Wednesday, January 18, 2012


My Peace Corps service has had its fair share of diseases. Skin disease, viruses, infections, diarrhea but no vomiting. I have never really been sicker for more than a month and certainly cannot claim my self to be among the sickest volunteers in country. I have a few friends who belong to that group though. So, with out further distraction here are a list of some of the diseases I have attracted while being here in Senegal.

Giardia lamblia (synonymous with Giardia intestinalis, Lamblia intestinalis and Giardia duodenalis) is a flagellated protozoan parasite that colonizes and reproduces in the small intestine, causing giardiasis. Thanks wikipedia.
Giardia is a common intenstinal parasite volunteers recieve from coming in to contact with drinking water or food that has been contaminated with fecal matter. In my case, I think I got it from drinking unfiltered river water. And so the story goes.
I arrived in 2010 right at the beginning of the harvest season and therefore, had a lot to go see in a short amount of time. My father one day decided it was time for me to see the rice fields. We set off at around 10 am and began our walk to the fields (5km). I thought, “well if we are walking, my dads about 70, and we didn'tget an early start then, the rice fields musn't be that far. My father and I ended up resting for about an hour at the fields, ate lunch, rested again for an hour then decided we better get going during the hotest part of the day.
Not to brag but I am fairly fit and didn't have a problem with the way things we going I just wished I had brought more water. An hour and a half after leaving the normal fields, crosing two rivers, and greetig the Basari people (Animist) my father and I had arrived at the rice fields and I was out of water. Along the way we had cut down some palm frawns in which I later found out were used to create a perimeter around the field in order to deter birds from eating the ripe rice. Our work took us to sunset.
As we set off for home my father washed nd got a drink from the river. He took my bottle and filled it for me from the river. Thinking very little about diseases I drank the cool, crisp, clear water and it quenched my thirst. Later that night I thought about how I may have put myself in compromise but I didn't pay for it for another week.
Giardia started with a full day of non-stop diarrea in which I couldn't leave my hut because of the bowel movements and cramping my stomach. The next few days it got a bit better and I biked in to Kedougou for a meeting. During the meeting is when the sulfur farts and burps began. The cramping and bloating also incerased making me feel as if I had to constantly poop. When I could poop it was yellow, mucusy, and smelly. I knew I had giardia with these threee symptoms of sulfur burps, sulfur farts, and yellow mucusy poop.
The remedy began with calling med and explaining my situation. They immediately recognized my symptoms and put me on a 3 day medication that cleared me up good. Since my battle with giardia I haven't had any real intestinal problems. I know carry a small bottle of bleach around to purify my water. 2-3small drops in to the river water and it becomes potable water in 45-60 minutes time.

Dermatophytosis or ringworm is a clinical condition caused by fungal infection of the skin in humans, pets such as cats, and domesticated animals such as sheep and cattle. Thank you again wikipedia.
My first time with such a fungal infection came in my first month being in Senegal. It was the tail end of the rainy season which means that Thies and Dakar become mass sewers for all kinds of fun bacteria and fungai. I was in my trainging village when I noticed my foot and and were very itchy and had a raised line underneath my skin. I didn't think much of for the first few days hoping it would just go away. It didn't and by day 5 the worm looking bump had now double in size to about an inch long.
This now begame semi-concerning because I didn't know what it was, why it was growing and whether or not I should call med. I didn't want to start off by sounding like a cry baby my first month into country. After a brief consultation with my language teacher I called the doctor. She reassured me that it was minor and very common for volunteers to recieve these fungal infections during the wet season. She perscribed another medication to be taken over 3 days which took care of the problem immediately.
My next confrontation with fungal skin infections wasn't so minor but did come in the wet season again almost a year after my first. This time the fungus was on my crotch, peck, arm, and shoulder and again I didn't really think much of it. I did start my own treatment of fungal cream which is taught to us by Peace Corps. I didn't hawever think the bit on my crotch was fungal i thought it was a rash from biking.
The fungus spread like a bat out of hell. With in a week I had a softball diametere red ring aronud my private part and it hard spread to both arms and multiple spots on my stomach. At this current time I was at the beach having some quality relaxation time and didn't want to ruin it. I tried washing multiple times a day, giving them direct sunlight, baby powder, and cream to stop the spreading. They sort of worked but I needed something more as the wet season wasn't even close to over.
Timing couldn't have been better, if it can ever be good to get an infection, because I had scheduled mymidservice medical check up later that week. Continuing my own treatment I waited for my appointment to consult the doctor. I wish i could have recorded his reaction when I asked him to look at my crotch and he saw just how bad it was. He went, “whoa!” and gave a sort of dsigusted bitter beer face. Not taking more than 15 seconds to assess my new friend he immediately gave me a perscription to take over 6 weeks for the numerous infections on my body including the beginning of staph under my armpit. Thank goodness the meds worked again and I have been jock itch free ever since.
Those are really the only shocking illnesses I have had. Others included bad colds and high fevers which get coupled along with the vibrant dreams caused by my malaria pills. I know of numerous other people who contract much more serious diseases such as meningitis, ecoli, and malaria. I've been fortunate and the medical staff has been more the willing to deal with any problem I bring to them. Including self induced illness. The worst of which and last of my stories is my stitches.
Coming back into my hut I began changing clothes and watering plants inorder to get off wuickly nd play soccer. I was on my way out my front door to water a citrus tree when my left foot caught the corner of my sheet metal door. The metal had risen off the wood frame just enough to slice my foot a good 2 inches in length and down to the bone.
After cursing for a while I opened my medical kit and began cleaning and badaging the wound. My brother came in to call me for soccer. Showing him my bone he began to pray and I told him I had to call Peace Corps. Peace Corps tld me to get on the earliest car I could to Dakar and start taking antibiotics. I followed orders to a T and got my self to Dakar with in a day. Med staff were waiting for me and immediately took me for x-rays and to get stitched up. The whole things from initial cut to stitching took less than 24 hours. It was amazing.
Again I can't stress how lucky I am and how happy I have been with Peace Corps Med staff.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I'll try to keep this one short and sweet as I just dropped off my family at the Dakar airport and it's almost midnight. It was a beautiful two week holliday with the fam but, I think they'll agree, I need some rest.

