Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fringe Division, Ghana

Someone call Joshua Jackson, ‘cause I’ve come to a conclusion:

As a continent rife with any number of ailments by way of myopic parasites and creepy-crawlies . . . Africa is kind of gross.

I came to this conclusion in a veterinary clinic, inspecting a type of parasitic larvae imbedded in the hind leg of my cat, Gimpy. How she came to acquire such roommates, I could only guess (she’s currently an inside-cat), but if it was anything – it was gross. Like cross-your-heart, turn in three circles, and spit on your mother gross.

She got a bath (like a child with lice), a standard de-wormer (because apparently you can never be too safe in Africa), and I was left to ponder, like a paranoid volunteer, the parasitic potential of my little piece of the continent.

Once home, I flipped open our medical handbook and did what any paranoid volunteer would do – I sought out every bug-caused malady and tortured myself with its details. As I wavered between engrossed and disgusted, I realized that I live in an episode of The X-Files. Africa: a place where things hatch out of the skin, burn at the touch, and carry Malaria; a place where my own body becomes an enemy (as if I didn’t have enough to worry about with all of the creepy-crawlies).

I have yet to experience, but hear tales of the infamous abscess – an infection and swelling of the hair follicle, sometimes to the size of a quarter, that has to be cut open, drained, and scraped out (insert collective gasp here). Even now, I fear the razor, as I fear my bug-bites catching an antibiotic-worthy infection and scaring my newly-tanned skin for life.

During hot season, I was perplexed to find large, painful blisters behind my knee – a minor infection of the poor, over-worked sweat glands lamenting the day I learned to sit with my legs crossed. And any beetle within ten feet is shooed away in-case it happens to be the Blister Beetle, which releases a chemical that burns the skin and causes a blister which, if popped, will continue causing blisters until the fluid is washed away.

If random tapeworms weren’t enough, the thought of a Tumbu Fly’s eggs hatching under my skin leaves me skittish (though morbidly curious) about whatever caused my three-footed cat’s current predicament. The amount of times I’ve doused my house in bug-poison is kind of ridiculous considering it’s apparently futility, but the false security of my bed net (I looked down to find a giant centipede crawling along my leg in bed the other night) and market-found pesticides (because, let’s face it, the ants just keep coming back) give me enough comfort to let me sleep at night (with my medical handbook far, far away once I retire).

I suppose in the land of follicle cysts and sweat gland infections it’s only natural to find skin-burning beetles and burrowing larvae like an episode of Fringe. It certainly explains the vivid Mefloquin dreams of giant poisonous spiders, snakes, and hungry, hungry ants swarming the bed in a feeding frenzy.

Africa, as it turns out, is a pretty hostile place – a place where survival means inhabiting the intestines of the nearest living creature and stealing their food; a place where the only way to keep a happy home is to douse it regularly with poisonous insecticides; a place where the bugs not only like to bite you, but may give you Malaria as a result. Maybe I shouldn’t hold it against my potentially threatening fellow creatures: in a harsh environment, it seems that harsh is the only way to survive. Maybe one day, it’ll convince Joshua Jackson to visit … a girl can dream, right?