Wake up at 9’oclock sharp. Ha. Seriously, still…what time is it? Four of us have been fighting a cold virus. Our heads are not quite right. Hannah’s falling asleep at 8 and waking at 5–spooky. The humidity is an adjustment. Two brisk showers a day; I’m weaning myself.
Steve Demme, founder of Math-U-See, has been entertaining us each morning. That show must go on—math for all seasons, and all cultures. We don’t like to forget what we learned…PS My hubby corrected me on spelling of his last name, he’s like a family friend…
Though water preparation is much easier than the filtered water we bathed in the sun eight hours in Kenya, as much time is required here because we’re drinking a whole lot more of it than we were in the upper elevations of the Kenyan Rift Valley. And when the missionary kids from the ‘compound neighbourhood’ come for a visit, there’s even more water usage.
Love those kids! Who knew we were coming all this way to be a friend for those that haven’t seen anglo-kids for months. We’ve got a few to share. Our kids have created a gymnastics studio in a bedroom of this stone and mortar home. They do front rolls and plies and tables on stinky, mould-smelling pillows in a ten by thirteen steaming hot corner room. And they’re so happy.
Another MK, less akin to girl play, amuses them with his ‘play like an animal’ antics. They have rules for this little guy. Both these families have mothers who are OB/GYN docs and whose dads homeschool them. One dad is a seminary-trained pastor and another is a pastor who was an MK in western Africa.
We take our lunch and dinner meals at House 6, where the meal has been prepared by a local fellow. Groundnut stew yesterday…loved the sauce, but I think I detected liver in those cow-resembling chunks. I’ll do beans, but not liver. The kids didn’t catch me discretely spit that out in my napkin. (And yes, I still got dessert;)
Much of our diet is conventional North American fare so I can’t complain about the food. Dressing-less coleslaw is much of our vegetable intake here. I can buy a few carrots for a 50 peswas (one cedi is equivalent to .40 cents Canadian).
The local teenage girls drop by every afternoon, with huge baskets of cabbages and carrots, or pineapples and bananas. Tis the season.
Still, I’m missing yoghurt, apples and hummus and dare I reveal my lack of heartiness, I’m really missing Pellegrino. Jim misses wholegrain breads and peanut butter. The bread here is white, dense and sweet—the kids LOVE it. I’m missing my cappuccino machine. I know, life is rough. Don’t laugh at me…
I get my exercise walking. I’m sure the first thing a newly planted African in a North American city would say is, “What are those machines?” (pointing to the treadmills and elipticals). Not much need for the YMCA here. Having said that, my dear husband is heading out for a run around the compound. He never knows when to stop…post-call 36 hours or a humidex of 42, he still runs.
We visited Jim at the hospital. I stood outside, my back dripping like the faucet was left on, the kids looking like they’ve just come out of the shower, waiting, waiting…fifteen minutes, just to get a glimpse, so I could photograph him as the door opens and someone else goes in.
He’s limp, languid, sinking deep in the chair. There are two docs in a 6×8 space, two little desks, four chairs, seven people sitting, a few standing. It’s like speed dating, but add to that a language barrier, therefore translators present, and a variety of extended family members.
I’m impatient. The kids want to go already. I want to stand and wait for a pic, but also let these people become comfortable with my presence. They stare at me. I stare at them. I smile. I really want to take pictures of them. But I’d be kinda annoyed if they came to my doctor’s waiting lounge to take pictures of me. I finally give up after twenty minutes. Some of these people arrived last night to wait for this afternoon appointment.
I meet one of the first doctors who arrived in this area back in the 1980s. He came with his rehydratable bags of food. Things were much worse then. He brings me to the nutrition center, where kids under five are being fed with supplements and proteins. Kwashikor and marasmus are common. Kids can get forms of protein through beans and fish here but don’t necessarily get that. Earl tells me that an umbilical hernia is common here, but the toddler’s swollen belly is not. She’ll begin to leak fluids out of her skin.
I am given a wee two month old baby boy to hold. I call “her” sweet, but my girls correct me. They can see that “he” is not a girl. A woman says his mother is dead. “No”, another woman corrects her, “not dead. Just crazy”. A two month old perfect little baby boy. When we have an English speaking mother translate, I share my kid’s ages. Then mine. 25. The ladies all laugh. Huh. Can’t pull that off anywhere.
Hannah caught their laughs at my age declaration…
Hannah sneaks pics from my iPod, as photographing is not kosher. She doesn’t understand why. I am not sure I do entirely either. Is it that the wealthy neighbor at the other end of town is coming to ‘help’ the dilapidated house with unmown yard to really gawk and record it for her personal history? I don’t think I’d like that either.
One of my kids say she wishes they could understand that we’re used to being around people of all colours. I say, we might have been downtown Vancouver and seen someone from every nation, but these people haven’t. They are not “melting pot Canadians”; they are Afrikan.
We are not the same. But we share humanity. We want our kids to be healthy. We want to be happy. We want to have enough. To have a little more, for fun maybe, and to share.