Thursday, November 15, 2007
weddings, cameroon, amoebic dysentery and pulling money out of my underpants... Oh, the many-ness (and mini-ness) of our stories...
i've been lying in bed, wanting to rip my insides out, for 4 days.
as of this morning, thanks to the belgian embassy for letting me use their doctor, i have been diagnosed with Dysenterie Amibienne: translated: amoebic dysentery. comes from the root word "dysentery" from the oregon trail computer game. it really is as gross as it sounds. i, maggie ritchie, am officially "home" to thousands (maybe millions) of little, hairy (probably... just because they have to be as gross as possible) creatures who are living, feasting, procreating and burrowing into the walls of my intestines (and everyone here loves to remind me of what, exactly, is going on inside my body.) in these cases, i make the strong choice to NOT believe in the facts of medicine. it has been said "diagnose are like fairy tales: they're only as true as you want them to be." (but you should still take the medicine you're prescribed:)
[how, exactly, i became the honored hostess of these furry little creatures will come to light later on...]
so, instead of doing something productive in africa (like starting a school or feeding orphans), I'm sitting in my bed, drinking watered-down apple juice and sipping lipton chicken-noodle soup out of an American Embassy mug, and feeding parasites. AND attempting, with my limited amounts of wherewithal, to write another oh-so-brilliant blog. wish me luck.
(judging by the title of this post, there is far too much to tell to keep any of you interested, so i will gracefully highlight and edit my way thru the last month of my life.)
the reason i haven't posted in a while is because, between the dates of October 4th and November 5th, I was home. (Somehow, it seems wrong to write a blog update while in the US. I don't know why. Just one of those things you save for overseas. Like peanut butter and oreos. Don't eat them at home, but if i find them here, i think i'm in heaven.) The lovely Meredith Aulie was married on October 6th, followed by my sister, Eve Annemarie's (aka "Bunny") wedding the following week. Both weddings were breathtaking in their own right. You can't beat an outdoor wedding in October. Meredith's took place at honey rock, where lots of barn dancing and getaway boats were involved, and bunny's was in the field at our house in big rock, beneath a beautiful gray sky and lots of candles.
this is my 5th sibling to marry, so you'd think we'd have the routine down by now. Well, we're not really the sort of family that "gets routines down". So every wedding is another series of "dramatic deja vu"s. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all. I mean, how can you beat a week of the extended Frost clan, the singing von trapps and staying up till 4am playing "who would you marry in your family" games? I know I can't.
i could have done without all the sympathetic looks and the "don't worry, i'm sure you'll find someone" comments. Katelyn Aulie invited me to join the OSNYM (Older Siblings Not Yet Married) club. In our club, we rejoice in our singleness, don't feel sorry for ourselves and utterly reject the notion that just because your younger sibling is married before you, you should feel terrible about your life.
in the last two weeks home, i turned 24 (woo-hoo), spent a lot of time with my beautiful friends and family (whom i appreciate more than ever before) and finished my last 4 tests (!) in Biology 100 at Waubonsee Community College with a smashing 68.5 %. That's 3.5% over what I needed to pass and graduate from Wheaton! I really showed them.
On November 4th, i took off for Cameroon, a medium-sized country (bigger than Rwanda, smaller than Sudan) on the west coast of Africa, for the 3st (you heard me right: 3st... pronounced "THIRST) Annual African Continental Cycling Championships! Our team from Rwanda was competing so Jock Boyer (the team's coach) invited me along. I was the "Technical Advisor" for the team, and I totally fulfilled my roll. I mean, I passed out water bottles and everything... and that required a lot of technical advice ("go, go go! Faster, faster, faster!"). I was awesome
But seriously, Team Rwanda actually was awesome. They got 4th overall (with 16 countries competing) and they only started training in Feb, and before then none of them were trained bikers. it's also a HUGE thing for Rwanda to have something hopeful to put their name back on the map in a positive way. so we were pretty proud of them. and you'll never meet sweeter, more humble athletes (i can say that after spending the week with all the african national teams). no pretense.
(if you have 4 minutes to watch a beautiful video about the team with sweet shots of rwanda, go to
It's basically a music video. you won't be dissapointed, i cry every time... and i don't even like biking :)
I wish you could have seen these guys ride. Some of the best athletes in africa, zero % body fat, trucking up these hills, sweating like pigs, for 3 hours. It was pretty remarkable. And there I was. The out-of-shape white girl, standing the shade and handing out water bottles and jel packs every 12 minutes. :)
"It's a choice"... Jock says.
Cameroon itself was stinky, dirty and i never want to go there again, not ever. I can't really explain it, but something in the air was off. Because I've lived in dirty places before, and it didn't bother me. But this place was dirty on a deeper level. Like corrupt. It made me want to leave from the moment I arrived.* This feeling was aggravated by the fact that we were mostly contained to our hotel. The guys would go out riding and I would walk around the stinky market. But only during the day because at night, I would get attacked, so they told me.
I went to the market one day to take pictures and got yelled at (and i mean told off), at length, by 4 different people for taking photos. In all my years (i'm really old) of taking pictures overseas, that's never happened to me.
one day i was walking in town with my new friends, Daniel and Fre from the Eretrian cycling team (Eretria is a country in east africa, above ethiopia. I'd never heard of it either... and i still can hardly pronounce it). I felt prompted, by the sketchy feeling of the place, to carry all my money in a belt-wallet, under the waistband of my skirt. We stopped to buy some bananas and I dug thru my wallet to find 200 francs. Daniel started giggling and Fre explained, with a grin:
"he is funny at you because you are pulling money from your underpants."
the worst part of cameroon, besides the people yelling at me, being trapped in a ghetto, and keeping money in my underwear, was the endless supply of bad meat sauce...which i couldn't stomach so i ate salad that had been washed with bad water... and the rest is history,
(dysentery enters, Stage Left)
thanks for listening to this somewhat harrowing, somewhat strange tale...
*Mind you, this is simply one person's honest impression of her limited experience of cameroon which is obviously a much larger country. I would hate to do this hurting country further damage by turning everyone completely off to it. It's a dark place, and dark places need light.
ps. if you wish to be further grossed out by the condition in my intestines, or if you just like details, go to http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/travel/diseases/amoebic_dysentery.htm