Long time, no blog. I’ve had some questions about where I am and what exactly is going on with me. Rest assured that I’m alive and well, though there certainly hasn’t been a dull moment in my life in 2010.
Many Peace Corps volunteers are required to take an anti-malarial based on their regional assignment, and Rwanda is no exception to this. Shortly after my cohort’s arrival in country we were given a supply of our assigned medication. Peace Corps prescribes a few different types of anti-malarials, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Based on the information in my medical chart, I was assigned mefloquine, the cigarette smokin’, school skippin’, don’t-answer-to-no-one drug that gives the other anti-malarials a bad reputation by association. Before we were to take our first pills we were instructed to read through a packet of side effects, discuss any concerns with our medical officer, and sign on the dotted line. I’m pretty good at following instructions, so after I skimmed through my packet and reminded myself that even Tylenol has side effects I signed my name and popped my first pill. I was finally in Africa!
And that’s when things got weird. Mefloquine has a full spectrum of side effects that run the gamut between amusing, annoying, and terrifying. For those who can tolerate it, it is a miracle drug: it’s cheap, it only needs to be taken once a week, and it is effective against strains of malaria that have become resistant to other drugs. Those who can’t tolerate it end up serving a nightmare of a sentence that can last for months after ceasing to take it.
The fast forwarded version of my story ends with the revocation of my medical clearance and the longest one-way flight of my life. Remember that episode of Full House in which Michelle and Stephanie accidentally fly to New Zealand? Imagine my surprise upon boarding my flight in Kigali that I thought was direct to Brussels, getting all buckled in for my eight hour flight and as the plane was pulling away from the gate I heard “our flight to Entebbe will take approximately 35 minutes this evening…” For a moment I thought Danny was going to ground me for life. Kigali. Entebbe. Brussels. Atlanta. Seattle.
It has been a long journey. I’m feeling like myself again, and just beginning the uphill battle to get my medical clearance back. Mefloquine aside, I have nothing but good things to say about Rwanda, and I will be back, one way or another. Congratulations and best of luck to my public health cohort!