Laurian heads down to Kisesa early leaving Cos and Shegera to cook up some rice and daga. I am content to take it slow, heeding last nights warning not to over do things. I will cycle back to Mwanza today, taking it easy and rest up for the next couple of days to give my body time to recover. I have a tendency to over do things, to think I am invulnerable but of course I am pushing my body to the limit, exercising it in conditions I am not used to and even the heart needs time to rest and grow strong. I think again of the strong arms and the simple efficient team work with which my friends cared for me and am thankful again I am in such good company.
Since they seem to find that amusing I tell them that Jesus was a black Arab and God is a woman. Shegera nods sagely. It could be, I think you are right he says. Cos asks a question- why are the Palestinians and the Israelis fighting? We get into a long history lesson that takes in Auschwitz and the concentration camps, the partition of the British Middle East protectorate after the war and the creation of
I am missing my friends in
Paulo and Emmanuelle are discussing the duck. Emmanuelle echoes what Paulo has said. This duck is worth 3000 shillings he says. I tell them Cos told me it was a good price and I took his word for it. Shegera says, well perhaps because it is his village, his family. You know if you want to get a good price for something you should not go your self, send a black man. Mzee (Shegera) has given me a photo of himself and I realise he is anxious that I will not be coming back. I reassure him that I will be, that I would not go without saying goodbye properly. I ask him what he will be doing while I am gone. Will he be working? No he says, you know, if Baba Lau wants something fetched may be. You do not do anything for money I ask. No he says. Baba Lau finds the money. So you are like his personal assistant I say. I think you know what is going on he says and looks down at the ground. I realise I don’t know what is going on. I don’t know if they are together as brothers or lovers but I begin to think it is maybe the latter. I wonder how I can help Mzee to stand on his own two feet.
Baba Lau pokes his head round the corner and motions me to join him. I will just be ten minutes with this patient he says but I thought you might like some space away from these womens and childrens (sic). He motions me into a room where his patient is lying stripped from the waist down.
Sit! Sit he says and motions to the box propping the door open for light. The room is dark and the walls dirty but he is putting on clean gloves and the surgical tools gleam clean steel. I just have to perform this circumcision he says and I wince inwardly, my eyes widening involuntarily. The next 10 minutes are surreal. I sit glancing through the notes as he works and we chat together casually while he sticks a needle in the teenager’s penis, delivering a local anaesthetic. He talks me through the operation. First the local anaesthetic in the base of the penis, then there is no pain. He squeezes the foreskin with his pressure forceps testing the anaesthetic and I wince inwardly again, a grimace curling up the corner of my mouth. He pulls the foreskin tight, positioning the head behind the forceps so he can make a clean cut. The surgical scissors cut as easily through skin as they would through paper, one snip and the foreskin is gone. He clears the blood away and I turn back to the notes, gagging instinctively but fascinated none the less. With a curved needle he begins to stitch the foreskin, tidying up the cut with another quick snip to make sure it looks nice. The notes suddenly become very absorbing, I am interested in the smallest details but I remain fixed on the same point on the page as I follow the procedure out of the corner of my eye. Four stitches and the job is done. Lau is casual and relaxed and I remember this is the man who dispatched and butchered a pig with the same nonchalance.
In the bright sunlight outside we agree that Laurian will come to Mwanza next week and he asks what Mama Kilala would like as a gift. I hang around for a little longer until the midday sun begins its slow descent and then I hit the road. Before I go Laurian hands me a 2000 shilling note. You must remember to take it easy he says. This is for you to buy Fanta on the journey he says. I am about to protest that this is too much for Fanta, that I have some money but then I realise what is going on. He is giving me the difference between what I paid for the duck and what it was worth. Mama Kilala laughs when I tell her later. Yes this is the Sukuma way she says. He can not give it to you directly. That would imply maybe you were foolish, or that
The journey back to Mwanza is easy and quick. I almost stop a couple of times, wary of overstretching myself but the road seems to angle down for most of the way and I ride the slope letting gravity do the walk and before I know it I am at the bottom of Bugando hill. I check my email before heading back for a much needed shower.
That evening Mama Kilala, Yussaf, Max, Maya and I head out to Isamilo lodge to try out the restaurant there. The food I order is delicious, cumin rice and fish cooked in a fenugreek and tomato sauce but it arrives cold. I eat it anyway, sip a couple of beers and happily fork out 20,000 for the bill. I have spent in less than three hours half of what I spent in the last five days.