Sunday, October 17, 2010

Village Home Visits

On our way to do several home visits in a community the other day, a local pastor, one of the socorristas and I got into an interesting conversation about curandeiros (witch doctors). Here, curandeiros are often the first place a person will go to seek “help” for any number of things like illness, to guarantee success in life, etc. There are many curandeiros in these parts and many of the very sick people that are seen in the health posts only come as a last resort after having gone first, and unsuccessfully, to the curandeiro. As you can imagine, I have many questions about curandeiros. Since home visits afford us extra time en route for chit-chat, I started asking questions about curandeiros: their fees, how they build their clientele, how busy this keeps them, and what they do with the exorbitant fees they charge. As we talked, I couldn’t help but wonder at the strangeness of it all but especially of me, in the car, having this discussion.

We were greeted happily by several of the mission’s sponsored students when we arrived at our destination. When they heard we were doing two home visits, and since they know the village residents fairly well, several of them volunteered to lead us down the right path. The homes weren’t too far away, but it was a particularly hot day, in the high 30’s Celsius, and the heat made the dirt trail through the village seem that much longer.

“Are we going to walk all the way to Vanduzi? We could have driven…” I joked.

“It’s not far. We’re almost there. Down by the papaya trees.” They replied.

To these guys, a long walk is one that takes more than 2 hours. (I’m such a wuss!)

The last home we visited was that of a single lady. She looks after of her 4-month-old orphaned nephew who receives milk from the milk program, which is run out of the health post. She lives on the edge of the community, beside the open fields, in a small but nicely painted hut. When we told her this was a well-baby visit, she quickly ducked into the hut and brought the baby out. The baby came out yawning, stretching his arms, and blinking in the bright sunlight.

He had obviously been sound asleep. After a brief chat and a look at the baby, we told her that if she walked to the vehicle with us, we could leave some more formula with her that day.

As she tied the baby to her back, one of the sponsored boys showed us his notebook he had with him. The writing was all in local dialect though, so I asked what it said.

“Um, it’s a song we sing here in our local dialect. It’s about our names being called.” The socorrista responded.

I assumed it was a school song until, while making our way back to the car, I heard them singing it to the very old, familiar tune of “When the roll is called up yonder.” That was a rather strange moment for me too. Strange, but wonderful at the same time, and it made the walk to the car seem much shorter.

We’re working through the process of visa renewal right now, so we spent the better part of last Tuesday in town filling out forms, taking photos, and submitting said forms. (It’s called a “process” for a reason :P) While we were in town busy with forms and photos, Matthew (our office administrator) called to say that a young lady who was so ill she couldn’t walk had been brought to the health post. She had been ill for a while and had been to a curandeiro, but her condition had progressively deteriorated. Dwight gave him the okay to use our old Isuzu to take her to hospital.

When our business in town had been all attended to, we headed home. On the way, we had one last stop--a sick-home visit we’d promised to do earlier that day. This home was also a ways down an earthen track, but at least this time we could get there by car. When we approached the hut, we were given small, broken chairs to sit on while we waited. “I’m sorry about the chairs, but we are poor.” The pastor apologized.

Within a few minutes, the young lady we’d come to see emerged from one of the nearby huts. She walked, with obvious difficulty and breathing heavily, to the clearing where we waited. A quick check revealed that she was profoundly anemic (she’d had a baby 7 days prior) and feverish. It was imperative that she get to the hospital for treatment right away. We called Matthew knowing he was headed for the hospital and hoping he was nearby. Sure enough, he was very close by so he swung in to pick up his 2nd patient. While she gathered her things, there were smiles and comments about putting a red cross on the Isuzu and calling it the mission ambulance.

Sadly, the first young lady lost her life that same night. The 2nd one was admitted to hospital for treatment.

Last but not least in this post, Ron Wayner arrived last week with a guest from the U.S. to work on the Mercy Air house. It was 39 Celsius the day they arrived, so how's that for a warm welcome?

Ron, Bernie and Dwight

And by way of a fun update, here's a recent photo of the little orphaned klipspringer we took in a month ago. He's discovered he's built for bounding up and down rocky cliffs, but he's not so sure about being Mushu's friend yet!



Russell said...

that buck is very cute.

it's weird seeing the Isuzu without its canopy.

Keren Louise said...

Baby is getting so big! Also, when did Chitindu get it's blue paint job?

Blake and Colleen said...

We enjoy reading your stories as it gives us a glimse into what life is like in Mozambique. Know you area in our prayers.