Black Water Fever: My good story to tell

exactly 10 years ago today, i wrote and posted this blog post about me getting malaria for the very first time! i don’t recommend getting malaria, it sucks, a lot. but at least with malaria, you can take some pills that will make you feel better and increase your chances of survival. (dengue-not so much… but that’s a story for another day!)

enjoy reading all about my ‘good story to tell!’

When I lived in India I quit taking my malaria prophylaxis. We had it good. Everything would get sprayed once a week and I slept in my mosquito net every night. Wait. I take that back. Sometimes on the really hot nights I would flip the net off of the bed because I thought somehow the mesh of the mosquito net was blocking the cool air from getting to me. Anyway. I never really got bite so I never worried about getting malaria. Thus I quit taking my medicine. Like an idiot.

Fast forward 4 months.

After 2 days in Zambia, I was scared into religiously taking my malaria prophylaxis. Not only is malaria a terrible disease where blood parasites are put into your body by mosquitoes, but over 1 million people die every year from the disease. Along with headache, fever, chills, body aches and shakes, you feel like you are going to die. I wanted nothing to do with it. I hate being sick. I’m a firm believer in the flu shot. There is nothing I hate more in this world than throwing up. That was enough incentive for me to take my medicine everyday.

Unfortunately, you can still get malaria even if you take a prophylaxis. It just won’t be as severe because the parasite count isn’t allowed to reach dangerously high levels. But I wasn’t going to risk it, I was going to do everything humanly possible to NOT get malaria. I take my medicine everyday. Everyday.

I also had 2 other methods to protect myself against malaria.

1) The power of positive thinking (coupled with getting into my mosquito net before 9pm every night)

If you say you won’t get malaria, you won’t get malaria. It’s like when I was in school and I would say, “Uuugggh. I’m going to fail this test.” Then my dad would say, “Well, of course, you are going to fail it if you say you are going to fail it.” I’m sending positive anti-malarial vibes out in to the universe! Plus female mosquitoes are the ones that carry the malaria parasites and they only come out between the hours of 9pm and 6am. Fun fact: they are also silent. The male mosquitoes are the ones that buzz.

And 2) The Kim Burns Anti-Malarial Treatment

Drink a gin and tonic everyday. Why g&t’s?


When the Europeans, like David Livingstone, were wandering around Africa ‘discovering’ things, they were dying of Black Water Fever (malaria). The only thing the explorers found that would work against the Fever was taking quinine. Which is found in tonic water. And you can’t have tonic without the gin!

I was adhering to all 3 of these things and then I woke up one morning in town, with mosquito bites all over my hands and arms. Fatal step #1. I forgot to close the mosquito net before I went to bed. Fatal step #2. I said jokingly to Kim, “I’ll probably be back in town in 7-10 days with malaria!”

So I headed back to the village. I was hanging out getting back into the swing of things, and cleaning my house. School started and I was feeling perfectly fine. Then I went to bed. It is hot season so I took the blankets off my bed already. I was cold. I had to dig out my blankets and a sweatshirt. Then as I was trying to fall asleep I got the chills and shakes. This is when I thought something was up. I fell asleep hoping it would go away. No such luck. I woke up the next morning sweating beyond belief. And my head was killing me. I got up to pee and had to come back in my house to sit down and rest. I dug out the extra strength ibuprofen and took 2 to start. I found the strength to go and get fire so I could make coffee and told my bamaama that I thought I was getting sick. I told her my symptoms. She immediately said it was probably malaria.

Of course.


Then things got bad and a little fuzzy. The high fever, chills, the confusion. I finally started to write down what time I took what medicines because I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t eat anything but my bamaama forced me to eat nshima, which cures everything, as well as being the staple food of Zambia. My family finally insisted I go to the clinic. Zambians hate seeing me sick so instead of putting up a fight, I went with my sister Sandra. The clinical officer was pretty sure it was malaria but didn’t have the reagents to test my blood to make a positive diagnosis. I went back home and called Peace Corps Medical. Yup. It sounds like malaria. Start taking Coartem (it gets rid of the parasite), go to town, and take the blood test.

