The Flancesca Chronicles Part VIII | Tanzania
Greetings to all corners of our spherical world,
I know what you’re going to say. And you’re right, It was really mean of me to jot down a few quick notes about what was happening and then leave you all in the dark, sitting in front of your computer eagerly awaiting the alleged follow-up that would satisfy your need to know the whole story. Incessantly you check your inbox for any news from abroad because the suspense is excruciating. I would really hope that you have better things to occupy your time than my ramblings, but for the off chance that you have not eaten or slept in many days, here it is:
A few days after the laxative incident, we had the idea that it would be fun to teach some of the girl students to cut white people hair. I was the obvious choice to stand in for the dummy, so we grabbed the c-curved medical scissors and headed over to the girls’ dorm. We gathered a few brave souls that wanted to try and did a little explaining as to how I preferred to have my hair shaped. I think we even threw out the name “Rihanna” in hopes that they would have an adequate mental picture. The first girl up was really confident so subsequently I was foolishly confident as she grabbed the front part of my hair and proceeded to cut a big chunk out of the “swoop bangs” that Libby had so masterfully sculpted a month prior. Everyone has had a similar “big chunk out of the middle of your hair” experience, mostly around the age of five or six when you think it would be fun to cut your own hair. Here I am at the ripe age of twenty four and the front of my hair looks like the jagged top of a Halloween pumpkin. It was indeed funny though. I also was told that my body is shaped like the number one and the back of my head sticks out like the back of an old television set. These girls are not shy.
I got malaria again. This time I only had 9 parasites in my blood sample, but the doctor wanted to give me something stronger than last time so I had the pleasure of taking quinine. The side effects of this drug are very cantankerous. For five days I was spinning, nauseous, had a headache, and the worst part is that it makes your ears ring. Sitting quietly alone in a room was torture because all I could hear was the ringing. I slept terribly and found some solace in my iPod.
Libby was equally annoyed; typically I tell her to speak quietly as she is constantly speaking at a rather boisterous volume, but for five days I was telling her to speak over the ringing. The next day, two new American boys arrived from St. John’s to be the next generation of volunteers, like Libby’s cousin James had been. Unfortunately, they were received by a loopy, short-tempered Flancesca. The following day, Libby pulled a muscle in her back that was becoming increasingly painful throughout the day. The teachers told her she had to go the hospital right away because that was a sure sign of typhoid. Since they have all had typhoid, we thought they were probably correct and Libby went to the hospital to get some blood drawn. The tests came back with malaria and a high antibody count, which in Tanzania usually means typhoid. The nurse and doctor were very concerned and sent her home with a whole box of antibiotic injections and her very own nurse to administer them every 8 hours for 3 days.
Rob, who recently quit his volunteer post at the Regional Hospital because they were killing people left and right and wouldn’t change their policies, stopped in to say goodbye and check on our condition. He told Libby that there was no way she had typhoid without diarrhea. The doctors here are notorious for diagnosing and treating minor or non-existent illnesses which is understandable when a majority of hospital patients are only there because they are fairly close to death. The high antibody count could have been from any number of things and that back pain is not a symptom of typhoid.
So here we found ourselves in a precarious situation. We had a nurse that didn’t speak English scheduled to arrive every eight hours ready to inject Libby, were pondering the questions at hand, and weighing the possibility that they could have even mixed up the blood sample. We were getting a lot of different information from everyone we knew and, although it was appreciated and helpful, no one really agreed on what to do and left us in limbo about what course of treatment was necessary. Logically, we thought that if Libby had typhoid I would for sure have it too. We do, after all, eat and drink all the same things.
The next morning, when the vigilant Nurse Lucy came to inject Libby, I faked some stomach pains and said I needed to go in for a typhoid test. So Lucy marched me over to the hospital, bypassed all unnecessary formalities (including seeing a doctor, getting my chart, and wearing gloves) and drew some blood for the test. I found out later that my results were fine and I had no internal signs of typhoid so this made us really suspect of Libby’s diagnosis and we decided we needed to somehow get her out of taking the other 6 injections of antibiotic.
