One thing about living in a developing country is the issue of health. And I’m not talking about the exotic diseases you might catch, or the traveller’s diarrhoea, which let’s face it, is just a matter of time. No, I’m talking about the regular little things that if you were back home would be easy to manage, however in the tropical paradise that is Tonga become overblown and have AHI recommending your return to Australia.
I’m talking here about allergies. The smoke and pollution of Nuku’alofa have wreaked havoc with my eyes, hayfever and eczema. Over the past 2 months I have experienced waking up EVERY day with red gross eyes, the worst hayfever ever, and the grossest case of eczema I’ve yet to live through.
Most Tongans don’t get the concept of allergies. There’s certainly no Tongan word for it, and explaining the concept (especially when they’ve just grasped the food allergy idea only to have me come in with irritated eyes from the smoke in the air) has been...challenging. To the people in my office who bear bemused witness to my many ailments and absences I am just a sickly Palangi, whose maladies are probably exacerbated by my strange insistence on vegetarianism.
As my allergies have gone from the irritating to the incapacitating, I have contacted the designated health insurance medical advisors of the AYAD program to see if there was anything further I could do. Sadly, all they could suggest was going home. This is not something I’m prepared to consider – yet.
Oh yeah, and this is completely besides the other viruses I’ve enjoyed since being here, that is a tasty bronchial infection in my first few weeks, and recently some kind of glandular extravaganza. My flatmate, the intrepid A-Lee, has been laid up for the past week with some kind of flu from hell. Seriously, the tropical diseases are the least of our problems, it’s the everyday stuff that’s the killer!
Getting suitable medical treatment is also somewhat challenging. The last time I went to the Villiage Mission Pharmacy I had the doctor take my temperature and look in my ears, only to later see the little ‘disposable’ covers for the ear-gadgets being washed for re-use. Now, something that gets stuck in my ears, fine, whatever, reuse and recycle, no problem. However, I am not keen to get any kind of blood test here, in case the same principle applies to syringes and needles. And with what we were told in PDT, that is quite likely...
When I next rang the Village Mission Pharmacy to make an appointment, I found out that the Palangi doctor who I’d seen only the week before had fled the country after just 2 weeks in the job! Perhaps it was because she couldn’t handle the washing and reusing of supposedly sterile earpieces...?