I went to town the next day and what a ride that was. It was the second worst transport ride of my life, and that is saying something because I’ve have some pretty awful rides. It seemed to take forever to get there but I finally made it. I took the blood test. It came back negative but that is normal because I was taking the prophylaxis and I already started the Coartem. No doubt about it. I had malaria.

It was like the worst flu you have every had multiplied by a million.

But I survived and was back home less than a week later.

I was at school talking to some of the teachers about it. They asked me if it was my first time having malaria. I told them yes. To which they said, “At least you have a good story to tell when people ask you about living in Africa.”

I will have malaria parasites living in my liver for the rest of my life forever making me more susceptible to getting malaria. But at least I have a good story to tell?

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in celebration of my 35th birthday, i have started an awesome project! #35til35 is a daily photo of each year of my life so far! you can follow on facebook or on instagram (but don’t need to have accounts)! i hope you enjoy the memories of my almost 35 years on mother earth!


earlier this year, i went to nepal. we walked, we ate momos AND we went paragliding!

i almost didn’t do it because i kinda have a thing about heights. you sign away your life in case of an accident and then you pile into a van, drive to the top of a mountain and run off the top! so i went to the top of the mountain where you run/walk right off the edge, and it didn’t look that crazy, so i just went for it!

the jumpers match you up with someone about the same size as you and apparently that’s all there is to it! the guy i jumped with, jimmy, was in charge of everyone else. so i got to watch and cheer as the rest of our group took off one by one!

and then it was my turn!

you step in the harness, get attached to another person (in my case jimmy) and then you walk and/or run when they tell you! jimmy patiently watched the wind sox and told me to walk, nope STOP! ok, wait… ok, RUN! nope NOPPEEEE! ok, let’s try this again. wait, wait ok now! run! and we were off!!!!!

it was such an incredible feeling to walk off the side of a mountain!

there were a bit of clouds in the sky, which meant that the thermals were right for going crazy high up before we headed back down towards the lake. (but also the reason for my start/stop take off!) and, because of the amazing weather, we could see the top of Fishtail above the clouds. 

but the best part of the entire thing was to spiral around and down towards the lake. we went so fast it was like being on a roller coaster without a track.

so if you ever get the chance, i recommend giving paragliding a chance!

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a journal entry: 11-13 april 2009

easter is almost here, and you’ll wanna stick around for the hilarious cultural fun we had in the village! a lot of things happen in these journal entries, and a few require a bit of background that i haven’t written about before.

i got ringworm! me, kim and brittany went to the mission in kalomo, stay overnight, drink good coffee and volunteer in the orphanage. and i suspect one of the very cute kids there gave me ringworm. i can’t be 100% certain, but i’m 98% sure that’s where it came from.

during my time as a peace corps volunteer, i became good penpals with josh’s mom, mrs. patty vetter. we all call her mrs. pv. and the amazingness of mrs. pv really shines in these journal entries!

and while i know that it isn’t 11-13 april, i wanted to share these journal entries with you since it is easter this weekend!

11 april 2009

back in the village! regina took me back on thursday morning. my house was finished! well, most of the way. still waiting on one window, but the cement is done and i put up plastic yesterday. been painting a bit. i painted one wall in my bedroom, but i’m gonna run out so i just stuck to the one. maybe i’ll lime the others. i’m not sure if that would work or not. i want it to look nice for the family since they are the ones getting the house, not another volunteer.

my chalkboard project is also coming along. i’m gonna paint the black today i think. i hope i have enough paint. i only bough a liter. it was expensive. and i’m still trying to save money. i really need to try and start a budget. one that doesn’t include 8 million trips to livingstone. anyway, i digress.

my house is looking nice. and as it turns out, they did knock down a whole wall when they were putting in the windows. but they managed to put it all back together. so i was right! i knew that my house would fall apart!!! (i was just expecting to come back to a pile of rubble.)

the kids killed a small snake in my cikuta [kitchen] this morning. it’s getting to be that time of year again. cold season is here and the snakes are trying to warm up. as long as they aren’t in MY house, i’ll be ok.

i gave sitemba ringworm on his head. but luckily, they found the cream and his seems to be going away a lot faster than mine. but then again, i’m not really all that good about putting on the cream ALL the time.


