CAUTION: Now Entering Rant Mode
The day when Doritos can’t satiate your salt cravings, you know you have a problem. I began writing this post in the middle of the night after being roused from a sweaty, fitful sleep by an unquenchable thirst, acrid heartburn, and heart palpitations. All signs point to sodium overload.
Nights like these have been happening more frequently and part of me, perhaps an unreasonable part, is beginning to worry that my Tanzanian diet is slowly erecting a precarious platform for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and God knows what other ailments just in the relatively short time I’ve been here. I just hope that my small stint here doesn’t cause any irreparable damage and that I can oatmeal my way out of this mess.
Although our day-to-day eating habits have not been so dramatically altered, it’s the foods we tend to eat in the bush and out at restaurants that albeit are VERY tasty, have made me suspect them as the main culprits for a host of new, increasingly occurring body changes. No, I’m not just talking about a growing waistline (although that’s happened a bit too), I’m more referring to the feeling of over-exertion when I do a regular workout, the reoccurring heartburn, and the thirst attacks in the middle of the night that I mentioned. The one upside though is that this fatty, salty diet seems to be keeping my otherwise sluggish circulation system and low internal body temperature up a bit.
But what with the ubiquitous MSG, trans fats, and liberal use of sugar in many foods here, the unfortunate discovery that one of my all-time favorite junk foods just doesn’t cut it anymore, is not so surprising.
Despite the fact that I’ve been able to thus far elude the dreaded malaria (knock on wood) by pumping my system with antibiotics every day, and have been semi-successfully preventing regular bouts of diarrhea (again knock on wood) by avoiding the tap and going through gallons and gallons of (non-recyclable) bottled water, I’m still not convinced that leading a healthy life here comes easily or cheaply in ANY way.
In addition to much of the food being less-than-healthful, a few other characteristics inherent to this place also persuade me to think that Tanzania is not so good for your health.
The pollution in cities like Arusha is pretty atrocious. Every time we head out to run errands around town we are accosted by a thick smog of diesel fumes, burning trash, and unpleasant factory gases. I develop a headache each and every time. Not to mention the dust, the disease, the widely-available banned products, the questionable water sources and sanitation, and the severely lacking health care system that should be in place to treat people as well as educate them about these various dangers in the first place.
Maybe I’m just more delicate or snobby or skeptical than some, but find me one person who can get a face-full of exhaust and tell me it’s not bad for you. When I meet people who have CHOSEN to live here, I have to wonder what it is exactly that keeps them here long enough to consider sacrificing their health. Perhaps these people have enough money to carefully prepare their own meals, using only (likely imported) ingredients that they know and trust, and perhaps they return to their respective countries for regular check-ups, and first-rate medications, but it’s the day-to-day exposure to these kinds of artery blocking and toxic substances that makes the CHOICE to live here seem dubious.
Okay, I’m done now. Enjoy your day. :)