Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fête de Mouton

Trying to integrate myself into my community I bought a sheep.  Or, well, a ram.  Her... his name is Bessie.  Like a cow.  Cause I'm still American.

Meet Bessie!
 Of course, Bessie had to die.  For the Fête de Mouton!  It's a festaval to remember that time God was all like "Abraham, kill you son." and Abraham said, "Sure, sounds fun." and God said, "seriously?  That's weird, let's eat this ram instead."
Meet Al-hadji Awal.  My best friend.  He's happy with his knife.
So anyway, Al-hadji sharpens up his knife (no gross pics) and brings out his ram all hog-tied and sacrifice ready.

Hi nameless ram!
He went quietly which was nice.  Bessie turned out to be a fighter though.  Probably because we dragged her to a pool of blood where her buddy died.

Zoom in for fearful eyes.
In the end, they were both delicious.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Close your dog."

"Close your dog."


"I said, close your dog."

I, with the practiced calm of continuous confusion, look around for a dog.  I don't own a dog, but maybe there is one about I could… close.  Alas, can't even find a cat.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Your pants."

Well, there you have it, my zipper is wide open.  I close it up and thank the nice old man.  Later I will find that he was actually telling me to "close my chain".  That would be the slag here for zipper (chain and dog sound remarkably similar in French).  I'm not sure if that would have really helped, but I looked up the actual French word for zipper and it turns out to be "fermeture à glissière".  That basically means "sliding closure" and would have left me equally baffled.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Malaria/Evil Spirits Defeated!

It has been pointed out to me that I ought not leave you hanging when it involves life and death situations.  You will be happy to know that my friend's wife is currently much better.  She's walking and talking and cooking and cleaning.  Clearly she was suffering from a really bad case of malaria and the medicine made her better.  Or she was possessed by evil spirits and the shaman fixed that problem.  Possibly both.  I'm not qualified in either field.

Death is always a bit closer here.  So far no one I've known well has died, but pretty much everyone I know has lost someone.  In America, it is mostly the elderly who go.  Here a canoe turns over and three or more kids drown.  That can happen in the States of course, but it has happened twice since I got to Mbakaou.  People get sick with malaria or typhoid or something else and pass away.  Ask someone how old they are and you'll be surprised how young they are for how old they look.  You age quicker here and there aren't that many old folk to begin with.  It's a rough life without basic health and sanitation.  And food...

Right, but my friend's wife is fine!  So suck it, Death.

I'ma work on turning these a little more upbeat in the future.  Scout's honor.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sorcery: Up Close and Personal

Kids wake me up from a nap.  Someone's sick someplace and I'm supposed to follow them there.  I can never get much information from kids; our French levels rarely come to any agreement.  I follow them because this isn't the first time people have showed up at my place asking for my non-existent healing services.  On the way, I'm a little annoyed at myself for the reoccurring lack of credit on my phone.  Luckily these people know me and are familiar with my "I'm not actually a doctor" routine.  They just want my help finding the doctors.  A task I'm actually suited to: errand boy!

It turns out to be my best friend's pregnant wife who lives on my compound.  She was with some family and suddenly became feverish and very obviously sick.  I get my friend the nurse at the clinic who goes to get meds while I get her on a moto and take her home.  He thinks it is malaria.  It probably is malaria, but there is no real way to know aside from getting her on a moto to the nearest hospital an hour or so away.  He puts her on an IV, shoots her full of drugs, puts more in the IV, and leaves some pills for her to take after she calms a bit and isn't shaking.  She's delirious and pretty bad off, but there doesn't seem to be anything to do.  Her husband, my friend, is away from town for a few days.

An hour or so later they come and get me again.  I'm worried she's worse off and we're going to have to figure out how to get her to a hospital.  Instead my night gets really weird really quick.  They want me to take her off her IV and hold her down.  The hardest part about living in the mist of a foreign language is being unsure whether you don't understand the words or just the idea.  I think she's dead.  Eye's wide, she don't seem to be breathing, and she certainly isn't moving.  I'm about to check her pulse when an older man comes in and throws some strange herbs into some coals burning nearby.  It's African medicine time.

She was in a bad place before with the sort of fever that doesn't let you lay still; aching and burning up, muttering "help me".  This is different.  I watch this woman shoot straight up in her bed.  Men and women rush to grab her and hold her down.  She wretches and tries to break free, managing to get her IV out her own self.  I watch her eyes roll back into her head and listen to her speak loud and clear. 

I wish I knew what she was saying, though it was clear it wasn't in a language I understand.  She was not herself, she was not there.  I don't know what our medicine man was attempting, but it looked like an exorcism.  Eventually another woman… joined in and needed to be held down too.  They were separated and both made to breath in the smoke from the coals.  Eventually they both calmed and had to drink some mixture made with the burnt herbs.

I'm out of my element when it comes to modern day medicine and I certainly have no idea what I should have done there.  Should I have tried to stop them?  I don't even think I could have; they had already done… something to her before I even arrived.  In the moment, I felt nothing.  Awe perhaps.  Curiosity too, I won't lie.  But I was frozen without an inkling of an idea what to do.  I just watched and wondered.  Now I'm just sad and mad.  Basically I just spent an hour watching a drugged pregnant woman toss about.  One who was very sick and had her regular treatment stopped so that she could be put through lord knows what.

If she gets better, do you think they'll blame the medicine or the sorcery?  And if she doesn't get better, what gets the blame?  Worse, what the hell do I tell my friend, the husband and father to be?