After a great first day in Zinder, Niger, in sub-Saharan Africa, I woke up very sick early the next morning, before sunrise. (I had hitch-hiked across the Sahara, from Algiers to Tamanrasset to here.) This was not a place where you wanted to get sick; life lives on the edge and the vultures are watching.
I went to the bathroom to throw up. I was sick at both ends. I managed to fall back to sleep until sunrise, when my travelling companion, Hiro, felt my forehead and told me that I was burning up.
Hiro left and soon returned with a taxi. I was dizzy as Hiro helped me into the 1940s vintage Taxi. We rattled and bumped off to the hospital.
We entered a walkway at the hospital. People were everywhere, lining the path which led to 5 or 6 steps up to an open veranda. With Hiro holding on to me and pushing us forward, we stepped over and around the crowd of people… until we reached an open corridor to the left, and noticed a doctor standing in an open treatment room.
The doctor was staring at the odd couple – this 5’2” Japanese kid virtually carrying this deathly sick tall American. He waved us to come into the room. Hiro helped me in until I was next to the doctor, with a nurse and several aides. I looked face to face at the French doctor, and then looked away and explosively threw up all over the room as I twirled around and passed out.
When I awoke the next morning, I found myself in a bed in a bare cinder block room. I had an IV in my left arm. I saw there was an open bathroom with a squat toilet to my left. As I looked around to the right, I saw a large open window overlooking a good-sized interior courtyard.
There was a vulture on my windowsill looking out at several other vultures feeding on a trash heap in the center of the courtyard. The vultures work here. I had no desire to be their client.
I felt much, much better. I went back to sleep. When I woke up again around noon, Hiro was there as a nurse was removing the IV. It was great having a friend to support me when I really needed it. I was not sure I could have made it through alone.
I had been given antibiotics and fluids. I paid my bill of 250 CFA francs (about US$5) and left with Hiro into a waiting taxi. I didn’t wave goodbye to the vultures.