I’ve been making new friends at the clinic I go to for treatment. For a few inutes every day, when I am waiting in line, I stop thinking about my pain and see other people who are in more pain than I am.
The clinic is run by Kenyan doctors and staff but funded by foreign donors. For that reason the costs are highly subsidized, and the services above the standards at government clinics, so therefore a lot of people who need healthcare prefer to come here.
Every Monday, I meet a little girl about three years old. She has a really bright smile, and a brave face. She likes to pretend that she is as smart as her mother, maybe more than the doctor. The latter especially when she is trying to talk the doctor out of an injection. We can usually hear her loud little voice all the way in the waiting room. But she never cries. After the injection, she bounces over to the waiting room, and if her eyes connect with mine, she will walk right up to me and tell me not to worry, the injection was not too painful after all.
Every Tuesday, I meet an old lady with really bad arthritis and hypertension. She still does not believe that I am not a high executive in some company. She recently found out the room I have to go into when they have to put the drip thing on my arm. So she sneaks in. I usually have my laptop for the eight hour Tuesday at the clinic; I can work and maybe talk with some friends. She convinced me to teach her how to use the computer. But we had to start with teaching her how to read. I love the old hag.
On Wednesday, the clinic has counseling and therapy for teens with behavioral problems. That’s how come I met this boy who will be sitting his KCPE’s later this year. He is an orphan, has just moved to the town, to live with his uncle. My doctor found out that I used to be a teacher, and asked me to help him catch up with his studies. He is an incredibly smart boy, can work out math problems really fast, but his language skills are not as developed as they should be for a boy who is about to sit medium level exams in English and Swahili. He wrote me a composition that was supposed to be in English but which turned out to be in Kikuyu. I wish that he could sit his exams in Kikuyu, then I truly believe he would more than excel. But I am not a coward. I realise that he must sit his exams in the system that is there, so I must find a way for him to learn Engrish and Githwairi.
I am not joking, read this little piece he wrote for me:
I rive on a farm, there are chip, shiken, ngombe ende mburi. I rike riving on a farm. We get matumbe, iria and baba thinjas a mburi for thiguku…
A friend of mine could only come up with this very helpful observation – ‘The Gikuyu pronounciation is all right, in essence, but the traces of Engrish should be cleaned out of it…’
Anyway, on Thursday, the HIV-clinic is on. It is not anything highly conspicuous but I have met a few women who have enlightened me. I’ll call her Fatma, she is nineteen years old and found out that she was HIV- positive when her first child died. It was a good thing she says, because she would never have thought she had HIV. She was pregnant at the time, and was placed on medication that helped not only keep her healthy during pregnancy but also protect her baby. Her baby boy is 3 years old now and has fully sero-reversed.
Sonja, is what I’ll call the other very strong lady. She is in a bit of trouble because she contracted multi-drug resistant TB, and the ARVs seem not to be working for her anymore. I didn’t see her yesterday, because she has been admitted to a hospital. But I remember what she told me, ‘Don’t let illness kill you before it has killed you.’ Until last week, Sonja has been volunteering as a counsellor, and running a shop at the market. She has four sons, the oldest passed his High School exams and will be starting Uni later this year. She told me that it was much easier to give up, but she could not give up on her obligation to teach her sons that they could survive and be the best they could be.
I am ashamed. I have been very depressed this week. I almost hated the life I have to live, with pain, medication and unexpected infections every time one passes by, or my body decided to attack itself. But Lupus and Fibromyalgia are manageable illness. I just found out that my grandmother may have suffered from the same. Only she was never diagnosed. Her last few years on earth were speechless because Grave’s Disease resulted in a surgery procedure that damaged her voice cords. But she was definitely not voiceless. My grandmother wrote notes. A few weeks before she died, she wrote me a note that pretty much summed up everything she wanted me to remember. I still have it, and nowhere on it does it say that it is okay to give up on life for any reason.
I don’t go to the clinic on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, unless there’s an emergency. So I still have not met the amazing Kenyans who live life in spite of its troubles. I cannot resist being philosophical.
If life lets you live, you have no business killing it. Do the best that you can not just for everyone around you, but for yourself, too. You might not be able to change the whole world, but you have an obligation to make it a better place to live in. Embrace pain, injustice and the world’s inequities, not so that they can drown you, but so that everyday when you wake up, whether you are a doctor, a lawyer, a politician, an environmentalist, an accountant, a policeman, a journalist, a musician, a chef or a writer, you will remember what it is that you want to do to make this world a better place for the children who will walk the sands tomorrow.
© Juliet Maruru 2010 www.jmaruru.wordpress.com