Sunday, 21 October 2007

I've been SKWID-ed!

Another week closer to departure. Just finished my second training course at Harborne Hall in Birmingham (it's a converted convent: little statues of Mary in niches along corridors). Very intense course; I think we all felt emotionally drained after four days. I have to say, the VSO training regime is very detailed and thorough. Such a great bunch of other trainees, too - nobody in common with my first course, but at last I've met another volunteer who'll be in Rwanda with me! The range of posts and countries between 14 of us is simply amazing - Cambodia, the Gambia, India, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Jobs ranging from paediatrics, to working with HIV positive sex workers, to education, to compiling a signing language for deaf people. Restores a bit of faith in humanity.
Our course ended up with VSO's customary health and safety advice. This can be summarised as:
Don't eat anything - it's nearly all buggy, or you'll blow yourself and half the neighbourhood to smithereens if you tinker around with your gas cooker
Don't drink anything non-alcoholic - 'cos it's swimming in bacteria, even in ice
Don't go anywhere - 'cos the roads are dangerous and everyone drives like maniacs
Stay indoors - 'cos if the bugs don't get you then the sunshine will
Don't have sex with anyone (or even anything) - you're guaranteed to end up infected or married
Can someone please bang me on the head and remind me why I signed up to VSO?

Now it's back to reality; yet more injections (3 this week alone); insurance to sort out and all sorts of boring domestic finance to prepare for departure. My clockwork radio has arrived and I've been fiddling with it to try to get short wave reception (world service is going to be a life saver); my new camera works beautifully but I need to get more proficient on close-range shots, and at last I have a moped helmet which fits me. (Apparently it's the biggest size they make, but if I tell you all then you'll make the obvious comment back).

Friday, 5 October 2007

Au centre du monde

OK, here's proof that Rwanda really is at the centre of the world!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Now I know what a pin-cushion feels like

Today I'm almost half way through my jabs. I've had hepatitis B in my left arm, and rabies in my right. A while ago, both arms felt as if they were made of lead, but that's worn off now.

All in all I need at least 10 jabs - 3 each for rabies and hepatitis, one each for typhoid, meningitis and polio/tetanus/diphtheria, and a booster MMR to cover measles, mumps and rubella. Just about the only thing I don't need is japanese encephalitis. The sole jab from previous expeditions which seems valid is my yellow fever one. I've no grumbles with the Bridport Medical Centre - they're incredibly thorough.

It's the little asides that surprise me, the things I wasn't expecting. Apparently some of the immunity from the BCG jab I had back in 1961 might have worn off, so they want me to have another test to see if I still have resistance. All very well, but now that they've stopped doing the BCG jabs in schools there's hardly anywhere left to do the testing. I have to go about 35 miles to Stalbridge twice in November - once for the test and again in two days' time to have it read. If it transpires I need an injection then apparently I'll have to go all the way to Bristol for it.

No problem; it'll be a day out in the autumn sunshine/pouting rain! But why Stalbridge, of all places? - it's a village lost in the middle of Blackmoor Vale in the wilds of North Dorset. The most random, illogical place I can imagine to use as a repository for specialised medical treatment!

Then I've got to see my G.P. about anti malarials. Of course, the common-or-garden chloroquine and paludrine are no good for Rwanda as the bugs have become immune to them. So I need either mefloquine (side effects: bad dreams, sleep disturbance, headaches, rash, anxiety, depression, diarrhea and -{beat this} - paranoid hallucinations), or doxycycline (side effects: photosensitivity or heartburn). Photosensitivity for a year on the equator, anyone?.....

The jabs are expensive, too, even on the national health. Rabies - £105; meningitis £30, mefloquine - about £170, or doxycycline about £200.

And then I read about an outbreak of ebola in the Congo. No immunisation possible, 90% mortality rate, unbelievably awful way to die, no known cure. Fortunately it's a long way away from the Rwanda border, but, then again, diseases can travel a long way fast with long distance lorry drivers and the like.

So, I think, why am I putting myself through all this? Can't answer that yet. But Rwanda had better be good when the Bridport pin-cushion finally gets there!