“Oh yes, that’s a Mango fly” Vicky says, as I am showing her my daughter’s neck where she has this strange little red bump. Hmmm ok, so now what do I do? Do I need to go to the hospital? “No!” she replies; “just put some Vaseline on it, it will suffocate the worm and then after a couple of hours just squeeze it out like you would with a pimple”. My stomach just turned, with the idea of a living creature in my daughters neck…..but…. she was right and it came out just like she told me it would!
This was one of many to come strange bugs or illnesses we would encounter over the next few years.
Another time; Kingston (my son) comes out of bed with bruises everywhere on his body, whilst me and my husband are inspecting them we notice that I have them too. Turns out we react to the mosquito bites with huge bruises around the bite! Guess our bodies need to adapt to the Congo mosquito! (This has passed and now we have “normal” bites).
How to write down all the crazy things that have happened to us and others around us since moving here! My biggest fear before entering this country was Malaria (or as the locals/French say: Palu, Paludisme) those days are long gone! As 75% of my own family have now had malaria and when treated on time it is not that bad! Although in saying this I did almost lost my husband to it last year…..but he survived!
The sick-times seem to come at the same time every year and trust me it goes around. Usually when the rainy season starts or ends. Everyone will get his or her fair share of it! For us it usually involved endless hours of waiting at the private clinic or worse when we are visiting the Western world….upon entering any hospital we raise a red flag coming from Congo.
My friend Juan and I were waiting to pick up our kids from school on a rainy day. I was making fun of him wearing his sunglasses as it was raining…he warned me that his eyes were taken over by the devil and I started laughing even louder…..that was until he showed me his eyes! FUCK! SHIT, is that contagious I ask, as I step back from him. But not to worry…. what comes around goes around, only a month after this encounter it was my turn to have “devil eyes” aka Pink eye! My daughter and I both had a pretty bad case of it. My son was scared of me and I think everyone that saw me was scared of me….I was even scared of me!
Back in Holland for the summer my son falls down whilst playing and straight away jumps up and starts screaming IM OK, IM OK….REALLY I AM OK! My sisters start laughing at him and I explain to them why he does this….In Congo we go to play yard every day from 5-6PM, this is usually the time of day when “us” mothers are fed up with our kids and at play yard they can run wild while us moms have a chat. In the glory days (since the oil crisis…lots of people have been send home) there would be up to 30 or 40 children at the play yard every day. So I am sure that statistically you can calculate the chances of a child injuring themselves at play yard but without calculations…. there were always one or two children getting injured a day! So here is what happens…..:
- Child falls down and depending on the child….starts screaming or crying
- All (no, lets rephrase that to most )mothers are “Alert” and a few 2 or 3 will go to the child
- Assess injuries, check for blood etc etc
- No blood: continue playing
- Blood: ok here we go…. from creams, plasters, disinfect sprays and lastly THE RED SPRAY are applied to the child!
My son is terrified of the red spray and let me tell you why, not only does it sting a little, it also colors your skin red (and everything else for that matter) it stays on for days and doesn’t wash off….but it disinfects as no other product! What is it? Good question! I bought mine in a pharmacy around the corner of our house (in Congo) but the description is in Dutch (WTF?) yes in Dutch. It actually says that it should be applied on babies after the umbilical cord is cut off! Or if I translate it: Dry-making-skin-solution! Our miracle spray here!
Us expats have great health insurance-packages and go to private clinics whilst living here. I can write a book on how this works for the locals and trust me it is not pretty! But here’s a little peek into local medicines: Part of their culture is that some still believe that praying for someone when sick is the only cure! Unfortunately it is not and many people die here everyday unnecessary as their lives can be easily spared if taken the proper medications. Pop-up pharmacies… are another problem as these little booths sell the strangest medicine that in general have expired by 5 years or more. People believe that the person selling these medicines have knowledge and will buy whatever they recommend. We do what we can helping our staff when they are ill and have paid for so many meds and surgeries over the past three years that I have lost count. You have the power as an expat to save someone’s life but…..where do you stop? Can you stop? Will it make a difference? This might sound harsh but it is a never ending story there is always someone sick and I cant afford to pay for all of them….or can I? Maybe I don’t want to? This is al part of the very real and hard reality of living this “rich” life in Congo.
And lastly diarrhea, WOW! I have had my fair share of it whilst living here, it really seems to be the new norm for me and when back in Europe I am almost surprised by my “normal poop”! So….on that note….Bon Weekend everyone!