The Gift of a Ram from the Payam
This morning I ran the other direction but there were only scattered compounds of tukuls.The cows were mooing in somewhat of a contented moan.On my way back I met two ladies walking towards a village to begin their work of polio vaccination. The bucket bath was especially refreshing and I wished I could douse the cold water for a long time.
The maternity unit was our first visit. The healthy baby looked just fine with the proud mother. The post-term baby had not attempted to suckle, hopefully it will soon.
I later rounded with Michael in the ward, there was only one in-patient a 28 year-old man who had been coughing for six months with weight loss and fever. He was just admitted three days ago and was found to have malaria and he was treated for that and also started on an antibiotic for a presumed respiratory infection. I slapped a mask on him but he was not able to tolerate it saying it was making it hard for him to breath. After examining him I discussed transferring him to the nearest referral hospital, two hours away to get a chest x-ray and to get him tested for tuberculosis and HIV. Michael informed me that at Baow where we are now there are no reagents to do TB or HIV testing. The patient is a very tall Nuer and Michael told me that he is not one of the tallest, there are yet taller Nuers than him. Michael attended to several patients who return daily to get their injections for treatment of Kala-azar, a combination of intramuscular injections of sodium stibolgluconate and paramomycin. A team of expats and nationals accompanied by World Relief Manager, Rose, arrived to tour the facility. I met with them briefly, not sure if the expats represented the donors. After seeing patients with diarrhea, malaria and conjunctivitis and various aches and pains, Michael came to fetch me. He told me that the BIG MAN, the Director of the Baow Payam, Philip, would like to see me. He was the stern man we met yesterday. The first thing that came to my mind was did I do anything wrong that offended the director or the community, thinking in terms of my running (although I checked with Johnson about dress code, running, etc.) or my interactions with the people. It was past noon and the sun was hot and I was thankful to have my hat. During the several hundred meters walking to the director’s hut, I felt like I was being summoned by my principal or my boss to the office.
There were three people in the hut, the director of the Payam behind his desk, his secretary, David and another man. In front of them were two empty chairs. They all stood up and shook Michael’s and my hands. What amazed me was that the Payam pronounced my name correctly and told me that it was an honor to have me in his Payam. The Payam was to honor me with a GIFT. Oh no I thought to myself, not a goat! Sure enough in came a man guiding a handsome horned creature into the hut. He was white with light brown patches. The man handed him over to Michael, the creature promptly sniffed at Michael’s pants and then proceeded to nuzzle my hand, quite friendly. I petted him and planted a kiss on his forehead. The director had a broad smile on his face. My next fear was would they expect me to kill it right there and then. I thanked the director the best I knew how but wished that Johnson were here to help me as to the proper way to respond remembering the other day he told us it would be very bad to refuse water when it was offered. In my mind I wondered whether it would be rude to return the gift to the community which this creature would serve best. I stood up and thanked him from the bottom of my heart for the gift and since I do not eat meat, I wondered whether the community could use it. He did not take the offer but corrected me that it was a ram. Yes now that I took a good look, it did have a pair of ram-like horns. He wanted to know what I would call such a creature in America. I told him that we would call it a ram. He suggested that I took him back to America on the plane and said that if I had stayed two months or longer, there would be more great gifts. I thought to myself, the CASH COWS! A marriage proposal and dowry! I am running wild with my imagination. As we walked away with my gift, the villagers who passed by were smiling. We led the ram to our compound and I immediately sought out Elizabeth, the cook, and told her in a combination of gesture and speech that the ram was not to be slaughtered but to be allowed to roam in the compound. And so he was tied to a tree but managed to release himself soon enough and roamed around scavenging for whatever bits of scant grass in the yard . Bonnie said its fate was sealed no matter what I did. Johnson did not know about this gift but told me the director of the Payam came to visit the Primary Care Center in the morning before he summoned me, I was not aware of that. He thought it was a great thing but added with some regrets, “Too bad, we cannot roast him!”