Crocodile Toes and Red Velvet Cake

May 17th, 2010

In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Africa, where I’ll be working at the Lilongwe Wildlife Center in Malawi, I made an appointment to get my long list of vaccines while in New York. This is not a normal tourist-related activity, however living in a small town in Mexico stateside visits basically boil down to a list of errands. I went to a prominent university hospital and endured just the beginning (three visits in total) of the poking and prodding. The nurse asked why I needed a rabies shot, so I told her that there would be a lot of primates at the center and that an animal bite was a realistic possibility. She pulled away from me with a worried expression on her face. “Didn’t they warn you about monkey herpes?” she asked. No, I assured her that I had never heard of such a thing and it wasn’t mentioned in the 95-page volunteer manual. There was a large section on vermin and how to start your own fire for making meals, but definitely nothing on monkey herpes. I would have remembered that.

“Well, you need to be very careful,” she told me. “If you’re bitten by a herpes-infected monkey you’ll most likely die.” I pulled my aching rabid arm off the small metal table and said, “No way!” She defended her statement by showing me the university research from her computer. So while the waiting room continued to fill with impatient patients, looking at their watches and tapping their feet, the nurse and I went over the case studies. She spouted reliable statistics such as, “80% fatality rate after your central nervous system shuts down.” I answered with the equally intelligent statements like, “No way!”

I thought the worst of my problems would be crocodile toes. This is the technically correct medical term I made up for when a crocodile bites off half of your foot. My volunteer manual warns against going within 25 feet of the nearby river, since that’s where the abundant local reptiles like to sun themselves. I’m not a very good judge of distance, especially after living in a world of meters, not feet, for so long. With this in mind, I know I’m a pretty good candidate for crocodile toes.



Crocodile looking for toes

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