Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

Tag: Parasites

Africa is just like America. Except when it isn’t.

“What’s it like, raising kids in Africa?” is naturally one of the questions we get asked quite often. Sadly, because we live in a town I can’t report anything truly interesting.

I feel like I am going to disappoint you, but I have to admit that there are no lions lurking outside our gate. We have no need for elephant-proof fences, and none of the “native” neighbors want to eat us for dinner. It’s a real drag. 😉

The scariest things in my yard. For sure.  (If you don't count the cobras.)

The scariest things in my yard. For sure.
(If you don’t count the cobras.)

In many ways, raising kids in Africa is no different than raising them in the USA, France, the North Pole, or anywhere else.

I am a mom- I cook, teach my kids, clean up spilled milk, and kiss boo-boo’s with the rest of you. I make a mean cheesecake and burn eggs on a regular basis. (I know- some things just defy reason.) I fall asleep planning the next day out and wake up ready to attack piles of laundry, home work, and whatever scary creatures get dragged in from the garden. I also lost my mind some time ago. Just ask my kids, they’ll tell you.

Truth

Truth

In many ways my life is no different living in a small town in Zambia than it would be if I lived in the USA.

Welcome to suburbia!

… sort of.

Beans? No? How about some dried caterpillars, then? Welcome to grocery shopping Africa-style! photo by Mary Jo Keller

Beans? No? How about some dried caterpillars, then? Welcome to grocery shopping Africa-style!
photo by Mary Jo Keller

I mean, it’s not exactly the same. There are times when I think over the day (or week… or month…) and think, “WOW. I am not even sure how to explain what happened today,” and the best summary is perhaps, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

I have some pretty interesting reasons to take kids to the doctor for check-ups. Earlier this week Freddy had to go in because we were getting concerned that he might have worms in his eyes. Yeah, you read that right. WORMS in his eyes. Even I thought we might be over-reacting on this one. Fortunately the doctor here in town is amazing and made a full examination. He quelled my fears that we might be overreacting. After all, eye worms are a big problem here. (AHHHHHH!!!) I am happy to report that Frederick’s eyes are worm-free. At least for now. Let’s face it: this is Africa.

Insects and creepy creatures take life to a whole new level. You already know about mosquitoes and malaria, but in Zambia we also have the pleasure of hosting the tetse fly (carries sleeping sickness which is horrific and deadly) and the putze fly. That one won’t kill you. It will just lay eggs in your wet clothing. When the eggs hatch the larvae burrow into your body and leave massive, festering welts. But just until they turn into adult flies and come crawling out again. (Can you hear me screaming from there?) Hey, the guys that made Alien had to get their inspiration from somewhere. Oh don’t forget our Disease of the Year winner. Ebola is SO last year. This winter “elephantiasis” made it’s way to the top of the media ladder here in Zambia. It’s a parasite that infects your lymph glands and causes extreme and painful swelling of the limbs and groin. Lovely.

When we plan a trip with the kids we probably make slightly different considerations than the average family- we have to take into account the seasonal rains (can we even get down the roads at that time of year?), the diseases (you do NOT want to camp in a tetse fly zone if you can avoid it!), the locals (I said our neighbors here in town don’t want to eat us), and the wildlife (Africa!). Not to mention the fuel shortages, water availability, crocodile presence, road conditions, etc.

“Keeping the home” is a bit different too. We are waging a war on ants right now. A WAR. Have you seen the size of African ants?? Some species will eat babies. I am not even kidding. You can’t give them an inch. Unfortunately they have decided they like our house and have no plans of leaving. I have tried everything that is not forbidden by the Geneva Convention and I STILL find them in the sink, on the counter, and in the fridge!! It’s to the point that if baby Ian cries we go running to make sure the ants haven’t decided that he is on the menu (Africa!) Seriously, these things MUST go! (Just to make you feel better, the current invasion is definitely on the “give me sugar or give me death” diet- not interested in Ian. Unless he has sugar.)

