That Damn Rolex…

I’m sure you’re thinking: What the heck is a rolex? And no, what I am talking about is not the expensive luxury brand watch… a rolex is a very popular Ugandan street food: a fried egg with vegetables wrapped in chapati (Indian flatbread) that is supposedly one of those “must-try” things that people mention during a trip to Uganda. I guess the name is derived from it being a “rolled egg” = “roll-ex”? Many of the foreigners here love them and eat them on the daily. Me? Not so much ever since my first encounter with one just 2 days ago… I would post a picture of one but it might make me gag a little, honest…

After a peace corps fellow had mentioned to me how badly she was craving one, and how it was so delicious (!!!???), I stopped by with Josh to get one, before we left for an hour long drive to Naigobya. As you might’ve guessed, not such a great idea. Josh had him make me a fresh one (hot food = not as much thriving bacteria I guess), and so I watched as the man made it. I had noticed him touch the food and the money with the same greasy hand, but I assumed myself invincible, thinking I had already survived eating many of the foods here, even from street vendors. I didn’t think it that good, but I also didn’t want my stomach to continue growling so I ate it in its entirety, despite how much I pitied my body for downing such greasy food. Just 30 minutes later, while in the car, I began to feel uneasy and nauseous. At first, I thought it was motion sickness, and when we got to UDHA’s health center in Naigobya, all I could do was lay down outside and breathe some fresh air. From there, things just kept going downhill. I was sweating, nauseous, vomiting, and had body chills the whole night and could not get myself to sleep. Nevertheless, I made it to the next morning. I took the day off from work but went to office to see the doctor at the health center. I thought I could have malaria because to be honest, I didn’t take my malaria medications the first 3 weeks since I didn’t get a single bite… and since I wanted to avoid unnecessary medicine / side effects. My blood test results showed that it was not malaria, but in fact a bacterial infection, very likely from that rolex I ate off the street. I think it’s safe to say that I will be staying away from rolexes and chapati for the rest of my stay. In fact, I haven’t had much of an appetite in general for anything. But I am on antibiotics, and after taking a full day of rest doing nothing but watching old criminal minds episodes saved on my laptop yesterday, I felt at ease enough to go to work this morning.

The ironic part, though, is that I had just earlier this week bragged about how I was surprised to not have gotten sick from the food or water here yet. I should’ve known not to jinx myself like that, since just a few days before that I had done exactly the same thing with my bragging rights to a lack of mosquito bites — I had gone 3 weeks without a single bite, then after sharing this bit of news, got eaten alive by these pesky insects. I had 16 just on the single calf of my left leg. I’ve learned my lesson!

Today I thankfully had the energy to go to work. UDHA set up a testing site at this anti-corruption caravan event that the Iganga NGO forum had organized. Essentially, it was an event organized to “teach” people that corruption exists and mobilize people to act on it. Of course, there are so many inherent problems in this, seeing to the fact that action at a policy and legislation level is necessary for a nation to fight corruption. I’m not quite sure that the event even communicated its message clearly, because even though it did manage to attract a large crowd of people by way of men on stilts, men with big bobble heads dancing and driving motorbikes, soccer matches, cycling races, and even a showcase of the people rallying lame men to ride the bicycles around, were people there really motivated to do anything about it beyond more pressing needs like providing for themselves and their families?

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Sumaiyah doing her celebration dance for my quick recovery 🙂

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The bobble-head men (slightly creepy, I know) dancing

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Speaking with this police officer, named Karim, about his HIV test result! Also, note mosquito bites all over my legs haha.

When we got back from the outreach though, I was just filled with such positivity from everyone at UDHA. This sincerely made me sad to be leaving so soon… I will miss every single person for each of their wacky or just plain badass ways of doing the good work they love. 

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