By Brian Kelly, KF10, Sri Lanka
Well it’s about time I joined in on the fun. It seems to be a rite of passage for fellows stationed in the tropics. When regularly consuming the fellows blog as an eager Kiva Fellow applicant, I seemed to often come across many of the “malaria! ugh!” or “a trip to the hospital in Kenya…” genre of blog posts from prior fellows succumbing to the fun and lovely illnesses that are new to many westerners in exotic locations. It almost seems clichéd to write a KF blog entry about a trip to the hospital, but maybe its just an elite club that I should feel honored to be a part of, who knows. Either way, after a sturdily powering my way through a healthy KF9 fellowship in Armenia sans frostbite, I was feeling pretty invincible as I arrived to Sri Lanka. And it only took a week before I was served a healthy dose of humble pie when I could barely move from my bed one morning. Six days later, I was still in the hospital. Who knew humble pie is flavored like Sri Lankan rice and curry?
About a week into my fellowship, I had posted 6 or 7 businesses for BRAC Sri Lanka to the Kiva website, and I would have told you I was more at risk for carpal tunnel than something serious. After about 5 or 6 days working from the comfortable head offices without even visiting a borrower or the jungle, I got some unidentified viral infection, which turned out to put me in bed for 6 days.
I was confident and flying high on my arrival. I’d already done one fellowship before, in a country with much less English spoken, and felt confident in my abilities to swoop in, adjust on the fly, make friends, and get to work in a matter of days. And I felt on track in accomplishing this goal. A few days post-arrival, I had an apartment lined up, and had even met a few potential friends, so I was feeling pretty adapted already and on top of my game.
Then one Monday morning I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a freight train. I could barely get out of bed and clearly had a high fever. Naturally when you get a fever in a mosquito-laden place like Sri Lanka, you worry about the usual suspects. Luckily malaria seemed out of the picture here in the capital, but I had heard on the radio about a recent outbreak of dengue fever, or ‘bone break disease’ as they euphemize it. So, shocked and disappointed that my invincibility had worn off, I was a bit wary and after several days still with a high fever, checked into the hospital to monitor my blood count and play it safe.
Being in the hospital in a foreign country is never fun. While the accommodations were quite nice and everything very professional (I had a swank black leather couch in my room), it’s always an uncomfortable experience to be stuck on a bed that’s too short in a foreign place miles from home. But I think I had it pretty easy in the scheme of things, especially after reading many of the other hospital posts from prior KFs. All in all I lucked out that it was just an unidentified viral infection and all I had to deal with was a high fever, general weakness feeling, and some severe bed-ridden boredom. No arguing with doctors about my medical history, nor endless waits in line just to see a nurse, nor bizarre and unfamiliar treatments. Just a healthy dose of pills, some saline, and giving blood samples several times a day.
I guess my point is that it’s pretty easy to start feeling comfortable, confident, and sure of yourself in handling new situations. In this case it involved me dropping into a new spot in the developing world, and thinking I had it down pat because I had done something similar in Armenia, a completely different country. After a few successful days, I was pretty sure I had it all figured out. But it’s very easy to be humbled, as I was when I was knocked flat on my back and reminded that I’m in a new and unfamiliar environment, one in which my pale skin is not accustomed to the heat and the bugs. I should count my blessings that I get the chance to be here, and keep in mind that no matter how equipped I think I am to handle my surroundings, you never know when some unsuspecting misfortune will come up and bite you. Just one more lesson of Kiva Fellowship’dom that I can take with me, as I try and hit the ‘restart’ button with a little more humility over the next few months as I serve up a fresh dish of rice and curry.
Brian Kelly is re-beginning his [healthy] fellowship in Sri Lanka as a member of KF10 after spending three and a half months in Armenia with KF9. To check out Sri Lankan loans fundraising on the website, please click here. And to join the brand-spanking new Sri Lankan lending team, click this link right now!