Day 3 of camping! And I'm precipitously losing my mind. Sleeping in a tent, not eating good food, the water has run out and this morning I discovered this rash on my back is spreading like wildfire. Putting that aside, I wrapped myself in a pashmina and tried to look smart so as to deter any possible attention to it. After yesterday's hideous procession of chicken vaccinating, I asked to be moved to the neighboring village to 'check out the landscape' and 'try something new', when I was actually begging to be removed from the leadership of one of the trainers who ridiculously thought it was okay to extend the vaccinating time. In a way, I wish I hadn't. I was comfortable with a more sensible leader in Usitu Ambogo, however this group isn't too familiar with my bird phobia. I've been doing chicken vaccinating in villages for about a month here in Tanzania now (wow it's really been more than a month already??) and I'm usually in charge of such clerical duties as counting how many chickens get vaccinations, how many we find dead, how many the families have eaten, etc. However, this time these people thought I would actually wrangle chickens. I surprised them. The ubiquitous response when I inform people of my disdain for chickens, and birds in general is 'But you eat chicken, dont you?'.
'Well, ' I always say, 'thats cause they're dead'. And then I begin an entire conversation about how just because I eat chicken doesn't mean that I have to see a chicken, which most Tanzanians don't understand and then I have to explain how the food system is set up in America. And how I am from New York City, and unless I really wanted to, I would never have to see a cow or a chicken or a goat or any other farm animal unless I'd like to see it slaughtered or some product of it, which I can obtain at a grocery store. Its a useless conversation really, I just end up looking like a prude because I never see the food I eat, something only the rich here can really say. So one of the counterparts I was working with decided to play pranks on me. I try to make myself of use, without touching chickens and make the eyedrop vaccinations. After making one of the eyedrops on an adolescent chicken, our counterpart decided to throw the bird at me (its really not the first time this has happened) and it walked over my foot. As I screamed (like a maniac of course) the mama who's chickens we were vaccinating shouted 'Yesu Mungu' (Jesus Christ) and said something in Swahili as if to say 'How is this crazy mzungu afraid of chickens?' Again, a pointless conversation. I've tried, I've really tried. As we proceeded, I ran into a group of children in one of the homesteads we were vaccinating chickens and was entertaining them. One of our counterparts, Upendo as I call her 'dada' or sister tied a sweater to my back jokingly saying that because I was wearing trousers (ahem, another one of my saggy ass harem pants) I looked like I had too much of a 'big booty' (a word on trousers vs. skirts in Tanzania--how is a skin tight skirt on a voluptuous woman less sexy than my saggy black slacks with the crotch stiched near the knees???). Anywho, as I paraded around with a terry sweater around my waist, I hadn't realized I was the victim of an unGodly prank. Our same clown-terpart who'd embarrassed me earlier had now grabbed a hen and put it on my back as if I were a mama carrying a baby in my kanga. I swear till now I hadn't realized it was even there, and I thank God I didn't feel its feathers because I would have very well just been sick in front of all of those children. Containing my anger (its very impolite to raise your voice here), I pretended to strangle him and then was formally upset in the car. I have to continually remind myself of the cultural differences here, and how it's pretty difficult for someone to understand how a phobia such as this can take place if they dont know anything about how life is like in New York. I guess thats the type of culture shock, I signed up for and I have to deal with it gradually--because as it seems it's going to be a while for me to get over any kind of avian phobia I have.
We came back to camp for chai, a rest and then some lunch. As we sat down waiting for lunch, the other volunteers speaking about themselves and other mzungu topics, I'd heard a rustle in the trees and in the corner of my eye had seen a couple of mangoes fall in the distance. Trying to get back into the conversation, I heard the rustle again and when I looked up, I saw about 5 little monkeys playing and climbing from branch to branch atop the mango trees. I stood and shouted 'Oh my God, there's monkeys in the trees'. Like an imbecile I ran, the other volunteers behind me towards the trees and we all looked up into the lush mango, guava and other fruit trees near the camp to where the monkeys, now so many of them were gathering swinging and playing. It was unlike anything we'd ever seen. We stayed, watching them until we could no longer see. No one brought a camera, and I regret it it might have been possible to snap a few good ones from how close we were.
That afternoon, we began our practical lessons for this training group. We arrived to find that no one had set up any kind of materials (sticks, dried leaves, green leaves, wood ash, manure, top soil, etc.) and had just waited for us to point out where these materials could be found. I know they were old, but they were kind of just waiting for us to come cut down some leaves. It was frustrating, but not the first time it'd happened. I was particularly pissy about it because I'd hoped to leave this scarf on since my rash was getting pretty nasty and I was hoping to go into town and get some professional advice on it, or ya know just sleep and take a bath properly. After wrestling with the rake and collecting dried leaves I'd let it go and just taken off the scarf. My other volunteer took a good look at it, and pointed out that it looked like a fungus. I'd kind of hoped it was the endless, never go away, story of my life problem with eczema that'd flared up perhaps with my sudden lack of hygiene. But when she said the word, it clicked. 'It looks like ringworm.' Dammit. I remember having ringworm on my face when I was a kid, it was awful. But this was so painful, and it felt like sunburn. I wondered what I could possibly do, there was such limited resources to practice good hygiene when one has something contagious and there's absolutely no dukas for pharmaceuticals. What do people do when they have something this simple, or God forbid something worse? The rest of the lesson I was really paranoid. I didn't want any villagers to stand near me, I didn't want to be responsible for passing anything along.
That night, I tried desperately to discreetly ask if anyone had anything anti-fungal or could loan me some anti bacterial. No one had any idea, and it was difficult to ask without looking like a germ factory. Finally, while perusing through the group first aid kit, our driver told me he'd be heading back to Arusha to pick up our HIV testing crew from their clinic and asked me if I would like to come along to get some medicine from a good pharmacy. I was glad I'd be able to fix this somehow, and agreed to come along. That night as I tried to shower, my hot water wasn't hot enough (I had to kill the bacteria and soak my now germ-y clothes!) and my cold water had a tadpole in it, surely taken from the local stream (that explains a lot). Appropriately, as I was taking my buckets into the small dark stall to bathe, a huge bullfrog croaked and hopped right in front of the wooden door. Something holy must have come over me so I wouldn't scream, because I quietly bit my tongue and held my breath and it just hopped away.
After my shower, I was so annoyed. My rash was stinging from scrubbing it with hot water, a clear sign it was dirty, and now everyone was calling me to dinner while I needed to hang my now scalding clothes on the line. My fellow volunteer (who's prognosis is now becoming clearer) came out and sensing my anguish, asks me what's wrong. After venting how annoyed I am, she says sincerely 'Hey, at least there's pasta'. She was right, at least there was pasta, and I got a good laugh. I hoped tomorrow being in town at least for a few hours would make me feel a little better, and I prayed that whatever I could get to make this go away wouldn't be expensive.