On my second day in Africa, after having arrived, met my friends, and having nearly all of my equipment (my sleeping mat and a pack of gum were stolen) I was brimming with excitement and ready for my absolutely wonderful African adventure. Everyone had been warning me about all of the possible horrible ways I could die, and I was going to prove them all wrong.
We arrived at Lake Nakuru National Park. It’s a great blue lake in Kenya, where people do safari drives to see flamingoes, rhinos, buffalo and… monkeys. At the parking lot, our guides got out to pay the entrance fee. There was no need to get out of the car.
But having been in the stuffy van for too long, and in general being way too young and hyper and stupid to sit still, my friends and I tumbled out of the car. We streched our limbs, yelled about how cool we were to be traveling in Africa, and started snapping photos of the adorable monkeys that were scattered around.
They were either Velvet Monkeys or Vervet Monkeys, depending on whom you ask (like many other facts in this country). They had long grey fur that looked soft and smooth, cute little faces and they carried their kids on them. “They’re very mischevious,” our guide had said. We saw them go into one of the cars with open windows and snatch a bag of chips. Really naughty, but very photogenic.
As I walked over to my friend, I noticed three of them were huddled together, glaring at me. I know I’m white and everything, but I’m not that funny looking. Anyways, they were only monkeys, so I didn’t take it to heart, but rather as a sort of challenge. I happen to be quite the master of The Blinking Game.
But these guys were playing dirty. A few moments of locked looks passed, and the monkey with the most severe eyes ran up, jumped on my leg and sunk his vicious teeth into my left calf.
“What the hell?” I asked my friend in disbelief. I felt betrayed. “Danya, run!” she told me.
“But he’ll catch me,” I rationalized, and looked at the little creature. Asshole. I got out of his way and then my other friend came by smiling at the whole situation until he saw my leg. I spun my head back and saw bright streaks of blood running down my leg and splattered all over my shoe. (Finally, my equpiment would look well worn and used)
Since Romy is a medic, Iwe both sat down and started laughing and cleaning out the bite. Everything was going well until a blonde woman came along and looked at my leg in horror.
“Oh my God! Did the monkeys do that? Oh yeah, they are really awful. Did he scratch you or bite you? Oh, he bit you?! Well you have to get that taken care of, right away. You need to get to a hospital, you don’t know what these monkeys have been eating, what sort of diseases they carry. They could have Rabies! I don’t want to scare you but you have to get that checked out immediately!”
Okay. Time to get nervous. I only really panicked when I imagined how my mom would react and then I started thinking I’d probably die in the next few hours.
So I looked around and tried to figure out how to get to a hospital. Since our guide constantly looked high, the cook didn’t speak English or have many teeth, and my friends, who are great, were just as white and foreign and shell-shocked as I was, I turned to the driver. He reached my shoulders and was bald with a huge smile, and was my only hope.
“Yes, we will take you to hospital. Okay.” This was my first encounter with a concept I’ve come to know well: “African time.” Things don’t happen when you want them to. They happen when… well, when they happen. And every little thing, is gonna be all right. So after some minutes of useless consultations and negotiations among the guides and park rangers, we were all back in the van.
After a bumpy, dusty ride, we arrived at some section of a building that had some variation of the root “medic” painted on it, and proved to be a very very untouristy place. The man in the white robe behind the desk took a quick glance at the wound and said it wasn’t very deep. The driver with the enormous smile stood in between us and translated parts of sentences. I asked what about rabies. Oh no, rabies is only found in carnivorous animals. Mmhmm. He wrote something in his big book and prescribed me something called megamox.
Enough with all this save-the-world-let’s-be-one-big-happy-equal-African-family crap. I wanted to get to the richest most Western hospital there was. Now.
So we were back in the car, most people around me liking me a good deal less than they had a few hours earlier. We arrived at a decent place (by driving on wrong sides of the road a few times) and the doctor, who was still far from having a name I could pronounce, seemed to know his stuff. He told me there was a pretty big chance that those monkeys had rabies.
“So how do I know if I have rabies?” I inquired.
“There’s no test. But if you die, then you know you have it.” Oh. Uplifted, I entered the nurse’s room to get my first of five rabies injections.
She took my different measurements, and I noticed that not eating breakfast or lunch was one way to lose weight. On her desk were two books: The Holy Bible and The Old Testament. Oh God help me. And then she asked for my hand. Was she going to start reading my palm now?! “Where are you from?”
“Israel! Oh wow! Do you know that the lord loves Israel? He watches over the People of Israel and protects them.” Well, I sure hoped he did, because I was in the middle of nowhere, Kenya, with a fatal disease and a woman reading my palm.
But she’d only wanted my pulse. So she jabbed my arm and treated the wound and that was the end of that.
(Tomorrow I get my fourth shot. I’ll write about the other experiences in the African healthcare system later, but for now I’ll reassure you that I haven’t shown any signs of being about to die! No really, I’m fine.)