Friday, September 14, 2007


and what a welcome...

yesterday was spent getting vaccination shots and taking my first malaria pill. we went to the airport, goodbye calls were made, and i boarded the plane not expecting much of a flight and just pretty giddy at the idea that my career was about to start.

midway through the flight, i felt nauseous. it was like there was this lump in my throat that was begging to be released. i had also just eaten this brownie from dinner real fast so i thought maybe it was just my body protesting my gluttony. i went to the bathroom and threw up. i pretty much thought that that would be it but the rest of the flight became an utter nightmare.
i wound up running back and forth between my seat and the bathroom 8 or 9 more times but eventually i just gave up and was yakking into a bag in my seat. other passengers looked disgusted. it just got worse and worse...

i became more lightheaded and delusional and soon, every time i shut my eyes (basically any time i wasn't emptying out my insides) i was whisked away from reality and was having crazy trippy dreams/hallucinations/thoughts. talk about taking a pill and going through a rabbit hole. i'm pretty sure i was experiencing a mix of maleria pill side effects and motion sickness from the turbulence.

the flight attendants (particularly one) were pretty much useless. all she could suggest was ginger ale and when she came over to see how i was doing (upon my demanding) all she could do was go, "what can i get you" and when i answered "you tell me!!!" while my head was in a barf bag, she just upped and walked away.

but let me say this, my colleagues are going to make excellent PCVs because despite my delirium and vomiting, i could feel their support and concern. at first, my pride refused assistance but then i was at a point where pride didn't even matter -- i really lost all sense of who i was, what was going on, and where i was. i finally fell asleep (and might i mention that 5 minutes into blessed slumber, the flight attendant approached me to point out that i should be wearing my seat belt) and when we landed, my new friends banded together to help haul my sick ass off the plane, down the stairs, onto the tarmac, onto a shuttle, through customs, and onto the bus. adrianne watched over me like a sentinel, kira carried my heavy bag along with her own, and andy escorted my babbling pale-as-a-sheet shaking body everywhere while everybody else cheered me on and waited patiently.

so much for my pride and fronting. you know me, always trying to put on a facade but i am pretty sure there really is no longer a need as everybody saw me at my absolute worst. at first when the nausea hit my first thought was "OH NO" not because of the actual nausea but because i really didn't want to draw attention to myself. i didn't want to be the pansy throwing up in the loo who couldn't handle the pills or turbulence or whatever the hell was going on. they were going to think i was so weak! but in the end this was pretty real and i am so grateful to be around compassionate and helpful people who probably wouldn't even think that but only, "how can i help her?!"

i finally got on the bus (how, i don't really remember) and passed out finally to dark deep slumber that was void of dreams or hallucinations only after finally wretching out the last of the brown-yellow bile that had replaced the vomit. i don't know how long i was in this dark, dreamless world for, but when i woke up, i set my eyes upon AFRICA. beautiful senegal -- a mix of lush tropical green, red sand, and splashes of color coming from the houses, the clothes, and the flowers.

i have already determined that the senegalese are stunningly beautiful and i am thrilled to have this be my new home. i don't know what did it -- perhaps it was waking up to this fascinating country and it's magnificent baobobs whizzing by as our bus hurtled from dakar to thies (pronounced "chess" not "tee-ezz" as i had thought!) -- but when i got to the training center with our new trainers singing welcome to the beat of a djembe, i felt ten times better. we were led to our rooms, fed a simple (but excellent) breakfast of (instant) coffee, boiled egg, and apples and i started to perk up. then i finally got to shower and what a refreshing feeling. how i have missed cold water pouring straight out of a spigot, drenching me in renewal and releasing me from the heat and humidity of the place. at this point, i am sitting in a large thatched gazebo-esque structure (called "the disco hut! why, i don't know...) and feel ten thousand times better. i almost feel like myself again although i am still absolutely bewildered by the trauma of my trip here.

ultimately though, i love that i'm here, that the people are wonderful, and that i am alive and well. i will have to speak with the medical people about switching pills or something because malaria treatment is NOT an option and i don't know if i can handle a reaction like this once a week. hopefully we can come up with a solution because i'll admit: during the ordeal, i was ready to give up and go home...already.

(actually, at one point at the airport i wailed out "I WANT TO GO HOME!" and chris later told me that he joked with somebody else "damn, i didn't bet on her being the first!")

its funny because during staging they kept making a big deal about the malaria pills and telling us the policy that if we don't take our pills we will be administratively separated and at one point i said to somebody else that i didn't understand the big, why would you NOT take them in order to avoid malaria?? ummm, point taken because yeah, the reaction can be quite vicious. hopefully i can bounce back and give this my all.

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