in no specific order:
I’ve developed a love for Golden Roasted Nescafe Instant coffee – an amazing feat considering I rarely drank brewed coffee before coming to TJK (I’m a tea girl). I drink three cups a day – sometimes with cocoa – and I’ll probably get an ulcer before I leave.
I went to visit the doctor last week. I’d finally had it with the 60 or so bites on my body and needed some answers. I’d tried self-diagnosing and had determined through a careful process of elimination that I had worms. Bed bugs just didn’t fit the symptoms: the bites weren’t in a neat little line and they were swelling up. And I’d read that a possible symptom of worms was itchy bite-like bumps. Rachel – my go to with anything medical related because she’s the only one on a health-related fellowship - was not convinced. So, before heading to the pharmacy for de-worming meds, I decided to put the “Lonely Planet – Diagnose yourself – Healthy living Africa” book down – this was Central Asia after all - and visit the doctor.
The doctor, a lovely Pamiri woman, took one look at me and said: “kike!” Well, she said a lot more than that – but kike was the one word that she kept repeating. She didn’t speak English so she decided to bring in a couple of the doctors that had been lurking in the doorway hoping to get in on the action. After a second and third opinion it was confirmed –I had something called kike. Since the other two doctors also couldn’t communicate with me- I still had no idea what it was. All I could get from them was that I didn’t have to wash my clothes and it would go away. She wrote me a prescription and I was on my way.
And what is KIKE you ask? Good question – it took me another two days to figure out that it was fleas. It seems that I had brought some souvenirs back with me from Murghab (a remote town six hours from Khorog near the Kyrgyzstan border).
Apparently in six weeks, one flea can turn into about a hundred billion and take over every piece of fabric in your room. In the land of carpets and yak wool that’s a lot of coverage. Looking back, it explains why I had woken up with new bites every day. I’m an idiot for not taking care of it sooner but after my trip to Murghab I’d made another trip to the field – this time to Darvaz (5 hours in the other direction – down the mountains on the way to Dushanbe). There, I had spent a night in the village with one eye open, banging my hand against the floor trying to keep the mice at bay, while cowering in my sleeping bag counting down the minutes until daylight (our beds were located on the floor and directly in front of the kitchen….).
But that’s another story. The point, is that I figured I’d just picked up more bed bugs from that evening.
But after six weeks of being dinner - my nerves were frayed, I was feeling tired (probably from all of the poison in my body) and grumpy (because I wasn’t getting any sleep). I’d seen a doctor but still didn’t know what kike meant. I’d applied the bright green liquid that they’d given me, but I was still getting eaten alive.
I finally went to see a doctor friend of Rachel’s who spoke Enlish and after a two minute examination explained that I had flea bites. “They call it kike in Tajiki.”
My landlady – bless her heart – came to my rescue and took everything out of my room. From the bed, to the carpets (and I’ve got 3), to my slippers. It all had to go. It turns out, that through our limited communication, the first doctor assumed that since I’d encountered the kike staying in Murgab…the problem would have remained there. To my detriment – not at all the case.
I moved in with Persia for a couple of nights. She was ecstatic to have me…I had to remove all of my clothing and change into a pair of her pink PJs before being allowed to enter her room. The poor girl could barely sleep for fear of touching me and catching it (fleas don’t live on the human body- but she wasn’t convinced). I finally moved back into my room this weekend. I’m still waiting for most of my clothes but I have a bed and no more bites so I’m pretty much in heaven.
We have a mouse. We can hear it dancing the mamba in our walls at night. It’s pretty gross. I envision it crawling all over our dishes and snacking on our food. So, I’ve laid down a strict - no food allowed anywhere in the house – policy which pretty much serves to simultaneously annoy my roommate and give me an ulcer when someone leaves something lying around (including myself!). I never realized how anal I can be. I always thought that I was very easy going…..ha. I’m learning a lot about myself on this journey let me tell you.
In order to rid the house of our new friends. We – correction – our landlady has laid down a trap. It’s in the kitchen. She put bread in the trap. People love bread here. It’s treated with a great deal of respect – you aren’t allowed to throw it away. I dropped a piece on the ground once and there was a collective gasp around me. I quickly picked it up, kissed it and apologized profusely. But, apparently, it’s ok to put in mouse traps…I’m still learning the rules…
Persia and I have both agreed that if we were a mouse we wouldn’t go near stale bread. So, I’ve since added homemade honey and nuts to the concoction, which aside from leaving a nasty mess, seems to be doing the job.
We now live is a state perpetual fear and hope. Hope, that we’ll catch it and fear that we’ll have to actually see it happen. We can’t even enter the kitchen without first checking from the staircase if there is something in the trap. To date, we’ve given ourselves at least a couple of heart attacks- thinking we see a dark shadow and imagining that the mouse is there, or washing the dishes and feeling something brush against our feet.
It’s been quite a drama let me tell you.
I’m back in the office and out of the field. But I can’t complain. I love the field. It’s the best part of the job – but it’s exhausting – especially the distances that we drive and the type of work that we do. We’ve spent the past six weeks crisscrossing the region, hiking up mountains to visit projects, interviewing communities and holding meetings with stakeholders. It’s really a great job. But I’m excited to summarize their thoughts and transform the information that we’ve collected into solid recommendations for this project.
The report is due at the end of October and if I can just stop procrastinating - by doing research on the amazing trip that I’m planning at the end of this fellowship (an epic journey!) – and get to the actual writing, I’ll be happy.
So much more to tell you but that’s it for now.
Looking forward to some email updates on your lives as well.