The plan of some local god that I had displeased in some mysterious ways while I slept was to send one-million-decibel crickets near my ears , small fruitfly-like insects in their swarms, legions of devil mosquitos and the ants to keep me awake – which did not succeed. What succeeded was his sending me the final plague of possessed children at my “bedside” in the early morning. Children possessed by the devils of giggling, poking, stonethrowing, shrieking, petty theft and obnoxious noise. Fulltime: Me, nil – some lakeside god, 1.
Having been beaten at my endeavours at slumber, I fell back to the realities of my sorry situation and roused my sore self. Our friend from yesterday was at hand to give me the number of the only known car owner. In his usual forthcoming way, he showed me a hilltop nearby on which he said I would get cellphone reception.
“Couldn’t we send someone?” I asked and immediately realized the folly of my question. It was up to me to climb the hill. I sought network reception on a few raised places while holding my phone over my head in an exaggerated way until I realized that I was going to waste more energy or time than I would have making straight for the hilltop.
Once on the hilltop, I remember noticing and being pleasantly abstracted for a little while by how the lake looked ethereal in it shimmering blue-green, how quietly the almost strong cool wind blew, how peaceful the tiny village and its tiny people were and how good living isn’t the same as snobbery and pretentious fine living.
Those fine thoughts were brushed quickly aside when I sought to sit on a boulder to entertain more thoughts like them and happened to look at my bruised and swollen legs owing to the the painful effort that was required to bring myself to that sitting posture. I was painfully reminded that I was only here to beg. And I begged the only person in my world that owned a car and a way out of my trials to come for me. It amazed me that even in such desperation, I still had not forgotten nor could I let go of my incorrigible bargaining habit. We settled at three thousand if only I travelled some twenty kilometres to another village where he would meet me. Twenty kilometres to save my four thousand? Not a problem, sir!
I descended and back to my troubles that had now been dealt quite a heavy blow. At this raised perspective, I laid eyes on a distant herd of camels and immediately thought there was no way I was going to push that bike through the sand again with the availability of creatures that were just dying to work in the desert.
There’s no peace, dear friends, that quite nears that of imminent demise of your troubles. And I felt it. I must have showed it too because the children that had earlier poked me and ran like I was to be avoided with as great wariness as towards a beast with sharp ends, now came fearlessly to to greet me, to test whether I spoke their tongue, and perhaps to see what I had brought them.
It was then that I saw one of the small girls with a badly infected earlobe. It was a piercing gone wrong and the piercing thorn was still in place through the bulbulous wound. I sought to look at it hopefully disinfect it at the very least. You never saw such a brave little girl. She sat on my crossed legs through alot of pain as I pressed the pus out, cleared away the dead tissue, applied the stinging disinfecting solution and finally the antibiotic powder without as much as a whimper; just a few drops of tears running down her face. I gave her an antibiotic and a painkiller to swallow and as I held my bottle of water for her to drink from, I noticed her mother. I saw that she had stood there for a while. I handed her the rest of the dosage with instructions and they left together with all the children in tow.
At this point, my consultant friend came to know if I had been successful in reaching the car owner and I took the chance to ask if I could borrow one of the camels to carry my stuff some twenty kilometres to village we had settled on. No, he said, but I could have a donkey at a small fee that I promptly agreed to. Then he was off for two hours to fetch the donkey from somewhere.
Unbeknown to me, the mother of that little girl went and preached to the whole village that I, the man who had masqueraded as a travelling cyclist, was indeed a doctor and was offering his services for free. Shortly, they were lined up at my manyatta with the little girl’s mother as the translator.
“She says she her throat is so painful she can’t swallow”, come a translation, followed by another about a toddler with a laboured dry cough, and more others and a woman with arthritis. This one about arthritis could have gone past me because the translator tried to dismiss the patient until I insisted on hearing what she had to say by pointing at her. The sufferer leaned backward holding her lower back about to speak when the translator jumped in to tell me that it was no problem; her husband had left her months ago hence her aching joints and that’s not a sickness. Could we please move on to serious stuff? (Would you have laughed?) Despite my continuous protests that I was a fake doctor, I was soon enough left without my large pharmacy of pills and ointments.
The donkey was finally here I was informed, and I rose to put together things that had been scattered about. (This scattering by ravage unpacking, by the way, was to plague me for the rest of the trip. Almost always, I found that something I needed was at the bottom of the tightly-packed bag and there was little chance of getting it out without getting most of things out first).
As I left, I sought to know how the little girl was and was informed by the smiling mother that she was now asleep; she had not sleeped well for days from pain. I felt something similar to what people ( and I mean women of both gender!) say they feel when they shed tears of joy.
But allow me now, dear friends, to skip the unnecessary and embarrassing details about part of my journey that was made with the help of an ass, up to the redeeming moment that came when we had walked just a few kilometres, for I imagined I could still see the tiny village from a distance.
The person guiding the donkey had decided that we should take a short route through a pass between two small rocky ranges. We had not gone far from the “road” when we saw as if from nowhere a car emerge in a mighty cloud of dust and speed away to our right in great haste. A CAR! I dropped my backpack and ran after it like mad – over boulders and sand and thorn bushes shouting, waving hands, and whistling. At that point, I was an world-class steeplechase athlete, a sprinter, a high jumper, a hop-step-and-jump jumper, and the cheering crowd all at once. It helped, this racket, for the driver noticed me and stopped.
It was the man I had spoken to and in act of great kindness had decided to come all the way.
As we drove away, I watched in dazed horror miles upon miles of the god-forsaken landscape that I would have traversed. Not one redeeming feature in it. If I would not have died of thirst, I would have been depressed to death by this landscape, by the knowledge that I might be the only living thing for tens of miles around, and that even the next living thing after that distance might be a carpet viper that would be quite eager to maintain the status quo of being the only subject in such a head count.
The kindness or this man that owned a car did not stop there. He drove me to Loiyangalani town and offered me a place to sleep in his compound until the following morning.
As luck begets more good fortune, that kind and lovely girl that puts up patiently with my stupidity and bad judgement called that evening. She was happy that I was all well and that was all the encouragement I needed to go ahead and make more horrible (but not deliberate) judgement calls as you shall learn by and by.