A lot has happened this month and I have yet to document it. First off, I had a training in Ghanzi and got to live a week in a malaria zone! During that week I learned that the rash I’ve been developing has not been heat rash, but is instead something called Dermatitis Herpetiformis (I just call it DH). DH is a rash associated with Celiac Disease. So this confirms that I got my moms genetics and now every time I get into gluten (even trace amounts) I get this rash. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, so my body is essentially attacking itself instead of the gluten that it can’t process. It really sucks to find out that for the next 80 years of my life (yes, I’m planning to live to 102 like my great grandma) I won’t be able to eat any gluten, but it’s also kind of what I needed to get myself to stop eating it. I have a nasty habit of letting myself cheat and I doubt I would have ever reigned myself in well if I didn’t finally have something show me the severity of my condition. Right before figuring this out, I also decided I was very allergic to chicken eggs and have since confirmed that. So I can no longer eat any gluten or chicken eggs (if only there were ducks here in this landlocked desert country!). So that’s what’s been happening on the health front. I’ve also officially lost over 50 pounds since getting here, so that’s another step toward a healthier me!
After my training, I went back to my village. I was supposed to stay there from the second week of December all the way to Christmas Eve, but that changed a little when I got back. There is no school in December (it’s their summer break here), so I was spending most of my days spending a couple hours hanging out with my tutor/one of my only friends in the village/one of the only people who understands and speaks enough English to talk to me, and then watching a couple movies and reading a ton. So I was essentially doing nothing and it was quite nice, but a week before Christmas, I was laying in bed barely awake when my supervisor and the village councillor came to my house. They told me there was a problem with my rent and asked how long it would take me to pack my things up and move. I was shocked. My landlord hadn’t said anything to me (although, there is a huge language barrier there) and my supervisor never once said there was a problem brewing either. All I wanted to do was call someone because I was really freaking out, but I was expecting to be able to charge everything that day at the clinic, so all of my electronics and battery packs were dead. I had to just send my phone and charger with my supervisor and hurry up and pack.
I got all of my things packed and ready in 2 hours and then my supervisor and a few villagers helped me load everything in a trailer and move it to the school compound into a teacher’s house. The house was currently vacant because all of the teachers were gone for the festive season and the teacher who had lived in that house wasn’t returning. But as soon as the new teacher comes in January, I’ll have to be out of that house. My supervisor just kept saying he didn’t think there was a house in the village for me and they were probably going to send me to a new site. I called my Peace Corps program director and he was very helpful, but said he wouldn’t be able to come out until the next day and I just needed to sit tight.
So I spent a night in an unfamiliar house, terrified of these little beetles that have infested the school grounds (They lay on you and essentially pee. Their urine burns your skin and you have basically a chemical burn the size of a quarter. It’s horrifying.), hearing noises that sound like my door being opened, and sleeping with the light on and a can of Doom (bug spray) by my side in case I was attacked by these flying beetles. Needless to say, I got maybe 3 hours of sleep that night.
The next morning, my program manager and the volunteer liaison show up to talk to me and my supervisor. It turns out that it was a huge misunderstanding between my supervisor, landlord, and the Ministry of Education who pay my rent. So my landlord was frustrated and decided he wanted a different tenant and my supervisor overreacted and pulled me out without considering options. Luckily, my supervisor was able to find a new house for me though. So we went to see the new house, it’s beautiful! Way bigger, it’s going to have electricity, and it has so much more privacy than I had before. I’m very excited for it, but it, unfortunately, won’t be ready until late February, early March. So for the moment, I will be staying on the teacher compound, but moving to a smaller house so that two teachers can share the larger one I’m in right now. They may not love me for that, but I’m not supposed to live with someone. I think this really was a good thing because I was very uncomfortable in my old house (mostly just tolerating it because I thought it was my only option) and this new house is going to be amazing. And because this all happened the week before Christmas, I got to go to Bethany’s house early!
So now, let’s talk about Yule/Christmas! So I got to Bethany a week early, and unfortunately a day before my holiday package from my brother and mom arrived, so I couldn’t pick it up. We have just been chilling and hanging out. I helped her with some stuff at her school the first few days and then we’ve been celebrating our holidays in little spurts to make sure we don’t get too homesick. It’s hard to celebrate winter holidays in the summer. It’s just too hot and feels very strange. It’s also hard to do some things that you’ve always done with specific people. I tried to sit down and watch Scrooge and the whole time I felt like I should be sitting with my mom watching it. It just felt wrong, but we did make delicious feasts. Of course, they weren’t as big as they’d be in the states, but when you normally make as little as we do, they felt like feasts. I made my favorites on Yule and celebrated my holiday and Bethany made her favorites on Christmas Eve to celebrate some of her traditions. Everything came out perfectly and I’ve probably eaten as much in this last week as I did all of last month.
Bethany and I haven’t tried to kill each other yet! So that’s a major accomplishment. Although, we still have nearly a week together, so you never know what will happen. I was granted a small extension to stay here through the 2nd because there were some concerns about my safety on the school compound alone since the other teachers don’t come back until the weekend of the 2nd. It’s all just a precaution though and I’m sure once everyone is back in the village I’ll feel much safer and things will go back to normal. It’s just been a big emotional mess.
I’m excited to get back to my site and start the new year though! I have a feeling it’s going to be a great one! As always, I miss and love you all back home. And I hope you had the merriest of Christmases and happiest of Yules, Hanukkahs, and all other holidays. My next holidays here are New Years and then my 22nd in a couple of weeks. Happy New Year everyone!