“You could have malaria.”
As I prepared to go to the doctor’s office to check if I had malaria, I was overwhelmed with fears and judgment of the Kenyan medical system. Would the needles be sterile? Would the doctors be well trained? Would the nurse know how to draw my blood? (Of note, after drawing my blood, the nurse wouldn’t give me a bandaid. Did I find that weird and uncomfortable, and did my mind go to entirely irrational places of me bleeding out on the hospital floor? Yes, to all of this.)
The symptoms of malaria and the flu are roughly the same. Fever, muscle and joint pain, and headaches. After nearly 24 hours of a mind-numbing headache the likes of which I’d not experienced and a sleepless night of fevers and cold chills, I made plans to go to the doctor.
Arriving at the hospital, I was surprised by the conditions. Some parts were posh, resembling hospitals around the western world, and other parts had missing outlets, wonky flooring, and a lack of privacy (the waiting room and the emergency room shared the same space).
Were my fears becoming true? Was I going to get diagnosed with malaria and bleed out on the floor? Yeah, sure.
I’ve been in Kenya for a month and have come to see this place in surprisingly positive ways. Previously misconceived notions stripped away. Yet, arriving at the hospital, I was flooded with a wave of judgments.
Years of unconscious bias returned.
I was going to get AIDS.
I was going to get monkeypox.
I was going to be smarter than the doctors.
Unless you’re explicitly studying the African continent, Americans tend to view Africa with a myopic lens. It’s the land of AIDS, genocide, and apartheid. It’s home to the people we stole for slaves.
Walking into the hospital, I was no different than the generations of colonialists. Africa instantly became the land of less-than.
I wonder where this came from and how it can be overcome?
I’ve witnessed great work and progress that led me to see the possibility and growth here. Yet, in an instant, that all went away, and I only saw the problems.
What is it within me that caused this instant judgment? Surely, and uncomfortably, I must admit that it’s racism.
I’ve caught myself thinking it several times. Every time I go into town and am approached by a random person begging for money. They see my whiteness and assume money. Every time I ask questions that need regularly repeating, I assume it’s their stupidity and not the language barrier. Every time I make a cultural reference that falls on deaf ears, rather than celebrating the diversity, it becomes evidence of how backwater this country is.
After moving from one section of the hospital to the next, I finally had my results. Negative for malaria. Positive for the flu. That’s a relief.
However, this flu is unlike any I’ve had before. You can tell my body lacks antibodies to this type of “Kenyan flu.” So as my body sweats out gallons of perpetration and my joints lock up in objection to this illness, I pray I can release some of my judgments and lock up some of my unconscious bias.
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Bobby⭐️, WOW !!! I am so very sorry to hear that you are not feeling well. However, I guess it is a blessing that you have the flu and not malaria. I will pray for your complete and quick return to good health.
Also, I have to say you are anything but a racist. Don’t confuse the fear of the unknown and unfamiliar with racism. You are a good – good man. God Bless You Bobby⭐️!!! Bergy
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Bobby, you are so brave and so amazing! You are in my thoughts and prayers and I hope that you feel better very soon. You are teaching all of us back here by your words and insight. Be careful, stay safe and get healthy!
Bobby, Omg. I want to take care of you!❤️ Please be feeling better as I write this. I pray that you are recovered by now and I’m so very proud and afraid for you at the same time. I love you❤️🙏🙏🙏🙏