After a bit of arguing we convinced the nurse to switch her to the antibiotic pills. She still had malaria however and the medicine they prescribed her (with the mildest side effects) was also the most mildly effective and didn’t help the malaria at all. About this same time, someone came into our house, asked for a Brother, and then was “waiting for him to come back from school.” This is not uncommon so we left him to wait and headed to school ourselves. Turns out, the minute we left, the man went into our room and stole all of our Tanzanian shillings (about 200,000 of mine and 15,000 of Libby’s), three phones (both of our American phones, which cannot work here and my Tanzanian phone) and both of our iPods.
Now, I was obviously pissed, but the reality of the situation is that I can make back all of the money and phone costs in about one week of work at $10 per hour in the US, so no harm done. Given that I was still on quinine at this point, stealing my iPod was just really annoying because I would have two more days to deal with the ringing in my ears. It was ridiculously stupid on his part. First of all, he talked to us so we know what he looks like. Second of all, the penalties for thieves here are either:
- Ridiculously long prison sentences (example: 3 years for one chicken), or
- Since the police are largely ineffective, most people don’t hesitate to kill any thief that enters their house. The police don’t ask a lot of questions.
Third of all, he didn’t take the American money that we had in our wallets and this is worth way more than the Tanzanian money. Luckily, he didn’t take any passports of credit/bank cards either. He also failed to take our cameras (thankfully) and any of the chargers to the things he stole…what a wiener.
Anyway, he left my phone on for about a day and some of our students (who were particularly angry that someone would steal from their teachers - in direct contrast from my little gems at NRLC) called the phone in the evening when he was drunk. He answered a few times and one of the girls pretended she was a prostitute from Mbeya and tried to get him to meet her at the bus station the next day.
Three of our favorite girls were planning on dressing like prostitutes, heading to the bus station, and then getting him to take them back to a hotel to see if he had the money or any of our things and then calling the brothers when they knew for sure. This may sound like a promiscuous episode of Nancy Drew, but given the intelligence of the man we were dealing with it was actually our best shot at catching him. He was even texting the student telling her he was in love with her. Idiot. They lost contact with him, but still have not given up hope. They seem fairly confident that they will catch him despite his disappearance. Libby and I have been particularly flattered that they would go through all of this effort for us. It made us realize that we mean a lot more to the students then we would have thought. So there’s the silver lining in the cloud.
The funniest part about it all is that before the two new boys arrived we discussed how we didn’t want to give them a negative impression right away about some of the aspects of the culture and life here with the Brothers. That all flew out the window as we were dealing with incompetent doctors, thieves, and quinine. They had only been here for a couple days and they had experienced some of the worst parts of our trip as their introduction to the area.
They have both been amazing though and we have managed to laugh through all of it. It’s been a week and they are still here, so that’s good. Don’t let this email depress you. It has depressed me a bit. But the reality of it all is that we have learned a lot and most importantly, learned that we have to laugh at all the things we can’t control. The day I stop laughing will be a dark day indeed.
Libby ended having to go on a quinine drip to kick the malaria. She is now feeling better and improving every day. Needless to say, it’s been a long week. We are leaving in two weeks to start our traveling portion of the trip and I have very mixed feelings about going. I will miss all the friends that I have made here quite terribly but look forward to some of the comforts of home. I will miss the boys as well; we have all grown pretty close in the past 7 days.
Other things of note:
We got another puppy at the house. He is 6 weeks old and super chubby and clumsy. My favorite kind of puppy. Now we have two dogs that will be “trained” to guard the house. The older one, Simba, is about six months now and usually, after ingesting a few beers, I go out and play with him. He is very intelligent and learned how to fetch a potato in about 15 minutes. I couldn’t say the same about Dolyn. He hates men because they all kick him, but loves me and Libby because we’re nice and scratch his belly. The other puppy, who we call Kiboko (hippo) loves to play and bite and be scratched. This pleases me every day.
Keep smiling, keep laughing, and enjoy celebrating, even if you think you have nothing to celebrate.