Day 27 – June 9

I realize this is getting quite bored to the readers, but there’s not much to say when you’re living in a 3rd world country and not leaving the house because you’re sick…

Today I slept a lot! I slept for 13 hours last night. Got up for a bit and then took a 3 hour nap. I got up for a bit, again and read since there’s been no electricity and my computer is dead. I took another 30-minute nap and then talked to Jason for a bit. The pain meds I was prescribed yesterday are helping a ton! I am still in pain, but it’s bearable and I find that I’m able to drink more fluids and even eat a bit. Fingers crossed!

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Day 26 – June 8

I went to work today primarily to check email before the weekend and also to check back with the doctor. The doctor told me that a “specialist” was coming in from the city later and that he’d like me to see him instead. (The “specialist” idea is very different here. In the states, that phrase is generally used when someone has received additional training in a specific area. I haven’t figured it out here but these “specialists” do not have any additional training or emphasis in their schooling so I’m not sure what he means by “specialist.”)

I saw the specialist and in all honesty, I’m still not impressed. He again only used a tongue depressor to look at my throat. He did say that my tonsils were very red, swollen, and had a lot of white on them. He has changed my prescription (I had to tell him about the penicillin issue too) and has ordered blood tests to be taken Monday.

Jenny left town today, so I called Santi to pick me up so I could go to the pharmacy. I told him to pick me up at 4pm because I was sick and  needed to go to the pharmacy before it closed… he didn’t come until 5:20pm! Normally I wouldn’t care, but of all the days to do that. I’m exhausted, don’t feel good, and really just wanted to get my medicine and go home. When we crossed the bridge, we saw a Congolese man fishing in some water that feeds into the Congo River, but the most entertaining part was all the Chinese men crowded around him – I tried to get a picture, but it’s kind of hard to tell. I had him take me to the pharmacy anyway and was able to get all of the medicine I needed right before it closed. I then walked from the pharmacy to Park N Shop, a few blocks away. I did all of my grocery shopping so that I don’t have to leave the house again until Monday. Then I caught a cab and went home. I made some food, even though I still don’t have much of an appetite, started the new meds, watched some more Twin Peaks, and went to bed early. Hopefully all this resting, food, meds, fluids, etc will knock this bug out! I’m getting really discouraged.

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Day 25 – June 7

Since I have been sick, not much has been going on. I realized that the only things I wrote in my journal this day were about Jason and my friend Kendall getting engaged, so there’s your heads up and you can decide whether to read this or move on to the next day.

I have the most incredible husband-to-be! I talked to him again last night and almost got back up just to write that first line. I don’t know how he does it, but he just puts me at ease. Over the years, many guys teased me about how they were going to break me, how they planned to break me, or how I needed breaking – I hated it. While I am free-spirited, energetic, and my thoughts go millions of miles a second, I hate the idea that people think this needs breaking. I’d always politely smile at these guys and then generally have nothing to do with them. I joke with Jason that he has “broken” me, but I’m not sure that’s the most accurate way to phrase things. I didn’t need breaking and I don’t feel that I have been broken, but I feel at peace with him, calm with him, and I realize that at some times I can relax and do nothing. I let down with him, I’ve even cried with him. I always told him that I rarely cried and I rarely did, but something about him has made me realize that all these walls I’ve held up for so long, all of these hidden fears and insecurities that I wouldn’t share with others, are okay with him and I find all of these things slowly coming out. I hope that it will be over soon and that perhaps I will be back to my usual self, but in the meantime, I’m grateful to be letting down with such an understanding man.

He told me tonight that Kendall has gotten engaged!

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Day 24 – June 6

I got to talk to Jason last night, finally! I was still reading when he texted and said he was out of class (early). It was so nice! He can always make me smile and laugh and I needed it last night! I got off the phone with him and knew I’d be okay a bit longer. He said to do whatever I needed to and that while he’d love to have me come home early, he isn’t asking me to and doesn’t need me to. He’s always quite the diplomat!

Today I slept in, kind of, read, watched a tv show series that my roommate has. It’s called “Twin Peaks” and I haven’t decided what I think yet, but at least it gives me a break from the non-stop reading. The acting is either really over done or very bad, so it makes the whole thing humorous, but annoying on occasion too haha

I’m frustrated today. I just got off the phone with mom. I called to see how Lexi and Lydi are doing after having their tonsils out yesterday, but then mom asked how I was and I told her I was angry, then I started crying, etc. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I’m frustrated that I’m not getting any better, still running a fever, don’t feel like eating, don’t drink as much as I probably should because my throat hurts to badly, etc. Then all this time in the house feels wasted because I’m falling behind at work, I could be spending this time at home, etc. I’m feeling very stressed out and frustrated and wishing that I wasn’t in this country right now.

