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February 7, 2013 / samwilson60

Sick and sicker

Night two at the guesthouse brought the same howling, growling visitor and lots of toilet trips, and the next morning there was no talk of achieving much at all. Cat and her bedding moved all of two metres from the tent and Sam, the one who’s actually sick enough to have the doctor’s appointment, went off for supplies of juice, coke and crisps. By evening Cat had recovered just enough and just in time to seek out somewhere to eat(?) and watch the football. It was the one Cup of Nations match neither of us had wanted to miss – Burkina v Togo in the quarter-finals – and everywhere was showing it, but we wanted somewhere relatively quiet that was serving food and that was harder to come by. We decided our best bet was a bag of street food and the TV at our local, but even there we ended up leaving when it went to extra time. The match was disappointing and our stamina waning. The first thing we did at the internet café the next day was to check the result, though, and we were glad to read that Burkina had eventually scored in extra time (Togolese residency or none, Burkina were always our favourites).

We also had Sam’s long-awaited doctor’s appointment the next day. We turned up, as agreed, shortly before 8am, but it was soon apparent we were on Africa time. The receptionist was lovely but a bit at a loss. Eventually the nurse turned up and took Sam’s vitals, but the doctor was still nowhere to be seen. Neither the nurse nor the receptionist spoke any English, so Cat was stuck making small talk through one documentary and three episodes of a particularly mediocre soap opera, while Sam pondered his fate. At some point, hours later, he was summoned – the doctor had arrived. He and everyone else was hugely apologetic about the tardiness (although we now take the stories about breakdowns and traffic jams with a pinch of salt), and the consultation itself was quick but efficient.

He gave Sam an initial prescription for a worming pill and a laxative(!) and sent him back to the nurse for a blood test. As they entered the room, she put on her Best Dracula voice to announce: “I take your blood.” As she then presented an impossibly small receptacle, Sam was treated to the other half of her English repertoire: “Bring back with shit.”

Altogether very happy with our first African medical professionals and aware that in this context at least, we couldn’t complain too much about having been kept waiting, we dashed off to see if we could still catch the Gabonese embassy before closing. We made it there with five minutes to spare but were so overwhelmed by the queue and list of requirements, decided to go away and get our ‘dossier’ together and try again first thing in the morning. We’d been told Gabon would be an easy win on the visa front, so tried not to read too much into the list of documents we apparently needed but didn’t have, and instead set about considering how on earth Sam was going to poo into a pot no wider than a one-pence piece (and in Cat’s case hoping harder than ever that her bout of loose motion didn’t lead to this).

Other wins of the day included an awesome burger bar and a scissor jack – the last remaining piece of the spring replacement puzzle. The big fail of the day was internet – turns out the lovely internet café is not so lovely on an normal (i.e. hot and sweaty) day and the connection not as reliable as first thought. We persevered throughout the evening, eager to update our avid readers on our altogether rather mundane but hopefully loosely entertaining trials and tribulations, but eventually the prospect of books and bed won out.

The next morning was the big one – we were determined to get our passports handed in at the Gabonese embassy by 9am but before that, and cruelly before he’d even had his tea and cigarette, Sam had the small matter of a poo sample to contend with.

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He dealt admirably with the obvious trauma and seemed to have more or less recovered by the time we’d dropped it off at the clinic. We went straight from there to the embassy, early as ever, and by 9am a very disorderly queue had formed. Thankfully the security guard managing proceedings had noted our presence when we first arrived and ushered us through the crowd despite obvious protests (despite the waiting room inside, they only let people through the gate one at a time). We were sent to a lady who, without being particularly warm or chatty, soon relieved any concerns we had that this would be harder than expected. After checking all our documents were in order, the only slightly painful bit was the half an hour she spent looking for the application forms, but she eventually returned with two innocent-looking pieces of paper. Even where there was a question that sometimes poses a problem (e.g. exact address and phone number of the place you will be staying for the duration of your visit), she gave us the answer (“Hotels”). And simple as that, we paid the money (only crisp banknotes, please) and were told to come back at 3pm the next day.

Feeling pretty on top of things now, we headed back to the clinic for Sam’s test results, which we’d been led to believe the doctor would analyse when he arrived at 9am and by the time we got there, it would just be a question of picking up another prescription or not. Ominously, we were invited back into the waiting room and told that the doctor would actually be arriving at 10am. Ten minutes, we naively thought, OK. An hour later, we thought some more and asked the lovely receptionist if she could perhaps just call us when he arrived, being as we’d only ever be a few minutes away. By nightfall, there’d been no call. The nurse did at least say that she’d looked at the results herself and could see nothing that the initial prescription wouldn’t fix, but as she also said, we should really get the doctor to confirm.

While we waited, Sam decided to make a start on the spring replacement, knowing how long and hard it had been last time. The saving grace, we thought, was that he had until 3pm the following day to get the truck back on all fours, and even then Cat could get a taxi to the embassy if he wasn’t ready. So absolutely no pressure. And yet he had it all off, swapped and back together again before Cat realised what was going on. Apparently a well-time gust of wind or two made a massive difference, as did the fact that every nut and bolt had already been taken apart just days previously. That aside, we were both amazed, and very relieved.

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Sam also took part of his initial prescription – the worming pill – and shortly after he was bouncing off the walls, quite literally and with complete disregard for the sweatiness that would ensue. We can’t help speculating about the possibility of having hit the nail (or, in this case, worm) on the head, and whether she’s got the same thing or not (genuinely think not), Cat kinda wants one of those pills too. What Cat really doesn’t want is the laxative. The bottle contained about 300 drops, the instructions say take 5 to 10 a day if constipated (Sam is clearly not) and the doctor had implied “Bosh the lot,” the idea being to flush out all the nasties once and for all. But “the lot” seemed like an awful lot and we were both genuinely alarmed at the potential consequences, so spent most of the night staring at the tiny, but not tiny enough, bottle and making nervous jokes. It was like the poo pot all over again, poor Sam. We agreed to split the difference – i.e. overdose, but not with the whole bottle – and promised Sam that the following night would be anything but poo-related.

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