Whoever said that experience is the best teacher was definitely not in the throes of influenza. Let me tell you about my encounter with this disease. Like a good citizen, I have faithfully received my flu shots every year since 2014. And so far, the vaccine has done its job. I have been flu free since 2014. However, the flu madimoni decided to pay me a visit. They said, Awino, you have been in this country for over a decade. What kind of neighbors would we be if we did not visit you? Let us collect our brethren and pay you a visit.

Like most people, I had the misconception that the flu really was just an intense cold. You know, more sniffles, more coughing, but a cold all the same. So when I woke up last week and had difficulty swallowing my usual banana oatmeal breakfast, I put it down to another cold (‘tis the season).

Alas, it was not to be just a heavy cold or Homa kali, as we would call it back home. I drank my ginger extract (carefully processed by one of my older brothers, a juicing enthusiast who swears by his masticating juicer). After drinking the ginger shot, I went to work as usual, and it was not until later that evening that the muscle pain, fever and fatigue set in.

Had I been in my dala (ancestral home), I would have thought I was in the early stages of malaria. The mosquitos in my home town don’t play. They are the SEAL units of the mosquito world. They are Precise. They go in , do the job and get out. It happens so fast, and were it not for the sharp sting of their bite, and the tell-tale bump that follows, you wouldn’t know that one of these mosquito SEALs had visited you. They even sneak past tiny mosquito net holes. I am convinced that there is an elite mosquito (Suna) unit, HQ Kisumu.

I digress, but my point is, the flu is like a mild form of malaria (sans the anemia, extreme weakness and tendency of your gastrointestinal system to violently erupt). The flu leaves you with aches in places you didn’t think you had muscles . My little toe hurt. My nose hurt. My eyes hurt. Even my nails hurt. I was pretty certain I had an ulcer in my throat. I had the dreaded sinus pressure, my head (significant in size), hurt so badly, I cried. I am not a crier. I cry when people die, I cry when I’m very happy, I cry when I’m overwhelmed. Ok so maybe I am a crier. But that’s ok.

My fever was north of 104F- quite high. I am pretty certain an egg could have cooked on my foot (also quite large- so large in fact that I have been redirected to the men’s shoe department! Rude rude).

My body ached and groaned. My eyes were bloodshot. I looked like a moonshine drinker aka chang’aa or Alego clear in my neck of the woods. My doctor, a very jolly lady, somberly said, you need lots of fluid, lots of rest, and you can expect some “gastrointestinal discomfort”. More Prophetic words have never been spoken. Long story short. I spent four days in bed, with a water pitcher and a bathroom nearby.

I told my family back home that I had the flu, and one of my brothers asked, hiyo ni Homa? No, it’s malaria lite I said. Oh, to be that blissfully unaware of the awful disease that is influenza.