Rule Number Four (While in Asia): Side effects of malaria medication are generally mild but may include vivid dreams and hallucinations, which are heightened by exposure to sunlight.
Before coming over here, I debated whether or not to take the medication. I figured getting malaria might just be better than hallucinating; my doctor informed me otherwise. I was not having too many problems with the medication until yesterday, when I spent about six hours in the Nepalese sun wearing jeans and a long-sleeve. When I got back to the safe house, I felt incredibly nauseous and dizzy (most likely from dehydration), so I went to bed early. All night I had the strangest and most vivid dreams of my life, and I woke up this morning not sure if those things had actually happened to me or not, because they seemed so real. From now on, I plan to stay indoors as much as possible!
Despite the side effects of that six hours in the sun yesterday, I had a great time exploring the city that I am living in. Church service is held on Saturday here, so, in the morning the girls and I got dolled up and walked over to the church building. I was intending to dress up more than I did, as I didn’t think jeans would be appropriate, but the girls told me I could wear whatever I wanted, so, in the end, I opted for the jeans. As we began walking, I was increasingly more thankful that I had worn those jeans. No one had specified to me where the church was, so I had just assumed it would only be a few blocks from the safe house. Not the case! The church was, in fact, a few miles from the safe house, and the path to get there took us through a small river. I have never appreciated a church service so much in my life, after what it took for us to get there.
I didn’t actually understand any of the church service, as it was all in Nepali. At the beginning of the service, everyone began turning around to look at me, and I was extremely confused. By this point, I am used to be gawked at on the streets, but I didn’t understand why so many people at church decided to gawk all at once! As it turned out, the pastor had been introducing me to the congregation, and I hadn’t even realized it. I spent most of the service simply observing my surroundings. There were about 50 people in attendance. The men all sat on the left side of the building, and the women all sat on the right. The younger people sat closer to the pulpit, with the older congregation sitting in the back. The majority of the worship involved singing, and to my surprise, the primitive church building was equipped with a drum set and guitar. At the close of the service, everyone went around greeting one another by saying “Jai Mashi,” which means “I recognize the Spirit of the Lord within you.”
Following the church service, the girls and I went to what they considered a park and what I considered a near death experience! At this “park,” were dozens of animals caged up in thin barbed wire pens. By animals, I am referring to a leopard, Himalayan black bear, python, vulture, hyena and jackal. Next to these cages, there were also rabbits and guinea pigs, which seemed to me an odd pairing. Once I got over the initial shock of how dangerous the situation appeared to be, I was able to enjoy the experience of being so close to such exotic creatures. There were also beautiful trees at the park, with leaves bigger than my face! All of the trees’ trunks are painted with a white and red stripe. I thought this was maybe a sealant to keep bugs from eating the tree, but the girls told me it was just for decoration.
Despite being sick, yesterday exposed me to a lot of Nepalese culture that I had not experienced before. I am realizing more and more how beautiful this small country is!