I lie sweating in my tukul in the middle of the day. I have only been in Africa for 10 days and already I have a fever. It is 39 degrees C by mouth. I have a headache and nausea. For the first time I wish I were somewhere else. I am told that most ex-pats, as we are called, succumb to some illness in the first few weeks of a mission, our immune systems suddenly bombarded with new infections and different strains of more familiar ones. Our lack of immunity is the reason why Africa became known as 'the white man's grave' during colonial times. If I were at home I would say I have the flu, but in Africa you always have to think of malaria, malaria, malaria (this message has been hammered into my head by every tropical disease doctor I have every met). But of course the odds are strongly against it: 1) I have only had three mosquito bites 2) I am on medication to prevent malaria 3) It takes a minimum of seven days from the bite of an infectious mosquito till the first symptoms appear. I would have to have caught it during the three days it took to transit through Kenya. Dr. Stan Gorski, the outgoing doctor, kindly tells me that he was out of commission for four days with illness the first week he arrived in Lankien. He does a malaria test on a drop of blood from my finger. Of course it is negative. I hope I do not set some sort of record for the quickest return from an MSF mission. I take some tylenol, lie back down and try to gain some comfort from my music.
"Take me to another place she said
Take me to another time
Run with me across the oceans
Float me on a silver cloud
If I could I would but I don't know how.."