To-do lists, packing lists, bucket lists….whatever kind of list it is, when I check off an item, I get a sweet sense of satisfaction. Well, almost. Apparently, hidden deep within the annals of missionary-dom, there is a list of things you must experience to achieve true “missionary” status. Among the items on that list are the dreaded tropical plagues of malaria and dengue fever. (I’m sure haggling over the price of a traffic fine, making ridiculous language and cultural foux-pas, and accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road are also on that list!). Since I managed to contract malaria within my first month of living in Tanzania, I thought I was scot-free. Nobody gets both malaria AND dengue. In fact, I know a lot of people who have lived in Tanzania their entire lives without getting either malaria OR dengue.
But such was not my fate. Last Tuesday, I went home from school and promptly fell asleep on the couch, waking up only long enough to feed my dog and move to my bed later that evening. Wednesday morning, I woke up with a killer headache and muscle aches that lasted all day (and the next two days), but went to school anyway. Once again, I went directly to bed when I got home. By Wednesday night, I was completely miserable and knew, even without a thermometer, I definitely had a fever. Early Thursday morning, I knew there was no way I could teach, and I called in sick. A bit of research on my iPhone identified my symptoms in the dengue playbook, and I had a friend pick me up in a bajaji to take me to get tested. I spent the next two days sleeping and drinking water, though by Friday, I was feeling a bit better and managed to teach my classes at school. Saturday morning, the textbook dengue rash presented itself, and, though I was feeling much better, I continued to sleep and drink water for the remainder of the weekend. Eating, other than to take an antibiotic in the morning and at night, was optional and consisted primarily of frozen juice boxes. Still does, for that matter. Who needs real food when you have frozen Azam juices?
Now that I’m back to teaching full-time (albeit, taking naps during my lunch break), I feel like I can check off “Dengue” on the “Real Missionary” list…though there is no sense of satisfaction in making that check-mark. Only gratefulness for God’s quick healing and the prayers of friends and family around the world. And hope for continued recovery as I slowly regain my appetite, strength, and endurance.
Please do not think that the “Real Missionary Checklist” mentioned in this post is in any way a real thing. You certainly don’t have to be a missionary to get dengue fever, nor do you have to get dengue fever (or live in Africa) to be a missionary. This was intended to be entirely satirical, while praising God for my quick healing.