An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Salamaua and Malaria

Another post is here, I will keep it nice and short. The reason for this is that my attention span and energy at present has been greatly diminished - possibly due to those blasted mosquitoes and their off-loaded cargo of little wriggling parasites currently invading my body.

It was a good long weekend all up at my volunteer mates - Helen and Wendy - place at Salamaua, across the gulf by way of a "Speedie" or boat with outboard motor attached, that takes a cool 45 minutes, cruising up and down the swell. Once there it turned out to be a another world (cliché alert) from Lae at least. It could well be the typical pacific island brochure style of place - beach, plenty of palm trees, villages set back under the palms etc, but of course it is very basic, no running water and electricity from a generator for 4 hours a night. They do have a flushing toilet though, but without the running water it requires a manual topup. No problem.

The girls teach at the High School there, and they have been at it for a year and a half. Both fresh faced and straight out of the good old British Universities. Helen even went to Cambridge - a smart lass indeed. I kept thinking to myself this place must have been a massive culture shock to the system when you first arrive. If it was they have certainly adapted and become PNG meri's now. Both carry their bilums on their head and go barefoot everywhere like the locals do. I had only seen them in Lae, so seeing them in their own environment was very interesting.

On Friday night after I arrived I started to get quite painful headaches, not something that I normally get. I was offered some Panadol, which was accepted, unusually - if you know me well you will know I never take headache pills, but this time my head felt it was warranted. Saturday we were planning on doing a trip with some of the students to go gold panning, but in the morning it was bucketing down, so that plan did not happen, no point getting needlessly wet when you up to your waste in a creek panning for gold. So instead when the rain stopped mid morning, we all went on a 1½ hour hike with a bunch of students out to a waterfall in the foothills behind Salamaua. On the way back my energy was really drained, I started to see double vision, things blur and it felt like I was going to pass out, all new experiences. I made it back to the house, but I knew there was something up and it was all starting to look like the big M.

At the house the headache returned, so the Panadol became used, and I had to lie down for quite a while. The Panadol did some magic and before long I was eating dinner and we were playing board games - entertainment without TV, reminds you of black and white days, no? I had brought along a bottle of Vodka, which was apparently the first time anybody had to their place, so we sat about and played Risk, with whoever winning having to down the inch left in the bottom (the rest was consumed during the game). The winner happened to be me, and lo and behold Malaria was forgotten.

I remembered though later in the night as I was drenched in sweat, with a full body shake, that I was still sick. In the morning I bit the bullet and started a 6 day treatment course that the girls gave me, as the diagnosis all round was Malaria. Both of the girls have had it twice and highly recommended the treatment Artemether, and being the only thing available I was sold.

Still it did not stop me from seeing places. On Sunday we went down to Salamaua itself, met some expats staying at there houses there for the long weekend, got offered and accepted a beer and homebrewed Whiskey (47% alc vol), then me and Wendy borrowed a dugout outrigger canoe from a local guy Wendy knew, paddled it with a few navigational difficulties to start with over to the headland, climbed the hill, saw the Japanese guns from WWII, paddled the canoe back and walked back to their house. After all this I well and truly needed a rest. In hindsight, I shouldn't have done any of these things with most of my red blood cells being popped open by growing parasites.

View of Salamaua from the headland

Monday was a public holiday, so I caught the boat back as it left from the high school at 7, and made it back to my house at 10. The fatigue had entered a new stage and the first thing I did was sleep for 2 hours. In the evening I was caught without any Panadol and suddenly I felt very sympathetic of Migraine sufferers. My head started to explode like a suicide bombers. Any slight movement, moving the eyes, opening my mouth, no movement at all, it was pain and bad pain. All I could do was lie on my bed and wish it to go away. So I have now had my memory refreshed that there is a good reason to live with someone, they can look after you.

Tuesday morning I was OK, after a sheet sweat-drenching night. I rang up work gave them the news, then I went and visited the Uni Clinic, just to get a blood sample to confirm. Talked to the doctor anyway and he said I had done the right thing by picking it up early, and starting treatment.

So since then the symptoms are becoming more mild and I am actually at work today. I have had Malaria and am surviving, another tick on the PNG list box. Ohh I now have got some Panadol in my cupboard as well, it is behind some glass with a little red hammer beside it.