I have come to realize that so much of what we do in America is to prevent ourselves from getting sick.
The way we cook, wash, clean…isn’t the point to not get sick?
Yet, out here, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the same standards of cleanliness as I do back home. Germs and bugs are everywhere! To make it worse, my super clean lifestyle in America has probably weakened my immune system for this environment; making me susceptible to just about anything.
If I swallow even a gulp of un-boiled, un-treated water I guarantee I will feel the consequences within 12 hours. I feel like I’m constantly at war with mold and bacteria here. I have a fridge that was very generously donated to me. If power does not go away for longer than 24 hours, the fridge is a great resource. Unfortunately, if we go beyond that 24 hour mark, the ice begins to precipitate and somehow, bacteria creeps its way on to my food…now instead of being a cold box to extend the life of my food, it becomes a warm, moist box that bacteria thrives in. I try to wipe down the moisture before it gets to that point, but it is hard to time it right. I have to wonder if the best thing to do is keep the door shut to hold in whatever cool air is left and hope that the power kicks on before Mr. Mold comes to party inside with all that moisture. Like I said, it is a constant battle!
If I don’t rinse out and dry my water bottles each night, they will accumulate mold by morning. I have to sweep my apartment several times a day, because even the smallest particle of sugar attracts ants, and when one comes they bring the whole extended family and start scouring my whole place like the DEA on a drug raid! The other night I was sipping on some red wine while watching a movie and when I went to take a swig, I did my routine “glance in the cup for bugs” gig, and sure enough, a fly was trying to enjoy my wine too…from the looks of it, the fly had encountered an overdose. Wine is hard to come by, so naturally I reached in, grabbed the drowned bug and flicked him towards the trash. Obviously, I kept drinking. My goodness, I wish I was kidding.
A similar thing happened when I ate my dinner that same night. I had re-heated some mashed potatoes from the night before…I noticed a black/brown thing in my forkful of potato I was about to eat…at first I thought, “Mmm I love the bites with potato skin…” then, “wait a minute…I peeled these potatoes…they shouldn’t have skin…” Gross. I was hungry, and two of the expressions my dad always says came to mind, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…” and, specifically regarding bugs in my food, “Mmm Protein!” Despite the intrigue of adding protein to my meal, simply out of principle, I dug the bug out of my bite and tossed him too. I didn’t feel sick the next day, so that’s something. Maybe I’m getting stronger!
Yesterday I had a day full of moments that I can only describe as “reminders of where I am.” When I woke up I found a spider that was relatively flat, but at least as big as my fist hanging out in my wash basin in my bathroom. My rule on spiders is that if they aren’t hurting me, I won’t hurt them…UNLESS they are the size of my fist. I calmly went potty, washed my hands in the other basin, got dressed for the day, and then sprayed the heck out of it until it died… I calmly shut the door to the bathroom and my bedroom and started making breakfast like nothing ever happened. Then a couple hours later, I scraped my shoulder on the metal door as I re-entered my apartment…back home, a scratch like this wouldn’t make me think anything other than, “ouch!” But I am currently in the middle of a lesson plan on vaccinations and immune systems…we covered Tetanus the day before. There was a flicker of “Oh, $#@&!” in my mind, but then I calmly remembered that I have recently had my Tetanus vaccination, and I have no need to worry about the huge gash on my shoulder…other than to clean and treat it regularly to prevent any of the other diseases/infections I could get from it. Then as a grand finale to my day of remembering where I am, I was stung by a wasp! It attacked me in the middle of my explanation to the peer-health students about the differences between viruses and bacteria (I took my rapidly swelling forearm as a learning opportunity to teach them hands-on what the body’s immune response looks like.) The nurses were both present and by the end of the class, the head nurse came over to examine the arm…when we saw that the swelling had completely disappeared, she said, “Oh! Looks like somebody took her vitamins today!” Ha.
Yes, this girl takes her vitamins EVERY day. Bacteria, viruses, infections, and God’s little monsters put up too big of a front for me to not reinforce my immune system!