Monday, October 4, 2010

Germs, Germs & More Germs

Well I am sick for the third time since I've arrived in Nigeria. Totally sucks, but I'm managing. I have another dumb cold. Hopefully I can wiz through this one faster than the last one. Getting sick for the third time in 11 weeks is unusual to me though I can easily attribute it to the germ warfare from which I am under assault on a daily basis. Shaking hands is a big thing here. It is customary to shake hands with your friends or acquaintances when you see then on a new day. That means every time I arrive at church I shake about 190813 hands, and then everyday at the University I shake another 20-50 hands, and randomly I see people elsewhere that necessitate a hand shake. And now that I've been here for almost 4 months people also feel comfortable enough to hug me and kiss me on the cheek. Oh how I love human contact (NOT).

While hand shaking has become all the rage, hand washing on the other hand...not so much. I mean, the majority of people wash their hands after using the bathroom, and they typically will at least rinse them before eating (often in a bowl of water that many people use so yeah, not terribly hygienic) but as I mentioned there is a lot of nose picking and other touching of things that goes on that often lead to germy, dirty hands. I actually got made fun of by the house girls for washing my hands so much! Like I was a complete weirdo for washing my hands after handling raw food or touching the garbage can. As much as I try and use my hand sanitizer, it seems like as soon as I am done applying some another person comes along and shakes my hand again (often with their sweaty, sticky hand that grosses me out). So try as I might I am often covered in lots of germs. Hence illness number 3 in Nigeria. 

However, the funny thing is, I was talking to two of the house girls this weekend and they informed me that I have a cold because I sleep with the air conditioner on and/or it is rainy season. We then had a lengthy discussion about germs and how a cold is caused by a virus and they said "Huh, interesting" and gave each other a look that said "Whatever, she totally has a cold because of the A/C." And without fail, no matter who notices I have a cold they ask if I've been to the doctor and if I am taking medicine for it. I've tried to have the discussion about antibiotics and viruses but most people quietly listen until I am done and then say "Well you should go get some drugs and take care of it." So most of the time now I just lie and say "Yes, I am taking drugs that I brought from America." Of course it's not a total lie but Nyquil and Tylenol aren't really what they are thinking when they say drugs.

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