Saturday, June 21, 2008

shit's on fire!!!

so should we even talk about the past few days?

that erratic rash mentioned in the previous post turned out to be one of the hardest trials of my time here in senegal (i feel like i say that often...) and at one point i was about 5 seconds away from packing my bags and going home.

a few days ago, i reseeded my cashew trees. the pretreatment for cashews is a 24 hour cold water soak, so i had over 100 cashew seeds sopping in a bucket of water for some time. while reseeding, i immersed my hand over the course of an hour or two into this water in order to grab seeds for reseeding. turns out, BAD IDEA. if i had been thinking, i would have remembered that cashew water is totally acidic and causes a terrible rash that blisters and burns and spreads worse than poison ivy (to which i am totally allergic to).

on top of that, because of the new rains i guess my body freaked out over the new humidity after 9 months of no rain or moisture and i developed a vicious heat rash that spread from my hands (along with the cashew burn) to my arms to my inner elbows to my neck to the back of my neck to my thighs and inner thighs, down my legs and all over my back. basically about 80% of my body was covered in one of two kinds of rash.

basically, i felt like i was on fire 24/7 and for a couple of days i had no idea what was happening to me. it itched and burned and the blisters were weeping and i was terribly stressed out (which probably only increased the spreading of the rash) and i will admit that the pain was so torturous that it drove me to tears (sobs, not just a little crying) several times.

in the meantime, i had to travel down to sokone because i had a small project to work on over there and i was itching and burning and overheating and was ill with a fever and chills for most of the time there. thankfully my colleagues were really understanding and helpful and after we finally called med (and confirmed the cashew and heat rash), i was able to take lots of benadryl and wash myself in hibiclens and cover myself in salvatis powder in an attempt to alleviate the pain. there wasn't really any cure for the issue other than waiting it out and trying not to ask God, "WHY ME???"

i honestly felt like job (from the bible) for a while -- discouraged with my work, i've felt like i've lost all my dignity and pride with the crappy way agroforestry work has been going and my relationship with my counterpart at site continues to disintegrate more and more. site has been really hard for me recently and i often question what i am doing and if i should stay (i want to stay more than anything else). just when i felt at such a low point, suddenly i had to lose my physical health and i wasn't just sick...but sick with something i have never before experienced and was absolute pure torturous pain. i didn't feel like i had anything left, i felt totally broken and totally beat and i was just about ready to quit.

i guess due to a mix of my stubborn pride and the support and belief of my friends and colleagues in my current work here, i am still here and after a week of burning, the rashes have finally started to settle down. i am still covered in small red bumps that itch, but at least the burning has gone down and a good percentage of them have gone away.

in the meantime, i guess it was good that i was away from site because being in sokone allowed me to be near a pharmacy (to get the powder) and to be in an area that had electricity and thus, a fan to keep me cool. it was also good to be distracted by a different kind of project and the company of my friends and colleagues. after sokone we took a short break to go to the beach, which i think was really good for me because the cold saltwater really helped cool me down and made the burn of the rash go away. also amazing: we went swimming at night (after setting up a nice campfire on the beach) and everytime you dove underwater, you could hear the clicking and songs of a pod of dolphins or some kind of porpoise! it was amazing and unlike anything i've ever heard before.

i then headed down to chris's site to experience some senegalese wrestling...which turned out to be really cool but also a few hours of watching really gigantic and perfectly constructed and oiled up (and scantily clad) men strut and parade and dance around with some wrestling done in between. it's hard to explain and i can't really say anything other than that. in the meantime, chris and i attempted a to make an anti-mosquito neem lotion for his family using soap, neem leaves (from the Azadirachta indica tree), a little bit of oil, and hot water. it turned out fine and his family was really excited to use it and we will see if it actually works. i'm planning on trying it out in my village too.

tomorrow i am going back to my village and chris is coming with me so that we can build a chicken coop/chicken tractor (depending on how much money i have to spend on this project) so that i can start trying to get my village started on eating eggs, rather than letting their chickens constantly get knocked up. one of my sisters is convinced that the eggs we eat come from the eggs that the chickens sit on for more than 5 weeks and don't result in a chick -- which is somewhat true...although it happens once in a blue moon (if there's a rooster hanging around the hens) and it also means that we are eating 5 week old eggs.

anyway, it's been a trying past few days, weeks, months? i don't know. i'm having a really hard time here and often feel like i am hanging by a thread. i've certainly been pushed to all my limits and i am trying my all out best to do a good job here and to stay and be positive and be a creative influence here in senegal. i am often told that i am too hard on myself, so maybe i haven't completely failed at my agroforestry work and i pray to God that tomorrow when i go back to site my pepineer is still alive and thriving and maybe the cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, basil, tebanane (wolof for Jatropha curcas), and "fanta" vines (i don't know the scientific name or the english name, but it is a climbing vine with flowers used for medicine) will all be doing well and will make me feel like i am not a murderer of plants.

leanne comes in a few weeks. i can't wait!

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