Saturday, September 13, 2008


Today I started my anti-malarial medication in anticipation of my trip to The Solomon Islands on Tuesday. I feel a bit queasy, but I know from experience this will pass. There are three recommended medications one can take which are supposed to inhibit malaria (none of them can actually guarantee you won’t get it, but they decrease the likelihood, so I take them). One of the recommended medications is called Larium; this is what the US military uses with the troops in Iraq. One of the side effects cautioned about on the package is mental illness (!) or possible death in rare cases (!!) Another option is Malarone. This medication can cause drowsiness, nausea, and sickness too. Both of these are incredibly expensive, the Blue Cross-Blue Shield co-pay is $50.00, heaven knows what the medications would cost without insurance. The third option is doxycycline. It is by far the cheapest, and its greatest side effect is extra sensitivity to the sun (which can be problematic when traveling to the tropics). Some people have raised concern about the effect of taking it for two months. I’ve tried the first two on previous trips (and survived); and contracted malaria while taking Larium. It all seems a bit of a crap-shoot, so for variety’s sake and to save money I am trying the doxycyline this time. I’ve got 80 tablets, lots of sun block and a new hat.

But these are all the exigencies that go with the job and my ministry among and with my brothers from The Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. They don’t take any anti-malarial medication, only using chloroquine when they get malaria. Sadly malaria is a fact of life. First you get very, very cold, and start to shiver and shake. I got into bed under many quilts and blankets. Then you get a very high fever and think you will combust spontaneously. Then the fever breaks, sweat drenches your bedding, and the shivering starts over. Double doses of primaquine and doxycyclene took care of it for me.

The most widespread (and effective) precaution is the use of sleeping nets. They are very cheap by Western standards, yet a serious expense for the Islanders. I am grateful for my net when I lie in bed listening to the mosquitoes in a holding pattern around me. There are organizations which distribute nets to people in the Pacific, South America, Africa, India and Asia: send money! Malaria is awful and a death sentence for babies.

But otherwise, everything is fine…

I have had a terrific time in Australia. The First Order Chapter in Stroud went well. Here we all are in our different shades of brown: the cheapest cloth available, in each case! An extra blessing was being in the historic monastery. It was built in 1980 and the Poor Clares lived there until 1998. We were fortunate to have Sister Alison Francis representing the Second Order to our Chapter. She was one of the pioneer sisters, and had many stories to tell about making mud bricks, battling snakes under the refrigerator and all kinds of Down Under tales. The buildings are extraordinary: all curvey and spontaneous-looking: they are a real work of art. The roof leaks everywhere—not normally a problem in drought ridden Australia, but we were blessed with two weeks of constant down pours…

It is spring down here, and the wisteria came into full bloom outside my bedroom window.

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