My Overwhelming Fear of Worms Crawling Into People's Ears (Which Came About After Seeing Star Trek III: The Wrath of Kahn) Is Removed, and Promptly Replaced, by Seeing Worms Coming Out of People's Other Body Parts.
Heather and I went to Gao in the northern part of Mali to do a Guinea worm project with the Carter Center. Guinea worms, for those that don't know (and I didn't know), are worms whose eggs live in fleas that are sometimes found in the water that people can drink. When the egg finds itself in a person's stomach, it hatches, and over the course of the next year, grows up to four feet in length.
Then, when it has matured, it burrows through the body (even through bone) and waits just on the inside of the skin. When it senses that the body is in contact with water, it breaks through the skin and shoots its eggs back into the water so the process can start over again.
It should be noted that, because they can burrow through anything, they can come out anywhere. And, I mean anywhere. Imagine the worst place for it to come out of a body and it can do it.
I'm sure Wikipedia has more info (and pictures - so if you're bored at work and can't think of a good thing to Google to pass the time, Guinea worms would probably be a good choice).
Anyway, we decided to head up that way. What should have taken 9 hours ended up taking 24 hours and involved us sleeping by the side of the road and paying 40 dollars to a guy with a pickup truck so he would drive us around a washed out road.
Waking up by the side of the road. When you're on a hot, crowded bus for 10 hours, sleeping by the side of the road on a cool night is actually rather pleasant. And, the view is amazing.
After our big (well, long) trip, we managed to make it in time to meet up with Steve who was the Carter Center volunteer for the Guinea worm project. And, he took us to meet the medical director for the region.
She, however, put a stop to everything. Apparently there were bandits in the area and they had attacked two different groups of people over the past two days - taking one of the groups hostage. The medical director said it was much too dangerous and she was not going to allow us to go.
Steve was upset. Heather was outraged. And I... well I thought she had a good point. I'm scared of bandits. And, while were at it, I'm kind of scared of Guinea worms.
Still, I have some pride (seriously) so, I halfheartedly pretended that I was mad about the whole thing. "That's outrageous!" I said. "I can't believe we can't go!" "How unfair!" But, inside, I was thinking, "Thank God you stopped us." And, "I hope we can go back to the Peace Corps house and take a nap." Luckily, we could. And, happily, we did.
Regardless, Steve promised to have us over later to show us videos and pictures he had taken during other Guinea worm extractions he had done. We did go over and it is seriously crazy. In case you haven't stopped reading this to Google them (or to Google the color Green or other Google searches that are much more interesting than this blog), they take them out by winding them slowly around a stick and it can take days for them to come all the way out. Did I mention that it is crazy? They've been found in Egyptian mummies. So, they've been around for awhile. But, thanks to the Carter Center, they will hopefully be eradicated within the next 10 years. And then, maybe I'll be able to sleep at night.
Anyway, other than bandits and Guinea worms, Gao was pretty fun. Here are a few pics.
We took a trip out to the Gao sand dunes. Then, I went for a little jog.
(Actually, I thought I saw a Guinea worm.)
On our way back from the sand dunes.
Gao at dusk.
Gao at dusk.
Coming home from Gao, we got a ride from a guy who did not seem to care that the road was so flooded it could easily have been mistaken for a river. We somehow made it through but we were pretty much the only ones.