Fieldset
I live in Nukus

I live in Nukus. It's a city of ~300,000 people in Karakalpakstan, a semi-autonomous region of Uzbekistan. When I told a friend I was coming here for an MSF mission, he congratulated me.

I live in Nukus. It's a city of ~300,000 people in Karakalpakstan, a semi-autonomous region of Uzbekistan. When I told a friend I was coming here for an MSF mission, he congratulated me. "Sounds like you just made up a name, but I guess it exists." It is somewhat of a forgotten corner of the world, but just south of here the Silk Road ran from the Far East to Europe. I've even seen camels on a farm near the TB hospital where MSF works. (I'll leave the reader to speculate why our TB hospital is so far away that a camel farm is one of the closest neighbors.)

Where I come from, people have also forgotten about TB, though nearly a third of the world is infected and about 2 million people die from it every year. TB is curable, with 6 months of antibiotic therapy. The project MSF runs here is a little more complicated as our patients have some form of drug resistant TB. From a patient's perspective, this means ~2months of hospitalization, followed by nearly 2 years of antibiotic therapy which consists of taking a hand full of pills every day. Oh and these drugs have some nasty side effects, including being sick to your stomach. The side effects can be so bad that just seeing the white coats of hospital personnel can make patients nauseous.

I'm not sure why the rates of drug resistant TB are so much higher here, but I'm sure having the antibiotics readily available in the bazaar doesn't help. Respiratory infections are generally higher here, most probably due to the ecological disaster nearby (I suggest the reader google "Aral Sea"), which brought MSF here over a decade ago.

Over 10 years of expats [international volonteers] coming and going, and some who have been here more than once. I wonder about the expats who lived here before me. As an expat, I find myself doing things I wouldn't normally do at home. One evening I returned from the office and decided to heat up some leftovers. I took a bowl of lentils from the fridge and found dozens of ants that had drowned along the edge. "Damn!" was my first thought, "can't waste food," was my second. I trimmed the edges of the bowl with a spoon and heated up what remained. Still, I live in a comfortable house, with heat, electricity, and running water, most of the time. I put photos up on my wall in my bedroom and organized all my bottles of lotion on my dresser. I even tacked up a subway map of New York City. It's beginning to feel like home.