I also had to be kind of rude to a guy tonight. When I taught the health lesson for the embassy, I was asked by one of the young men for my phone number. I explained that I would not be giving my phone number out, only my email address. A few minutes later, the Branch President introduced himself, so I moved him away from the crowd and gave him my number. Well, this young man, listened to our conversation and wrote down my number. He now has been texting me randomly during the week hoping I’m having a good day, that we can get together soon, etc. I gave him the benefit of the doubt at first and left it alone. However, now he keeps asking me to go to church with him. I still gave him the benefit of the doubt and figured he is just a very Christian man who wants to ensure I have somewhere to worship. I have explained three times now that I have a church here, but thank you for the offer. He continues to insist I meet with him. Finally, I got Jenny’s thoughts on the subject and she just started laughing. She said “he’s courting you! Duh!” Oh dear!!! I immediately texted him, told him that I knew what he was doing, that it was highly inappropriate since he knew I was engaged and not to contact me again. Well, of course he text messaged me a few more times, but has now stopped…

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Day 23 – June 5

Today I stayed home and rested. I slept in, washed my hair, read, took a nap, read, and went to bed early. I am not seeing any improvements except that my lymph nodes are a tiny bit smaller. Jenny gave me a thermometer today and asked me to take my temp. I told her I was pretty sure it was gone, but when I checked it was still over 100 F. My boss called a few minutes later to see how I was and to ask if I still had a fever. I told him I did, but that it was very low. He told me not to worry about coming in until it was gone. I’m getting a bit frustrated since I’d much rather be sick at my own apt. Plus, I’ve had a fever off and on for weeks, it could be a lot more time before it’s gone and I don’t want to be sitting here in the Congo wasting my time being sick at the house.

Maman Valerie was so sweet, she was here to do laundry and cleaning and she did my room while I was reading so I could go back to bed if I wanted and I did. She also washed and changed the sheets to see if that would help me get better quickly too. She really is a mom to Jenny and I while we’re here.

Jenny was sweet. She sent out for beer and got me some soda too to change up my fluid intake of water all day haha Then she played DJ with my iPod on her speakers since she took it running (her iPod was almost dead) and she’s fallen in love with all the variety and quantity of songs. It was nice to have some company and just enjoy the moment a bit.

After she left, I gave Poppy and Grammy Pat a call. I’ve been missing them and needed someone to talk to and I knew they wouldn’t mind. Poppy answered and asked me all sorts of questions about my symptoms. He’s good! When I would tell him the bottom of my lungs hurt, he asked about the back of my lungs, which was also hurting. When I told him about the headaches being at the top of the head and throbbing, he asked if I had it behind my eyes at all, which I did. Maybe he’ll be able to figure it out. He thinks it’s a virus, but thinks the antibiotics are a good idea anyway since it will knock out anything that could be secondary.

Grammy Pat and I chatted too and she said regardless of what I decide to do, they won’t care and that they’re proud of me. (Depending on how sick I get, or how much longer it lasts, I may have to look into leaving the Congo earlier than planned.)

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Day 22 – June 4th

I woke up with a high fever, but went to work anyway. Jenny stayed home since she wasn’t feeling well, but it’s just due to her time of the month. She made me promise that I would tell my boss today about how sick I’ve been and for how long. Once Phanuel was in, I explained that I hadn’t been feeling well and had been running a fever off and on for about 2-2.5 weeks. He asked me a couple more questions, which I answered and I told him that I figured I was just acclimating and probably needed to give myself more time. (The last thing I wanted was to be viewed as this poor little white girl who can’t handle life here in the Congo and I’m not going to lie, I was worried that maybe that was why I was sick.) Well, moving on, he disagreed and said he’d like to see if the doctor was in and if so, would like to take me. He took me to the doctor and I explained my symptoms. He thought three things – malaria, strep throat, and pneumonia. 

I was a bit disappointed; all he did was use a tongue depressor to look at my throat. He said it was very inflamed and red. I was surprised he didn’t look at anything else, but figured I was in another country and needed to adjust. He wrote me three prescriptions for antibiotics, as he started to write the first one, I stopped him. He hadn’t asked anything about my health history or allergies and I knew he was most likely prescribing something with penicillin. I am allergic to penicillin and explained that to him. He was surprised and realized that he should have asked. After writing the prescriptions, he asked me to see the nurse.

I eventually saw the nurse and she took my blood pressure, which was 130/80 and my pulse was 81. She said good and I tried to explain that no it was not. I am normally in the 80s over upper 50s-low 60s. The highest I’ve seen before was 112/82. My pulse was also very high, it’s normally no higher than about 58. She did not seem to understand though. The nurse also took some blood from my finger for a rapid malaria test and told me to come back at 11:30am for the results.