tomorrow i’ve having an easter egg hunt with the kids. i boiled 45 eggs with jacqueline yesterday. today, we are coloring them. tomorrow we will try to have an easter egg hunt. we’ll see how it goes. they all thought it was hilarious when i explained it to them!

saw a kid flying a kite made out of a plastic bag the other day on the way back to the village. just a few days after i talked to mom about it. i had never seen it here before, she was asking if i want her to bring kites, i laughed at her. then 3 days later, i see kids flying kites. crazy!

mrs. pv

i don’t think i talked about this yet, but mrs pv sent me a box! well, for me, kim, kapree and deb! it was packed full with food, candy, lotion, chapstick and the easter egg coloring kit (which gave me the idea to bring an american easter to my village). she is WAY too sweet. and like i told josh, she just wanted a daughter! so all of us girls decided we would gladly be her honorary peace corps daughters.

she also sent funfetti cupcakes with the frosting, sprinkles and even the paper cupcake holders!! i made them right away and we had them when we were all at the house for a meeting. i saved a bunch for josh and chris [josh’s brother] to have when i went down to livingstone the next day. unfortunately, the frosting melted ALL over the place, including my book bag. but they still tasted the same. needless to say, mrs pv is the nicest lady that i have ever become pen pals with!

13 april 2009

the easter egg hunt was really fun! i made the kids all stay in my house while me and jacqueline hid the eggs. i decided it was best to hide only ONE egg per kid, so we hid the eggs that they decorated like people the day before.

the kids were all so excited when they ran out of my house to go and hut. they all started running around like crazy people. sonia found the first one, then they all seemed to get the idea and they all found one at about the same time! except patricia, winnie and jeannie. so i helped them all find one.

i took pictures too. and because this was a typical american easter, joy was screaming and crying in ALL of the pictures!

then we all ate eggs. who knew 39,000 kwacha worth of eggs and a coloring kit from america could give such a good time! and since eric is home from school break, i got a family picture of everyone!


later that day, winnie came and told me, in tonga, that there was a snake at her house. it was in the roof! creepy! i watched them try and knock it out with rocks. then i got on my bike to go up to the mission and i came across a snake in the path eating a frog. or trying to. it was kinda funny to watch since the frog was trying to jump around to get away.

i drank a coke at ms kamuti’s shop and was bothered by some drunk guy. but ms betty [who works at the shop] told him to leave (which is something you don’t see everyday!).

biking home the long way, i stopped at david’s place and chated with him for a while. they (all the kids adopted by ms peyton [the woman who founded the school]) are having a memorial service for her at the end of the month. apparently, kaonde, the first president of zambia, is coming. and even the us ambassador to zambia. it’s going to be way bigger than i thought, so i should really try and get there!

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a letter: 2 april 2009

peace corps journaling kept me sane. i was journaling a lot. i was also writing TONS of letters. my mom and dad (and even a few friends) kept them for me. and they returned them when i came back to the us. i am reading them for the first time since writing them!

enjoy this letter from me to my mom and dad!

mom and dad!

so i’m back in my village, in MY house! i’m glad i’m back. and i haven’t died yet, so it’s good news all around.

my house is getting allergy-proofed. which is hilarious because it is made of grass and dirt. but i’m giving it a go.

i really just wanted to go home but i have a much better attitude about things now. and it has also helped that i haven’t been really sick. only one morning was rough when i woke up and couldn’t breathe all that well. but it had rained 2 whole days prior to that.

i’ve been working on finishing the planning and preparations for your trip. i think we are going to have a lot of fun and i’m really looking forward to you guys coming!

and work is looking up for me too.

i’m working with the gama cuulu club. it means ‘always speak the truth.’ which is an awesome name for an aids action club. the kids came up with it themselves. i’m just excited to actually be teaching the kids real information about hiv and aids.

girl guides is getting a slower start but the girls are really excited about it and i think next term we will really get going. last week i taught them the friendship circle and then gave them those early bird patches. they were pretty excited about it. i’m hoping that they will be reminded and want to come every week.

