Last weekend I offered myself up as a main course for the mozzies during their fine-dining dinner convention. The offering was not intentional – it was just that I was lax in dressing myself in my mozzie-proof hippy skirt, or spritzing myself with Eau de Bushmans/Aeroguard/Rid.
Mozzies have always loved me. Apparently my blood is the gourmet equivalent of truffle oil. And here, on this tropical island, it seems that these mozzies have never tasted anything better. Some evenings, it’s virtually impossible for me to go out onto our balcony, or wander around camp without being attacked. Okay, so it’s not every evening; they are pretty good here with the external pesticides and it definitely assists in keeping the mozzies at bay for a period of time. I also should point out that not everyone has this issue. The husband for example rarely gets bitten by these nasty stingers (his blood must taste like absolute shit).
Being in the location we are, the threat of malaria is always a potential issue. For this reason, I diligently take the human pesticides (anti-malarial pills) every day; and so far, they’ve been effective. Not bad, given I average at least one mozzie bite per week (if I’m lucky). The malaria doesn’t particularly worry me until we are about to leave the island on vacation. If contracting malaria I would definitely prefer to be close to the compound clinic where they know what malaria looks like and are equipped to deal with it. Rather that than falling sick in some western country where malaria doesn’t exist and you live in Africa, so the default reaction is that you probably have Ebola (several fellow travelers have told stories of foreign countries where isolation was threatened simply because they live in “West Africa” – regardless that our “West African” country is an isolated island which was never apart of the Ebola zone).
No – for me and my body, the biggest thing is the ITCHING. I know better than to scratch, but those bites just irritate (granted, not as nasty as the demon-ant bites that last for days and for which there is zero relief). So for the last two nights, sleep for me has been disrupted. I hate to think how many disrupted nights’ sleep I have had here in the last 2.5 years, where even the sheet touching the bite is enough to make you want to cut off your own ankle (that’s another thing – why do they always know the worst place to get you – feet and fingers where there’s nowhere for the itch to go). There is absolutely no relief. I’ve had friends bring in Stingoes from Oz, I’ve tried dabbing the old calamine lotion on, swallowing anti-histamines and even phernergan to make me sleep – which makes you feel groggy as hell the next day. Last night I eventually gave in and brought in my old friend the frozen corn packet to place strategically on my itching ankle. Frozen corn packet and I have been through a lot together – heat rash, ant bites, mozzie bites. Numbing the itch is the only thing that will do it, the side effect being that you wake up 30 minutes later with your foot in a damp puddle of freezer fluid.
Although I complain about the itching and my resulting lack of sleep, the environment really is not as bad as you may believe before setting foot on the island. Before the husband and I made the trek over here, knowing the deliciousness of my blood, I made a beeline for Tree of Life and kitted myself out with long flowing hippy skirt, long-sleeved cotton shirts in a variety of colours and head scarves. The head scarves were more for my soon to be grown out hairstyle – plus, hey, I was going to live in Africa, a partial identity makeover was clearly in order. Although the hippy skirts are handy for evening social events, not once have I worn one of the shirts for mozzie-bite prevention. During the day, there is absolutely no reason not to expose my pink limbs to the African sun (that is, apart from sunburn, oh and common decency). Nor has there been occasion to open the kilo of Bushman’s Gel I paid $100AUD for and shipped over here thinking I wouldn’t be able to leave the house without covering myself in Deet. The mozzies only appear from dusk. And if you don’t have golden blood like me, you probably wouldn’t even notice them. Just ask the husband.
Another day and the itching should cease. Until then, I guess I’ll persevere with the calamine lotion. Frozen corn packet could probably do with some sleep itself.