I called mom and gave her the scoop on what was going on since she had texted me and I knew she was awake. We talked for a bit and then I went back to the nurse for my results – negative. She had me take the paper into the doctor and he said he’ll treat me with the antibiotics for a few days, then for malaria if that doesn’t work since the medicine I am taking to prevent malaria can cause a false negative reading.

Charlie, our cook, made us beautiful salads tonight. They were so big and so good that we just put the rest of the dinner away. Through talking with Jenny and my mom, I’ve decided to stay home tomorrow and see if rest combined with the meds can get rid of this bug. Plus, the meds are pretty strong and make me feel pretty sick when I take them. I text messaged my boss and he is very pleased that I will be resting.

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Day 21 – June 3, 1/4 way through my time in Africa

Today I went to the new branch I will be attending. The Branch President and his wife and children came in a taxi to pick me up. He has three girls – 5, 3, and 2 months. It’s interesting here, the baby was just laid across the mother’s lap even though the other children were climbing all over. Children here do not seem to be worried about like they are in the States. The 5 and 3 year old each took a hand and led me around the different rooms their father was showing me. It seems to be a much nicer building than the first one I attended. There is tile in the halls (outside between rooms), rather than gravel. This is great because my first week I scratched up my black patent leather heels badly and I’m hoping they’re reparable when I get back, but in the mean time this new building means I can wear heels to church instead of sandals.

The Branch is very unique in that a handful of the men speak English. One woman, Eve, who is the Primary President, also speaks English, but she is the only female who speaks well. (There are a few more women who speak a few words here and there.) She left Primary to sit with me through Relief Society today to translate and we made fast friends. She and her husband are being sealed in the Johannesburg Temple at about the same time that Jason and I will be sealed in the Logan Temple and we both thought that was so fun. She and her husband were married civilly (first) in South Africa (They lived there for 4 years while they were both in school) because the traditional weddings here are so expensive. However, her husband said he wants to marry her traditionally, which means giving her family a large dowry for her, and the ceremony is on July 7th. She has invited me to attend. Then she said I should bring a friend and when I told her about Jenny she said that she must come as well. I am very excited! We will travel with her from her mother’s house to her father’s village, which is supposedly very far away. (I don’t know what that means exactly here.) I was so honored she would include me and I am very excited to have a traditional event to wear my new African dress too.

Relief Society worked the same way as the first time. We started with 3 women at 9am and ended with 8 women at 9:50am haha We discussed  the role that women play in the Priesthood and primarily how we could encourage our husbands to be good Priesthood holders. It was interesting to have this lesson in another country. In the United States, when this topic is taught, it is always emphasized that we are equals to our husbands, etc Here, the women said that their husbands lead the home and that he should always have the final word. That we needed to listen to our husbands at all times since he has the Priesthood. There was essentially nothing mentioned on making decisions with the husband, having an opinion, sharing thoughts together, etc. I was surprised, but could see, especially based on culture, how the women here really would just take and do whatever their husbands say should be done. It was a very different opinion than what is normally mentioned in the United States. Here is a picture of the Relief Society room; this is actually a really nice one compared to some. The benches look comfortable, but I would rather sit on the metal chairs we have any day!

During Sunday School, the Branch President translated the second half for me and during Sacrament, another brother translated for me. During fast and testimony meeting, whenever the individual said “Bonjour…,” everyone else followed with “Bonjour” too. (It reminded me of Hawaii when everyone does the same thing with “Aloha.”) I have also noted that both the ward I attended and this Branch both have more male members, by far, than female members, at least out of those who are in attendance. The other interesting thing, that I’ve decided I really like, is that nursing is not a big deal here. The women are discreet, but they just nurse in whatever room they’d like. If they are in Sacrament right then, they do not leave the room, they just feed the child right there. In the United States, you will sometimes see that in Relief Society, but very rarely in mixed company. Here it doesn’t matter and the women don’t even use blankets to cover themselves. I think it is neat that nursing is just part of life here and not seen as something that must be hidden.

During Sacrament meeting, the Branch President announced my arrival to the Branch, that I would be there for 3 months, and that I spoke only English haha I was a bit red after that was announced over the pulpit. After church, everyone was very friendly and the Branch President even helped me find a taxi. I told him I was ok, but a few of the members were very frank about the fact that I was white and that I would get taken advantage of if I was not careful. These concerned members even started quizzing me to see if I knew how much I should pay from such and such place to ________ (another place). It was very sweet and supposedly I knew my prices very well 🙂 They were pleased haha

