Rule #1 of being in a foreign country: expect the unexpected. Though I knew this in theory, I didn’t really internalize it because (for the most part), everything has been going swimmingly during my time here! UNTIL….some tiny creatures called amoebas decided to camp out in my intestines Monday night and many days and nights after (including today).
Ewww Liz, TMI! Why are you talking about this on your internship blog? Well dear reader, as much as I would love to pretend that interning in Rwanda is all working on engaging projects, going to lunches and birthday parties with my lovely co-workers, and taking exciting trips on the weekends, it also involves some uncomfortable realities of African life. Not everyone has access to clean water and proper sanitation, so infections are easily spread! It was almost inevitable that as a foreigner on an extended stay, I would experience some kind of illness my body is unaccustomed to. Unfortunately for me, this experience was a very painful bout of amoebic dysentery that unexpectedly landed me in the Rwandan ER on Wednesday.
Now no one worry- I’m recovering now, can laugh about it, and have some great stories to tell! I like to think I’m earning my expat stripes. Besides physical discomfort, the hardest thing for me was not being able to go into the office, especially since this is only an eight week internship. So I figured I would give some advice to those of you who have a medical emergency and end up having to miss some work:
- Be in communication (as clear you are able) with your supervisor and co-workers
- Keep them updated on your condition
- Save receipts/bills proving your hospitalization and/or need for medication that required you to miss work, in case your supervisor wants to see them
- Use your time away to recover as quickly as you possibly can; hydrating, eating well, resting ect.
And once you’re mentally healthy enough, as I was starting to be yesterday…
- Ask for things you can work on remotely so you are still contributing to the organization and reaching your goals
See, easy peasy! I really am lucky to work for Aegis Trust, which values my well-being alongside my work performance. I am also really lucky to be staying in a nice apartment with generous, caring and experienced hosts, a comfortable bed in which to recover and work remotely, nourishing food, clean water, an accessible toilet, and proper medication. Even with these privileges, amoebic dysentery is quite horrible, so I can only imagine what Rwandans (and other peoples of economic standing lower than the average American) who experience this infection have to go through just to cure themselves. Really puts things in perspective, making the past few days not just about recovery, but reflection on my privilege as a Westerner.
Tune in next Friday, July 6th to read my 7th blog! Till then, feel free to browse this digital archive of my adventures in East Africa. I saw the gorillas in Uganda last Saturday, so you’ll def want to check out those pictures and videos!!!! https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.977445762432130.1073741847.100005001451639&type=1&l=8bd8ac20eb