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Since the start of January, I have had incredibly vivid dreams. I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night soundly, and it’s beginning to get unpleasant. At first I thought it was stress-related, because I’ve been significantly more stressed and busy this term than I have in a long time. But my sleep patterns have been so consistently poor that I’m beginning to think that stress is not the only underlying reason.

Let’s rewind a bit. From June 2007 to June 2008, I was on Mefloquine, an anti-malaria drug taken weekly. I wasn’t in areas with malaria that whole time, but the Mefloquine prescription starts one week before you’re in a malaria zone and lasts for four weeks after. I traveled so much during that year that I was on Mefloquine continuously.

Mefloquine is notorious for giving people vivid dreams. Add that to the list of other side effects, and it’s a pretty scary drug. (“Mefloquine may have severe and permanent adverse side effects.” Fantastic.) To top it off, apparently it’s not uncommon for people who have taken Mefloquine in the past to continue experiencing side effects long after they’ve stopped taking it (does almost 3 years count?), especially during period of high stress.

Mefloquine is probably one of the worst malaria prophylaxes, but it’s one of the more common because it’s cheap and weekly (as opposed to expensive and daily). Other options such as Malarone have a better reputation, but they’re all still rather powerful drugs.

So in June 2008, I stopped taking malaria prophylaxis altogether. Here’s why:

1. Malaria prophylaxes are powerful, and I don’t want them in my body. Especially for long period of time. I don’t like taking regular pain killers, and the thought of putting something significantly more powerful in my body scares me. Also, would you want to take a drug that gives you side effects years after you’ve stopped taking it?

2. Malaria prophylaxes don’t always work. Certain prophylaxis only protect against certain strains of malaria, and there’s no guarantee that’s the one you’re going to get. I have a friend who spent a few months in Africa on two separate occasions, took prophylaxis both times, and got malaria, both times.

3. Malaria tests and treatments are easy to come by and more trustworthy in Africa. If there’s one test that every clinic has the ability to do, it’s a malaria test. Ok, there are probably some rural and poorly stocked clinics that are currently out of the supplies, but in general this is one of the most common diseases that clinics deal with. Both the test and the treatment are also cheaper in Africa (there’s a higher demand for them), and frankly I trust them more. Western doctors probably see very few malaria patients, and so no matter how much experience they have in medicine, they are less likely to be as familiar with malaria.

So I sleep under a mosquito net, I get myself tested if I feel sick, and I carry a treatment (just in case I’m somewhere without access to a treatment). Now I just need to get rid of the side effects from my year on Mefloquine back in ’07 – ’08.

A couple cool maps that look at the world from a different perspective:

1. World connections on Facebook:

2. Country equivalents (in GDP and population) of American states:

A collection of the most viewed, commented on, and (perhaps) interesting posts from 2010:

#1 killer of children under 5

Appropriate technology in 1983

What the people wanted

Early morning

How does Zain do it?

“All the waiting staff here are deaf”

10 bob

Appeal of an aircraft

The weakest joint

Doing It Right week

Four reasons to travel

Desert curves

What I’ve learned (1, 2, and 3)

The techie guide to staying connected while traveling

The Honest Store

The world finally hears our criticism

A different perspective

No longer homeless

Perspectives of Poverty

CIDC: Impressive honesty, unimpressive solutions

I just drove all the way across the US though a part of the country I had never seen before.

I just saw many friends, most of whom I hadn’t seen since I graduated in ’08.

I just turned around and started heading East again.

I just caught up on the many international development blogs I used to read so regularily.

I just read the news for the first time in months.

I just got my UK visa for my upcoming masters program.

And I just realized that my head is drowning in thoughts and my focus is temporarily gone. This blog usually helps me focus, but I’m struggling right now. Maybe because my life itself isn’t focused, as I jump back and forth between thoughts on development work and thoughts on America. I don’t really know where to start, but I’ve now got one week get back on the surface of the waves before I dive head first into another ocean.

(Photo: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, September 2009)

Some houses in the Lower Ninth Ward have been rebuilt. Some are gone and remain empty plots. And some still look like this:

I didn’t mean to take a break from blogging. But I got caught up in the craziness that is my life whenever I return to the US. In the past month I’ve been in Colorado, New York, Boston, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. This week it’s Ohio, North Carolina, and DC. I’ve barely had enough time to make it to all these places, let alone reflect on anything or take pictures (which where this blog comes in).

But that’s also because I haven’t made time for such things. I’ve noticed that I take better care of myself outside of the US than I do in it. I sleep, I cook, I read and write, I exercise, I focus on conversations, I enjoy my surroundings, I breathe deeper. My biggest struggle whenever I return to the US is to maintain this lifestyle. This time, like all other times, I have failed miserably. And I’m out to fix that right now (despite my upcoming schedule).

So here’s to allowing myself personal time no matter where in the world I am.

(Photo: Vancouver, BC, Canada, September 2009.)

I recently discovered that not only is Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) a hilarious writer, but also pretty on target with a decent amount of his theories (in my opinion, at least). He gives spot-on examples to show that ideas are worthless and execution is everything, which is a lesson for people in all walks of life (especially in development, where there’s a lot of funds allocated for good ideas but not necessarily good executions). And his theory to invest in companies you hate actually makes… a lot of sense.

Or at least as much sense as any other theories you may come across. And guaranteed those other theories won’t be as entertaining.

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