Nairobi Fly

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs


Waking with painful blisters.

Submitted: April 03, 2018

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Submitted: April 03, 2018

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Mags woke up with a stinging pain on her chest and because they hadn’t bought a mirror yet, she asked Henry for a learned medical opinion. He saw that it was a whitish line of almost continuous blisters that ran from under her chin, downward for four or five inches! Fearing the possibility of some unheard-of tropical disease, they decided to go into Arusha straight after breakfast, after all they had only been living at Makumira for a week and hadn’t sussed out any of the local dangers there.

Dr Mohammad’s clinic was busy even at that time of the morning and they went through the routine of speaking to the receptionist who asked what the problem was and which medical person they wanted to see. She gave them a small card with a number, which will be called and they found a seat to wait. All eyes followed them, which is to be expected because the wait is often long and there’s nothing else to do. There were no rack of magazines. The waiting room was lined by forms with people sitting, leaning against the varnished plywood walls.

The idea of waiting your turn hadn’t quite arrived in the local culture. Whenever a patient vacated the interview room, someone, or even many, would try to barge in, irrespective of the card number they held! Sometimes they succeeded in jumping the queue but nobody seemed to mind! Henry and Mags had become accustomed to this, because the same thing happened at the post office; there was often a melee at the tellers’ windows and even when you were talking to the teller, someone would reach over with coins to demand a stamp. Over the years queuing is becoming a more accepted practice.

Nobody tried to barge in before Mags and Henry, and once settled in wooden chairs and the greetings were dispensed with, Dr Mohammad asked what the problem was. He didn’t really need to look at the blister, but he did, then sat back in his chair and smiled.

‘It is the same thing as this.’ He said pointing a blister on the side of his nose. ‘During your sleep you must have crushed a Nairobi Fly and it has released a poison that makes the blister. I can give you some paracetamol for the pain, but there is no other treatment, it will be gone in a day or two.’ 

Back at the nursery, Henry had a conversation with his nursery workers about the Nairobi Fly, because he hadn’t seen one.

‘They’re red and black,’ said Amani, ‘and they are bad!  When they walk on you they leave a trail of poison that makes your skin blister and swell.’

‘No,’ countered Mbise, ‘the poison only comes when the insect is squashed. They only walk on you at night time when you’re asleep.’

‘Do you use any dawa - medicine?’ Henry asked.

‘It is painful so if we have paracetamol, we take it.’ Said Mama Veronica, but most in the village couldn’t afford the medicine

‘Well it certainly looks like it left a trail of poison on Mags.’ Henry told them.

As far as the locals are concerned, the only good Nairobi Fly is a dead one, so they kill them on sight! Henry didn’t blame them, especially when kids had blisters and no dawa. But Henry couldn’t quite bring himself to kill the ones he found inside, he captured them and released them outside, far from the house and nursery. From time to time one walked on his bare arm but left no mark or pain. Maybe some people react more severely than others, or maybe they release the poison when they are alarmed.

Mags liked to keep the yard swept of leaves and that probably helped remove the Nairobi Fly’s habitat, even so they seemed to become active just as the long rains arrived so Henry concluded perhaps the rains are a part of their life cycle. Anyway, during the long rains, Mags made sure she inspected the bed before climbing in.

It wasn’t long until Henry saw one, they are small, only about a centimetre long an orange colour with steel-blue head, thorax and tip of abdomen. Having no visible wings, Henry guessed they are a type of beetle with their wings tucked under their hard back-covering, but he never saw one unfurl its wings, or fly. He smiled when he overheard his nursery workers discussing the Nairobi Fly’s attack on Mags. They were chuckling, not out of spite, but because of their erroneous belief that wazungu, white folk,  are somehow immune and not affected by local bugs.


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