thanks to all of you who commented. today, after one week on tuberculosis treatment, he has defervesced. this morning, he struggled to a shaky stand. i will report more as the week passes and I get a chance to read your comments. i have only infrequent and poor access to the internet, so have only been able to read a few. two have mentioned stevens-johnson syndrome
which is a great thought. he did have ulcers before he came in, but i am not sure what treatments he may have received prior to presentation. it is common to find empty bottles of penicillin in patient's pockets. i will let you know.
i have just more than two weeks left to go here. i finished my
end of mission evaluation with my field co the other day. we talked about how i arrived to be so tired. part of it, i explained, was that i never really feel like i leave work, that a corrider stretches from the hospital to my tukul. i suspect that is why i often write about life away from it, when i can find it.
so, to life outside of the hosptial. it keeps apace. the garden is
planted. carrots and lettuce. it will grow after i am gone. i will leave the facile metaphor buried with the seeds. we are in the midst of a deluge, so i wonder if any will remain where they were planted, or if they will be carried away on the hard clay.
abyei’s fields are flooded. the people in akur are now stranded on their island. we tried once last week to reach them, but had to turn back. yesterday, after days without rain, we finally made it. with this latest torrent, it might be weeks.
i went for a walk yesterday, through the market, and took the long way back. there is nothing much to buy there, no local fabrics, no aromatic Sudanese spice, no exotic fruits. but it is the centre of life for the people here. shop after repeating shop selling batteries and soap, stools clustered around tea pots and hukkas, someone repairing bicycles, parts scattered around him like bones. i would show it to you, but we only take pictures in the compound and the hospital. there are too many soldiers, and abyei is too sensitive, to be wandering around wearing ones camera and a foolish grin.
i passed tukuls along the way. inside many of them sat families
talking. i wondered about their conversations. what do they talk about? at home, I talk about music, current events, music, films, books, music. and them? music too?
“yes. hot. it’s always hot."
"soooo… how was the wedding last week? did they serve the goat i sold them?"
"no they didn't. everyone was waiting for it, but they just served beans. can you believe it? we all saw it sitting right there, plain as day. i mean, how many times do you get married? three or four times, tops. if you’re not going to serve goat at your wedding, then when?"
"definitely. everyone is talking about it."
"… … …."
"… … …"
"my little one was sick the other day. diarrhea. i took him to the hospital. he’s better now."
"did you see the kywyja?"
"was he wearing a different pair of sunglasses?"
"yes. black ones."
"I’ve already sold him three pairs. what is with that?"
"i have no idea."
on my walk, i was peppered with "kywyja! kywaja! my friend!". i ignored most of them, pretended not to hear. people are used to Europeans driving by in fast landcruisers with tinted windows, not walking like everyone else. they want to get my attention, to interact.
we all respond differently to "kywyja" like mzungu in other parts of africa, it means white person, or rich person. it irks me. i hear it, and instantly, despite myself, i am irked. i can't help; it. i am not sure if it is because i am from a culture that teaches ethnic generalizations can only be pejorative, or if i have a point, that i am not like the kywyja that just drive past. nor the english colonizers. i am different. the name's james.
after five months, i want to be anonymous. i want to be scenery,
not seen. i am not sure if that is typical of us as individuals, or just of of me. i walk through the market, and through the hospital, and somehow imagine that i don’t stick out, that i fit in just like everyone else.
but i don't. when i run past in the morning, people stop brushing their teeth and stare. some children in the hospital cry when they see me. others work up the courage to touch the hairs on my arm.
i talked to my translator it. he said that when he was small, he
was the same. he wanted to follow us, to watch what we ate, to see how we slept, to see what made us different. i told him that, for me, the i couldn’t avoid thinking of kywyja as an epithet. he was startled.
kywyja, it is not informed by the terrible history that the western world shares, of slavery and conquest, where people with visible differences were only either commodities or obstacles, not quite human. for many people here, and in other places, their knowledge of us is from dropping food from planes, or traveling from place to place spending money without having a job. we seem irreconcilably different. much more different from them than we are the same.
no matter how it makees me feel, of course kywyja is not an epithet. nor is it a term of affection. it is a measure of distance. the distance is approximately 50 cm, the clearance of a landcruiser from the ground.