Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pesky Parasites

I don't want to alarm anyone (mom), but now that we're on the final stretch of our adventure, Karin's illness has sort of come to a head.

After really not being herself for ... almost the whole time we've been here, we may finally have a culprit. She's been suffering from headaches, cold symptoms and as of yesterday, nausea. last night she was unofficially diagnosed (by two German veterinarians whose lovely farm we stayed at last night - I'll get into that later) with - gulp - malaria.

The thing about malaria we've come to know and which i should share is this; despite the red flag of disaster it raises in the minds of most westerners, anyone you come across who lives in Tanzania has had it multiple times. Even white people. The Germans, for instance, who have lived here for more than 10 years, view it as something akin to having a head cold. It's just not that big of a deal...

This could be because there is an antidote that exists - one that, because it is not approved by the FDA - you'd never find in the US, or anywhere in Western Europe. It's called Arinate, and I don't know what the hell it is other than that these people swear by it and you get it in pharmacies here - it comes in a red box decorated with an ugly mosquito and contains 3 or 6 tablets. Sadly, even though it costs about $7, locals probably can't afford it, and just go through their lives acquiring more and more different kinds of parasites in their blood each time they get malaria (the Arinate kills the parasites). Luckily for Africans, in so doing, they build a certain level of immunity to the disease. ... or, uh, die of it.

So - I went to dinner in the farmhouse last night while Karin stayed in the room, feeling queasy, and when I apologized for her absence and explained her symptoms to Elizabeth (the German vet who runs the place), she very casually said, 'Oh. That sounds like malaria.'

She then gave me the first dose of the Arinate, which she happened to have on hand, Karin took it and our cab driver from Moshi to Arusha picked up more for us at the pharmacy. hopefully it's working and she'll feel better by tomorrow evening, when we have to get on a plane for 30 hours.

We are back in Dar now- having flown from Arusha this afternoon, making our third stop of the trip (two of them unnecessary) on the island of Zanzibar, as the local airlines want to make the most of their puddle jumpers, dragging all passengers along to each of the scheduled stops. Kinda like a bus.

Speaking of buses, we had our first (and last) experience riding the Dalla Dalla a few days ago. The Dalla Dalla is the public transport in this country. It's basically a minivan with bald tires that somehow fits about 40 passengers ... plus buckets of cement, giant bags of sand and all sorts of things that probably add up to a few tons. The Dalla Dalla is, essentially, a miracle of physics.

We decided to ride it when we were in Moshi the other day after we spent yet more money on a walking tour at the base of Kili. We opted for public transport, because it was half the price of taking a cab to the village where the walk began.

Our guide was a very nice guy named Ben, who shepherded us onto the Dalla- Karin and I smack in the backseat, wedged between a Maasai tour operator on Karin's side trying to sweet talk her into another tour somewhere, and a young guy on my side who gave me his shoes to hold as he exited the Dalla via the tiny back window (another miracle of physics) like the Dukes of Hazard.

As if it weren't enough that four of us were crammed in this tiny back seat that would have seated two people in our country, the guys running the thing began stuffing said bags of sand and things under our feet before ramming a giant bucket of concrete between the back of our seat and the backdoor - a space about as wide as a shoebox - and somehow, miraculously, CLOSED the door. It was truly amazing. With four 'rows' of seats in the back of the Dalla, each of which was full of four passengers, a few more stood with their necks craned, pretty much hugging the seated passengers, as the kid who took the money hung out the door and yet more passengers boarded at each stop, creating literally a moving can of sardines. On top of this, the road we were on to the village was dirt, full of huge holes and rocks - the kind of road you would never dare put a vehicle on unless it was a burly SUV. The Dalla is no Range Rover, but somehow we arrived (45 minutes later) at our stop without the roof or walls popping off.

The walk was nice. We were followed by children for some of it. Well, at least a little girl was walking ahead of us, pretending to go about her business, but looking behind her to make sure we were still there every few steps. When we stopped, she stopped. A couple of little boys tailed us all the way to the waterfall where we had lunch (greasy chips and hamburger bun with onions - the 'veggie' option - in a cardboard box). We gave our leftovers to the kids and they ate like they had never seen food before.

Can't stop thinking of their faces glancing up at us as they ate.

This kind of poverty among multi thousand-dollar safaris and expensive cab rides is one of the reasons i'm so ready to get out of here.

It has been, overall, a fantastic experience, but I am ready to go home.

One heartening oasis among the sad realities we've witnessed here was the Makoa Farm, where we stayed last night. We found it in the guide book and it sounded peaceful after two nights in the town center of Moshi listening to some Muslim dude wailing on the loudspeaker five times a day (beginning around 5 am).

Sure, the farm stay ended up being twice as much for room and board as we thought it would be (misunderstanding about the price of a double room being as is or per person), but at least i feel good about the last of my funds (minus another- the last thank god - cab ride to the airport and the cost of whatever we do tomorrow and surprise departure taxes, etc) going to such good people.

Elizabeth and her husband Laslo moved to Tanzania after falling in love with the place. They found this plot of land at the base of Kilimanjaro and set up a 350-square-acre farm, complete with hundreds of coffee trees and other crops, horses (their primary business is as a tour company offering multi-day horse-riding safaris), pigs, cows, donkeys and a number of African animals being rehabilitated. These include a three-legged serval cat (looks like a mini cheetah), a couple of owls, mongoose, warthog, malibu storks, bush babies and a young blue monkey named Bahati (not sure about the spelling, but in Swahili, this word means 'lucky'). He bounces all over the place, plays with the dogs and chews on people's ankles.

Elizabeth and Laslo also employ about 85 people and sponsor local children who prove worthy of furthering their education. One boy they're sponsoring - a 20-year-old named Saningo - walked with me to the nearby batcaves and through the local village, during which I got to see how he proved his worth for the sponsorship, because his English was impeccable and he was well-versed in just about everything. we had indepth discussions about the Tanzanian government, education, opportunity (or lack thereof) for development and so on.
All the food we had there (well, poor Karin only had one meal before she started throwing up) came fresh off the farm, complete with bread baked in the chimney, homemade juice and ice cream. this morning, the coffee was delivered to our room (more of a luxury tent, facing Kili, which was the first thing i saw when i opened my eyes this morning) with a saucer of milk for one of the dozens of cats at the place to hang out on the patio and enjoy while we had coffee/tea.
Mostly, it was inspiring to see how Elizabeth truly loved each of the animals in her care and sought the best life for them. AND obviously took special consideration of her guests, too (saving them from malaria and such).

As Karin and I were waiting for our plane back to Dar, discussing how weird it is that she probably has malaria, her comment was, 'better me than you.'
And, of course, I agree. Not that i think either one of us deserves it, but, as i told Karin, if one of us HAD to get it, she - as the stronger, braver and less neurotic of the two of us - is probably the better candidate. Not that i'm out of the woods yet.
Elizabeth advised that both of us get two boxes of Arinate to bring home, just to be on the safe side. This is the only thing on our agenda before we leave tomorrow.
The main thing is to get Karin feeling better. At least she managed to eat something tonight. We scrounged what we could find at Steph's place (two eggs, some rice and a tomato) and made dinner.
There is a lot i want to say about animal behavior before i leave Africa ... so stay tuned. Could be the departure blog.


Mom said...

Best wishes to Karin--hope the medicine works FAST! Shauna, keep yourself under the mosquito net just a bit longer. Have a safe trip home.

Mom said...

One more thought: Just Googled "malaria"--Also SPRAY the mosquito netting with repellant and, of course, spray YOURSELF. Stay well.