The Mobile Clinic in Latabang
Today is our last day at Baow. We have picked up a few words of Nuer, Marlay (How are you?), Mamuagar or Mamadli (I’m fine), Chigualong (thank you). Last evening we took a walk into the village to see the market which was not big. The stalls seemed to be selling almost the same things: salt, sugar, rice, some dried fish, eggs, onions. Interspersed among the stalls were tea/water pipe houses frequented by men. One middle-aged man approached me and said he would like to go home with me.
Bonnie asked,” How many cows?”
Our morning wake-up call is the mooing of the cows. I ran to the borehole area, there I noticed a number of egrets, cranes and other birds gathering. They must be longing for the wet season to come. The children shouted what sounded like "Kawagi", the equivalence of "Mzungu" or White person in Kiswahili. The pair of chickens, a black and a white, has been roaming in and out of the dining area and our room looking for food. Occasionally we threw some rice and pieces of chapatti for them. Once there were twelve of them but eagles snatched them from the compound until there are now two of them left. In the chicken coop, there are more chicks being hatched. These two survivors learned to hide indoors especially in the afternoon when the eagles are active. Yesterday they were quite active in the yard swooping down picking things that looked edible. The ram roamed about looking for bits of green grass that he could eat, there was not much in the compound. Andrew suggested that I should take it home on the plane!
The most comforting noise in the compound was the coo-cooing of the turtle doves. Just right by the gate, there were many couples of turtle doves; the male could be seen side-stepping on the branch, inching ever closer to its beloved, coo-cooing with a lilting thrill at the end of the coo-coo.
This morning Johnson and the rest of the clinic crew were busy packing up chairs, tables, stretcher, screen, medicines and water for our mobile clinic in Latabang, a village seven kilometers away. In the compound there is a building that houses medicines and supplies; this was the first time I discovered it. Bats and mice live there.
When we arrived, there was already a large group of villagers gathering under a big tree with the village elders sitting on one side comfortably on chairs. One of them in particular was flouncing around with a stick wearing a satin pajamas whose bottom was well-nigh smudged, evidently very proud of his official attire. Women and children sat under the tree mainly on mats. We were greeted by a naked Nuer teenage boy who must have some form of mental illness; he was dancing and running around us. While we were setting up, Williams spoke to them using his amplifier, the vaccination team came along as well. Then each and every one of the elders spoke until one elder in a business suit spoke first in the Nuer dialect then turned around and spoke to us in English, thanking us for coming and proceeded to tell us that there were two things most needed by the village: water and a clinic as the Baow PHCC is too far away. Apparently the boreholes here have stopped working and the villagers have a long way to walk to Baow to get water. In fact as the day wore on we emptied our Gerry can of water as the villagers’ thirst for water was tremendous, Johnson had to call for more water which also quickly disappeared.
The elders were seen first. Very quickly the registration cards came in piles and I warned Johnson to cap the registration at a certain number as we could not possibly see everyone. But as in the African way, he hated to turn people down and said we could manage. Diarrhea was prominent again, there were some cases of malaria. Johnson undid a splint placed by a villager on the arm of a boy with a broken bone. Bonnie took care of prenatal visits.
The registration kept on coming, soon we had a pile of cards a few inches thick. As the time ticked away I was afraid that the villagers who were not seen would be angry having waited a few hours to be seen. It reminded me of the time when we were at Kokar, Kenya near the border of Somalia, the villagers threw stone at one of the volunteers as we beat a hasty retreat. We still had to travel for three to four hour home to Dadaab before dark to reduce the chance of being ambushed by Al-Shabaab, the militant group of Somalia.
Miraculously we saw them all, (we estimated close to 150) starting some time past eleven in the morning till four-thirty in the afternoon, no lunch break, just sips of hot water from my Nalgeen bottle baked in the sun and my thirst was not quenched. I was thankful for my hat as the sun moved and the shade disappeared from our table. We were hoping to stop before three as we had to leave for Bentiu, three hours away. The rain came, big drops of rain, we hastily packed up. The naked boy danced in the rain, opening his mouth wide and flirting dangerously in front of the cruiser as he got thoroughly drenched.
We went back to Baow camp to pack up, had a late meal and said our good-byes. My frustrated ram was tied up and I let it loose and he immediately went to a patch of green to graze. I said my last good-bye to the ram and hoped it lived a long life. On our way past a village a topless voluptuous woman ran right to the front of the cruiser and flouncing her breasts. Young Juma swerved to the side, undeterred by it all.
Bentiu was hot and wretchedly humid. We moved all the beds to the back yard and slept outside. There was hardly any breeze but it was less stifling than inside. As I lay there on my bed I remembered nostalgically the night when I abandoned the Berber tent and went outside sleeping in four layers of blankets under the inky blue sky of the Sahara Desert in Morocco with a purring desert cat curling snugly by my side, the moon peering down, the giant sand dunes silhouetted in the back ground, the cold wind blowing and our pack of camels chewing their cud contentedly or moaning softly in their sleep fifty meters from me.
The moon coursed its way slowly through the night in Bentiu as the dogs barked, howled and quarreled all night.