I knew that this day was coming. I didn’t actually know how I would go about it when it actually came about.
You see I woke up just like any other morning. Waiting for the call of nature to pull me out from under the little cube of safety that my mosquito net casts. I like to pretend it is like Harry Potters Invisibility Cloak, when I am safely tucked in nothing can get me, no bugs, no spiders, no mice and no snakes. I’m not even really there.
Anyway, before sitting down for my morning piss on my in hut pee bucket, (yes it is exactly what it sounds like, complete with a lid) I spotted it. The MIF kit. This cardboard cylinder that has all of the power in the world to completely suck you dry of any self: worth, respect and esteem you had going for you. Enclosed in this cardboard cylinder with a metal lid are two test tubes with a red “fill line” and formaldehyde within, a few popsicle sticks
Allow me to explain. While I don’t have a clue what the acronym MIF stands for I know enough to tell you all you need to know. The MIF kit, in short, requires you to peruse, so to speak, through your own shit. Three different shit samples, from three different days. You have to shit into/onto something. Some suggested surfaces and or containers were: a plastic bag, empty butter or margarine containers, a plastic bag, or just a piece of cardboard. The list was quite extensive actually. And if “perusing” didn’t knock you down enough notches you then have to use an enclosed popsicle stick, (in the medical world I am sure they are used for something more important, which means they have a much more intellectual title) or the spoon attacked to the lid of an also enclosed test tube to fill up the aforementioned test tube, to the fill line, with your own fecal matter.
Ah, but wait, I am getting ahead of myself. There are also instructions on how you need to, um, sort through, this fecal matter depending on the consistency of it, which is something you of course need to determine on your own. You do however have four choices: Solid, Soft, Loose, and Watery. All four of these words are placed in between a checkbox where you can tick it off your choice on one side, and a little picture on the other. The picture reminded me of the circles that used to be on the title page of standardized testing packets telling you how to properly fill in the circle.
You’re probably currently asking yourself why the hell I had to do this. Well, this is what you have to go through to properly exit Peace Corps and or extend for a third year. This is just one of the many medical checks you have to go through. They can’t send you back to country with some parasite that they missed that would kill you and then land them on some episode of Maury Povich. All of the other ones are what you would expect. Standard Blood work, STD/STI/HIV tests, eye exams, breast exams and the ever-anticipated pap smear.
So with the MIF kit staring at me I decided to leave my hut and go relieve myself. Number one. In my pit latrine, not a bucket. On my way back in my kids asked him they could play with the football that my brother brought with him on his visit. Then I emptied my pee bucket from the night before. And tipped it upside down to dry outside my house. The MIF kit very clearly states that NO URINE should mingle with your fecal matter. Then at 6:30, pretty much right on time, I felt it.
Don’t worry, I came to the realization that using the pee bucket would mean that I would have to clean it, so I opted for an empty plastic bag that I could easily dispose of. I won’t explain how it all happened, looking back on that first day it seems too intimate of a moment to share with the world now. Me fighting my dog off, before finally locking her out of the hut, and then yelling at my kids, in English so they wouldn’t understand, as they squealed in delight “You have no idea the shit I have to go through so you can play with that damn football.” They probably thought that I was “singing” along to Celine Dion again.
I had to do it two more times, only being comforted by the fact that at least I wasn’t the person that had to, er, process all of these samples from everyone in my intake, all 30 of us….times 3.
In the end, I’d probably have done it everyday for 2 years if I had to. But talk to me next year when I have to do it to leave the country, because even now the thought of going through all of that again is a bit exhausting.