046: Malaria Madness

“Thank you so much for being flexible with the plans Marmar,” Chelsi said leaning back in her lazy chair. 
“It’s alright, not a problem.” Marmar voice was like milk and honey; smooth and sweet.  She was perched on the table chair, combing her fingers through her long, thick, black hair.
Chelsi stuck the spoon back in the oatmeal, forcing herself to finish the last few bits. “So I think what we’re going to try and do is hit every house between her and the lodge.  Then we’ll spend the night at the lodge, this way tomorrow you’re a much closer walk to the tarmac, to get where ever you need to go and I’ll just walk to Kamyanga and pick my bike.” She had to work her jaw a little to finish chewing her words. 
“Alright.” Marmar, finished with her hair, stood up to adjust the contents of her bags. “Do you want to break up what we’re going to say and practice while we wait?”
During the month of March Peace Corps pushed volunteers to do malaria awareness activities in their villages.  What had kept her from undertaking these activities on her own was not lack of knowledge about malaria; oh my goodness some much malaria training. But lack of confidence in her vocabulary to speak on the subject with non-English speakers and self-consciousness of the feeling of forcing herself on people; sauntering on to their compound, changing the conversation, inviting yourself in to their bedroom, then having to see them the next day. 
“Sure.” Chelsi paused, trying to recall the vocabulary she did know. “I can talk about bed nets.”
“Okay, and I can talk about transmission and treatment. That it’s only transmitted by mosquitoes, and by mosquitoes that are come out at night. That the symptoms are; headache, diarrhea, vomiting, fever. And that you have to go to the clinic to get tested and if you’re positive you need to take all your medication as directed.”
Chelsi jumped in with her end, “The best way to prevent malaria is sleep under a mosquito net at night.”
“Mmmhmm, and the net needs to be tucked in to the mattress or reed mat and that any holes bigger than a 50 ngwee need to be patched.” Chelsi had often wondered how Health volunteers spent their three months of training, now she was starting to form an image: weeks on weeks of roleplaying malaria, HIV and nutrition talks.
Wow, Chelsi stood up to peek outside. They were waiting on her village counterpart, Austin, to get started. “I’m really glad you’re here Marmar. This wouldn’t be happening without you.” The morning was grey, and a light drizzle fell, but Chelsi was sure it would burn of by mid-day.
“Why?” Marmar’s question was filled more with concern than curiosity.
“I don’t know,” She sighed.  That’s not true, “this just isn’t the type of activity that comes naturally to me. And with you here, it keeps me from backing out at the last minute.” She turned to look back at Marmar, who had stopped fiddling with her bag. “You’re keeping me accountable!”
Marmar’s face lit up in a big smile, “well I’m glad I can help!”
They past the last few minutes waiting silently. When Chelsi saw Austin’s bright red shirt come up her path she glanced at her watch. 8:30, not bad.

Chelsi glanced at her watch. She was starting to feel the heat of the day beat down on her, and she was dragging under the weight of her pack. Before starting out Chelsi had figured they’d be spending five minutes tops at each compound: ‘This is wait you need to know about malaria. Do you have a bed net? Yes, no? If yes, can we take your picture with it?” But the way they were going at it, they were averaging 15 minutes per compound. Which is good. Marmar is very personable and through. But we are never going to reach the end at this rate.  It had taken them four hours to walk what usually took Chelsi half an hour and they still had a two hour plus walk ahead of them to the lodge. 
“Marmar, this is going to have to be our last compound, otherwise we are never going to make it to the end.”
“What time is it?”
“13:30.” She looked over at Austin who was help Marmar carry her few to many things. “I think this is going to have to be our last house.  We’re trying to reach Mitukutuku before the sun goes down so that Marie is close to the road to go home tomorrow.”
Austin’s response was a protest, “but why are you leaving us so soon, Marie? You need to stay for at least three weeks.” Yes, because in Zambia you have not visited unless you have stayed for at least three weeks.
“She has her own village to go back too, and I’m sure they have been missing her. Plus she’ll be back.  We were talking about doing some nutrition training later this year,” Chelsi answered for her. “Come now,” they turned up the path to their last compound.
“Mwaiyi Mwane!” Bamaama Kayambo greeted them.
“Mwane,” their group resounded together.  Davis, his sister, a cousin, his father, mother, and a dozen children were already crowded in the chinzanza.  At the approach of their group there was a great shuffling of seats to make room for the new comers. 
After a flury of greetings Chelsi began the dialog that had now been burned on to her brain.  “Jizhina jabo Ba Marie. Baikala mu Mufumbwe ne bafujisha bya bumi. Ne Mwayuka ami, Chelsi, ne Ba Austin, ne Ba Menace.  Lelo tusakwisamba bya malaria.  Malaria, maji ka?”
Malaria is a disease!’ many of the children enthusiastically responded.  ‘It’s an illness spread by mosquitos’ one of the adults said. ‘It can make you very sick’ said another.
“Bolongo!, Tuyuka inge tujina malaria biyepi?” Chelsi carried on the conversation.
There was some silence before Bamaama spoke up ‘the person becomes hot.’
“Eee mwane!” Marmar used her tailored vocabulary and hand motions to mimic the remaining symptoms. “Ke inge muji bolongo ne, muuba ka?”
‘You must go to the clinic’ one of the older children chimed in.
“Right!” Marmar’s enthusiasm picked up even more with his interaction. “Can I get a Malaria Keylow!” Marmar clapped her hands together six times and made a buzzing X in the air with her hands.  The whole chinzanza cracked up with laughter, then copied her. 
Each member of their group took up their part one last time.  And Chelsi’s heart warmed when Austin and Menace, who had just tag along after they visited his house, took up considerable chunks of the conversation about transmission and prevention. Because that’s the point.  Transferring knowledge to people who are permanent members of the community. 

Categories: Adventure, DIY, Science & Technology, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Post navigation

2 thoughts on “046: Malaria Madness

  1. Jean Thomas

    You are doing so many good things, Chelsi!


  2. Sandy

    Seems like Malaria education went well 🙂
    Great work Chelsi!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: