With the rainy season in Africa comes sickness, apparently. When we started our directed research writeups over half the staff disappeared. At first I assumed they had days off, but then I realized most of them were in the local hospital due to one ailment or another.

One morning while cooking breakfast, I asked our older cook, Esau, how the other cooks Patricia and Resti were doing. He told me they were staying at the local “medics,” which is a place where people can go for medicine and lay-ins but that doesn’t house any certified specialists. (It is not the clinic we, as students, go to if we are sick). Then he asked when I was going to visit them – not if, when. Flustered, I almost offered work as an excuse to not go, then I stopped myself and boldly stated, “this afternoon.”

I convinced two friends to go with me and we made our way to the medics, near the church. Patricia and Resti lay in neighboring beds in one of the patient rooms. The room had six beds, three of which were held by children. They were beyond touched that we had come to visit and I silently thanked Esau for demanding the obvious. We asked Patricia and Resti what they had. Patricia said the doctors told her she has allergies, Resti had “some kind of flu.” It didn’t seem very conclusive, but they said they would be home within two days. We sat and chatted for a few minutes, a woman randomly handed Shealyn her baby which entertained us for a bit. Then the priest came to pray for each person in the room individually and we decided it was best to leave.

That night in the dinner line I was chatting with the student managar about all the sick staff members. “What did they say they had?” She asked cynically, “Malaria? Typhoid?” I told her what we had learned and she laughed, “Yeah, the clinic isn’t very conclusive. It is always  malaria or typhoid, or sometimes just ‘the change in weather’.”

A few days later I was sitting in my room when I spotted Martha through the window. I jumped up and raced out to see her, she had been to the hospital for what I think is migraines. We greeted with a handshake and a headbump and I asked her how she was. “Eh, niko sawa,” she replied, I’m okay.

I asked where she’d been and she told me the hospital, then she laughed, “Daktari kicha,” The doctor is crazy.

“Kwa nini?” Why?

Then she went into a long, and slow (for my benefit), story of what the doctor had told her, with a lot of pantomiming involved. Apparently, she arrived at the doctors, told him she had headaches and was told to wait. After a long wait they drew some blood and made her wait more. The results came back negative – no malaria, no typhoid, no HIV. However, apparently they revealed she has too much blood, and that’s why she’s getting headaches. The doctor told her she should have her blood drawn to get rid of some of it.

Daktari kicha sana. 

I will never take the American health care system for granted again.