“She has malaria.”

For a moment, I thought my roommate was talking about someone else. A student or fellow teacher perhaps. My doting neighbor came by to check in like always and noticed my concentration was off as she unleashed her round of morning questions.

“Asha,” she said in her thick accent that makes every word sound aggressive. (Cameroonian lingo: Asha is a word to express empathy that loosely means, “I feel sorry for your life.”)

“Africa. Mosquitoes.” She smiled like it was an inside joke and I missed the punchline.

Malaria is as common as the flu around here. Cameroonians get it several times a year. Those who can afford it, take treatments then head to work the next day. Those who can't die. When I talk about it with other American volunteers in Buea we laugh it off; some even take their chances and skip their anti-malaria meds. Well, ain't crazy. I took my anti-malaria meds like it was my religion.

When I woke Thursday, I pressed both sides of my forehead to keep my migraine from exploding all over the concrete walls. I couldn't keep my eyes open for more than 10 seconds. My body was lethargic. My pjs and sheets were dripping. I took some extra strength Excedrin thinking it was just my body adjusting to the dry season.

I stalked our living room floor trying to muster the energy to make it to my last class after sleeping in. Then came the chills. My body shook furiously under my blanket and damp tank top. This wasn't exhaustion. Or dehydration. I swallowed my pride and told my roommate all my symptoms, still convincing myself it was dehydration.

She called the American doctor at a clinic near by. They tag-teamed the diagnosis and put me on malaria medication that night.

Friday night was rough; my body knocked against the wood board below my mattress. Most of my fleeting dreams were about America (No surprise there). In the moments of delirium I recited Psalms 23 (out of sequence), and replayed scenes in my mind from one of my favorite movies: Crooklyn.

By the time my roommate came in at 4 a.m. to give me my second treatment, my fever broke. Still groggy, I mumbled a 'thanks,' and rolled back over.


Chills gone. Had enough energy to eat. Collected Ashas and headpats from my neighbors. I am in my right mind. I can sit up for longer than 5 minutes. And I took treatments early enough to avoid more severe side effects. Grateful.


I never longed more for the comforts of home: Hot sheets pulled fresh from the dryer on my bed, my mom waiting to baby and nurse me back to health, and The Cosby Show DVDs on repeat. Finished the last chapter of Mitch Albom's “Tuesdays with Morrie,” (a story about a dying professor and the life lessons he leaves to his student).

The phrase repeated near the end of the professor's life, “when you're in bed, you're dead,” left me depressed and wishing I'd spent the afternoon watching YouTube videos fail to upload on my “high speed” Cameroonian internet.

But, as I set my alarm for Monday most of the symptoms were gone and the few bursts of energy I was granted allowed me to catch up on completing the multimedia curriculum for my classes.

Tomorrow, I'll put on my “I survived malaria” badge and will be the envy of all American volunteers in Buea.