19 April 2007

Viral Infections and Unprotected Connections

Getting sick when you are far from home and family really sucks. But I think having a fever and runny nose in the sub-Saharan savannas of Mozambique is worse than having it in the sub-Arctic scrublands of northern NY. Worse than ice and snow and stuffy heads and fever? Yes, because if you are burning with a fever in nothern NY in the middle of winter at least you can open a window to cool down. And in the summer? You can still find snow in the freezer (you didn't think we actually got snow on the 4th of July did you?).

Remembering my misery last time I had the flu in Mozambique, I brought drugs from home to dry up my nose. Last time, all my Mozambican friends kept telling me to use a handkerchief. Ick! I don't advocate using a forest to blow my nose, but carrying around a snot-laden square of cloth in my shorts pocket (that I reuse again and again) to wash out later is disgusting. Thank goodness for toilet paper.

The drugs work really well, but leave me unable to process coherent thoughts. I am surprised that a colleague agreed to meet me for lunch on Wednesday after speaking to me on Tuesday. I think I literally asked her, "What is lunch? Why would I need a lunch? Is lunch a good thing? Would my mom think a lunch was good for me to have?" Finally, I just ended the call by saying I was too confused to think and that I would call her the next morning. Fortunately, she speaks English and I had prefaced the conversation by saying I had the flu and was running a bit of a temperature (100F). I can only imagine my response in Portuguese. Actually, it might have been more coherent than I normally sound in a regular conversation. I really don't remember. If you talk to my husband Chris he'll tell you that I frequently use fevers as an excuse to make up bullshit stories. Maybe I used telepathy to ask her, but I do remember thinking those questions at the time.

After spending Tuesday in bed with a fever, I made the most of Wednesday by going out to lunch with my colleague that had called the day before, and cleaning a virus off my laptop hard drive. I do a regular security check once a month, but this was not a regular check. I've been having some trouble with my flash drive and printing at the US public affairs office. So I was aware that something weird could be on it. When I opened my flash drive at home Wednesday morning, to add another file for printing, there was an unknown folder waiting for me. Of course I clicked on the folder because I love spending an entire day debugging my laptop. Well, 17 hours 30 minutes later I was bug free (my fingers are still crossed). The UGA technology support webpage was really helpful - lots of links to free software. I would have eventually stuck the infected flash drive into my laptop's usb port, but I would like to think I would have been more careful with that file if I hadn't been under the influence of cold and flu medicine.

So what did I learn? Lay down, when I start talking incoherently and asking for my mom. Lunch is a good thing, but don't agree to anything or do anything under the influence of cold and flu medicine. Never stick your flash drive in an unprotected socket. And always use protection even in places you think you're safe - like a US government facility. Viruses are everywhere.

Zulu Love Letter

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