Saturday, August 11, 2007

worms, candy and rats

Another week down, less than two to go. While classes were a little more interesting this week; certain events also added excitement, or at least created extra fodder for the Peace Corps rumor mill.

Mid-week, my Tchokossi teacher and I arrived at our class and learned that I am now the only Tchokossi student. The business trainee headed to Mango switched posts, which means I no longer have a neighbor 30k away from Sagbiebou. It also means I get private language classes to learn whatever health-related vocabulary I want. For instance, the Tchokossi word for malaria, pongombie, is a combination of “horse” (pongo) and “urine” (mbie). Evidently, malarial urine resembles that of a horse.

I also learned the word for guinea worm, which coincided with the previous day’s technical session on said worm. A word of advice before today’s health session: don’t drink untreated water, because that’s how you get guinea worm – and you don’t want it. The worm injects its eggs into water. If consumed at the correct stage in its wormy life, the worm can live in one’s body from nine to 12 months before announcing its presence. It usually migrates to the feet, arms, or hands and moves to the skin’s surface, forming a painful blister. When the person submerges the infected area in water, the worm pops out to inject its eggs into the water and start the cycle again. The only way to remove the worm is to pull it out by slowly wrapping it around a thin stick. If it breaks, you’ve got a new permanent, but dead, friend.

The good news is that guinea worm has almost been completely eradicated in Togo. The two cases recorded this year came from Ghana. Nonetheless, I hold to my original plan: if I get guinea worm, I’m going home. I probably wouldn’t know I had it until I got home anyway, so it works out.

This week another CHAP trainee left for the US, bringing our training group down to 13 (one girl left after two days in Nyogbo). After the goodbyes, I went home and cheered myself up with my newly arrived dark chocolate M&Ms (thanks, mom! Mail was fabulous this week – Katie and Lori, two thumbs up… still contemplating on whether to share). I also went on a run, joined by my host mom (she lasted five minutes), Felicia/Felicité, my 15 year-old neighbor (she almost made it the whole way) and Koku, another young neighbor (he lasted the entire run and picked up a friend). This gives me hope for a future Sagbiebou running club.

Finally, we did a second home visit this week. My group’s visits were standard – families with no mosquito nets, no latrines, frequent malaria cases. However, one group visited a woman busy grilling mystery meat. In New Orleans, we used to joke about the ratburgers, the mystery meat they served as employee meals at the restaurant. That woman was actually grilling rat for dinner, and there was a second one hanging out in a cage. And people ask why I’m vegetarian.

So those are the week’s best, worst and strangest parts. Thanks, as always, for the emails and letters. If you’re thinking about writing, think about including some pictures. I only brought about 10, and I’m moving to a very empty house very soon and need something to put on the walls.

Oh. And if the postal workers at your post office return three letters you’ve tried to send me with the reason, “West Africa’s not a country”, slap their fingers with a ruler. Then find a different post office.

1 comment:

Gustavo Bonato said...

1) Getting a guinea worm doesn't really sound good.

2) Tell us more about the one girl who left after two days in Nyogbo. Did she get scared of the challenge?