Posts Tagged ‘ Mefloquine ’

Where I Leave for America

So as you may or may not know, I am leaving for America on Tuesday. No, my service is NOT over yet. I am merely going home for a month to decompress, see my family/friends, and celebrate Christmas. I am excited on so many levels. I’m going to get SO fat from all the food I’m going to eat, and I’m really excited about it.

But apart from the weight gain, I am looking forward to gaining something else: perspective. I’ve been away from home for almost 16 months now, and that’s a long time to go without a burrito or your family. I think America will be tremendously helpful for my mental health. The stress of living in Senegal, combined with the Mefloquine, is making me a little crazy. It’ll be good to be at home with my family and my dog.

Speaking of families, I had an interesting discussion with my Senegalese one the other night. We were discussing me going home, and they are really excited for me. They know I miss my real family and that I’m excited to go home for a few weeks. They’re also excited for themselves because they will reap the benefits of my world travels. They know I’m going to bring back presents for them.

Thus, the other night my host father summoned the whole family and shoved a piece of paper and pen in my hand. They proceeded to tell me everything they wanted from America, and they made me write it down. Some highlights include:

For Baba (my host father): a motorcycle jacket.

For Na (my host mother): a computer, two new cell phones.

For Sophia (the oldest sister): a headlamp (for cooking in the dark), kitchen utensils, clothing for the baby, a car, a moped.

Anto (the oldest brother): a jacket (for the cold season), shoes (size 44), an iPhone.

Considering the amount of winter apparel they requested, this upcoming cold season is going to be BRUTAL. I’m not sure I’ll be able to provide EVERYTHING they want, but I will try my hardest to bring them back gifts they will appreciate and use.

Having a Senegalese family has been so amazing. When I got to Senegal and discovered I’d be living with a host family, I was hesitant. I wanted to live alone and do my own thing, but now I can’t imagine not having one. They’ve helped me so much with integration, as well as with language. I love them so much.

Today, when I left my house, I teared up a little. Crazy, I know. I also shook everyone’s left hand. In Senegal, you do everything with your right hand (i.e. eat, shake hands) because the left hand is saving for wiping. For some reason though, when you leave for a long time, you shake with your left hand. It was sad to shake everyone’s left hand because it felt like I’m never coming back. Well Mansaly family, you’re not rid of me yet. I’LL BE BACK.

The Bieber Has Landed

It always comes in waves, and before you know it, it has grown in strength and spread to the far reaches of the country. Initially, it’s a did-I-just-hear-what-I-think-I-just-heard kind of moment, walking home from the market. You brush it off and keep going, blaming it on the dehydration or the Mefloquine. A few days later, it happens again. “Yep, that is definitely what I’m hearing,” you think as the volume swells and the number of hearings increases with every passing day.

Of course, I am talking about BIEBER. The shaggy-haired American tween heartthrob has finally made his way across the pond. Not to England, where the locals are used to screaming girls holding glittery “I LOVE YOU” signs and swooning (The Beatles, anyone?). I’m talking about Senegal, my lovely country of residence.

When I first came to Senegal, Rihanna was Miss Hot Stuff 2010. A day did not go by where “Rude Boy” wasn’t stuck in my head at some point due to excess of unwanted listens. The Senegalese love her. To this day, a typical first-time conversation with someone still goes something like this (translated from the Wolof):

Beggar on the street: Are you French?
Me: No, I’m an American.
Guy: You’re American? Do you know Rihanna?
Me: Yep. We’re biffles. It was MY frozen bag of peas that kept the swelling down after Chris Brown was done with her.

Obviously, I’m paraphrasing. The Senegalese people think all Americans know each other. In reality, I tell them America is big place with lots of people, and that the odds of me personally knowing Rihanna are slim. Of course, they still ask. Initially, I thought they meant if I knew OF Rihanna, but after being corrected several dozen times, their real question finally surfaces, although usually it’s more of a statement than a question (“You DO know her, don’t you?”).

After the Rihanna wave came the JoJo wave (remember her? 12-year-old, white R&B artist signed by Diddy who sang WAY too much about true love considering her age?). I would rather not discuss this period for personal reasons. To sum up: I about pulled a van Gogh on several occasions just to make it stop.

After JoJo came Bieber (obviously the locals’ taste is rapidly deteriorating; I cringe to think what could possibly be worse), and here we are.

I especially find it odd that more men than women listen to these, and I use this term loosely, “artists”. I hear Bieber, and a look of disgust appears on my face; I turn, and I see a group of high school boys singing along in an unrecognizable English Adjacent language.

