Challenge #1.A. Malaria.
We’ve had quite a bit of that lately between ourselves and with the mission staff. Malaria is endemic (meaning high season all the time) here and nasty for anyone, but it’s especially bad for the non-immune (aka foreigners. Us.) And yes, we do what we can to prevent it but, even so, malaria happens. We’ve learned some important things about malaria.
1. Treat early. As in, as soon as you “feel icky”. Untreated malaria is very unforgiving and at best, you’ll feel “very, very icky” if you let it go untreated for more than, oh, a day or two. That’s the near-best-case scenario. (Worst case scenario, well, malaria kills.)
2. Negative blood tests are no reason not to treat anyway. Famous Dr.’s quotes over the years include:
a. “You’re negative but you live in a malarial area so take the treatment anyway. You don’t want to mess with a possible false negative.”
b. “The test result is inconclusive, so drink your pills, dear. Definitely.”
c. The test is negative but the ultrasound of your spleen…wow.” *Prescribes the “forte” treatment* (a recent team member’s experience, not my own). Thankfully, we’re all on the mend.
Challenge #1.B. Theft. Africa is rife with theft and we’ve been robbed on numerous occasions over the years. It’s like malaria—you do what you can to prevent it, but it still happens. Theft in South Africa (as opposed to Mozambique) is generally worse because it’s often violent, as in armed theft. Case scenarios, from best to worst, would go roughly like this:
1. Attempted theft, no violence (yikes but phew!)
2. Theft, no violence (argh! But thank goodness)
3. Theft + violence (this would be difficult to deal with)
Armed robberies are common in South Africa and many victims lose their lives over a mere handbag or a vehicle (click here for another blogger's related story).
In light of that, our brush with attempted theft on Friday in Nelspruit, South Africa was in the “yikes, but phew” category. In brief, we were all packed up and headed for Mozambique but needed to stop quickly so Dwight could get something out of the back seat. It didn’t take him more than 1 minute and as he hopped back inside and was closing his door, a young man appeared by his window, “warning” him about the vehicle’s back tire. (We’ve heard this line before “Oh, there’s something terribly wrong at the back of your vehicle” while they grab whatever from wherever while you have a quick look). At that precise moment, my door opened from the outside. Instinctively, I grabbed the handle, glanced up to lock eyes with the guy who had opened it and pulled it shut as Dwight hit the automatic locks and we immediately pulled away.
It all happened so fast. I guess those types of things always do. You can analyze it, talk about it, replay it in your mind for hours and days afterwards. But the actual event takes mere moments. Part of our reaction was mentally pre-rehearsed from all the stories we’ve heard plus our own past experience, which is becoming richer by the day. As we drove away, we pieced our individual stories together and figured there were several guys who’d surrounded us. We have Mozambique license plates—an attractive target vehicle for theft because there are usually lots of purchases, cash and laptops inside. We're thankful for the timing of everything and since nothing came of it, we were able to continue on our journey with everything intact.
With that, I’ll sign off. Our 2 day trip home went well but we were saddened to just how dry the countryside is. It hasn't rained in over a month and kilometer after kilometer of maize crops are withering and dying.