warned me that they are difficult and if I struggled with the towel, I’m sure I will with the sheets.
I’m done with wash and I head back to my room to work on some program stuff. I want to get my weekly updates and accounting all in order ahead of time, so I can have a relaxing Sunday. Well, as I sit on my bed I start to notice that my body is feeling fluey. I know I just did wash, but my energy levels feel too low to be normal. Then my temperature starts to rise. I’m now sweating quite steadily. I also get that pulsing feeling that happens to me when I get the flue. That’s always a sign to me that it is the flue and more serious than a cold. I’m actually surprised that my immune system held out this long after traveling through airports on both sides of the US and in Accra. Not to mention all the immersion I’ve had since being here. Even when I do get sick, I can normally just will it away. I appreciate my genetics and the great immune system. After trying to distract myself with the program updates the feeling gets worse and I realize it’s time to get rid of this sick feeling before it gets any worse. Just like any other ailment, I have always been able to reduce or get rid of it when I concentrate. For instance, when I was in Nicaragua I had so many mosquito and other bug bites on my legs that it looked like I had chicken pocks, or bad leg acne. However, I didn’t feel like it was itchy. At the time it really baffled me, but I soon realized that it just took a bit of mental concentration and I could get over these low levels of pain. It happened to be really helpful that the direct service and leadership training I was doing there made it very easy to forget about what was going on with my legs. Even when we had downtime, I hardly noticed my legs. After this, I started to realize I could use this in other parts of my life. I do this when I have a headache or any sharp pain. I don’t really know how it works, but I think it is just a combination of relaxing and accepting that there is pain there. I think there is a bit of Hotmer stubbornness coming in somewhere there too. I used this whenever I would feel a sickness coming on. I would just relax and concentrate on feeling good.
So, that is my first reaction to my fluey feeling. I sit on the edge of my bed and get comfortable. I stare straight ahead at the wall and find a tiny hole in the middle of the lime green, dirt covered wall. I don’t think about anything except for that dot on the wall. Sure enough my body starts to feel better and I stop sweating. Because my attention span is so short, I couldn’t hold this concentration for a very long time. And by a long time, I mean 10 seconds. Well, this will be a good day to work on extending my concentration, to let’s say 12 seconds. That sounds like a pretty good goal. After an hour my body becomes a bit restless. This is much easier to do when I was interacting with Breakers on such an amazing experience in Nicaragua. Needless to say, looking at this tiny hole in the wall is far less interesting. But, due to my Hotmer stubbornness, I force myself to stay in the spot and look at the wall. I manage to stay in this spot for another hour, before the nurse leaves for work. I get up to say goodbye. I pace around my room giving my mind a rest and get my body to work a bit. The fluey feeling comes back, but this time with a headache as well. I call Spencer and tell him I won’t be traveling to Kentinkrono this weekend because I’m not feeling well. He tells me to be safe and make sure I talk to Daniel about it being Malaria. I’ve never had Malaria, but I do know that the symptoms are intermittent. There is a Malaria book on my shelf that Adam passed around the Antoa area. I’d rather not read it and convince myself I have Malaria. I don’t want to be like those students in medical school that feel like they have every sickness that they study. Nope, I just have the flue and I know how to get rid of it.
So, there I am now kicking the air in my room, trying to keep my mind busy. My form has really gotten a lot worse. Not that it was that good to begin with. Frustrated at the deterioration of that skill, I sit back down on my bed. There’s nothing to do and my headache is getting worse now. I had medicine in my first aid kit, but I would rather have my brain split out of my head and dance on the floor before I take Advil for a headache. I never said my stubbornness makes sense, but that’s how I operate. It’s not the typical male stubbornness though. I try very hard to not be inefficient and will gladly give in if that will reach my goal faster. For instance, if I’m lost my first instinct will be to ask for directions. Or if I know I absolutely need to take medicine to get better, than I will take it and do it exactly how it is prescribed. Or even if one of my students or tutors told me I’m doing something wrong, I would really take what they say into consideration. Okay, back to my room. I am getting antsy and I feel like it will be better if I just leave my room and travel around and distract myself with talking to people. This is different than when I was in Nicaragua. I don’t want to be outside and have the flue symptoms get worse, with nausea or the chills. That means I’m staying in my room. With the combination of my headache and the sweat, there is no way I can do program stuff or anything else on my computer. Even just to keep my computer dry. Well, that leads me back to the hole. I really start to focus in on the hole now. After 10 minutes, the things at the edge of my vision start to fade. I’m now completely focused. At the same time, I do some mental checks around my body and release any tension left. I’ve done meditation before, but I normally would have given up at the 20-minute mark. Being forced to stay in my room and nothing to help me, but my own concentration is actually turning out to be a blessing in disguise. I’m making more progress now then I ever had with my concentration or meditation. I continue to stay focused on the hole as long as I can. Then when I can’t take anymore I stretch my legs. My pains are completely gone and my temperature is normal. On top of that, I actually feel great. I’m actually not sure how to describe how I feel in a few words. I have that butterfly feeling in my stomach and I feel like I want to go on an adventure. I’m just in such a good mood and I feel like calling my family and friends to share my excitement. The flue is that last thing on my mind now. I start to notice that the town is actually very quiet. The only thing I could hear was the sound of children playing in the distance. This is by far the quietest I have heard Antoa. I don’t think I would have taken the time to notice such a small detail if it weren’t for being confined to my room.
