Monday, April 26, 2010

Tongolo, Part Two

The meeting happens without me.  I'm not bothered - it's not really my meeting, anyway.  Malia sits in my lap and eats roasted corn off the cob while Judy, Elizabeth, and Lillian present their case to the chief.  They have to prove that Malia is better in Judy's care before the chief will agree to help them, and while they've brought a "before" picture, but it's not the definitive proof they were hoping it would be.  The little girl in my lap does not look at all like the little girl in the photograph.  That girl's little shoulders are hunched from scoliosis, and her little belly is distended from hunger, and her skin is drawn tight across her bones.  The girl in my lap has a straight back, and her little belly sticks out because it's full of food, and her arms and legs are the opposite of stick-thin.  The chief points to the girl in the picture and says, "How do I know that this is not a picture of some other child?"  But when Judy points to the matching scars, he says, "I will sign your papers."

There are other signatures needed, signatures only a chief can get, so we leave the meeting with the chief's cell phone number and a promise to return next week.

Elizabeth tells us that we must go to Tongolo B - there is a woman there with a sick son, and while Elizabeth is no doctor, she knows enough about various symptoms to advise.  She says it'll be a bit of a trek.  I'm glad I wore good shoes.  I wish I had brought more sunscreen.

We have to cross a stream to get to Tongolo B.  A small group of boys are there filling up their jerrycans, and they wave at us as we go by.  They end up behind us, laughing with each other in Lugandan.  I turn to the boy behind me.

"May I take your picture?"  He sets down his jerrycan and smiles brightly.

I turn my camera around to show him, and the boys all gather to see how good he looks in pictures.  

When we reach Tongolo B, a woman comes running out of her hut, waving excitedly.  She wants to show Elizabeth the squash she's grown.  It's a large squash, and she's proud of it, but a bit confused as well - she's never seen a squash before, and doesn't know what to do with it.  She tries to gift it to Elizabeth, who refuses.  "You can sell it to me, if you want," she tells the woman, "but I'm going to give it back to you."  Both women seem satisfied with that.

"I keep telling them to not give me their food," she says when we start walking again.  "They might be ignoring me."

The boy in Tongolo B has Malaria.  Elizabeth tells his mother that it's absolutely treatable, but she must bring him down to the clinic as soon as possible, and they will give her the medicine she needs.  The woman agrees, but Elizabeth tells her again, just to be sure.

Walking back to the car I spy a little girl watching us from a hill.  I wave at her.  She runs away.

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