i took jacqueline to prenatal at the clinic last week. she is doing well and her hiv test came back negative – this time. so i was really relieved about that. i’m not sure if i’m supposed to be telling people that but i did ask her if i could see her results and she said it was ok.

i barge in on people getting tested at the clinic all the time. the ministry of health has made it mandatory testing for all women coming for prenatal. i go to prenatal every week so i see a lot of women being tested. i actually got tested myself a couple weeks earlier with a grade 9 girl who is pregnant.

but i still haven’t seen anyone give birth yet. i have, however, weighed babies! so when i see a birth, my peace corps experience will be complete!

yesterday the choma high school choir came and sang at church. it was really cool. plus it gave me something to do, other than read. but they made me stand up to be acknowledged, right after the headman, which was embarrassing.

i was just glad that they didn’t make me speak tonga. which in large crowds, i find it best to not let anyone know that i know some tonga and understand a lot more than people think. even my own family.

i planted a field of maize. popcorn actually. and let’s be honest, when i say ‘i’ i mean i gave my family a kg of popcorn and they planted it for me. it isn’t doing well because i refused to buy any sort of fertilizer. and i’m too lazy to make a compost pile. because there is a reason i’m not an agriculture volunteer! so my venture into farming was a bust.

but i did plant and manage to grow some very beautiful flowers.

well i think that’s it from me. hope things are going well for you all. don’t work too hard! and start thinking of where you want to go for my birthday celebration! miss you both TONS!


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5 weeks…

once again, i’m the proud owner of several airline tickets! a round trip ticket to india and flights to nepal! my countdown has begun: i have 5 weeks left until i depart for india!

this upcoming trip is going to be special for a few different reasons.

i have to go into official trip physical training! i’ve never ever trained for a trip. i barely even pack for trips. and i don’t exercise. so this is going to be a whole new experience! why do i need to train? well, i’m going hiking. in the himalayas! you can read more about my trip to nepal and how you can join me here! it’s going to be an amazing challenge and, as scary as it seems to me now, i can’t wait to experience the himalayas in this unique way!

i’m gonna hang out at sangam! which i haven’t done for SO long. i was last there in january 2017! which is unbelievable. i feel like it was just last year. but it’s been over 2 years! butter chicken, garlic naan, wada pav, pani puri, pulse candy, onion bhajia and the sangam staff are calling my name!!!

while at sangam, we will be celebrating jen’s time as programme manager and world centre manager because she is finishing. ;( but gwen and bron will also be coming to hang out (yea!!!!) and we’ll be doing all of jen’s favorite pune and india things!

it won’t be all fun and games. i’ll be volunteering in sangam’s archives. jen and i need to come up with a plan, along with the current archive ladies, to figure out what to do next and how. there are still SO MANY boxes that need to be sorted. imagine what we will find in there!!!!!!

i’ll be gone for 6 weeks and while that may seem like a long time, i know that it will go SO fast. before i leave, i need to really think about what i would like to accomplish and experience while i’m there. and then when i’m there, make it happen!

let the countdown begin!

you can join me virtually on my himalaya hiking adventure!

a journal entry: 16 & 17 oct 2008

This is just a ‘regular’ day in the village. I’m going to write longer blog posts about a few things that I’ve mentioned in this journal entry. But until then, enjoy a little picture of village life!

16 and 17 Oct 2008

So back from vacation. Amazing. Got a new tattoo! It’s perfect. My welcome back to the village was watching a cobra (I saw it’s big head) slither past my front door. 2 bats living in my house. A giant beetle trying to come in. And a poisonous spider that tried to crawl up my leg. And termites have started to eat up my wall. Literally overnight. We celebrated Patricia’s 4th birthday with cupcakes. Cemented junza [my new porch]. Still no furniture. And looking forward to my birthday celebration. Got a box from Mom. It had fitted sheets (has changed my world). And SEASON 4!!!!! So tomorrow Choma here I come! (to have a meeting first.) I’m pulling an all nighter for sure!

a journal entry: 10 and 11 oct 2008

This time 10 years ago, I was on an incredible vacation to South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

While on this trip, it really made me realize how small my life in the Zambian village had gotten. I had no place to go out for good coffee. I had no movie theatres to go to. I had no fast food to grab if I didn’t feel like cooking. But all of this happened and I didn’t even realize.

