So this is what I’ve discovered about malaria after two bouts two years in a row. I believe the treatment leaves you weaker than the illness and day two is especially difficult when your fever spikes and you spend the wee hours of the night contemplating your mortality and the fragility of the human body and spirit. On day three you are happy to be alive and begin to muster energy to venture into the community, where all greet you with condolences and joy at seeing you hobble about on your shaky pegs. Your confidence wanes somewhat on day four (today), when the fever and lethargy return, though I’m told it’s simply because I neglected to follow doctor’s orders to rest fully and take ORS (all agree with my personal diagnoses…that I am too stubborn for my own good). Prepared after last year’s malaria-induced weight loss and intense craving for coffee, this year I’ve been sipping on cocoa and nibbling on sardines and seem to have avoided the major nutritional setback, though many are concerned that my body is reducing and that I may end up returning to Canada less rotund than when I arrived. As I’ve discovered a source of biscuits and sweets, I’ll work hard at avoiding that likelihood. I am overjoyed, in the meantime, to have two-year old Sharif and his family home after several blood transfusions from his mom and two weeks in hospital due to severe malaria and was happy to be able to spend some time last night holding several of my favourite two-year olds closely, while watching the comings and goings in our busy kitchen area where Sallay and Mabinty produced hundreds of “rice cakes” (small donuts made from rice flour) for the Bumban traditional society celebrations (the boys will soon be returning from initiation in the bush). Holding those babies was especially poignant as I’ve been struggling to cope with the recent death of another baby…a baby who I knew was at risk and whose mom I believe I didn’t push strongly enough to go to the clinic. My friends tell me not to carry this weight and that I did all that I could but still, each death, especially of the too many babies that seem to be leaving us, hits hard and leaves a hollowness that will take many hours of holding onto warm, round-bellied two-year olds to fill.
In the meantime, here’s what’s up on the national front. In the article posted in last week’s blog, I read that only about 3% of mining profits stay in the country and less than 1% in the community that produces the minerals (communities that often also suffer from the effects of the mining). I also read that the Canadian mining company operating close to us anticipates record profits this coming year. Meanwhile, about 60% of youth of the country are unemployed, leaving many concerned about a return to conditions that fueled the war. I can only imagine what a small increase in mining profit could do to alleviate youth unemployment, pay teachers and health workers and diminish the number of babies dying in their mother’s arms. This week I also heard the four words most dreaded by young mothers and wives here, spoken too often when desperate young men disappear from the community. “He’s gone to Kono,” Kono being the mining area that draws young men who believe all other options have left them. While I have not yet been to Kono myself, all I hear from there is of heartbreak and devastation and death, leaving me chilled when I heard those words spoken about a fine and respected young man from the village who has gone missing. Ah, life! Abu has gone to Kono, Kadiatu’s baby has gone to whatever place babies are called to when they leave this world, and I’m about to head back to bed with concerns about morality and the state of the world swirling in my fevered brain. More later.