That great feeling only lasts for about 20 minutes before the temperature and headache start to creep back. I try to rest my head and lay down in my bed. I take a nap and see if I can sleep the sickness off. That’s a pretty big deal for me because I have the same stance on Advil for headaches as I do with naps in the middle of the day. Well, I give in to the nap today. I fall fast asleep with my body desperate to heal itself. I set my alarm for two hours later, but can only make it an hour. I get up feeling a little better. Hmm, maybe this thing isn’t malaria after all. I just lie there in bed for about 30 minutes and the symptoms come back. Okay, I’ve pretty much accepted I have Malaria at this point. I’m not worried because I know that Daniel will be back this afternoon and he will know how to properly diagnose and treat me. I can really understand how terrible this disease is though. If I were a farmer and had to still go out and take care of my land to feed my family or village, I would probably be much less productive. And I’ve only had the effects for a day now. I bet it only gets worse as you approach a week or two weeks. Even though I’m hurting a little, I’m really grateful that I’m not a young child or poor. Those populations are affected the worst by Malaria. I’ve read the pamphlet about Malaria now, so I have a bunch of these random facts floating around. In case you didn’t know, not all mosquitos spread malaria. Only the female mosquitoes, infected with the plasmodium, can spread the disease. All mosquitoes are attracted to you by the carbon dioxide in your breath and the heat of your body. Then as the infected mosquito feeds, the plasmodium sneaks down into your blood. The plasmodium then burrows itself in your liver as it multiplies. Then a few weeks later they burst out of the liver cell and invade the surrounding blood cells. Now if another mosquito comes and feeds, the plasmodium has a chance of infecting that mosquito and in turn another person. According to this book, it killed Alexander the Great, Tutankhamun, and Genghis Khan. Really? I thought the Russian winter stopped Alexander the Great and Genghis choked on a chicken bone. I guess that shows how much attention I paid in history class. Anyway, it says a lot more stuff that you can probably find yourself if you’re still interested.
Daniel gets home and confirms that I have Malaria. He is describing how the treatment process works and how quickly I will be better. I do notice something interesting as I’m talking to him that I haven’t noticed during any of our previous discussions. I’m listening very intently to what he is telling me, but I also have an awareness of how my feet feel in my sandals. I think that’s some of the side affects from the relaxing my body and mind all day. He tells me that he will tell one of the nurses to bring home the pill treatment. It’s about 19:30 and the nurses are just getting home with the medicine. Good thing because at this point my head back hurts and my brain is tired from staring at the hole in the wall. There are nine pills in the package. I am supposed to take three every night at the same time. I take the first dosage and after about 30 minutes my headache is gone. My temperature is a bit off still, but I feel much better. We sit down to eat and there are sounds of people talking and conversing all around the compound. Then in the middle of our meal the power goes out and the people around us quiet down. Suddenly there are no sounds of anyone. Daniel is distracted on his phone, so I take this opportunity to relax and enjoy the night. I have a much easier time relaxing now that my head isn’t in pain. I look out into the sky and see lightning off in the distance. There is no thunder, so it must be pretty far away. Wait, I don’t think I’ve ever heard lightning without at least a faint sound of thunder. Maybe it is just easier to see since the power is out all around us. The lightning is reoccurring every few seconds, giving me a time-lapse view of the sky and clouds. It’s beautiful how the sky keeps reappearing in different forms. It feels like I’m watching Planet Earth, but better because there’s much more. Then, I notice that the night is anything but quiet. The insects around us are causing a static of constant noise that I haven’t notice before. It sounds like track 2 on those sleep tapes, right after the sound of the waves crashing. There must be thousands of insects around me. I notice some bugs in front of me akin to fireflies. I can only see them every few seconds when they light up. As I watch the light bug in fascination, I also notice a bat swooping around the opening of the compound. I can hear it screeching as it navigates it’s way around the walls. I lean back in the warm blanket of sound watching the lightning filled sky, in total bliss. This moment and place in time is so complex and beautiful, it brings a tear to my eye.
As crazy as this might sound, I don’t think I would be able to enjoy this night as much if it weren’t for getting Malaria. I hope this is the last time I ever have to experience the Malaria part, but the lessons I’ve learned from today will stick with me forever. I think if I ever turn these journals into something more I will call it the hole in the wall. It will be symbolic for much about Ghana and the rest of life. I think there are many “holes in the wall” around us that if aren’t forced to slow down and take a look, we might never understand the true beauty in their subtle existence.