So for a little under a week now I’ve been in Nairobi for my one-year medical and dental checkup. Conclusions:
- I don’t have cavities.
- I don’t have TB.
- I have a normal heartbeat.
None of these things were actually in doubt, but that’s just about all that was tested.
I also finally changed my malaria medicine from Mefloquine to Doxycycline. I did this for two reasons:
- Mefloquine seems to me to be bad news in general. Even if you don’t get any of the common side effects that ~30% of its users report (vivid dreams, hallucinations, anxiety), it still accumulates in your nervous system, where it remains long after you stop taking it, just waiting for something traumatic to happen to trigger who-knows-what residual side effects. The Peace Corps uses it as the default Malaria prophylactic, and they only switch volunteers to another medicine if problems are experienced or expected. The US Army actually used to have the same policy, but they changed it due to the overwhelming number of problems, so they now default to Doxy. This should be reason enough not to take it, but to make the problem worse…
- I hallucinated a little bit a few months ago. This was a bit unnerving, although not at dramatic as it might sound at first. Basically, I have a constant anxiety about people coming into my house. When Deaf children or teachers want me to come to the door, they have to clang the metal gate to get my attention, but it’s a faint sound and it blends into the background noise of the metal workshop across the street. It’s very common that I go to answer the door and no one is there, and vice versa, I don’t think anyone is there, so they grow impatient and they reach around, open the gate, and come right up to my open door, and if I’m napping, kids have even walked all the way into my bedroom and stood there until I’ve woken up, which can be startling, especially because I’m rarely decent when I nap in this equatorial heat. I’ve also had experiences where I’ve turned the corner from the kitchen and seen a student standing in my living room or in the doorway; again, rather startling. Add Mefloquine to the mix and not only does the anxiety level go up, but also I started turning corners and out of the corner of my eye, seeing people standing there, watching me, but when I’d turn to see who it is, I’d realize that I was just imagining it. The worst was when I woke up and thought for a spilt second that a man was standing in the corner of my room.
I hadn’t had any of these hallucinations for a while, but I when I’d think about the general reasons to stop taking it, it seemed that it would be the best thing to do. So now I’m on Doxy, which means I need to take a daily pill and I need to be more vigilant about sunscreen. But it also means my complexion will improve! Check out the Wikipedia page on Mefloquine if you’re taking it and I’ve worried you.
In other news, Nairobi seems to be just as dangerous a place as ever. I had dinner last night with one of the newer volunteers, who is recovering from a mugging that he doesn’t even remember. The leading theory at the moment is that he was smashed in the face repeatedly with rocks before he had a chance to see what was happening. In any case, he looks good considering, and while he recovers, Peace Corps has put him up in, essentially, a mansion (3 stories, 3 full baths, hot running water, full-time security guard, etc). I already err on the side of taking taxis more often than necessary, but now I feel even more strongly about not walking alone in Nairobi. Prior to this event, it was easy to imagine myself reasoning with the muggers, slowly handing over money, phone, etc, to avoid any violence, but now that scenario has been thrown thrown right out the window. The fact that he hid money in his shoe didn’t help this particular volunteer avoid violence. (Although it did help him with the cab fare after he regained consciousness… and yes, the taxi driver did charge him.)
I’m not sure what the percentages are, but it seems like at least one volunteer is mugged every month in Nairobi, although this is the worst one I’ve heard of so far. I may regret sharing this story and worrying people, especially since I may soon be spending more time in Nairobi, but trust me— I won’t be walking alone at night, or even at dusk!
I don’t have any Nairobi pictures to go along with this post’s prose, since I lent my camera to a friend, but here’s one I took of a fellow volunteer in Malindi, where I spent a couple days before we travelled to Nairobi together: