A Guide to Healthy Living at Post


In the late 80s I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger… and it was very important to stay healthy while at Post.

Amoebic dysentery: Caused by contaminated drinking water, often because of a broken water filter. Turns your stomach into a washing machine. Amoebas we called the little critters.

Anxiety: When you hyperventilate for no reason.

Boredom: Caused by not having anything to do. See also: Depression and Energy.

Cat death: Caused by death of a kitten named Sam, probably weened too young. See also: Depression.

Depression: Endless. See also: Boredom and Nervous breakdown.

Energy: Or lack thereof. See also: Depression and Oppressive heat.

Falling off moto: Be careful driving a motorcycle through deep sand. Luckily sand is soft.

Giardia: “An intestinal infection marked by abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea and bouts of watery diarrhea.” Makes your burps taste like Cheerios.

Homesickness: Caused by everyone you know and love being thousands of miles away. See also: Tapes and Radio.

Homosexuality: According to the Peace Corps it was best not to act on it in a majority Muslim country where it is illegal and punishable with a jail sentence. Taken out of the DSM (the American classification of mental disorders) in 1987.

Insomnia: Caused by lying awake and sweating. See also: Oppressive heat.

Lament: Caused by hours of sitting in your compound agonizing over every decision you’ve ever made. See also: Boredom and Depression.

Mail: Letters from home have a tranquilizing effect.

Malaria: The reason you take anti-Malarial meds like mefloquine, which causes short-term memory loss and anger management issues. You should ‘Stop taking mefloquine and call your doctor right away if have any of these side effects: headache, ringing in your ears, dizziness, loss of balance, problems with coordination, anxiety, depression, paranoia, hallucinations, or thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself.’ See also: Depression and Anxiety.

Nervous breakdown: According to Gordon Parker in an article in the American Journal of Psychiatry called “The Mechanics of a ‘Breakdown’,” “the term does not exist in DSM-IV or ICD-10-or in their predecessors. It has no scientific definition and has never been part of the mental health professional’s lexicon.” Parker suggests that “the idea of a ‘breakdown’ is similar to the effects of melancholia, a severe form of depression often characterized by anergia, or overwhelming listlessness.” See also: Depression and Energy.

Oppressive heat: 120F in the shade during the hot season.

Queerness:  Not recommended. See also: Homosexuality.

Rothmans cigarettes: The calming effect of nicotine eases hyperventilating.

Radio: The BBC World Service (the gong of Big Ben feels like a has a tranquilizing effect still), Radio France Internationale, and the AfroPop music shows on “Africa No. 1” out of Libreville, Gabon.

Sex: Not recommended because of HIV, although they gave us free condoms. See: Homosexuality.

Tapes: A recorded voice from home with a tranquilizing effect. See also: Homesickness and Radio.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ): Caused by grinding teeth and clenching jaw due to stress. Not a good enough reason for a medevac.

Vitamins: Given to us by the Peace Corps to keep us healthy while at post.

Water: Not safe to drink unless purified with iodine or otherwise purified. Beware of broken water filters. See also: Amoebic dysentery and Giardia.

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