Ndwaye inzoka—or, I have amoebas.
Ndwaye inzoka. (Pronounced “NDwahYeenZohKah.”) Yes, this is a helpful phrase. And just because it’s interesting, it also means “I have snakes.”
Most people who have spent any time living in countries with questionable water quality have at some point suffered from what some refer to euphemistically as “having amoebas.” Basically, this means that you ate or drank something you shouldn’t have, causing bacteria to multiply in your stomach and do unfortunate things to your digestive system. I’m pretty cavalier about what I eat (the UN has a rule that I used to follow: Boil It, Cook It, Peel It, or Leave It), so I take the good with the bad. Frankly, sometimes you just need a fresh salad. Kigali’s municipal water supply is treated, so the chances of getting sick are not as great as, say, drinking a glass of water in Gisenyi. I brush my teeth with tap water, and so do most people I know.
So yes, I reluctantly admit that I have amoebas. It’s mild, at least—cramps, more than anything—but it can obviously be pretty nasty. Because I have incredible foresight, I managed to leave all my good American medicine at home, and the house where I am staying is curiously medicine-free. I have been boiling ginger in water for some relief. I’ve also picked up some yogurt, which does wonders as well. One of my friends swears by plain bread, and another believes that Sprite works wonders.
One of the funniest things about living here is how frequently people talk about their stomach issues—because it’s a natural part of living here. It’s like everyone compares their war wounds. When I was working for the UN in Gisenyi, it was totally normal for someone to simply get up suddenly and scurry out in the middle of a meeting on a bathroom visit...because, well, one of us was probably going to go next.