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Shikomai

When I wake there is a new sound added to the background chorus of birds and insects. An incessant white noise. I imagine for a moment a swarm of flies buzzing around the blood and scraps that cover the killing ground but it turns out to be bees. The trees around the compound have flowered overnight and already the bees swarm all over them.

Lau and Cos are crashed out and snoring. I send Paulo to town to find water, sugar and medicine for Sheraga who has malaria since last night. We make chai and I catch up with my writing. When Lau and Cos wake up they are still drunk and they stumble around good heartedly. Paulo communicates to me that they are talking blah blah blah. They make soup and I listen to the bees.

The hammock continues to be comfortable and free of insects or mosquitos. With the fly sheet lain loosely on top of the built in mosquito nest I can grab some privacy and relax into my thoughts for a while. No one disturbs me The bees are still buzzing.

The fish have been thrown on a patch of grass in the football ground. Dry grass had been piled on top of them and the whole pile had been set on fire. The fish have then been carried up the hill to Bujora and left on a plate in the sun. I notice some stray ants about to send frantic signals back home but surprisingly no flies. Perhaps the heat is too much for them or perhaps there is plenty of shit for them to eat. Now the fish are carefully washed by hand and prepared with tomatoes in a sauce.

As dusk draws in the birds and the bees have fallen silent. A solitary cheep, cheep, plays on and on in the background. The dog thief is back. It snuffles around the compound but I don’t have the heart to chase it away or throw stones at it. It glances timidly up at me and noses around looking for something to eat.

Shikomai is the Suckuma name for the evening fire you sit round after ugali- traditionally a time for drinking cassava whiskey and making arrangements and commitments for the coming day.

As the drink relaxes him Laurian begins to talk about his travels. In 1993 a few months after I met him he traveled for six months through Uganda and the Sudan, over land to Khartoum. He could have kept going to Europe maybe but he couldn’t swim he jokes. Instead he turned round and headed home. Those were dangerous roads and every night they would leave the beaten track to camp out hidden in the bush. One morning they woke to find they had pitched camp next to the corpse of a man hanging from a tree, his cock hacked off and stuffed in his mouth.

In 1994 after the genocide in Rwanda he went to work there for the Red Cross. He was there for four years. He talks about the operations he had to perform. People butchered with machetes their flesh just slabs of meat. Legs crushed and wasted by land mine explosions. Amputated limbs stuck like umbrellas in a stand. He doesn’t like amputations. If he can, he’ll cut the infection right out, drill into the bone if necessary and clear it all out. He details the operations he performs now in Kisesa, Caesarian births, tumours, hernias and the general run of infection.

As he describes his surgical procedures I think of the pig so competently dispatched. This barefoot doctor, sometime pig farmer and surgeon might not have the qualifications of the Doctors up at Bugando but he’s done things in places they wouldn’t know where to start. He had an opportunity to go to Germany to study- a girlfriend, a doctor he worked with in Rwanda wanted him to come to Germany with her but what good would German be back in Bujora. No, he had enough to help his people.

Tanzania at least is peaceful. Here thanks to the policies of Mwalimu ya Taifu, the teacher of the nation Julius Nyrere, Tanzanians have three simple things to hold their identity together. Swahili, English and Ujamaa- the process of collectivization that threw together the 120 tribes of Tanzania in a disastrous attempt at collective agriculture. Although it ruined the agricultural sector it forced everyone to work together to face the consequences.

He talks about AIDS. Of the four Tanzanian doctors he worked with in Rwanda he is the only one left alive. He has lost, brothers, sisters and many friends to the disease. He is gripped with a fear of it and as he gets drunker he warns me against the women of the town. If you need a woman make sure she is tested. I will do the tests, it is no problem. We need you here. We can not allow you to come to harm. He has not been with anyone since the German woman.

I am embarrassed by his talk of sex and HIV. My younger brothers think it is very funny that I am now attracting the attention of some of the women of the town. They argue amongst themselves about which one I should take. They don’t seem to hear me when I say I am not interested. It’s not what I am here for.

Later I discover that one of my sandals appears to have gone missing.

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