Some of the best moments I had were sitting out in the morning with the sun coming up having a Folgers Coffee Single. They make great tea in India, but there was something about that cup of coffee in the morning that just makes you think back about friends at home. You feel so cut off, ordinarily, when youre out in the field like that. A handful of M & Ms and a cup of coffee takes on a different meaning when they are the only couple of things in your whole day that connect you back to home.
I had been out in Indias Talle Valley for about two weeks, when I got really sick. It started with this nasty rash that spread very quickly all over my body. It was itching badly and really swelling up. It got so bad that I had to cut a ring off my finger. I also had chills and bouts of fever. So I was flipping madly through my travel medicine book trying to figure out what was going on, but every reference advised to see a doctor quick. After several days I was so bad off that I thought I had malaria or some other bizarre tropical disease that was going to kill me. But I chose not to leave the jungle because a series of pujas, a religious ceremony to celebrate the rice harvest, was going on, and leaving the jungle would have been disrespectful. I ended up staying in the jungle for about a week. We finally got a break between celebrations so I walked out through the night to get to the village. It turned out that the interaction between the sunlight and the doxycycline I was taking for malaria prevention caused a severe allergic reaction. I had blithely continued to take it the whole time, being extra careful to keep it up in case I was coming down with something really nasty.
A couple of weeks into our project, one of the huts at our base camp in Pange was outfitted with a generator and electric lights. The huts were built in the 70s and were pretty broken down; there was no glass in the windows and large cracks around the doors. So when the lights came on, the place filled up with moths.
We were sitting around playing cards later when all of a sudden I heard something that sounded like a helicopter in my head. A moth had flown into my ear.
I didnt want to make a scene, so I stepped outside and tried to get it out. When that didnt work, I went back in and told the others what happened. They thought it was funny! They tried to flush it out with eardrops, but they only managed to drown it. I thought, Ah, great! Now Ive got a dead moth in my ear. They eventually filled my ear with mustard oil in hopes that if we greased it up enough it would come out. I guess it did, but I never saw it.