Friday, September 6, 2013

Malarial Trials

I always seem to get malaria just before travelling to places I am afraid to go. Last year when I was on the road to Port Harcourt for the first time, I was also coming down with malaria. Which made the 18 hour bus ride that much more painful.

Two weeks ago on Saturday, I started getting a strange headache while I was getting ready to go out with some friends. I decided to lay down until they arrived to pick me up. I thought maybe by meditating a bit on the pain, and dissecting it Vipassana style, I might be able to realize that there was no centre and the pain was all an illusion brought on by some kind of clinging and/or attachment tied to some unconscious issue I was ignor(ance)ing. 

To my surprise, doing this did not make the pain disintegrate. Instead it made me feel as if my awareness was shrinking to the size of an atom inside a gigantic body that I had no control of. That was when I started to suspect that it was not just a normal headache.

That didn't stop me from going out though. . .and waking up with a fever the next day. That was the signal to go to the clinic for a blood test which confirmed what I was pretty certain of by then: I had malaria.

I began taking the medication immediately and went home to rest. I would have loved to write or read but sickness is like life's conspiracy to give you all the time off you need to do everything you are totally incapacitated to do. Which is what makes sickness so frustrating.

I have a tendency to lose patience with these contradictions of life and try to overcome them with unyielding persistence and stubbornness. "Alright life, I'm listening. What is my problem? Why did you give me malaria right before my trip to Kano?"

Oh right, trip to Kano. I didn't mention that yet, did I?

The partners and program I am supporting in my placement are all in Kano. I have not  yet been to Kano because of insecurity challenges. Since the volunteers were finishing their program and having a ceremony on August 27th, my colleague and I in Abuja were planning to attend. Security was contacted and our trip was approved. The allowance was distributed. The plane tickets were booked. Everything was go.

Then I got malaria. Hmm. Interesting. I see what you're getting at, life.

I had tried to push my concern about the trip out of my mind. I knew there was a risk but I didn't want to think about how significant that risk was or what kind of psychological effect it might have on me. I'm not saying that this was the sole reason I got malaria. I'm not even saying this had anything to do with why I got malaria. I know that for the two weeks before, mosquitoes had been especially bad and I had gotten bitten over fifteen times. The likelihood was high that I would contract malaria.

But can you deny the significance of timing like that?? I felt like life was giving me an ultimatum. I needed to look at this seriously. I needed to decide, not just because I felt kind of bad for never actually seeing the volunteers I was working for, whether or not I was really ok with a trip to Kano.

But malaria made it easy. I felt very sure that if I wasn't feeling too horrible to get on the plane, I wouldn't have any problem in Kano. I called my supervisor and told her that I would be there for the airport pick up, but take the morning to rest. . . . .
Stay tuned!

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