Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tunga penetrans

Normally, in my profession, when you move to a new country, you get a security briefing, which is not just about the conflict etc in the area but also on health issues. Since I have moved without actually being assigned to a delegation and as a consultant, I am on my own (my line managers back in Geneva and London are kick ass so I’m not really alone)…

Lucky for me, Micky actually got a briefing etc from his agency and when I arrived, he sat me down and gave me the low down. He did this since he knows now from experience how seriously I take security briefings…he was my boss in our last job. He talked about the north of the country (it’s pretty much fine now and we aren’t really going there anyhow), the situation in Kampala (so safe and so nice), atms and credit cards (not as bad as it could be), health (malaria in the country, but not so much in Kampala, yellow fever but we are both vaccinated against that and oh, there are these things called jiggers…they lay eggs in your body and get into your clothes and it can cause an infection and…WHAT??????) My jigger paranoia, like a female jigger attaching itself to your body, took root.

It’s the only thing I have been terrified of in Uganda. The dreaded jigger. You can get malaria, bilharzias and other nasties but the one that has captured and wrecked havoc with my imagination is the jigger. There is something so totally gross about the idea of something getting into your body (and it’s miniscule), laying its eggs and multiplying. I know Micky and I are perfect for each other since so many things point to it (and I just KNOW), but he laughed when he saw my face when he first told me about jiggers and said he had the same reaction when getting his briefing. We bond on our mutual jigger fascination (ok, mine is a way more heightened fascination).

It must have been high school, and this is probably an urban legend, but I heard this story about this girl who got a spider ‘bite’ but really, it was a spider laying it’s eggs in her face. What started out as a pimple, grew and grew and one day, shit loads of baby spiders emitted from the girl’s face. I have carried that story with me for so long and the story about the woman who stuck a lobster up herself and the lobster, I guess, ejaculated inside her and the next day, she started having lil baby lobsters (which when she saw that, she freaked out, hit her head on the bathroom floor and died).

Neither of these stories is probably true but they make excellent daymare material.

I walk around Kampala and our house citing any issues on jiggers.

I got a suspicious looking bite on my inner thigh which kept growing. I was not a happy camper. The only person who took me seriously that this could be a jigger bite was my mom, a bonified doctor who knows her tropical diseases. Bless her. It wasn’t diagnosed as a jigger bite in the end, and some antibiotics cleared up whatever it was (sort of), but that’s not the point. I just finally googled jiggers and wikipedia says that (thankfully), the eggs actually fall out so there will be no baby jiggers growing in me, HOWEVER, I could still have a jigger bite and other nasty consequences (which wikipedia doesn’t get into and my internet is too slow and I am too scared (and a hypochondriac to boot which really, doesn’t need ANY more encouragement) to look up other sites), could still occur.

What a totally horrible sentence. It’s because I add things after writing one complete sentence. I have a parentheses problem.

Maybe it was a jigger bite, and this means that there are now baby jiggers growing into adult jiggers at my parent’s place in NJ. Whoops.

I am putting myself on a medical alert and am shouting out to Micky as I type this to monitor me for jigger reactions.

He just looked at me and said, that’s nice and smiled and went back to his computer. Hmph! You wait till I start frothing at the mouth in a jigger reaction, buddy.

Wikipedia also says that jigger is an ethnic slur. That’s not nice. It means lots of things actually.

It’s a small town in Louisiana.


Anonymous said...

Hi Zehra,
That may be true about jiggers, but the thing you heard about was actually the mango fly, whose larvae CAN get under your skin, and hatch, making a kind of boil. Then you have to draw them out (you can do it yourself but I recommend letting a doctor do it as it is pretty disgusting).
They do exist in Kampala and to make sure you don't get them, any clothes that have hung out to dry must be ironed (ALL OF THEM-- underwear, socks, bras, everything).
The jigger is a type of sand flea, I believe. This mango fly is a different animal...
Anyway ironing will protect you... or you can get a clothes dryer.
-- A fellow Kampala resident

Anonymous said...

PS: Congratulations on your wedding!

PPS: I am under the impression that there is no home mail delivery in Kampala--I and everyone I know has a PO Box at the post office--so if you haven't been receiving postcards that could be why.

F. Zehra Rizvi said...

Dear fellow Kampala resident.

THANKS A LOT. Now i am more freaked out than ever. Everything does get ironed so I guess it's ok but it's not about what does happen but the thought of what CAN happen.

Try mailing me something..let's see if it works. And no stalking us :)


Anonymous said...

Don't worry, I am a boring expat mom-- no time for stalking in between school run, play dates, baking cookies, shopping at 5 different stores to find one specific grocery item, etc.

Keep ironing, the mango flies won't get you. We have been here 1 year with no invasions so far...

I would try a postcard-- but it would be much faster to have a driver drop it at your place instead of driving to the post office, finding parking, etc. In my experience that's how most (all?) post within Kampala is delivered!


F. Zehra Rizvi said...

That's part of the fun. I'll blog about you if it arrives here! Post it post it post it...(do you succumb to peer pressure at all?) x