UNTIL I had a slice of vacation life and remembered how great and amazing convenience can be! Next time you enjoy a little convenience in your life, take a moment to be thankful for it.

Enjoy what I was doing on 10 and 11 October 2008!

10 Oct 2008

So yesterday I went to see the X-Files, The Mummy and Zohan. It was a FAB day at the movies. Really. It made me miss home. And pop culture.

We drove a ways up the Skeleton Coast. Saw a few ship wrecks. And desert. And some seals. And some seal bones. Came back. Deb and I bought a 6 pack, snuck it in (no outside alcohol allowed!), drank, ate pizza and played uno. Then we went out dancing. It was fun! Until we went to the second place. It was lame so we went back to the room and went to bed.

11 Oct 2008: TODAY!

Drove down to Walvis Bay to see pelicans, flamingos and sand! We went to play on the famous dune 7. It was HUGE! I made it halfway up before I gave up on going all the way up. And all day long I drank coffee! It was also fabulous. I’m going to miss real coffee when I go back to Zambia for sure! (But I did buy some from Mugg&Bean!)

What else today? I bought a cool bracelet from the bay from traditional tribal ladies. They were really nice. And they had the cutest kids! (Always a good selling tactic in my book!)\

a journal entry: 24 sept 2008

It took a few months to really settle into my mud hut and make it a home.

In Zambia, most people have their house and chikuta, the kitchen, separately. I had a house, a chikuta (about 20 yards from my house), a pit latrine and a shower area (about 5 yards from my house).

When I arrived to my house, my shower area wasn’t built. So I spent the afternoon watching my BaTaata build it. It was made sticks and grass. Nothing much to look at, but it did the job. And by that I simply mean that no one could see me when I took my bucket bath. I wanted a brick and cement shower. But knew that it was going to be a bit expensive and I didn’t know who could do it for me.

After a few more months of settling in, I also realized that I liked hanging out right outside of my house, not in my chikuta. I didn’t like having random villagers who would come to visit me in my house. So I decided that what I needed was a porch. I could sit outside my house and not get wet on my way to the chikuta during rainy season. I could also hosts visitors in my porch, and not in my house. Win-win.

I brought my ideas up to my BaTaata to see who could do this for me. And he said he and the older boys could! Eric, my oldest host brother, was looking to raise some money to pay for high school. I was more than happy to oblige!

Brick making began and construction quickly started! And boy did it turn out amazing! It was exactly what I needed to make a house a home.

24 Sept 2008: 7 months in Zambia yesterday!

It’s 9am and I’m hot already. Good thing I’m leaving on vacation and won’t be here for most of the hot season. So much has happened, I don’t know where to start. I journaled for the first 2 weeks of my month away from home and I taped it on the next page.

What else… Some neighbor has been setting fires on BaWesley’s land so the other night I went out and watched him and the kids put out a fire. It was crazy.

My porch is perfect! It’s going to make being in the village AMAZING! It still needs to be roofed and also cemented. But BaWesley seems to be on top of it so I’m not worried. And I now have a brick bathing shelter. Which is also super nice. So I think that’s it for new things. I’m sure I’ll think of more but for now I’ll just write some letters.

6 weeks to go!!!

I am the proud owner of a plane ticket to Kenya!

Owning a plane ticket is my favorite thing. Some people own a house, get married or have a kid. I buy plane tickets. They are pure happiness for me.

I don’t like sticking around the same place for very long, especially if snow is in the foreseeable future. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I grew up moving from place to place? Maybe I simply like experiencing new places and meeting new people? Maybe I just like to see what’s on offer on Netflix in other countries? I’m not sure.

But when I get a plane ticket for the next place, I immediately go into countdown mode. It’s better than waiting for Ganapati, my birthday or Christmas. You never know what might happen on this trip! It’ll be a new routine for the few weeks while you are away! You’ll come back a new person!

So for the next 6 weeks, I’ll be dreaming of what this next trip will bring. And it might be amazing, I’ve got a few things that could possibly happen (or maybe they don’t and I just come home early), we’ll just wait and see what happens during my countdown!