My daily chore list is circa 1900: bake bread, make cheese, check garden, etc. I kinda enjoy being Susie Home-maker so I am not complaining. But I wouldn’t mind having a Chipotle around the corner. Just sayin’. 😉

What IS that?? I don't know. Just drink the milk and don't think about it!!

What IS that?? I don’t know. Just drink the milk and don’t think about it!!

We are facing a new challenge this year: “Load shedding”. It is a kind of rationing for electricity. Between crumbling infrastructure due to poor management (Africa!) and several years of severe drought, Kariba Dam is facing a disastrously low water level. This means the country has very little electricity to go around. On the current “load shedding” plan the power can be off for 8-12 hours a day!

I could go on and talk about which villages we can take kids to and which we can’t, the parasites that crawl out of the mud in rainy season, or the rabid dogs that trot through our neighborhood…. but I feel like that would just highlight our differences.

I prefer to focus on our similarities.

Is there anything you ever wondered about life in Africa?

Amoebas

For years my tummy felt splendid-

But from bad water, it up-ended.

I spent a week in bed;

I thought I was dead.

Amoebas have come, and I’m bested.

 

Still I can really eat nothing.

Broth is no longer enticing.

I’m still in my bed.

So bored I feel dead.

All I really want is some ice cream!!!

amoebas

an original limerick by Ashley Keller (who is operating under the influence of bowel-enforced house arrest)

 

 

 

 

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me…

Guess I’ll go eat worms!!

Remember that song from summer camp? So cute.
“Long, thin, slimy ones; short, fat, squishy ones; itsy-bitsy, fuzzy-wuzzy worms!!!!!!”

Well, it’s all fun and games until you see them in the toilet!

Roundworms can be passed from our furry friends.
They cause severe bloating, intestinal pain, lethargy, etc.
They are disgusting and they can be living in YOU.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ah yes. While parasites are common in EVERY part of the world (yes, friend, you too could have them!), they are a particular menace in Africa. Parasites seem to cling to every leaf, rock, crevice, droplet, hair, and fiber.

You’ve seen a dog frantically scratching it’s rear on the grass right?
These bad boys are known for causing, ahem, “perineal itching”
Good times.

But, wait! There’s more!!!

so many options

So what’s a mom to do? Well, there are a few great anti-parasitic medications out here, but you just can’t take them as often as you get exposed (infected!) with the nasty little buggers.

ah, Albendazole, my friend. By the time a year lapses we are soooo ready for you.

too bad it’s also REALLY toxic for humans!

Fortunately there are many other safe options. We’ve tried all kinds of herbal concoctions and have our favorites.

Paragone… it tastes likes strawberries and the capsules are TINY. Need I say more?? Even Olivia will beg for this one.

Yes, he is wearing elephant pjs. I’m lucky if he lets me wash them.
Down the hatch, Freddy!

Raw pumpkin seeds paralyze tape worms.
Puree a big handful with some honey & eat a generous helping on an empty stomach.
You’ll find out what’s on the inside.
Try it. I dare you. :)

Homemade wormwood and black walnut capsules. When I made these I wasn’t sure they’d be worth the effort………… oh, they so are.

You see where it says “1/2 pound”. Notice how much of that we’ve already consumed? Before making our home here in Zambia I didn’t know it was humanly POSSIBLE to put down that much clove powder. Desperate times, desperate tummy aches…. hey, Christmas flavored burps- can’t go wrong!

But the best, the strongest, the all-time heavy weight champion:

Oh yes. It burns going down. It burns its way through. It burns coming out again. But it burns those parasites too….
DEATH… by cayenne pepper.

bottle half empty
in the 4 years we’ve lived here I’ve bought nearly a kilogram of cayenne pepper.
That’s over 2 pounds.
And it’s almost all gone.
Burn, baby, burn!

Down goes the first one, down goes the second one……….
oh how they wiggle and squirm!

Actually, though, we’ve been pretty lucky. We have our occasional outbreaks of ringworm and pinworms, we’ve had a few rounds with giardia and amoebic dysentery, oh, and I suppose Tim has had roundworms a few times. And tapeworms… but considering our level of exposure…. I’m grateful it hasn’t been worse.

Don’t even go there, Mom

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