My weekend started Friday morning with expectations for a great weekend jam packed with trips to night clubs and local social hot spots: this was the weekend of our honesty! Being the good student that I am, I was in class at 930 am ready for our two and a half hour lecture about the contemporary politics of Ghana…thrilled. About thirty minutes into the lecture I began to feel fidgety and shifted in my seat to get comfortable. As the lecture wore on, the combination of the heavier accent of the professor and my seemingly endless search for a comfortable position made the minutes seem like hours. Literally every time I checked the time, one minute had passed.
Eventually I slumped back into my chair and put 1000% of my effort into paying attention to what the professor said. About an hour later I realized I was straining my back and neck by the position I was sitting in so I tried straightening myself but to my unpleasant surprise I discovered my back felt like it had solidified! My muscles simply felt like they were stuck so I stretched and spent the rest of the lecture keeping my back, and what developed into the rest of my skeletal muscle, flexible. After the lecture, I asked Kaneisha to feel my forearm to gauge my warmth and to my surprise her hand was not nearly as warm as mine. I then asked Dr Cho what to look out for in the way of malaria symptoms, her list was: flu-like symptoms, fever, stomach issues (by way of loose stool) and loss of appetite…I had only been able to positively check the least glamorous off that list but figured my elevated temperature was caused by sleeping under an air conditioner the night before, so I let it slide.
When we got back from University of Cape Coast, I went straight to my room to dig through my bag for my bottle of ibuprofen to relieve my now aching body and even warmer body temperature. I had promised the 6th and 7th grade soccer teams at Ghana National Basic School a ball and my presence at their pitch so that they could show me their skills in a friendly match between the two; I had about two hours after class to go locate a soccer ball, purchase it and take a taxi to the school. My body was not pleased at the thought and the thought of calling the school and telling them I was ill crossed my mind…but I am a man of my word so I popped two more ibuprofen and headed out.
I found my way to the school with a soccer ball and the roars of applause and cheers instantly made me forget my woes…or maybe the ibuprofen had finally kicked in; either way I experienced a deep happiness that I imagine was what a smiling soul feels like. The match was thirty minutes long and I was the time keeper, using a small whistle that one of the kids produced. The score was tied up at two when I blew the final whistle. The children thanked me for coming to watch them play and I caught a taxi back to the guest house. As soon as I got back I realized that I was tired, hot and sweating, so I took a cold shower to cool myself down before Nana Jyan came to pick our cape coast group up for our weekend trip.
Dr Cho told me I felt warm and the thermometer said my temperature was a near perfect 98.9 degrees. She advised that it might be one of two things: 1) the cold Kaneisha had nursed the week before or 2) the dreaded M-word. She told me to be careful and have someone call her if I felt worse, and with that, she released me unto the world.
The cab got to the house at 6 and we arrived at the house around 630. We met our hosts and the most adorable 7 month old little boy, Emmanuel, who took an instant liking to myself over James, Liz and Natalia. At that point I was nearly certain that my ailments were not contagious so I played with the baby until dinner was served. We had rice, fish in spicy sauce and kenke (a twice-fermented lump of maize). I forced myself to eat everything and when I finished I knew I could add loss of appetite on the list of symptoms. I was not looking forward to clubbing that night but my absolute avoidance of “pansy”-ness mandated that I suck it up and put on my game face!
My host parents were Mr Thomas and Rose Archampong and their sons Raphael and Emmanuel were very welcoming. When we arrived to their apartment, Thomas and Rose were very gracious hosts and they informed me that our rendezvous with the group to go out would be 9 pm. I waited patiently, feeling the fever creeping back up and the ache intensifying, I knew it would take every ounce of discipline I had gained at Davidson to keep the party going that night. Challenge accepted.
930 rolled around and I hopped in a taxi, bidding Thomas and Rose a good night. When we arrived at Natalia and Liz’s host house, Nana Jyan informed me that James would not be joining us; apparently he had fallen asleep. From our conversation earlier, I knew James would try to pull this maneuver so I was ready to demand that I see him to rouse his spirits and foster a spirit of merriment. I was successful and we were soon on our way to Elmina beach resort.
Friday nights, in Ghana, is ladies night so James, Nana Gyan, Carlis (James’ host) and I had to pay a ten cedi cover to get in. We arrived around 1045, about an hour before the party really started so we sat down and awkwardly waited for people to shuffle in. The room was a chilly 60 degrees and a fog machine and lasers made for an interesting show while we waited. The a/c made me shiver at first but eventually it helped keep my fever from being unbearable. I was not exactly in the mood to dance so I eventually decided to pay my dear friend Captain Morgan a visit at the bar. After ordering my rum and coke (mixed drinks are DIY here) I decided to wiggle my hips over to our group on the dance floor. The instant I finished pour my drink, Joel whipped her arm behind her…straight into my un-tasted drink. I took this as a sign from above and plopped back down onto a couch to sulk. About an hour later, I began to feel too icky to stay in the cold room so I stepped outside to warm up…and that’s where I stayed. I could not bring myself to go back inside as my head was pounding, my skin feeling like it was both on fire and had been pounded by a bat, yet I only wanted to be warm. I knew now for sure that I had contracted malaria.
I waited for the group to dance as much as they wanted while I waited outside and eventually at 230 everyone came out ready to go home. My patience had worn down to zero and I asked to be dropped off at the guest house; I was cutting my home stay short and going to the clinic in the morning. I passed out at 3 am and was woken at 8 by a concerned Dr Cho. She whisked me to the clinic where I waited a grand total of five minutes to see the doctor. He asked for my symptoms and sent me to the lab down the hall for blood samples. I gave a small vial of rather viscous, dark looking blood and was sent outside to wait. Ten minutes later I was called back in and the doctor simply said I’m going to start you on anti-malarials. It was official: I was now the most naturalized obruni in the group.
We headed back to the house and I began my weekend of uncomfortable sleep, ibuprofen, anti-malarial pills, and countless bags of water. I was fine by Monday.
All in all, I would rate malaria as fourth on my list of worst ailments in my lifetime after: asthma attacks, fractured rib and chicken pox. I wouldn’t mind getting it again, the bed rest was nice and the vegetable soup was delicious! I wanted the true Ghanaian experience…I got it!
“Yaw” Ben Garcia