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Tuberculosis in a Teacup

Quick link: Tea Time at the TB Clinic

Over at EthnoTraveler, I write about whether or not to drink when I’m offered a glass of coffee outside the Tuberculosis clinic. I’ve been studying TB, reading so much about it that sometimes I feel like my chest hurts (can you give yourself TB just by thinking about it a lot?). I also know that it would be incredibly rude to refuse the proffered drink.

What to do?

tuberculosis coffee

An elderly man waves me over, insistent. He is wearing gray trousers, a collared shirt, and a prayer cap. He shouts across the dirt road, in Somali, “Come, white lady, come and sit down with us.” Others laugh and tell him I can’t understand and then they laugh at me when I shout back that I do understand.

I cross the narrow road, careful to avoid puddles of a mysterious green liquid, and sit down on top of an overturned empty can of powdered milk. These double all over Djibouti City as chairs at roadside restaurants and tea stalls. Sitting down is easy to do. I have more trouble obeying his next command.

“Drink,” he says, and hands me a tiny glass of steaming Nescafé. “I am paying for it, drink.” He slaps a fifty-franc coin onto the wooden table where a woman has balanced more glasses and thermoses and a tray of fried biscuits.

The amber-colored glass is the size of a shot glass. Surely that small amount of strong coffee can’t contain too many germs. Right? Surely the water was boiled enough to kill them off. Right?

Click here to read the rest: Tea Time at the TB Clinic

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