I've been sick with a cold and a bad sore throat for about 4 days now, and I've just had enough. At home, I'd still be able to hop in the car and run to Smith's if I needed something, and I'd have all kinds of entertainment options in my house and Zelma would call from across the street twice a day to see how I'm doing.
But even though it's just a cold, I feel really tired. To go somewhere, I'd need to make the effort of walking and then negotiating the crowded dala dala. It's been very hot and humid, so I know I'd wilt with my current condition. Plus, my voice has basically been gone for two days, so not only can I not speak Swahili, I can't speak at all. Although now, near the end of day 4, I feel like it's almost over and maybe tomorrow I can get out and about again.
K2 was stricken with a horrible, pounding headache that lasted for 2 days, while he was driving and taking buses back and forth between here and Kilimanjaro and taking care of business. His friends took him to the hospital last night, where they diagnosed malaria, which he's had for awhile, and gave him two injections a few hours apart, and then sent him home. I saw him briefly this afternoon, and he says he's better, but really tired.
And then he took off towards Kilimanjaro to work on settling an ongoing dispute with some Park Rangers. Last week, robbers slit a tent and stole a tourist's backpack with cash and passport inside. The guides, who work for K2's company, called the Park Service. When the Park Rangers arrived on site at 2:30 in the morning, they beat up the guides to try to get them to confess to the theft! I was appalled, and said all the American things about violence being the most frightening when it's an abuse of power by someone in authority, etc. A few days later when the tourists came off the mountain, K2 went to meet them. He told me they, all Americans, said the exact same things I said. It's a very upsetting situation, and the Park Service has not fired the rangers. Although the Minister of Tourism did meet with the tourists and give a soothing speech.
For the four days of being sick, I've been skipping all my Swahili lessons and two days of helping with English classes. So I'm getting bored, which leaves a lot of time for ruminating. And here's something that occurred to me:
I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines in 1982-83. That was before the days of email, digital photography, laptops, and cell phones. On this trip to Tanzania, I am the most wired I've ever been. I have a cell phone that can call globally, a netbook, a digital camera, an i-Pod with travel speakers, and a Kindle (electronic book reader).
In the Philippines, it took 2 weeks for a letter or package to make the trip between the Philippines and home. When we wanted to call home, which we only did about 3 times in 2 years, we traveled 50 km to a bigger city. Then we went to the phone office, where we requested our call. Then we waited, usually about 4 to 6 hours, for the operator to connect our call. And then we paid $20 for a few minutes. Now I'm firing off e-mails and posting comments on Facebook. I'm trying not to make phone calls, because it's $3/minute, but I'm text messaging because it's cheap.
In the Philippines, I took rolls of fabulous pictures on slide film. Then we mailed them home to my mom, who got them developed and mailed them back to us, so we could see how the pictures were turning out. I was just learning to use a 35-mm camera and needed to see the results. So we had about a 6-week turn around on the pictures, and no projector for showing them to anybody there. Two years later, after we got home, we went around and did a bunch of slide shows for people. Now I'm inserting photos I took a few minutes ago into blog posts so all my friends half a world away can see them instantly.
In the Philippines, we waited eagerly for the weekly deposit of the "Stars and Stripes," the military newspaper, at our Peace Corps diplomatic pouch mailbox in the capital city 50 km away, as well as our individual copies of "Newsweek." Now, I'm reading the Denver Post every day. I subscribed to it on Kindle. And although I'm disappointed to find that my global wireless on the Kindle doesn't work right here at Kundayo Apartments, I'm able to download the paper from Amazon.com onto my netbook, and from my netbook onto my Kindle. Then I relax with a cup of coffee and read the paper.
All the department stores in the Philippines sold bootleg cassette tapes of American music for about $1.89. And the Peace Corps gave all the volunteers a medical kit inside a gray plastic briefcase thingy that would just fit three rows of cassettes crosswise. So all of us put the band-aids and antibiotic cream in plastic bags and filled the cases with badly recorded bootleg music. We bought a brick-sized Sony Walkman so we could listen to it all on buses and in pension houses, and an overpriced little tape player that we had to stick a paper clip in to keep the "play" button depressed. I'd say we had about 36 albums. Now I have my tiny little i-Pod with 1200 songs on it, plus a travel speaker that weighs only a couple of pounds. Plus, when I got those Filipino tapes home to a real stereo, I could hear the difference between bootleg and real tapes! The last tape we bought there was Michael Jackson's "Thriller," which was released just before we came home.
And in the Philippines, the thing that was the hardest for me was the shortage of books to read for pleasure. I was scrabbling around for anything. That's when I first read Dirk Pitt books from the Peace Corps library in Manila. That's when I paid one peso to rent Vogue Magazine for a week. I even got to the point with that one that I could identify different designers' dresses from the pictures. Yes, I know, that's very hard for my friends who have seen my current wardrobe to believe! But now, I have 272 books loaded on my Kindle. I can keep reading and reading and reading! And if I did run out of books, I could order more from Amazon.com, download to my netbook, and onto my Kindle.