#93 Having had Malaria
Submitted by Sil
Expat Aid Workers secretly love to have had malaria.
Nothing pleases the EAW more than the face of an EAW newbie who has just been bitten by his or her first potentially malaria-carrying mosquito and whose expression shows grave fear of a sure-to-come death and then engages the senior EAW in a nervous conversation about the disease and the pros and cons of prophylaxis. The senior EAW will then self-indulge in the fact that he or she never takes malaria prophylaxis. This will lead to a story about how taking prophylaxis makes those ever buzzing mozzies immune to the pills, and that people who do take prophylaxis are responsible for killing millions.
If that doesn’t convince you, they might go into a long explanation of the side effects caused by anti-malarials, and advise you (“well, if you do insist on taking them”) on the best medication to use in your particular zone and where you can get it locally at a tenth of the cost of the clinic back home. They will then of course mention the hallucinatory dreams, severe depression and other potential neuropsychiatric adverse events that you might experience on Lariam, and their friend or co-worker who went crazy from it, and the pros and cons of Malerone or Doxycycline or whatever the latest best pill is (“again, if you insist on taking medication”). Then they may recommend drinking lots of gin and tonics instead.
The other new EAW (who is on prophylaxis) will then look towards the floor while trying to change the subject. However, the more seasoned EAW will not let this happen before jumping at the chance to nonchalantly throw in the story of the multiple times he or she has had the disease or offer a long recounting of the vivid and terrifying nightmare about violently murdering an entire community that he or she had while taking Lariam.
The EAW malaria newbie (eg, has had malaria once or twice only) will go on and on about how it felt to have the disease, and how many times he or she had to vomit. The most experienced EAW, however, will engage in the all-time favorite activity of any EAW: down-playing. He or she will calmly state things like, “yeah I’ve had malaria a couple of times, it’s really not THAT bad” or “Oh, I always just know when I have malaria, I don’t even get tested anymore, I just self-medicate,” in a bored, nevermind type voice, while secretly luxuriating in the fact of how kick-ass tough they are.
Facebook has opened up whole new possibilities for letting the world know just how sick you really are. While malaria newbies may share quotes like “Had malaria over the weekend, can finally type again” or “sorry I couldn’t check FB or my mails over the last couple of days because I had malaria,” the downplaying or more experienced EAW will simply post things like “I thought I had a cold but I guess it was malaria“ or “Does anyone know if you can mix alcohol and LAs (malaria tablets), I need to party tonite!?”
Asking “wow, you have never had Malaria!?” is a sign of utmost respect when directed at locals, but is a definite dis when directed at other EAW’s. Not having had malaria means the EAW does not really have the necessary field cred to join the EAWWHHM (Expat Aid Workers Who Have Had Malaria) club.
Newbie EAWs can learn a lot about the habits of all different varieties of mosquitoes by hanging around EAWWHHMs. They will discover that the EAWWHHM knows just by the insect’s color, the time of day that it tends to feed, and simply the way it buzzes, whether it is male or female and if it is a potential malaria vector. They will be able to tell you exactly how to diagnose malaria in themselves or others, what the symptoms are, and how to prevent it. This skill is quite useful for community health outreach while “in country”, but it’s even more useful for impressing the folks back home with the number of tropical diseases that the EAW has contracted while overseas and the extent of local knowledge that the EAW has picked up about them.
Oh yeah!!! EAW’s secretly love to have had malaria.