You know, there’s a lot of stuff that you just learn to get over once you get to Africa. For example, when I came here, I came armed with tons of bug spray, tons of hand sanitizer, and a firm belief that I would brave through the African wildness through preparation and determination (a tad idealistic, no?). Well, 44 days later…how to put this?
When I came here, I was determined to adhere to principles of safety and sanitation that we’re taught is so important in the US. For example, when I saw ants and flies crawling all over a piece of bread, that meant to throw it away or get a new piece. Now…all gone. A quick wave of the hand and the bugs are gone, and with it my reservations to eating the bread. In fact, as I write this right now, a team of ants are carrying off a grain of rice from my plate—who could hate such teamwork and unity? Do I wish they had taken someone else’s rice? Certainly. Am I concerned about my rice at all? Not in the slightest.
Consider, also, the scenario where you open the kitchen cabinet to the sound of feet scratching and crawling away from the door and rustling through the supplies. Or maybe the weird shadows that flash when you turn on your flashlight in the kitchen instead…
–American Brandon Reaction: Holy Crap! Did that thing have two heads?!
–African Brandon Reaction: I hope they left some for me those greedy bastards.
Perhaps the point I’m making is not yet quite clear. When I first came here, I diligently refrigerated all meat and other seemingly perishable items…such as eggs. However, for whatever reason, neither eggs nor milk are refrigerated here. Initially, being the American Brandon that I was: I should refrigerate my eggs and my milk to make sure they stayed fresh and healthy. African Brandon? I’m not putting those eggs in the fridge so everyone else can steal them.
It’s coming to you now, yes? Like how I drop things on the floor that I was about to eat…
American Brandon: Oh well, I only paid 300XAF for that…that’s not even a dollar. I’ll buy another one.
African Brandon: Are you serious? I paid 300 freaking francs for that! I’ll mix it with a little bit of water and it’ll be fine.
Or that time I was told not to eat raw fruit hear because it may not be clean and people get cholera and typhoid that way…
American Brandon: Man those apples look really good…but I guess I can’t be certain they’re clean and getting typhoid isn’t worth having one apple.
African Brandon: Oh my goodness! 200 francs for one apple? That’s a steal! Heck yeah, I’ll buy 3!
There’s no hot water here, so when you take showers you take them freezing cold every time. When I first came, I cried every time I got in the shower. Now…well, actually I still cry, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the cold water thing.
Anyway, did I mention that I’ve stopped wearing bug spray? Yep, DDT must stand for “Double Delicious Treats” because no matter how much OFF! I sprayed on my arms and legs, I’d constantly scratch and itch all day and usually wake up with 10-15 new bites on each arm. I counted this morning: I have 40 bites on one arm. I’ve scratched so hard some nights that the skin actually peeled in a few places. I remember one day I was passing by the carpenter as I scratched furiously at my arms.
“Man! These bugs are ridiculous.” The carpenter merely laughed.
“They are welcoming you to Africa!!”
“Yeah, well, why don’t any of the Africans have this many bites?” I asked bitterly.
American Brandon would diligently apply the OFF every morning because some protection is better than no protection. Yeah, well, African Brandon thinks that stuff smells so bad it’ll probably kill me first anyway. Indeed, I would say this is the one thing I’ve had the most difficulty adjusting to because I keep getting bit day after day after day. I remember I walked into an internet café that I frequent and greeted the owner with a handshake as usual–they love handshakes here, every time anything happens (be it someone sneezing, someone telling a joke, or just a general swell of emotion) it illicit a handshake—and as I shook his hand he saw my arm.
“Oh wow!” he remarked. “Have you got malaria or something?” He exclaimed (malaria is, of course, mainly spread through mosquito bites).
“Yeah I know, these bugs are tearing me apart huh?” I replied with a laugh. He shook his head and walked away in surprise. Later as he was walking back outside, he looked down at my arm and shook his head again.
“Malaria will deal with you.”
“Wait, what?!” I whirled around in my seat as he walked away. That’s…depressing, I thought with a frown.