Monday, November 07, 2005

Sick

Kate and I always made sure we got enough sleep and ate as well as we could in Mali, since doctors and hospitals are so far and few between in rural West Africa.

We remembered our fellow Geekcorps volunteer Alisa falling very ill in Nandom, up in the northwest of Ghana near Burkina Faso, where we were attending a xylophone festival. In her sweaty, flushed delirium, Alisa demanded that our country director Stophe airlift her back to the U.S., and he just grinned and said even if she were President Clinton she couldn't get airlifted, since there were no airplanes in the local area. He was grinning but his eyes were shiny with raw fear. We took turns all night escorting Alisa back and forth from the toilet, trying to give her sips of water, and wiping her face with damp cloths.

The nearest hospital was hours away in Wa, and we weren't sure if they used clean needles there, so we decided to just drive back to Accra as quickly as we could over the rutted, police-corrupt, red-dust road. Giant yams, calabash gourds, baskets, a guinea fowl, and several members of Bernard Woma's dance troupe were packed in our van, and xylophones rattled on the thin metal rooftop each time we drove over a pothole. Alisa, normally ivory-skinned, was even whiter than usual, white as African teeth. She couldn't eat or drink and kept vomiting and shitting liquid into a large empty can recycled from the USAID food aid program. We took turns trying to give her water that wouldn't stay down the whole twenty-six hour drive back to Accra. In Brong Ahafo, a policeman stopped us for a bribe and upon seeing her curled and ghostly on the front seat, matter-of-factly asked us if we were carrying a corpse.

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