I spent the last three weeks trying to fend off an annoying and persistent cough. This means staying in pretty close communication with our Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) and traveling back and forth to my shopping town to get medication from the pharmacy.
There is a pharmacy at the hospital in my village, but my host mother assures me that it is better to use the pharmacy in our shopping town. The hospital means long lines and waiting for hours. From what I understand there is also a chance that the hospital pharmacy may not even have the medication that you need, especially if it is not a commonly prescribed medication.
It's slightly annoying to have to travel by taxi to my shopping town, especially when I don't feel well--but the convenience of getting a prescription in five minutes or less at the pharmacy and being able to send that little receipt off to Peace Corps for a reimbursement makes it worth it. And its a convenience that I am highly aware is not available to most people in my village. Yes, they too could travel to the pharmacy in the shopping town, but that's a R58 taxi ride round trip plus the cost of the medication. It's expensive and a luxury that most people around me simply cannot afford.
The last few days of training, our PCMO gave me a PPD test (TB skin test), it thankfully came back negative. I had asked for the test because of a high suspicion that at least one member of my training host family (possibly all three) have active tuberculosis--a strong possibility when 95% of the South African population has latent TB.
The day I was given the test, I walked out of the exam room and started crying. I cried not because I was afraid of having contracted TB, but because of how easy it was for me to get tested and how easy it would be for me to get treatment if the test showed positive. I knew that it was not easy for my host family to get that kind of care or to be able to afford the treatment necessary. In that moment, my life of privilege was blatantly contrasted with the new world I found myself in. And now I see that contrast in a thousand ways almost on a daily basis. It is a contrast that I sometimes have a hard time coping with--feeling guilty, angry, remorseful, frustrated, and a host of other emotions.
Those emotions can eat away at you--eroding hope and crippling your ability to serve the community and empower them to build up needed resources. It is a trial that I think many volunteers face.
For me, there is only to lay those emotions at the feet of Jesus and ask for hope and love in their stead.