Of course, all of these American hits are interspersed with obscure local artists who rap in Wolof. Example: Nit Doff (translated as “Crazy Person” in Wolof). Most Senegalese songs have English words thrown in, too. One song’s chorus is “I love you” over and over again. Although that’s not the only English being thrown around here. The Senegalese also love saying “Dafa NICE” (“It’s nice”), although my host family thinks “nice” means “beautiful”. I have told them several times that this is simply incorrect, but everything is still “nice”: clothes, jewelry, people, goats.

Television has also been influenced greatly by America. I find it hilarious when I come home and my host family is watching dubbed-in-French episodes of Friends and Dirty Sexy Money. The latter I find especially odd considering A) it was cancelled after less than a season, and B) one of the leading characters is a transvestite. It is illegal to be homosexual in this country, yet my 50-year-old host Dad is unphased by the woman on the TV seducing Alec Baldwin’s brother for political gain.

Obviously, these shows were dubbed in France, but I still find it interesting how popular they are in West Africa. I’m sure my Senegalese family, as well as the rest of the Nation of Islam, wasn’t the expected demographic when NBC decided to air these shows in America.

After living here for so long, I still find it strange to hear/see American pop culture in my small Senegalese town. Perhaps everything American slowly trickles down until it has reached the far corners of the world. Perhaps it is inevitable. Regardless of the how and why, when I joined the Peace Corps, they gave me medicine to prevent malaria. What they failed to provide, unfortunately, were the pills to prevent Bieber Fever.

Dinosaur Kisses and Mefloquine Dreams

After taking malaria medicine once a week for seven months, it has finally started to wildly screw with my mind. As I previously mentioned, side effects of Mefloquine include vivid and hallucinatory dreams (in addition to that whole not-getting-malaria nuisance). It is basically a hippie’s paradise drug. It is a mental oasis for Peace Corps volunteers (i.e. tie-dye clad crazies stuck in the 60s) looking for an escape from village life. No wonder the Peace Corps has a reputation for recruiting hairy women named Clover and soft-spoken men named Rain.

Mefloquine has also been known to cause major nocturnal freak-outs amongst volunteers. I know one volunteer who dreamt his four-year-old host sister was in his room trying to kill him, so when he woke up, he ran outside and completely freaked out his host parents when he told them their precious daughter was, in fact, a hired assassin. Another friend of mine tore his hut apart because he thought it was caving in on him. Both volunteers have since been switched to a different malaria medication.

Until last night, I hadn’t had any Mefloquine-related episodes. Sadly, I can now be added to the list of deranged PCVs in Senegal.

I went to bed at midnight here in the PC Regional House in Kaolack. I had taken my Mefloquine after dinner, as I do every Sunday evening. I crawled under my mosquito net and quickly fell into a deep sleep. I woke up two hours later to a mouse running across my leg. I sat up and FREAKED OUT. I grabbed my cell phone (which conveniently doubles as a flashlight) and started frantically hitting the mattress repeatedly, trying to kill the vicious rodent. I was rapidly moving sheets aside looking for the perpetrator but found nothing. I then calmly fell back asleep as if nothing had occurred. A few minutes later, the mouse reappeared on my leg. I then had a second violent fit with the same result. This mouse was officially out to get me.

“I must get to higher ground, just like in Jurassic Park. This is just like that. I’m being hunted,” I told myself in a rational manner. I then slowly started exiting my mosquito net, keeping my eyes peeled for both mice and dinosaurs. I found a ladder and started climbing it. Naturally, I couldn’t touch the ground because T-rexes are fast on their feet. I got to the top of the ladder and surveyed my surroundings. My legs remained mouse free and there were no velociraptor sightings. I came to another mosquito net and made my way through it, arriving safely inside. I assessed my new location and found nothing. The danger was gone. I was finally safe, nothing could get me. I then fell back asleep, exhausted from my Lord of the Rings-esque journey to sanctuary.

I woke up this morning on the top bunk of a completely different bed. I slowly sat up and looked around. Evidently, I had crawled out of the bottom bunk, grabbed the ladder attached to the bed I was sleeping in, and climbed it. I then jumped to the adjacent bed like a flying squirrel and fell asleep on the top bunk. How the other people in the room didn’t wake up to A) the nonexistent mouse attacks and my reaction to them, B) the stalking T-rex that I had SO believed was there, or C) my leap of faith, I have no idea. Luckily though, they all slept through it.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was asleep the entire time. I must have been sleepwalking or something. I remember being so terrified of this mouse, and I hated that it was after ME and me alone. I also remember relating the situation to Jurassic Park, which is probably how the dinosaurs entered the picture. Next week, when I take my Mefloquine again, hopefully I won’t have to ward off giant lizards. If so, I may have to switch meds. I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, Senegal. How screwed up you have made me. Thank you for slowly eating away at my sanity in addition to completely taking away the little amount of self-composure I possessed in America.

SILVER LINING: I don’t have malaria.