Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kisii, Part 4: I've never eaten milk before...

During one of my days in Kisii, we had lunch at Pamela's house (she's one of the CHWs). I was tired and hungry from riding the bike and visiting HIV/AIDS patients, so the meal of beans, greens, and ugali (corn flour + water = white, mealy brick) tasted really good. And then Pamela poured us a drink. I could see from the pitcher that it was milk. I assumed it was straight from the udder, which I had gotten used to in Maasai land. But when Pamela poured the milk and it hit the bottom of the glass, it made a "plop." Uh oh.

I think the look of horror on my face was so clear that Malloy and Pamela immediately explaiend to me what it was...sour milk. Milk is boiled until it's sour, bottled, sold, and then mixed with fresh milk to make this "delicious" concoction. The chunks produced are not filtered out at any point in this process. I'll try anything once, so I took a sip. The taste actually wasn't too awful (just like sour cream). The real issue was the consistency. Sipping this sour milk is impossible because it's all chunks. You don't really drink it: you eat it. You pour it in your mouth and chew.

Needless to say, I struggled with it. I tried to just sip it, but a few chunks of milk would slip their way into my mouth. So I just focused on eating instead. Noticing that I hadn't made much of a denty in my glass of sour milk, Pamela offered me another drink: pineapple juice. But this was no ordinary juice. Pamela mixed a bottle of pineapple concentrate with some water. Where this water came from, I don't know, but it was pretty safe to assume that it didn't come from a bottle at the grocery store. And Pamela offered me the pineapple drink in such a way that I had to choose either the juice made from questionable water or the sour milk filled with questionable chunks. I was faced with quite the conundrum: do I choose the chunky drink that will probably make me throw up? Or do I choose the drink with unfamiliar African bacteria that will probably give me diarrhea? (FYI: I had an hour-long, pothole-filled ride on the motorbike to look forward to.) I chose the latter, and it was delicious. However, I did have some loose stools the next morning, but thankfully that was it.

But then on my last morning in Kisii, I had some bad fruit salad. I'm not really blameless in the matter because I noticed that it didn't taste very good, but I ate the whole thing anyways. Well, bad fruit salad and a five-and-a-half-hour ride in the back of a matatu don't mix. (Matatus are privately ownded 11- to 14-passenger vans. They are the only means of "public" transportation.) I felt nauseous the entire trip. I had no appetite, and I thought I was going to throw up until finally I did... We were in the Nairobi city center, no more than 10 minutes away from our destination when a large amount of saliva suddenly flowed into my mouth. I tried to fight it by swallowing, but you know at that point, it's too late. Fearing the worst, I opened the window and then...fruit salad out the side of the matatu. Four times.

(Medical sidenote: When I got back to the ICROSS base, Mike had me swallow a raw egg. He said that vomiting is caused by an irritation int he lining of your upper digestive tract. The egg coats the membrane of the tract, making it impossible to throw up. But there's always the chance of getting salmonella...)

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