After church, I spent the afternoon reading and painting my nails. I have to admit, one of the very nice things about being here is that I can’t multi-task as much. There’s no internet at the house, no tv so no shows or news to catch up on, the telephone is expensive so I don’t talk to anyone other than Jason or my family, on occasion, since I try to save the minutes for that, you can’t really go anywhere since there is no where to go, you get strange looks just walking down the street, and taxis are much too expensive to just go for a ride to get out of the house. Therefore you are kind of forced to sit down and relax. I have not had down time like this in years. Generally I am always working on a project, paper, catching up on emails, balancing my finances, clipping coupons, planning out my schedule for the week, or the menu and shopping list for the week, etc. Here, life is much more simple. There is no multi-tasking. There is very little food to pick from so you don’t plan a menu. There is no internet, as I mentioned, so you don’t catch up on anything on the weekends. You run errands on Saturday and go to church on Sunday and all other free time is spent relaxing. I am getting through quite a few of the books from the long list I’ve been keeping haha

My fever came back again tonight. I was hoping that since I’d made it almost one and a half days without one that I was better. I have also  concluded that there is nothing worse than a cold shower/bath (squat in the bathtub to take a shower) when you have a fever, throbbing headache, chills, are already achy, etc. It just tenses everything up even more… :-/ Oh well, the fever can’t last the entire trip…

To celebrate bring 1/4 way through my time in Africa, I had a rootbeer. You cannot get rootbeer in the Congo, but one of Jenny’s CDC friends brought her a couple of cans. She doesn’t like the stuff, so I’m thrilled!

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Day 20 – June 2

 

I slept for 12 hours! I still have a sore throat, etc, but I feel a little bit better. I ran errands today. First to the dress shop where I am having an African dress made. They wear their dresses quite form fitting here so I’m having to adjust, but the tailor informed me that it’s still too big on me… despite the fact that it is already a bit difficult to sit in. Haha! It’s supposed to be tighter so, so be it. Afterwards, I had Santi pick me up. He wanted to wait for me while I was at the store, which I thought would be great until waiting meant coming in with me… This is problematic because you feel guilty buying anything. I asked him if there was anything he needed to pick up, hoping that he wouldn’t follow me through the whole place and instead would grab what he needed, but no luck. Finally on our way out he said I could buy him some eggs since his wife likes them. Of course I did since he looked like he wanted everything I bought – I felt horribly guilty. Here, most of the Congolese go to the market and only a store on occasion, if ever. We, as foreigners, go to a place called the Park N Shop, the only grocery store in the city. Most of the food is imported and more expensive, but we have to buy our food there since we can get very sick from the food here if we’re not careful. If you have not grown up in Africa, you are much more likely to get very ill very easily. However, many of the Congolese believe that we are “too good” for their markets. That is not the case, but I’ve been told that is what most of them think and also that they think we are too wealthy to shop at the same places. Some Congolese shop at the Park N Shop too for things like water, or other basics, which is why I hoped Santi would. He is a very kind man and I felt awful buying anything in front of him, so when he mentioned the eggs, it was the least I could do. Even eggs here are expensive – $11 for two dozen.      

 

The same belief occurs with taxis. We, as foreigners, ride in taxis and not on the buses. The Congolese assume that we are “too good” and “too wealthy” for the buses, but in reality, we are not allowed to ride in them because they are too dangerous for us. Unfortunately, these two things mean that the Congolese think you are much more wealthy than you actually are and don’t believe you when you explain that you have to do things that way for safety.

 

Long story short, I knew Santi could not shop at the Park N Shop on a regular basis and I hated him seeing exactly how much money I was spending on food. I bought his eggs and hoped that maybe he would understand. I ran into the Pharmacy on the way home to get mosquito repellent. (Here I have to apply mosquito repellent about 3 times per day in order to prevent bites and possibly getting malaria.) That is also expensive here and Santi was confused as to why I would spend money on it. Even though I explained the problem with malaria, especially to those of us that are not used to it. Finally I went home, paid him 6000 for his time, and realized that in the future I will just have him drop me off and I’ll find another ride home after.

 

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Day 19 – June 1st

I stayed late after work and got a lot more posts done on the blog. I forgot to mention something funny that happened yesterday. I needed to cut several pages of paper to make handouts for the class I taught last night. I went into the office where all the secretaries were and tried first in English, then with some words in French they gave me as they understood what I was trying to say, to describe a paper cutter. Eventually I realized they did not have one, nor had ever seen or heard about one, but the circumstances were funny because the group of women kept growing a bit as more and more paid attention. Now they want one because they think it would be much faster than scissors. I told them it is haha

I have still been sick all week, so I took some medicine and went to bed about 8pm or 9pm. I even put a sleep mask on that Air France gave me on the way over here to block out some light. I’m hoping a lot of sleep will kick this bug once and for all… it has been two weeks already and I have only been here for just under three.

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Day 19 – June 1st – Bonus post & 2 videos

I got the VIDEO of the inside of the house to upload finally: http://youtu.be/D-oqX4LuQ84

Here is another video I filmed when Santi picked me up. He had another member of the Church with him, so we had a great time chatting and you’ll hear parts of the conversation throughout: http://youtu.be/p4r8kYm3ox4

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