So, here we go...... As you all know by now Africa is riddle with Aid, help, gifts, donations ,etc...etc..... Call it what you want. Senegal is no different in that 70% of the country's budget comes from foriegn aid. Yup thanks guys. Anyway, the story continues on a Saturday after I have finished one of my many radio shows. Ben, the volunteer living on top of the mountain Ilive next to, and I found out Mrs. Wade (President Wade's wife) was giving a speech on her relatively new campaign to eliminate HIV by some date. The goal is a bit ambitious but aren't all politicians.

While waiting for Mrs. Wade to arrive Ben and I got the bright idea to begin interviewing local agencies about what HIV is, how one gets it, how one can prevent it, and the contact information about the organizations trying to help spread the word about HIV. The day was goin well and Ben and I were on our way to collecting alot of good information to be broadcast on our next Peace Corps' radio emission.

Feeling happy with what we'd collected Ben and I assumed the positions and waited for Mrs. Wade. While waiting a small argument between a civilian and gendarme (Senegalese Police officer) broke out at the gate nearest us. The arguers were to far away for us to hear so we just shrugged it off and continued to wait. But the argument didn't stop and eventually some other people got involve, including one of the men we had interviewed.

I thought to myself, "that's strnage. Why would someone affiliated with a supporting organization be arguing with a police officer?" I let it go as the civilian was eventually let in and resumed his seat maybe two feet from Ben and I. Seconds later the police officer came back and leveled the civilian with one sift blow to the head. Fortunately it wasn't too lethal of a blow and the civilian quickly took defense. It was a good thing to because not only was the police officer he argued with beating him but two of his Army buddies ran in to get their few swift kicks in while he was on the ground. Ben and I wuickly backed away feeling absolutely useless as friends of the civilian and authorities began to brawl directly in front of us. It was incredible to see such violence break out with little to no ignition.

Maybe Ben and I should've taken a hint and left when this fight finally got resolved and the civilian was forced to leave the gathering while the police officer was permitted to stay and stand gaurd. The event carried on as if nothing happened. Until Mrs. Wade and her posse began showing up. People began pouring in and with it some were disallowed access to certain areas. One man didn't like this and began challenging authority. A small scuffle quickly began but resolved with nothing to brag about. Then, another man from the same crew began to challenge authority again. Mind you this is crew is supportive of Wade. This time the scuffle got a little out of hand adn roughly half the audience got involved. Fortunately, for Ben and I the choas swiftly moved to the streets and out of the fenced area we were standing in.

By this time Ben and I are a bit worried. Three fights at fairly close proximity and all being between the police and civilians. The events was beginning to drag on and we felt our safety was becoming increasingly at risk. We decided to leave as we had collected a lot of good material, we were hungry and there was cold chocolate milk near by. Our timing couldn't have been better. As we exited the gated area we passed a truck filled with police wearing riot gear and loading tear gas into their guns. Unbeknownst to us a small uprising had begun as we were leaving. We quickened our pace until we reached our friend Darrel's shop then, watched as things got a bit heated in the event we had just left.

Once things cooled down, Ben and I began our journey back to the Kedougou house. While walking to get our bikes I over heard some women talking about how disappointed they were with the event. They said it was broken by the war, that people weren't listening and the point was missed. They decided to leave because war cannot reside with peace and peace was what the event was supposed to be in. I couldn't agreee more and the actions of the police as well as the people opened my eyes to just how fast things, even simple ones like a talk about AIDs, can erupt into violence.

I'm not going to say this day's events are going to keep me from going to othe events but it has definitely prepared me for what can and may happen. In the end Ben and I put on a very informative radio show making me think that even with the fights that broke out at the event it still brought about more good than bad.