Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Life in Hiding

Perhaps some would say its paranoia. But it’s not. It is the real deal. They are everywhere waiting for me. I thought of it when I was taking the back way home yesterday. When I say the “back way” it indicates walking down a construction board, over the grass, through a carpenter’s workshop, and onto the road that leads to my house. I just wanted to steal away for lunch. But I knew that if the clinic staff or patients saw me, lunch would definitely be postponed. That is why I didn’t go the front way. The sound associated with the front road is this one - “clop, clop, clop” – getting ever faster. It’s flip flops hitting the pavement. Why wait in clinic when you see the doctor walking down the road? Why not just chase her. But when I hear that noise coming, getting more intense as it gets closer, there’s only one thing that comes naturally. Run. I hold back, but that is what I want to do – outrun the patient. Now a good doctor would turn around, smile, and ask how they could help. My approach, however, is to walk quickly and steadily and do not turn around. Maybe I will be lucky and it will be only a school child running home. I wait until the more direct “Doctor” starts ringing out behind me. Then I turn around just as she shoves her outpatient booklet into my hand. These women can be pretty aggressive. So, that is why I took the back, more obscure route.

As I reached the house it continued. I came inside and locked the door behind me. Paranoia again? No, in my old life I didn’t care about locking doors. But here I’ve had patients and children just let themselves in and make themselves at home. Some are more appropriate and at least knock from outside. For those who just show up to visit, culture demands and you are expected to give them something to eat. The American in me wants to say, “you know, I didn’t actually invite you here, and I don’t have any food ready”. But that isn’t the way it works here. I walked in the kitchen to begin getting lunch for myself. Flipped the light on to get rid of the dimness. But never open the curtains. Because then they can see you. And they just wait for you and watch you, knowing that if they keep knocking you will have to come out. It’s better to just keep the windows covered.

There are a bunch of silly ways like these that I’ve seen life change here. The other day a super sweet missionary lady told me I was paranoid.  But I’m not paranoid. The discussion that day was on being taken advantage of financially while in Africa.  Nope, honey, that isn’t paranoia. People actually are all trying to take any money that they can get ahold of. And that includes yours too. I had to break it to her. From the children asking me for money as I walk to church on Sundays, to the thieves that cut your purse in the big cities, to every market price increasing when a white woman walks in. They surely are trying to take advantage of you. 

Now, I do have a tendency to focus on these issues a bit. They gnaw on me a bit. But I'm not consumed. And certainly not paranoid. :)

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