A few months ago I mentioned that I was trying not to think about my last few months at site. I had no idea that the month of April and early would throw so much of the unexpected at me that it was a shock to return to Andapa with less than two weeks left.
I hurt my leg and was out of commission for about three weeks in early April. The leg healed fine and seems to be getting better. Then I was brought to Tana because there was a security issue and so I was out of site for a few days (thankfully it didn’t really affect my family who was visiting). It was when I was in Tana that I should have realized (after three years) it’s never good to be in a rush.
The night before my flight I noticed that I was coming down with a slight fever. That’s not too crazy. I’ve had a lot of fevers in this country and for the most part I take an ibuprofen, drink some water and sleep it off; the next day I’m fine. Well, this started the same way, the fever broke for the most part during the night and I felt a lot better in the morning. I went to the airport and waited to board my flight.
As I was waiting my head really started hurting and I could feel the fever coming back. When I took some more medicine it didn’t really do anything and I just forced myself to get on the plane and tough out the travel. The plane was extremely uncomfortable, but after about two and a half hours I arrived in Sambava and went to look for a car to Andapa. By this time the fever was pretty bad, I had a horrible headache and it went all the way to my eyes so that any sudden eye movement hurt. I managed to get onto a taxi and tough out the 3-hour ride by just sipping water and counting the kilometer markers. I finally made it back to Andapa I thought that a night in my own bed might just make it pass.
I didn’t really eat the entire day, but threw up that night once I was home. I took some more medicine and managed to fall asleep even though I still wasn’t feeling great. The next day I woke up feeling a little better and I thought that I was moving in the right direction. However, after I ate breakfast I just vomited it all up and was feeling nauseous even when I tried to drink water. Before noon I had thrown up 6 times, drank almost no water, eaten no food and had a fever around 107.6 degrees.
When the thermometer read that high I knew it was time to talk to the Peace Corps doctors again and they told me which hospital I needed to go to and really helped me along. I managed to make it to the hospital and met with a doctor. I got a malaria test, twice. Both confirmed that I tested positive for malaria.
That day and the next I think would qualify as the two most painful days of my life. Even filled with medication, with an IV, I still felt sick. My mouth was constantly dry and I had to sip water carefully so that I didn’t just vomit it up. There’s no way for me to know what dying feels like, but I would say that having malaria is a pretty close second to it. There really was a sense of helplessness in a way.
So I spent two nights in the Andapa hospital. The people, for the most part, were great and the doctor that was in charge of me was a Saint. He was constantly checking in on me, he brought me fruit one day, and he even let my friends use his kitchen to make some soup for me. The facilities were another matter. The bed and blankets were clean and nice and I slept for about three days straight. But the IV was connected to the worlds heaviest metal post and so every time that I needed to urinate I had to get a friend to hold my IV fluids and walk with me to the toilet, not too fun. Altogether I had 5 IV’s, 5 shots and a few suppositories more than I would have ever liked to take in my life.
So after the hospital I got in a car and went back to Sambava and flew back to Tana to see the doctors that know me and that can watch over everything so I got completely better. I managed to spend a total of three nights in Andapa before returning to Tana. Had a known, I should have just stayed in Tana in the first place. As far as timing goes, I think it was very impressive that I came down with malaria on World Malaria Day. My stay in Tana lasted a week only because of plane issues.
What made me a little sad while I was in the hospital was realizing all of the special treatment that I got because I was a foreigner and obviously could pay the bills. It makes me wonder if all of these Malagasy people are simply dying of malaria because they are too late or if they are dying because they can’t afford a night in the hospital and all of the medication and IV’s. If it’s the later than that is something that is very sad. Yes some people are privileged and have money, but it makes me more curious about the medical aid and NGO’s in Madagascar. I’m sure there is something that I’m missing or the funding would just be too much or maybe they’re worried that if people have access to medical care then they won’t use a mosquito net, I don’t know, but whatever it was it didn’t seem like it was as prepared as it should have been for a regular person to come in with malaria. I also realize why people bring money to someone who is sick. It isn’t a gift, it’s to help the family buy the medicine or pay a bill that very day. They knew I would pay them and so I wasn’t forced to pay for anything up front. Altogether, the bill came out to about 300,000 Ar. Sad to think that a lot of people die in this country because they don’t have 300,000 Ar.
I finally made it back to Andapa and it felt strange to be back after being gone for a so long. It was also weird to think that I would be leaving shortly after returning. To make things worse, I was completely stressed by everything that needed to be wrapped up as well. I had a bunch of things to clear up with my house, electricity, bank, all of my work, cleaning, etc., and really didn’t feel that I had enough time to do it all. However, after a few days of freaking out and running around I finally got everything squared away. It wasn’t until I sent my bike that I really felt like I was leaving; it wasn’t until I sent my bike that I realized how much I loved my bike.
Really, I use a bike all the time and need it to make it out to my work. I managed to borrow one bike, but after having to 3 things and then just have more things break before I even left Andapa, I decided to bail on that bike. The second bike that I borrowed was way to small and had old tire cuttings place around the weak spots on the tire. It was quite the uncomfortable bumpy ride, but it got me where I needed to go and so I just toughed it out. It lasted a few days until I was able to borrow another Volunteer’s bike.
Because I was stressing so much during my first week back, the second week was a little easier. I was able to close my bank account, finish work, remove trash and clean my house and say goodbye to people. The owner of the house tried to screw me over, but didn’t. However, her younger brother did because he didn’t pay me for the electricity he was using. Kind of sad to have left with a bad taste in my mouth, but I never really considered them close friends (they were just neighbors).
I spent the last three days in Andapa just going around and saying goodbye. It took a lot of time and energy out of me. I have to say that I will probably never have to say a goodbye like this ever again in my life and I am truly grateful for it. There were so many people that I wanted and needed to talk to before I left. It was really hard on my last day and it was basically 7 hours of holding back tears and me saying goodbye, and getting choked up. I’m honestly going to miss a lot of those people and I really hope that I get to see them again.
So, what’s next? I really don’t know, but I’m completely at peace with that. I finish my Peace Corps service at the end of this week and will hopefully find a job in the next few weeks. If I find a job that I like and I feel is enough so that I can support myself financially then I will take it. I’m not going to take a job in Madagascar just to have a job in Madagascar. That means that I don’t know when I’ll be coming back home to California. If I don’t find any work that I like quickly then I will most likely travel for a few weeks and then fly home. There are positives and negatives to both and I know that I’ll be happy with wherever I end up.